Monday, October 10, 2011

The Complete (Abridged) Peru Journal: Day 2

This was a big day! A lot of writing; I tried to cut it down to only the highlights. Lots of pictures, too.

StarPerú puddle-jumper
I’m on a boat.  Really.  We’re headed down the Madre de Dios River on our way to the lodge where we’re going to stay in the jungle.  I think, riding down this magnificent river with impossible amounts of foliage on both sides, after eating lunch off a banana leaf, it has finally sunk in that I’m actually in Peru.  It’s awesome.

Today started at four again, although to be fair, I didn’t roll out of bed until forty-five minutes or so later.  Our flight (one hour via a StarPerú puddle-jumper) stopped in Cuzco before taking us all the way to Puerto Maldonado (which is proving very difficult to pronounce, for whatever reason).

Favorite Airplane
Our tour guide Esteban met us at the airport—if such a term can be used—with another sign.  We waited about fifteen minutes for the rest of our tour group, who came in on the next flight.  I ran across the parking lot to spend part of that time taking pictures of this awesome plane.  It was very old and really small, and it made for some pretty fantastic photos.  “Favorite Plane” wasn’t a category I’d ever given much thought to, but now I’ve got one.  According to Esteban, it carried Mormon missionaries to the country, which was both a good and bad thing for the natives.  We then took a fortyish-minute bus ride down the scariest dirt road I’ve ever seen, across several bridges reminiscent of a Busch Gardens safari ride where the bridge gives out and you have to be “rescued.”  None of these bridges gave out, miraculously.  What were really interesting were all of the unfinished bridges we saw along the way.  Apparently builders got big ideas, started the bridges, then decided to take the money and abandon the project.  I said that when I became an engineer, I would come back and finish all the bridges.
Notice the guy with the cooler

We’ve been warned about naked natives who live deep in the jungle and will shoot you with arrows for fear of disease if you get too close.  That’s one thing Pepto Bismol won’t protect against, I guess.

We have one flashlight among the five of us for this jungle night walk, and discovered that we may not have the Deet.  But it might be in my suitcase.  Let’s hope!

Well, the good news is we found the Deet.  The bad news is now I smell like bug spray.  Grosstastic.  We haven’t been shot by natives, which I supposed also qualifies as good news.  We keep passing empty canoes on the banks, though, each of which presumably held passengers at one point.  Every time we pass one I inform everyone that they were shot by natives.  It’s not completely accurate, I know, but the notion that they may also have been eaten by piranhas is probably too much for our group...

We’re at the hotel now.  We didn’t get shot by natives.  There’s no air conditioning, but there is toilet paper.  Earlier today, at a stop on the river where we got out passports stamped, I had to use some of my Charmin-On-the-Go.

The entrance to the lodge and some boats
Our cabin has a great view of the river.  I’m out on the porch now because the light inside is already too low.  We have candles, but we’ve been warned to blow them out once we go to bed lest we burn the wooden cabin down.  We also have mosquito nets for our beds, which I find more worrying than comforting, to be perfectly honest.

The night walk was fun for the first half.  We saw a tarantula, which freaked everyone out.  And tons of vines in all crazy shapes and huge trees.  It was just like in the movies, just a lot darker.  I got bitten by two mysterious Amazonian insects, the second of which was a normal-looking ant.  He may also have been the first.  I hope so.

It's gonna eat me!
We were asked to conserve water in the shower, which wasn’t difficult because the two choices are “off” and “freezing.”  I do feel better now, though.  Guess what time tomorrow starts?  Four! Again.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Complete (Abridged) Peru Journal: Day 1

So a while ago, I said I would upload parts (maybe even all) of my travel journal from Peru.  It's taken me a shamefully long time, but I'm finally going to do that.  I have more to share than I thought I was going to (and photos!), so I'm going to do it one day at a time.  I'll also try to skip the boring parts.  I may upload the whole thing somewhere else eventually, for those of you who are interested, but for now, here's the abridged Day  1:

Note:  The ellipsis (. . .) represents an interruption in journaling, not an omission of original content.

Today, we arrived in Lima.  It only took us three flights to get here, starting with home to Miami yesterday, then a 7:20ish flight from Miami to Bogotá, Colombia this morning, which seems like forever and a continent ago.  In Bogotá's airport, I spoke more Spanish than I think I ever have, and am continually learning that two semesters of Spanish may not be sufficient.  Add to that the fact that I've also been elected the family currency converter, and I feel like the expectations are piling up faster than I can juggle them.  I managed to ask for and purchase some authentic Colombian candy, but when I asked for the time, I couldn't understand the answer.  Go figure.

Anyway, we are now in Lima, in a very nice hotel—the Ferré.  A guide named Carlos and Roberto, the driver, brought us here.  Carlos is very friendly; Roberto didn’t talk much.  Carlos was holding up a sign with our name on it for us when we got through customs, which was pretty cool.  He recommended that we eat dinner at this “underground” mall on the waterfront, so that should be interesting at least.  I’ve also managed to find out that the drinking age here is 18, so we’ll see how that goes…

The view from the restaurant
Back now.  I didn’t drink anything haha!  I mean, I had pretty much the greatest cappuccino after dinner. (We ate at some touristy place near the water with a fantastic view and a waiter whose English and my Spanish were evenly matched.)  It was surprisingly good.  The guy at the front (not the host, but the restaurant’s spokesperson, however self-appointed) assured us that we didn’t have to worry about the water, the ice, the vegetables, etc.  That stuff is sketchy here in Peru.  For example, we have to brush our teeth with bottled water (of which we just bought five from a scary convenience store from a guy who spoke no English.  Also, we’re taking Pepto Bismol four times a day to avoid traveler’s diarrhea, in addition to the numerous vaccines [click] we’ve already gotten and the Malerone we’re all taking daily to avoid Malaria.  This is a fun place.   I’ve also got a new job—I’m the tip calculator now, too.  Yippee.

The mall
We went shopping a little, because although our bodies think it’s past midnight based on the time change (just an hour, but still) and the time we got up, it wasn’t nine yet and the mall was still open.  We went into this place called “Sol Alpaca,” where everything is made out of Alpaca wool, which is cool.  The thing is, I took two semesters of Spanish to prepare for this trip, but it’s been more than a year since I’ve had a math class, which was clearly a mistake.  I did buy a rather fantastic scarf, though.  I love the colors and it wasn’t ridiculously expensive.  I think it came to about sixty bucks, USD.  It was 169 soles, which is the Peruvian currency.  I can’t believe I’m in South America!  Tomorrow we wake up at four again to catch a one-hour flight into the jungle.  My grandma says she’s not going; we all know better.  I have to take a shower, but I can’t get the water in my mouth.  I can get it all over my body, just not in my mouth.  I hope I’ll have an opportunity to journal every day, but no promises!

If you need a dining set taken someplace, call this guy

P.S. This is my 50th post!!! Yippee!!