Our trip to Peru and the Amazon was an experience of a lifetime. We filled our days with incredible day trips on the river and to indigenous villages. We embraced family and the people of Peru. We met new friends and re-kindled old friendships. It was difficult to pick out my top experiences of our first trip south of the equator, but here is my list of top 10 highlights. Enjoy.
The number one highlight of the trip to Peru was the chance to spend time with Deborah’s family and their new in-laws. It is always a pleasure to hang out with uncles Terry and Fisher and Deborah’s dad James. These are some great men, kind, hard-working role models. It was an opportunity for everyone to meet Rosanna’s family as well. Such beautiful people, all of them. Rosanna’s parents are so filled with warmth and appreciation that we visited their country. They were great ambassadors to us Canadian visitors. Jim and Rosanna hosted a fabulous New Years Eve party at their home. We danced into the new year wishing each other “feliz ano nuevo”! I can’t say this enough, but I am so appreciate of Jim and Rosanna’s kindness and hospitality in having us in their homes. I rarely have this feeling, but I felt truly welcome and at home in Iquitos. I look forward to our next visit soon. Miigwetch James and Rosanna. Chi-miigwetch to the Cordero Inga family for taking such good care of Dad.
2. The Amazon River
One of the natural wonders of the world, the Amazon River was everything I expected it to be. Dark, mysterious, powerful. It is truly something that needs to be respected and protected. Throughout our week or so in Peru, we travelled the river a few times. Mainly to go from one tributary to another, however, one of the highlights of our trip was the ride to Los Boas about an hour east. We happened to encounter the river when it was full with flotsam, likely from a rainstorm up river. We had to carefully navigate through the myriad of logs, driftwood and branches so not to damage the motor.
We looked for more information before spending time on the various rivers: the Momon, Itaya, Nanay and the mighty Amazon. Deb’s dad, Jim Richardson was extremely generous, not only with his hospitality at home, but in taking us on the river in his boat. We enjoyed every minute of the experience: from the boatlaunch at Ave. La Marina in Iquitos, out to the boat house on the Itaya River where a nice family keeps the boat for him, to our experience fishing for piranha.
Being on the river also reminded me of home. The boat people were reminiscent of my Dad’s family who lived at Hardy Bay on the French River. Even the Grandfather who spent time with us had the exact same hands, color and stature as my Dad. The Merritt Supply website serves as a good guide and adviser.
We did get to see some Amazon River dolphins, but they were camera shy. Please support Roxanne Kremer and the society for the Protection of the Amazon River Dolphin.
I didn’t get to jump into the river like I wanted. I’ll save that for my next visit.
3. Singing a song for the Boras people
Definitely a highlight of the trip was visiting the indigenous people at the Boras and Yagua villages. It was quite an experience to visit with these people who explained their origins in the jungle near the Columbian and Equadorian border. To hear of their history and their culture and how close they are with the jungle and the river. So many similarities to First Nations people in North America. The Boras tribe, mostly their young people, offered us a welcoming dance which was beautiful. We were then invited to be honourary members of the tribe, with Deborah’s uncle Fisher as the Chief. We danced with their regalia and truly felt special and welcome in their ceremonial roundhouse.
Then Jim explained that we were Indian people from Canada and that I was a traditional singer. I was offered a shaker to sing a song to the Boras. Deb and her uncles led a round dance while I sung a Midewiwin dance song. It was a heart-warming experience for us. While appreciative, the Boras didn’t quite know what to make of it.
However, it then became apparent why the tribe had moved so close to Iquitos and the Amazon River. They reliance on the tourist economy. In a flash, following the ceremonial dancing, we were surrounded by the young people selling their regalia, bracelets, weaved cloth and all types of handicrafts. We did our best to support them and hauled in quite a few items which are beautiful. I bought the exact ceremonial necklace that I wore during the dance.
4. Belen: The Venice of the Americas
We didn’t get to visit the gigantic market until the tail-end of our trip. We had heard about Belen, it’s enormous size, what we could expect there and what to watch out for. It wasn’t until we got there that it sunk in. These were the people of Iquitos and their own economy. This is where they bought their vegetables and meat, which hung from the walls as roofs of hundreds of booths. This is where they bought their housewares and furnishings. This is also where they traded in traditional medicines. I bought a traditional medicine that is good for diabetes made from a special root. I also bought a huge stick of natural tobacco for ceremonies. Uncle Terry bought a bottle of aphrodisiac called “21 Roots” that he hoped to use when he gets home. The market was also the place for the illicit trade in exotic animals. Birds, crocodiles, turtles and various species of monkeys. It’s quite an eye-opener.
This was also a place where we seen the tremendous poverty of the people. As we rode along the Itaya River, we seen the slums and shanties where many people live. Belen is described as the Venice of the Americas, but it is certainly not Venice. Although it is quite beautiful in it’s own unique way. It’s amazing to see how people adapt to the river and live so close together. Many of the shanties are on stilts as the river rises and falls naturally. They bathe, wash their clothes and play in the river, only metres away from their they go to the bathroom. This was one of the reasons my contingent didn’t let me jump in the river.
Miguel is our pet monkey. Unfortunately, we can’t bring him home to Canada. But Jim will take care of him for us. It’s really cool to hold a monkey. They are so human! It’s like taking care of a baby, because they are so small… but can quickly get into mischief and out of your hand just as quickly. And did I mention they are so human? Miguel is really neat!
There is an incredible abundance of amazing and diverse plant-life and wildlife in the Amazon jungle. The lillies and flowers are quite so beautiful. The trees are so tall and sprawling. A walk in the bush means something total different in Amazoneas. We had the chance to visit a butterfly farm and see one of the world’s most beautiful and rare butterflies, the giant blue morphos. They live only for two weeks and exist only to make Love and reproduce.
7. Shopping in Lima
Lima is really a modern, cosmopolitan city. More and more tourists are flocking to this city of 7,605,742 people which means a lot more hotels, restaurants, attractions and retail shopping space.
We spent most of our time in Miraflores, a thriving coastal neighbourhood of amazing cliffs, sandy beaches and ocean surf. City engineers managed to build a spectacular tourist and shopping complex into the limestone cliffs which contain great restaurants, a multiplex theater and lots of modern shopping. In the more urban parts of Miraflores, we explored the artisans markets and purchased some beautiful Mayan handicrafts and a nice new baby alpaca scarf. We finished off our visit to Lima by checking out the ultra-modern Jockey Plaza – which has all the best American and French high-fashion and brand name stores. Prices in Peru are just right. Didn’t get to try the KFC though.
I truly got a thrill every time I rode the motocarros. This motorcycle/richshaw combo is how to travel in Iquitos. No one owns a car or truck in town. But who needs to? It costs 3-5 nuevo sols (Peruvian currency) to travel anywhere. This is equivalent to $1 US. They are so fun to ride. It reminds me of the first time I rode a four-wheeler on the rez. But the driver weaves in and out of dense motocarro traffic, with no definitive lanes or traffic laws. It seems that traffic lights and stop signs are more like “guidelines” and the goal is to race everyone else to the destination. It is thrilling, fun and when you get past the exhaust fumes – a great outdoor activity! So fun!!
9. Speaking Spanish
I tried my best to communicate. But Iquitos, Peru isn’t a thriving tourism hotspot yet! Very few people can speak english so you have to attempt to communicate in espanol. Dos huevos por favor! – just doesn’t cut it here. It was a challenge to just say the address “Trujillo, Punchana” to the motorcarro driver to get him to understand our weird, foreign accent. I say it correctly, but they just don’t hear it correctly for some reason. But it was fun. I used my spanish baby talk to find my way around town, to negotiate prices, to tell people to “buzz off”, to order meals and find the bathroom. Donde esta banos hombres?
More than a few times, we went downtown and walked on “la Boulevard” as the locals call it. This area, near the Plaza de Armes, is ripe with nightlife, artisans, restaurants and many, many people. Deborah’s dad took us all out for dinner at a small, comfortable restaurant where we experienced some delicious blended and frothy lemonade and passion fruit juice, deep fried plantain and some alligator. It was all incredibly delicious. All the street food smells delicious as well, but it was a no-no. We stuck to “los restaurantes touristicas”. Down below the boulevard is the market with much more of an indigenous theme. All wonderful stuff from the jungle. Fiona bought a hat.
Peruvians so enjoy their ice cream, so we partook in the local ice cream and gelato bar. It’s a nice way to cope with the 30 degree heat and 90 per cent humidity. Click here to get the best small dehumidifier to your home.
Apparently, after midnight, the night life turns a little racy. Not that I would notice – bed time is always 9:30 for me no matter what country I’m in.
One amazing restaurant we ate at was on the Itaya River. This floating restaurant called Al Frio y el Fuego was the most romantic spot in the city. Delicious food and a spectacular view of the city light. So calm and peaceful. It was the most memorable of all our nights out.