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Trip Report: Peru (again) Lima, Iquitos/Amazon and North Coast

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Back from trip #2 to Peru! My first trip was a year ago January, during which I discovered that 1) High School Spanish is applicable in Peru because you can understand what is being said back to you!; 2) Food in Peru is fantastic! ; 3) Travel is a very good value; 4) Peruvians are friendly and helpful, even more so when a gringa can hold a basic conversation in Spanish; 5) Peru is not especially dangerous if one uses common sense, and 6) there is a lot more to Peru than Machu Picchu and the Incas.

When LAN posted a ridiculously cheap airfare, JFK to NYC last November ($280 R/T), I jumped on it even though I live in LA. I figured I could use miles or find a good fare on the domestic legs, and spend a few days in New York. (I won't include NYC on this report). LAN frequently posts great sales for the slow periods, which includes May. May is actually quite a good month to go to Peru. My initial thought was to spend time eating my way through Lima. But, after a bit of browsing on the internet, I decide to spend a week in the Peruvian Amazon, near Iquitos. I booked directly with Amazonia Expeditions, recommended: http://www.perujungle.com

I used LANpass miles for the internal flight to Iquitos. I also decided to spend a few days visiting the north coast which has some pre-Inca archaelogical sites. I made contact with a Trujillo travel guide who I do NOT recommend (Michael Knight/Clara Bravo). I booked the "SuperVIP" class night bus to Trujillo via transporteslinea.com.pe (good company, but I should have gone first to Chiclayo). More on that later.

I hustled to get my travel shots and prescriptions, and to order my mosquito headnet from Walmart. If you are taking an Amazon trip, I highly recommend the head net. I did get the YF jab (itchy red mark for two weeks) and take Malarone. I had a Cipro scrip but didn't need it. I tried taking Pepto as a preventative (grey tongue but not too bad) and switched to "precautionary" Lomotil when I had an all-day excursion or overnight bus trip. I had no health issues during the trip. But of course caught a cold on the flight home.

Day 1. My 8-hour LAN flight #531 is supposed to depart JFK at midnight on a Tuesday. I arrive 3 hours ahead as recommended. The plane pulls away from the gate as scheduled. Oops. "Technical Difficulties". They never tell us what exactly it was, but we leave an hour late. I think for JFK that is on time. At Lima airport, my bag is virtually the last one off. Then, I get the red light at customs!! Luckily they do not inspect the bags, but instead just wave me through. Not a great start.

However, happily, the taxi driver arranged by my lodging in Barranco, Lima is still waiting for me at the exit. It is nice to see your name on the placard. I am booked into Second Home Peru for two nights, recommended. Upon arrival I am greeted by Lilian Delfin, who offers me a tour of the studio of her father, Victor, which is on the lower part of the site. His artworks are thoughout the house and garden. This is like sleeping inside an art museum and I am pleased. I have Room#1 which is a garden view, large, clean, comfortable bed with a tub and shower in a separate bathroom, $85-$95 per night (less if booked direct). The rate includes breakfast, but no, there is no internet and we can't even print a copy of your ticket for your flight to Iquitos.

We discuss my itinerary and suggestions are offered for restaurants, etc. After breakfast I leave to visit Museo Pedro de Osma in Barranco. I stop by the small visitor center in the town square and get a map of Barranco, the museum is another 4 blocks. I neglect to get change for the 50 Soles bill that the ATM at the airport has dispensed. Oops. No one will make change. Eventually two other tourists show up, and have most of the change needed for my ticket. When I exit, the nice ticket seller will have the balance. Fabulous house (for a summer home!) and fabulous collection, mostly from Cusco. There may be an English speaking guide. Highly recommeded. Lilian laughs that most Americans call it Pedro Osama. More info: http://www.museopedrodeosma.org/english/

For lunch, since I am a ceviche-hound, I try Canta Rana in Barranco for ceviche mixto, 22 soles. A bit disappointing, not everything in the mix tastes 100% fresh and it's a bit bland. Nice casual atmosphere.

After lunch I try the walkway to Miraflores. Probably wouldn't suggest it unless one is anxious to run. Although it goes near the cliff top it isn't that interesting and there are a few unsavory characters. I will take the combi (minibusses) henceforth. At Larcomar Mall, favorite of Americans, my dinner is a gelato at Laritza with lucuma and maracuyu/sauco (passionfruit/elderberry). From I-Peru, I get info on the timing for the "Magical Water Circuit" at Parque de la Reserva. It is okay to go anytime after dark (generally open about 4:30 pm Weds thru Sunday). I arrive about 6pm and depart about 8pm. Lots of fun, great photo ops, and a cheesy laser show (Back Street Boys and soaring condors). I take the combi all the way back to Barranco for about 50 cents (1.5 soles). The guard at the top of Domeyer Street is asleep and it takes awhile for the buzzer to be answered. But eventually I am safe inside the gates and watch a bit of CNN before falling asleep.

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    Day 2. Lima (Thursday). After sleeping in a bit, and breakfast, I head by combi for the Museo de Arte de Lima (MALI) in Parque de la Parque de la Exposición. It has recently reopened and at the moment features only the temporary exhibitions on the main floor. There is a little cafe and museum store, and good bathrooms. After NYC it is wonderful to pay $2 instead of $20.
    http://museoarte.perucultural.org.pe/ Closed Mondays.

    I get off the combi a few blocks short, it has turned off onto Ave. de Cuba. I take note of the location of Restaurant-Cevicheria "El Arenal" with a 12 Soles Lunch Menu. It looks familiar and the location is about right, maybe it is the place I liked my last trip. A few blocks away on Arequipa Ave, near the Universities, I get an instinct that two men are following me. They are signalling to each other and matching my walking pace! I dash across Arequipa mid block and jump on the next combi-- I have escaped! The Museum is at the next stop. The temporary exhibits are all excellent, including one on Jequetepeque Valley which is in the north coast which I will visit later. Afterwards I return to El Arenal. It is a bit later in the afternoon, nearly 3pm. I order the cebiche mixto (however I get only pescado, but it is great, with the seaweed on top that I like). For the second course picante mariscos. Again delicious flavor but hardly any mariscos! I don't know if this is because I am late or a gringa, or typical. However for $4 including my Inca Kola and dessert that I didn't get, I am not complaining. There are a lot of little restaurants around the streets Republica and Arenales in this area.

    After lunch I take one of the combis downtown, walke around a few of the old streets, and managed to visit the Cathedral before it closes. If you want to shop for jewelery or ceramics, the stores around the Plaza de Armas will probably yield a better price than in Miraflores. I took the Mirabus 8 Soles doubledeck bus tour so that I could take photos from the upper deck. I asked to get off at Parque de la Rererva (no problem) and then took a combi back to Barranco. Walked around the main part of Barranco which has some of the buildings lit up, and had a snack at a cafe/art gallery on Ave Grau. Humitas (a type of tamale) and a passionfruit juice. Ended the evening by packing for my trip to Iquitos the next morning.

    Lima photos:

    http://picasaweb.google.com/kiwifann/LimaPeru#

    To be continued...

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    Day 3: On to Iquitos.
    Breakfast is earlier than Second Home Peru likes...they normally don't want to serve before 7:30 am. Annoying. However I am happy with coffee and a piece of fruit, knowing that LAN will snack me. My flight to Iquitos leaves at 9:35 am and arrives on time at about 11:30 am so I need to leave close to 7am. Flight is uneventful, snack box includes a yummy chocolate filled with dulce de leche (they call it manjar blanco). As I fear the heat in Iquitos will ruin it, I must eat it. We see the fog of Lima fading into the foothills of the Andes, then into the Amazon basin with winding brown rivers and clouds, some little and big thunderheads.

    When we set down at the Iquitos airport, we exit by the rollup stairs..and are surrounded by molding old airplanes on the edges of the pavement. Graciela, the office manager from Amazonia Expeditions and an old taxi are waiting for me. I have prebooked a night in Iquitos and 6 nights at a lodge on the Tahuayo tributary. Total cost is under $1000 including all transfers, food, and guiding. Amazonia has excellent ratings with the BBB in Florida, where the owner lives. The road from the airport is lined with outdoor food stalls that remind me of Kingston Jamaica. It is humid and overcast. We see the everpresent motorcycles and mototaxis. Graciela says that it is not a good idea to go to Belen market by myself and to wait for tomorrow morning when a guide can go with me. Eventually we arrive at the offices where I have a air conditioned room for the night, I had wanted a day to see Iquitos. (The room is very nice for $30 and as promised has a view of the port). There is a blue-gray tanager on the balcony! After repacking I realize that I need a few medications that I forgot in LA as well as lunch, bottled water, internet, and to confirm my return flights on LAN since they seem to have disappeared. Graciela tells me the safe way to walk into town and warns not to take any side streets. After a block or two I don't feel comfortable walking and take a mototaxi, for 2 soles, to the Huasai Restaurant near the Plaza Mayor. Excellent choice! The lunch menu includes a jug of juice (I have carambola) and two courses. I have Sopa de Res and a paiche preparation. I had forgotten the word for rice. (Note: Res is not rice, it is cowfoot). However it is delicious. The paiche is a giant Amazon fish. It comes as a sauteed patty with green beans mixed in, and sides of rice, plaintain and pureed yellow potato. There is a little bowl of a radish salsa and another yellow sauce. I didn't write the price down but I am sure it was less than $5 for everything. Afterwards I walk down Prospero, looking for an ice cream store that no longer exists. Nearly every other store seems to be for motorcycles. I buy a few bottles of water inside Casa de Cohen and somehow manage to buy the meds at a botica across the street (took a while to remember the correct word for AFTER). Using the telephone cabinets and internet to do a few other onward travel arrangements is frustrating as there is just too much noise and the connection is slow. I return to the Plaza Mayor and LAN helps me by printing out the new confirmation numbers for my return flights. It is now time for dinner, and I have three flavors of ice cream from the store at the plaza (not the one on the corner, the one right next to it). Aguaje, cocona and camu-camu. The latter is the nicest. I take a mototaxi back to the lodging and take another shower, turn the A/C up, and enjoy a good nights rest. Tomorrow is Belen Market and travel to the lodge.

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    My breakfast is ready! The typical Peruvian breakfast at lodgings is bread, ham, egg, cheese and fruit, with juice and coffee. I don't remember anything unusual about this one. There is another guest and a guide present. I mention that Graciela has said that a guide would take me to Belen. Orlando doesn't look happy about this. But, the other guest and I do take off around 9 am, using a mototaxi to reach the top of Belen market. We only go a few blocks in, not too deep. Orlando turns around often and makes sure we have not been kidnapped or worse. Or he has us go in front. The market has all the tropical fruits and Amazon fishes, as well as slaughtered turtles, and butchered chickens with their feet propped up over the flesh. There are also stalls which sell some of the local "medicinal" liquors and herbs. I take some great photos. We walk back along the waterfront to the Plaza, where I have more ice cream (Copoazu, a relative of cocoa and Unguharui, a palm fruit). We mototaxi back to the offices. We are gone for about an hour. Orlando is relieved to be rid of us, for now. (Later he makes us pay by taking us hiking through the mud behind the lodge in afternoon heat and humidity).

    A bit before 1 pm, we board the launch for the Lodge. There are a few other guests on the same schedule. After leaving Iquitos, we reach the muddy waters of the Amazon, and after about 50 miles, turn down the Tahuayo River for about 40 miles. We pass some Ribereño villages, including Buena Vista, which is the control point, and El Chino, which we will visit the next day. Many of the guides are from El Chino. We arrive around 3pm, are given a briefing, and our rubber boots. We are shown to our rooms, mine is #6. It is rather small, has a private bathroom but only has a view of mud and other rooms. I do not think I will be spending much time in the room. There are five of us that have arrived the same day, and two others that are departing for the ARC (second lodge) the next morning. They are serious birders. We are all independent travelers, none on a tour.

    The guides decide that it will be a good idea to take us for a quick walk behind the lodge, so we put on the boots and assemble. It is hot and humid, and muddy. We see the pygmy marmosets that live behind the lodge and various vegetation. There are too many people trooping around together on a narrow trail. It is payback time from Orlando.

    Return to the lodge to rest before dinner. There is a rainbow over the lake. Since my room is so mundane, I hang out in the hammock room were my tour companion from the morning and I meet one of the employees, Felipe. We decide his title must be "hammock room social director". There is enough Spanish spoken that we have a good time. In the meantime the guides have gone off to their rooms to cook up some other plots to wear us out. After dinner, Orlando tells me I am to be paired with anther single guest. I object, this is not the way that the package was sold to me. I am switched to another guide by myself. It later turns out she is not very good, but the assistant guide assigned to work with her is excellent. A few of us want to go out at night on the boat. We see a boat billed heron. It rains (and I don't bring my poncho) but feels good. All in all today is not a good start but I am sort of glad to be away from Orlando.

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    Day 5 and 6. Tahuayo Lodge. The structure of the guided excursions is that around mealtime, the guides will discuss excursion options for the next morning and day. You are supposed to be able to tailor excursions to your interests, however the guides seem to push everyone to do the same things at the same times. In the morning, everyone else heads off to Hoatzin Lake. I am only told they are going "bird watching..different birds." No details. I decline and chose basket weaving. It turns out to be fun and I have a nice souvenier, but this isn't what I came to the Amazon to do. After lunch, we are all encouraged to go to the local village, El Chino, because it is Mother's Day and there will be a soccer game, cake and alcohol for the mothers. I doubt that any other excursion would have been possible. Several of the guides play soccer, one hurts his foot. The booze is delicious. I take lots of nice photos. After dinner the itinerary for the next day is discussed, it will again be the same for everyone..trip to look for poison dart frogs and terra firma walk. After dinner, I make the guide take me out by canoe, she finds nothing!

    The next day we are going on an "all day excursion". Well, not quite. After breakfast, all 5 of us and three guides leave for the "Terra Firma" forest. First, we stop to see Dorilla, a wooly monkey that had been rescued by the lodge from the Belen black market. She recognizes the sound of their motorboat, and comes out of the forest for fruit. Mostly oranges, but then she discovers the wild passionfruit that I had bought in Belen! They are gone in 5 seconds and I am now her favorite. She gets a little sleepy and puts her head on my leg, after determining that I am not hiding any more passionfruit on my person. After about 30 minutes, we leave Dorilla behind and head for the terra firma dock, in another hour.

    There are a few cultivated plants near the shelter. I ask the guides if the guests can try some of the rose apples (they call them mamey locally). The guides throw chunks of wood at the fruit and we rinse them in the purified water. Everyone likes them. Off we go into the terra firma forest looking for poison dart frogs. A few interesting trees are pointed out, but there isn't much explanation of the ecosystems. My good assistant guide finds two frogs, the yellow spotlegged ones, and the guide finds a tiny leaf toad. We are back to the shelter by 1:30 pm, a bit over an hour later. Lunch has been prepared for us, a catfish stew, and it is good! The third guide and his group appear an hour later. The story is they got lost, but I have my doubts. While we wait, Orlando shows us a puma track in the mud, not far from the shelter. He also makes a "jungle backpack" from a palm frond. I take a lot of pictures of various plants and ants near the shelter. We return to the lodge fairly early and there is nothing else planned for the day. I take a few pictures of bugs etc around the lodge.

    I am bored from sitting around all day. I tell my guide I am going to walk a little behind the lodge. Felipe is coming with me to show me the night monkeys (musmuquis) who live about a 20-30 minutes into the jungle. She snorts in amusement. But we see the monkeys just as night falls and they are so cute!! We also see a potoo that flies up in front of me. We return in one piece in time for dinner and compare notes with the other guests. I ask if the other guides are giving any explanations during the tours, some are, mine isn't. Hopefully the message is being conveyed to the guides sitting in the corner of the room that it is obvious that the guiding is not consistent and that we are noticing.

    I am told that the next day I will have an independent itinerary. Finally!

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    Day 7. Tahuayo Lodge: Birds, Monkeys, & Zip Line. First, more about food at the lodges. There are three set meal times, 9am, 1pm and 7pm. When it's time to eat, they bang on a drum. If there are more than 3 or so guests, there is a buffet. If just a few, it is table service. Breakfast is always eggs, ham, cheese, fresh fruit juice including some nice local ones such as cocona, breads (once in the shape of a caiman!), fresh fruit, maybe a plantain item. Lunch and dinner are similar, sliced veggies in different combinations, a bean or lentil dish, white rice, yucca, plantain, potato, and beef, chicken or catfish, once ham. A few times there is soup which is excellent. Dessert is a small portion of fresh fruit but not too exotic (tangerine, papaya, watermelon or mango). To our amazement one night there is canned fruit cocktail for dessert! Please don't do that again! Occasionally the chef makes something special, vanilla pound cake, banana pancakes and a fresh salsa when the Peruvian travel agent is visiting.

    If it's red meat it is very well done. A few things are too salty but mostly it's very good, although I wish for more spiciness and often apply Tabasco. Usually we swap around and everyone is happy, even the gluten intolerant guest. Many comment that it is the best food they have had, especially at breakfast. Considering it is 100 miles from the nearest markets in Iquitos, they do a very good job.

    After much discussion the prior night, I am going to Hoatzin Lake and then afterwards a try at fishing. This means we leave at 6:30 am and no breakfast. This makes me happy, I take a banana and a kiwicha bar. We will have Samuel with us. Samuel is the best pescador, machete man, and wildlife spotter. He is a little bit shy and doesn't speak English. The river is beautiful and still, and a cold front has passed through, The guides are freezing and coughing. The guests are all delighted with the California weather. In less than an hour with a small amount of hacking, the motorboat reaches the lake. There is a platform which we climb, there is no interpretation from the guide. The lake is blackwater and has lots of water lettuce. I wonder, is this where we are supposed to see Hoatzin (pronounced almost like Watson)? We see two juvenile hawks and a pair of horned screamers, who scream at us. I miss seeing a hummingbird by my shoulder. After about 30 minutes, we leave and Samuel hacks through the flooded forest. He spots a gorgeous blue-crowned trogon which sits still long enough for a photo! And then three hoatzin birds, squawking and flapping. Of course they are totally backlit and hiding their faces behind foliage. There's also a pink orchid, and a 3-toed sloth, and we add 4 types of monkeys on the boat trip to and from the lake, including the shy "Monk Saki"! Samuel is my new hero! We try piranha fishing on the way back but they are just toying with us. We return to the lodge in time for lunch. At lunch I talk about my amazing assistant guide. There is a little competition among the guides over who spots the most animals. No one can top four monkey species in one excursion.

    After lunch, we will go to the zip line with another couple, and 4 guides. Since it has cooled off nicely, I won't mind the half hour walk each way. The lodge advertises having the only Amazon jungle zipline, so even with a slight fear of heights, I must do it. One of the guides tells me to bring binoculars as there will be lots of birds at the top of the canopy (a Ceiba or kapok tree). The walk isn't bad, I've been this way when looking for the night monkeys. Now comes the fun. Do you want to use the ascenders to the top (about 40 meters), if you start you have to finish, we can't rescue you? All three of us decide, No thanks, you can haul me up by hand. They have brought the big guy from the lodge to help with the tonnage. I challenge Christian (one of the guides) to haul me up without help. He says he manages, but since I refuse to look down, I have to take his word. There is a railing around the top of the platform, thank goodness! We are hooked into a safety line. I spend time with the binoculars while they haul the third guest up, and see the ultimate bird of the trip, a Paradise Tanager. We also see the OTHER trogon. Not bad, four monkeys, two trogons, and a Paradise Tanager on the same day!

    Now it is time to zip. There are three platforms and two ziplines (not very long). The bravest of the three goes first. The first zip, you push off when seated. The second zip, you jump. Then you get to rappel from the third platform...no help! It turns out that I like it! Much better than standing on the platforms. I guess my adrenalin junky trumps the acrophobe. The mega-guide Samuel shows off by coming down head first. All he needs is to do it while holding his machete in his teeth. We all tromp back to the lodge wishing we could do it again.

    After dinner I tell my guide I am satisfied and she can have the night off, no after dinner excursions. Tomorrow we will leave after breakfast for two nights at the second lodge (ARC).

    Photos: Around the Lodge http://picasaweb.google.com/kiwifann/TahuayoLodge#

    Excursion to El Chino Village
    http://picasaweb.google.com/kiwifann/VisitToElChinoVillage#

    Excursion to Terra Firma
    http://picasaweb.google.com/kiwifann/TerraFirmaAndDorilla#


    Excursion to Hoatzin Lake and Zip Line
    http://picasaweb.google.com/kiwifann/ExcursionsToHoatzinLakeAndZipLine#

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    Axel, there were a few times when it was fogged up! I brought some ziplock bags and dehumidifier packets and would swtich cameras for a half day or so. No permanent effects.

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    Glad someone is reading!

    Day 8 & 9 Research Center Lodge (ARC). In the morning, we get up early to look for pink dolphin. There is a pair (probably mother and calf) following our canoe, going back and forth. We see the backs when they surface a few times, but no beaks. Still, I did see them. After breakfast my two guides and I are going to the "ARC", the second lodge, farther upstream. No explanation of any features of the lodge is offered by the guides. It seems to be in thicker jungle, and is situated on black water. Supposedly it is used for research, but apparently not in May. Some of the rooms have views of the river, and I get one! Although there are no private bathrooms, I like it better than the first lodge. We go for a little walk behind the lodge. I get to drink from the water vine. When we return two other guests are swimming in front of the lodge and doing laundry. I join them, as this seems a better idea than using the shared showers. The water is clearer and darker than at the first lodge. A butterfly is attracted to the bright blue soap that is being used to wash clothing in the river. Hmmm. I hope it is biodegradable. After my swim, Pepe the caiman is pointed out to me, lurking nearby in the vegetation. I am sure to swim out to the center of all water bodies after this. Lunch is average, some kind of a beef stew, rice, yucca, beans, radish, and a nice soup. I kill an hour taking pictures of a praying mantis, Pepe, and a yellow headed caracara. We take a motorboat tour, see a sloth, some good birds, and bats hiding on a tree trunk. The guide points out the "boca" where a white water comes into the river. That's where we will go fishing for piranha tomorrow. We return and have an average dinner (chicken breast, rice, potato, and half an avocado). There is a little walk at night since I haven't seen tarantulas or frogs other than the poison dart ones. About 5 feet from the stairs, there is a tarantula on a Moriche Palm. Okay, tour over. We spend a few minutes looking at the eyes of the wolfspiders which sparkle when you shine a flashlight at them, and see a few brown frogs and toads that are doing a good job at camouflage. There's a green one under the steps but he is hiding. Time for bed since we get up early to go fishing tomorrow!

    The fishing trip is a huge success. Samuel has proper fishing gear but the two girls have bamboo poles, dull hooks, and about 5 feet of line. We won't hurt anyone. The intrepid Samuel finds a spot on the river bank that is populated with so many barracuda and piranha, that I manage to trick a small piranha into sticking its eye onto my dull hook. They decide to save it. Then we move along to some better spots, and although I don't catch anything else, Samuel hauls in about 7 kilo of big piranha and sabalo. He wants a peacock bass but doesn't get one. Surprisingly, we don't get a "gato fish" either. But the catch is impressive, strung thru the gills and mouth on a trimmed branch. I can hardly hold it up! We return in time for lunch, which is catfish and grilled piranha. It tastes like...fish. Very boney, but the cook makes a series of narrow slices across the flesh to cut up the fine bones. The sabalo is a fish that eats fruit and tastes too good for the tourists, they are going home with the pescador.

    After lunch my guide takes me to the Dolphin Lake by canoe. It's a nice swim and pretty, there are hot springs so the water goes from warm to cool to warm. I stay away from the edges and manage to get back into the canoe without tipping the whole thing over. Thank goodness for Girl Scouts. We don't see any more dolphins but fortunately also no more caiman.

    Dinner is ordinary except that there is birthday cake..it's my birthday. A nice touch by the chef and staff. And topped off with a pretty sunset, too.

    ARC Lodge
    http://picasaweb.google.com/kiwifann/ARCLodge#

    Fishing Excursion
    http://picasaweb.google.com/kiwifann/FishingForPiranha#

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    Day 10 & 11. Iquitos/Lima. Departure at 6 am for the other lodge. More strange itinerary logistics since I'm not leaving until after lunch, but the river is pretty and photographs better with a low sun. I say goodbye to the two guests who were paired with Orlando, they return to Iquitos at 7 am. I meet 6 new arrivals, three nurses from St. Louis (who are fine with the humidity), an Indian couple, and a Peruvian travel agent. The agent is checking out lodges for her clients. The 9am breakfast is fabulous, including banana pancakes and two kinds of fresh juice. Lunch is also better than usual, two kinds of catfish including kabobs and a escabeche type preparation. They bring the chef out for a round of applause and the guide makes some kind of special statement to the travel agent. Good marketing.

    My only excursion is a walk to the big kapok tree. Samuel comes with us, since my guide has no machete skills. Half the time she makes it worse when she tries to whack a spiney palm leaf, so I just push the damage aside with my walking stick. I tell her she needs more practice and shorter fingernails. We see a wire-tailed manakin lek! The birds are lovely but my photos are all fuzzy. After reaching the kapok tree and various poses with machetes, I ask for 10 more minutes. Samuel leads us on little used paths to a fruit tree. There are a few warty bright yellow fruit on the ground, that the monkeys have missed. Samuel cuts a few open with the machete, the is a little bit of white pulp around a single seed. It's a fruit I've never seen before, which they call a "charichuela", and quite tasty. Oh, how I wish my guide had been Mr. Samuel the whole time.

    At 2 pm it's time to go back to Iquitos. The boat driver seems very anxious to make good time, we're there at 4:30 pm. I have a room rented at the offices for a shower and an hour or so in air conditioning. They let me use one of the computer terminals to check email and print my boarding pass. My poor guide has to hang around until I depart for the airport. I tell her I want to go into town for more ice cream for dinner. I have palm fruit and Brazilian Guava. I also buy her one, We walk back along the Malecon and the tourist market below. There isn't much to buy, I get a key chain. A lot of what is sold is mahogany, which I refuse to buy. Eventually it's time to go. At the airport my guide says goodbye, but doesn't stick around long enough to learn that the flight is delayed (which the LAN desk agent neglects to mention to anyone). Luckily it's just half an hour. I talk to the only other gringa present. She's working for an NGO and has been traveling to remote native villages upstream. At Lima airport, I ask if she minds if her driver can take me to my hotel after hers. We figure it's safer to have two of us in the taxi at night. This works out nicely, since he only charges me the fare from her hotel to mine (8 soles). My lodging "Home Peru" is near the Plaza Vea on Arequipa. It's quite a bit cheaper than "Second Home Peru". The old colonial house in the front reminds me of my childhood home in Jamaica. My little private room in the back is okay for the price. Maybe the maintenance is a bit lax, but the staff is friendly, I can use the kitchen and storage room, and the internet connection is fast and free! Tomorrow night I take the bus to Trujillo.

    Pictures: Iquitos
    http://picasaweb.google.com/kiwifann/IquitosPeru#

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    Isn't she sweet?

    Day 12-13. Lima onto Trujillo. Not much happened today. Continental breakfast at the hotel. Free computer time (I was feeling deprived after a week in the jungle). Visit to the local supermarket, Plaza Vea. Actually this was fun, apparently an anniversary party for the market. There was a band playing, a man in a banana costume, and lots of free samples including Pisco Sours! I was amazed that everyone waited until the display of fruits, potatoes with dip, and ceviche was nicely arranged. On the all clear signal, though it was just like Costco on the weekends. They even had icecream samples. I made a little video of the supermarket trip:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvZ5pDChVS4

    Later on I walked down to the Parque de Amour in Miraflores, and took some photos, had pollo a la brasa at Pardo's, and packed for my trip by bus to Trujillo. My prearranged driver didn't show, but there was no problem getting one in front of the hotel.

    I went by Transportes Linea, good website, and the bus was comfortable (nice reclining leather seats on the upper level). Meal service included, which I didn't realize, or I wouldn't have eaten dinner. My bus was scheduled to depart at around 10pm and arrive quite early. I slept quite well on the bus (I was on the second level). It was a bit like flying first class, actually. I was supposed to call my lodging for a pickup when I arrived.

    Day 13. Trujillo.

    I had communicated by email with an Englishman who is reputed to give good tours around Trujillo and who supposedly would be able to take me to El Brujo, location of the Señora de Cao. Well, when I arrived in Trujillo and telephoned, Mr. White is not here. He is in England. Still, a nice young man arrived in a taxi and escorted me back to the hostel. On arrival, I now understand why they insist that I not take a taxi by myself, because one look at the lodging and I would have asked the driver to keep going! (Casa de Claro, not recommended). Apparently there has been no communication between Mr. White and Mrs. Bravo (his wife?) about my visit. We are not going to El Brujo today. Instead, we are going with two other tourists to Huaca de Luna, Huaca Arco Iris, & Chan Chan (the Tschudi Palace). Mrs. Bravo's car is not working. In the morning we use a taxi, we are on our own for lunch. In the afternoon we use her deathtrap of an ancient Volkswagon Beetle. Mrs. Bravo sort of speaks English but prefers to give her tours in Spanish. Everyone seems to know her. Her tours focus on the symbolism of the murals, with minimal discussion of the functions of different sections of the temples. A museum is under construction at Huaca del Luna (Temple of the Moon). The murals at Huaca de Luna are amazing. All of the sights have at least a pair of the Peruvian Hairless dogs. It turns out that we could have taken taxis to the sites from Trujillo and hired guides on the spot. I would recommend this to any travelers to the area.

    On the way to Huaca de Luna in the morning, we stop at a ceramic studio, a friend of hers. He blows a shell and then a pottery horn for us. He also has one of those crazy looking hairless dogs. I buy a nice puma pot for about 30 soles. Probably overpaid, but I liked it. Lunch was around the corner from the hostel, cost me 20 soles for cabrito stew, an appetizer of ocopa, and shared pitcher of chicha morada with the other two tourists. Excellent, but I didn't write the name down!

    A loud birthday party at a neighbor's house ceases at around 7 pm. I'm too full from lunch to have dinner. The room is quite dusty and the pillows are too awful to think about, but the plumbing works.

    Day 14. Trujillo to El Brujo to Chiclayo.

    What a fiasco today was. Mrs. Bravo has returned her VW to the mechanic. We were supposed to leave early, we don't. We are taking PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION to El Brujo. Along the way she tells me, "Oh, I have a better car that I use when there are more people, but for one person this is more fun for the company." Great. I have three whole days in the area and I am to spend half of one of them on a series of busses, combis and mototaxis. It should only take 45 mintes, I think we spent 2 hours getting there. (Basically you take a bus to the PanAmerican Norte at Chocope, a minivan (collectivo) to Magdalena de Cao, and a mototaxi thru canefields to the Museum. Mrs. Bravo sleeps most of the way to El Brujo, which is the site where the "Senora de Cao" is displayed. There is an exquisite museum on the site with English translations. Just walking from the museum to the temple (with some excavated murals) you pass many pieces of mummy bones, textiles, broken ceramics. The site is still being excavated and was featured in a National Geographic article in 2006. It is well worth a visit, just use a different guide, or hire a taxi for the day.

    After my somewhat rushed visit, Mrs. Bravo escorts me out to the Panamerican Highway where I catch an Emtrafesa bus at about 12:50 pm to Chiclayo. I don't have any reservations in Chiclayo but I am sooooo glad to have escaped from Mrs. Bravo! I arrive at about 3:30 pm.

    The Peru Footprint guide indicates that there is a mid-range hotel around the corner from the bus stations.

    I walk in and am offered a nice, air conditioned room for $US 60 at the Garza Hotel (we don't pay the 19% tax). Sold! The price includes a welcome drink, full buffet breakfast and free internet. Desk staff are friendly, professional and speak English. They can arrange tours and transport. The location is nothing special, but there are lots of people on the street and it feels safe. It's about equidistant to the Plaza Mayor and to a shopping center with a supermarket and lots of ATMs. I have my welcome drink at the bar, which can be a Pisco Sour or Coctel del Algarrobina. (Algarrobo is a type of carob tree and a syrup is made from the fruit). The desk clerk recommends the latter, which is delicious!Apparently this hotel's bartender is known to make one of the best in town. Since it's still quite early, I take a taxi to the Mercado Modelo and Mercado de Brujas (witchdoctors). I saw a few herbs (and some San Pedro cactus) but I liked the market in Iquitos better. I bought an average-quality "Panama" hat for a modest sum (I think it was about $15 US or 45 soles). I walked back the 5 or so blocks to the Plaza Mayor and stopped for dinner at Hebron at Balta 605. I don't recall how much it was, but I doubt it was more than $10 or $15. I had the special humita del casa for an appetizer, and grilled tollo for the main course, and a drink. Humitas are like tamales with no filling, and it turns out tollo is shark. (My friendly desk clerk had mentioned that dinner is typically just a light meal of a sandwich, juice and a dessert, since the typical regional dishes such as seco de cabrito are heavy.)

    I return to the hotel, and still a bit early, so I walk to the giant mall ("Tottus") which isn't far from the hotel. I picked up some water and snacks. Street vendors were selling some marinated figs ..they looked so good but I'm afraid of street food.

    Day 15. Lord of Sipan and Brunning Museum, Circuit of Beaches, back to Lima. Unfortunately, thanks to the Clara Bravo fiasco, my sightseeing itinerary is upside down. Today is the only day I have to see the two museums in Lambeyeque, and I have to leave Chiclayo at about 3pm to catch a bus to Trujillo. (What I should have done was to ignore Michael White's suggestions, and headed straight to Chiclayo on Day 12). After an excellent buffet breakfast at the Garza, with real coffee, I stored my luggage at the hotel and asked the hotel for a taxi to Lambeyeque. Luckily, Mr. German Rodriguez, who works for a tourist taxi service, was available. They provide fixed rate transportation to the sights around Chiclayo. (They also can be booked directly at 074-979634969 and the rates will be less since they will not be giving a cut to the hotel.) The rate was 70 SOLES for round trip and wait time for the two museums in Lambeyeque. The Bruning Museum has some interesting photos and educational displays, a few mummies, and photos are allowed. The Lord of Sipan museum is a "Don't miss." They are very serious about no photos, though, they even wand you airport style! No English translations, so if you don't read Spanish you may want to hire a guide. The arrangement of the museum in order of excavation from top to bottom was excellent, there was a lot of info on restoration, archaeology, the culture, as well as the beautiful artificats. It turned out I was visiting on free museum day! Good for my wallet, but just about every student in the entire Lambeyeque Region must have been in attendance. Luckily German knew the right person at the Lord of Sipan Museum and I didn't have to wait in the line that stretched all the way from the top of the pyramid to the entrance. Later I read that some 5,000 students visited that day! Afterwards, I had a bit of time left and wanted a ceviche lunch, German suggested that I take the 90 Soles "Beach Circuit" to Pimentel, Santa Rosa and Monsefu. This was a good idea, since I was able to see the fishermen using their "caballitos de totara" at Pimentel, take some nice photos of the colorful anchovy fleet (lanchas) at Santa Rosa, and shop for about 10 minutes at Monsefu. My lenguado ceviche at "Los Percebes" in Pimentel was less than 20 Soles ($7) and was top notch. My driver pointed out the various industries such as rice, fishing, etc. We made it back to my hotel in Chiclayo in time for me to retrieve luggage and catch the 3pm Transportes Linea bus to Trujillo. (Price 14 Soles, time 4 hours plus). My night bus to Lima left at 10pm. After seeing how bad the traffic was on arrival in Trujillo, I decided to just stay at the bus station until my 10pm bus left. I knew I'd be fed on the bus so didn't try to find anywhere to have dinner.

    Photos

    Trujillo Area
    http://picasaweb.google.com/kiwifann/TrujilloAndArea#

    Chiclayo
    http://picasaweb.google.com/kiwifann/Chiclayo#

    Beach Circuit (Pimentel and Santa Rosa)
    http://picasaweb.google.com/kiwifann/PimentelAndSantaRosa#

    North Coast from the Bus
    http://picasaweb.google.com/kiwifann/NorthCoastPeruFromTheBus#

    Museum Photos (Bruning and Metropolitan Museum of Art)
    http://picasaweb.google.com/kiwifann/BruningMuseoMetMuseumNYC#

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    I liked the Amazon much more than I expected, although if we had not had that cold front, I might have regretted spending a full week there. But now I'm glad that I went.

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    Thanks rosetravel. Peru really has it all, maybe it's a bit lacking in beaches but other than that, you'll find something that interests you there. December isn't a bad time to go to the Sacred Valley and visit MP, either.

    Day 16. Lima and back to the US.

    My bus arrives around 7am (a bit later than scheduled) and again I have a pretty good night's rest. This time I had one of the single seats on the upper level, across the aisle were two nuns! There are lots of taxi drivers waiting inside the terminal. I just pick a nice looking older driver and cross my fingers. I return to "Home Peru" for my luggage. There isn't any problem with hanging out in the morning, the living areas in the house and patio are pleasant. I repack my luggage for the return trip, use their fast internet, make a bit of breakfast. The nice owner/manager arrives at 9am and I can take a shower for 10 soles (the night manager didn't seem comfortable approving this for some reason). For lunch, I want to have ceviche at the upscale Kapallaq around the corner from the hotel. Unfortunately it isn't open at noon when I walk by, so I return to Plaza Vea which has a lunch buffet, including some really fresh and tasty ceviche. I have a samples of some other typical dishes that I haven't yet tried but they are average. After I'm done I decide to walk back by Kapallaq on the way to my hotel. It's open! Okay, two lunches then. This is a very pleasant small restaurant that specializes in fish and seafood, it is interesting to observe Lima's elites and their families. The owner stops by and chats. Lunch is quite good, but being one of the upscale restaurants, there are lots of extra charges..including a cover charge, 10% service and 19% tax. All in all it was about 50 Soles for my plate of ceviche mixto and an after lunch espresso with two tiny chocolate alfajorres. Recommend for a splurge, especially if you like seafood.

    I had intended to visit Gamarra and shop for textiles, but due to my taxi driver never showing for a prearranged transfer to the bus station, I decided to scratch that plan. I wasn't really in a shopping mood, either, but decided to just go to the Miraflores Indian markets and buy a few last minute gifts (some carved gourds and a spondylus/silver pendant). My flight leaves at midnight, so I head back to my lodging for a scheduled 8pm pickup. So the taxi driver calls my lodging to say he's at the airport and traffic back to Lima is just too bad and he isn't coming! One of the Home Peru employees and I go out to Arequipa and flag down taxis until we find one that has permission to enter the airport. An act of faith that I don't really recommend but the taxi (white) does have a name and phone number on the side, and seems to be legitimate. My friend from the hostel makes a show of writing down the number of the taxi and the driver laughs and asks if she wants his name, too. He turns out to be a gem, gets me to the airport on time and we laugh almost the whole way. My flight back to JFK is on time, which I hadn't expected. I declare my food items, they are scanned twice but the inspectors don't bother too open the bags. I had two boxes of coca leaf tea, which I declared as "tea" but apparently now it's only the whole leaves that are an issue, not the tea bags. They joke that they were hoping for some Italian prosciutto.

    Since I'm unexpectedly on time at JFK, I decide to pay the $40 change fee and am able to get on an earlier JetBlue flight back to Long Beach. Thank you Jet Blue!~

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