6 Weeks in Peru - Part 1
Updated: Oct 19, 2022
To come to Peru and not experience the Amazon is crazy.
To come to Peru and not have a good look at the Andes is also crazy.
To come to Peru and not experience the desert coast is crazy too.
Of course, not to experience Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley and spend some quality time there is crazy as well.
Hi folks we are Lorraine and Simon Freeden and we have been involved in true Ecotourism for over 30 years, so we have learnt a few things. I am also an Environmental Scientist with a keen interest in sustainable land management. When we travel either in Australia or overseas, we tend to concentrate on areas that are less human damaged, mainly National Parks and tend to spend less time in built up areas, such as cities.
Why Did We Want to Go to Peru?
Peru owns most of the upper and middle reaches of the mighty Amazon River, about 18% and the Amazon River is one of the world’s great rivers. The Amazon basin has the world’s largest rainforest, with the highest biodiversity, because of its size and different habitats. The river starts in the high Andes and the rainforests start with Cloud Forest at about 3,000m and goes down to sea level.
There are over 300 different tree species per hectare and that does not include vines, ferns and shrubs. The more research that is done the more species are found. There are still indigenous people in the Amazon that do not want contact with the modern world. The Europeans brought disease and slavery which decimated the populations, so why would they want contact? The best thing we can do is to stay away from their lands and respect their human rights.
Up at 4am - Fly Gold Coast to Auckland, Auckland to Santiago, Santiago to Lima approx. 28 hours traveling. Got to bed at 11 pm Lima time.
Got up at about 8 am had breakfast and went for a walk to the beach, had lunch at the hotel and dinner, good food. The murals on the building in Miraflores Lima are amazing. Our room was below the roof top bar. They did not stop making loud noise until 3am and we could not sleep. We will post a bad review about the noise - the food and room were good.
GAdventures 9 day Amazon River Cruise
Checked out of the hotel at 6.40, went to Lima airport and flew to Iquitos about an 1.5 hrs flight. Iquitos is a big city and is the starting point for all the large sleep-onboard river boats. It is in the middle of the Amazon and is close to the Brazilian border. After we arrived, we went to the Manatee Rescue Centre and then we boarded the boat about 3 pm.
Manatees (dugongs in Aust.) are doing it tough because of hunting and poaching and the selling of the calves. They only breed every 4 years and the calf takes 2 years to wean. Another example of human stupidity, greed and self-centred bullshit.
The boat is very comfortable with 3 decks and plenty of room. Our cabin is on the second deck and the rooftop has seating for relaxing and has the bar. The cabins are small but comfortable with 2 single beds, air con and an ensuite.
Where we are cruising is about 100m above sea level, and it is low water. It is about 2400 km to the mouth of the river in Brazil.
The soils around the banks and flooded forests are very sandy loam which is very fertile and supports sustainable crops of rice, melons and beans. It is so easy to farm, all you do is choose a sand bank that is exposed and plant your crop, you do not need fertiliser as the sediments re-fertilise the land every year after the floods. Nobody starves in this part of the basin and the people look fit and healthy. They only keep chickens.
Peru is doing a much better job of taking care of their part of the basin unlike Brazil, which is clearing vast areas for timber and agriculture. This is crazy as the soils are really poor away from the flood forest and when you clear it all the mulch and nutrients leach away from it in 2 or 3 years. You end up with grass savanna with little nutrients that will not grow good cattle without adding synthetic fertiliser, which is expensive and unsustainable.
This part of the Amazon is wide with shallow parts and eroded riverbanks. The river levels are low at this time of the year. When the Amazon is in flood in January to March, the water levels rise by over 20m, and spread out up to 5 km into the surrounding forest.
The main riverbanks are badly eroded, with trees falling into the river and the water is very murky. This is perfectly natural as the riverbanks have very sandy soils and erode easily because the Amazon basin was under the sea millions of years ago before the Andes were pushed up. The Andes are eroding and supplying the river with an enormous amount of sediment and the river keeps changing its course with many oxbow lakes because it is so flat. It is after all the Amazon basin.
All the trees that fall into the river offer perfect habit for fish to hide from predators. There are over 2,000 fish species. We saw two species of river dolphins, the pink and the grey dolphin. They do not have big dorsal fins like our dolphins, more like a Humpback whales. There were plenty of dolphins and it is fantastic to see them chasing and herding fish.
We had a good nights sleep.
The river flows at about 1 to 2 knots (3 or 4 km). If you were in a canoe paddling against the current, it would be hard work and your progress would be slow.
We got up at 5.30 to watch the sunrise and enjoy the scenery. We were in the skiff, a small, long motorised boat, at 6.30am for some bird watching along the riverbanks. We saw lots of birds with similar species to what we see on our river, the beautiful Brunswick River.
Back to the boat at 8am for breakfast. Free time till 10am and then we boarded the skiffs to do more wildlife spotting. The guides asked if we could watch a local family fishing. They used a gill net about 30m long with floats and within 20 minutes they had caught over 20 fish of different species and size. GAdventures bought some of the fish for our meal on the boat. As they say, nobody starves in this part of the Amazon as there are plenty of fish and native fruits.
Good on GAdventures for connecting tourists to the locals to ensure that the locals gain a benefit from tourism and tourists from lucky countries like ours learn that life is not all about us. This was a wonderful experience and true Ecotourism, except Lorraine was feeling seasick with the heat and bobbing around in the skiff.
Lorraine went and had a sleep for 2 hours and was feeling better. The crew made her some chicken noodle and ginger soup, she ate it and said it was good. We had a jungle walk at 4pm, where will only be in the skiff for 5min.
Early morning jungle walk to a nature reserve with the locals and saw some massive trees and the world’s largest waterlilies.
They showed us the Bullet Ant, rated as the most painful insect bite. It causes bad headache, swelling and is extremely painful for at least 24 hrs and they are aggressive. They live in a special tree which offers them a home and in return nothing will eat the tree’s leaves. They also clear any seedlings around the base of the tree to reduce the competition and make it easier for the tree to grow.
The locals had some beautiful handmade crafts that were made from different plant fibres. Unfortunately, we are unable to buy any as our quarantine will not allow us to bring them into Australia. Everybody else bought some and we gave a tip instead.
After breakfast we went to the markets, and we bought 3 soccer balls to give out to village kids. We then went for a tuk-tuk ride around the town call Natau. It is a large town with about 35,000 people and is a major trading centre for local produce.
Some traders sold rocks from the Andes for sharpening machetes as there are no rocks in this part of the Amazon. We saw murals depicting the Spanish invasion and the disease they brought to Peru.
In the afternoon we went wildlife spotting in another nature reserve on a small side creek. We saw lots of birds, turtles, dolphins, and squirrel monkeys.
We went to another very small village, where we ate honeydew melon and visited their little school and gave them a soccer ball and played with the kids.
We gave a money gift for a young girl who had had a fall out of a hammock and had a brain injury. Sonny, our grandson with disabilities, gets so much support in Australia whereas the villagers get nothing to help her. She had a wheelchair that was unsuitable for her because it needed fat tyres so it would work better in the village. A good Amazonian bush engineer could make it better. Hopefully that will happen.
The school was very rough with 1 teacher and 6 kids. As a group we asked what they needed and collected money from everyone to buy supplies for the school. We bought the supplies from a large village upstream and gave them to the community on the way back past.
We had a lunch prepared by the village locals. The crew brought ashore clean water and our chef helped prepared the food in a hygienic manner. It was really tasty and fresh. It was very hot in the building where we had lunch.
We went for a short canoe paddle in a small creek, with the villagers paddling us, and brought the supplies for the school we visited.
Before lunch a local Shaman lady came aboard and showed her plant medicine including Ayahuasca which is a natural hallucinogenic vine which they use to connect people with their inner self for better health. She services 6 local villages and receives whatever payment the patients wanted to give. Covid had hit Peru hard with lots of death, she did not lose anyone in any of the villages.
Before dark we went to another reserve for a jungle walk which was higher ground and different forest type called Terra Firma.
We left the boat early and headed up a side creek and had breakfast on the skiff in the jungle and then went up a creek for more wildlife spotting. Some of our group and myself had a swim in the creek. I was swimming in the mighty Amazon River, and nothing bit me. Hollywood has done a great job making us believe the river and forest is full of creatures that are out to get us.