Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wayback Wednesday: Peru

The summer after high school, I went to Peru with a group of adventurers.  I don’t remember what the whole program was about, something environmental.   There was a group of about eighteen of us, with one girl from the school I had just graduated from.  Dr. Smith led the expedition (that’s what it felt like at times!).

A few of us riding in a rickshaw in Quito.  I was so young!

We first went to Quito, Peru and then made our way to the Amazonian Rainforest.  We stayed in a “resort” in the middle of the rainforest.  There was no hot water, so many of us preferred bathing in the swimming pool, which was semi-allowed.  We just did it with bathing suits.  The cabins we stayed in had open air and hammocks, and many nights we slept in the hammocks and listened to the monkeys scream.  The rainforest can be an EXTREMELY loud place at night.  The animals seem to play while you’re trying to sleep.
Our resort: Zungarococha.

We ate dinner in an open air café, and I loved the yucca and pretty much everything else they served there.  The food was fantastic. 

We visited a small town, and a little Peruvian girl let us hold her pet sloth.  He clung onto me like a little baby, and put his head against my shoulder.  She took us to her house, and we saw her mother use a clay oven to cook food for the whole family.  They showed us their school house, which was in bad need of repair.  They also needed books.  The conditions were appalling to me, a “rich” teenager from Alabama, seeing that children lived with so little made me sad.  It also made me thankful for what I did have.
We also visited a zoo, and I was able to hold an anaconda.  My seven year old LOVES this photo of me being brave!

We took a cruise on a branch of the Amazon called the Nanay River.  Mr. Smith told us about the fish in the Amazon River that would swim up inside of you and live off of you as a parasite.  None of us wanted to get in the water after that!  We saw pink river dolphins, which was completely amazing.  The jungle swelled around the river as we cruised to our next destination, another resort in a small village. This resort overlooked the river, and had a huge open air reception area.  The rooms were built off of this, with screens and mosquito nets covering the beds, because the mosquitos were particularly bad in this area and could spread yellow fever (I had the immunization before I left).

 The toilets were self-flush.  By that I mean, there was a bucket next to the toilets filled with water, you took the bucket, poured the water in and your pee or poop would go down a tube directly into the river.  Sanitation in this area was little to nil.  The next day, I saw kids playing in the tip of the river, washing clothes, fetching water.  This is how disease spreads, but this is also how they lived, and how they lived for thousands of years.

The houses here were built on sticks so they would not be flooded.  They consisted of some sort of wood paneling on the bottom, pure and simple, with hammocks for people to sleep on.  One of the Peruvian ladies also told us that the houses were built up so animals from the forest would not bother them.  They had a simple school house, and the education there was quite good.  They said they had trouble keeping teachers, as often the adult children left home to go to Quito for better jobs and better opportunities in life.

From this village, we walked into the rainforest.  Several men carried mattresses on their backs the whole way so that we could sleep in a station in the middle of the rainforest.  They also carried food to make for us.  We arrived at a raised platform that would be our bed for the night.  The men set up our beds, complete with mosquito nets, and they started the tasks of making our super.

In the meantime, I hit the head, and by that I mean a hold in the ground.  I learned that in the rainforest, this is where you went #2.  We all dug holes, went, and covered up our shit (literally!). 

The men who were helping us had brought chicken with them.  They slaughtered them and cooked them for us.  This was the best chicken I have ever had in my life, before or since.  Completely fresh, not antibiotics, no hormones, just chicken as it was meant to be.  Yum.

I’m not sure what happened next exactly.  At one point, we went to visit the Boras, a tribe in the middle of the rainforest, virtually untouched by civilization.  We traded with them for Bora art.  I brought back necklaces, masks, and toys that their children used.  I gave them my studs so they could use them to pierce the young tribal girls’ ears, instead of sterilized sticks.  This tribe does have contact with the outside world, but they live a completely tribal life still.
Dancing with the Boras.

It was an amazing, eye-opening trip.  I saw things that most people don’t see in their entire lives.  I will always remember and think fondly of Peru.  The people are so nice there.  They welcome everyone with open arms, smiling, and willing to share their culture with outsiders.


  1. What an incredible adventure! You were so lucky to have done something like that!!! I'm so envious! Loved your narration of your experience!!! (And yes, you definitely look brave holding the snake!)

  2. Thanks! It was so much fun. I really had an amazing life early on! My parents were able to provide me with a lot of unique experiences and for that I'm thankful. My poor kids won't get half of that!


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