June 25, 2010

Peru: Overview of the Highlands and the Amazon

What do you visit in Peru when you have already seen Machu Picchu and the Nazca Lines?

Teresa embraced that challenge when Jan and I visited her during the South American winter month of June.

We visited pre-Inca ruins outside Lima (Pachacamac and Caral), Lake Titicaca (Floating Islands), Sillustani (Burial Towers), Colca Canyon (Patapampa Pass ~16,000 feet, Andean Condors and Skull Candy) and Arequipa (including Santa Catalina and Juanita the "Ice Maiden") Then Teresa sent us on a short ecoadventure along the Amazon, over the rainforest and within petting distance of Charlita who is a capybara (largest rodent in the world)

June 13, 2010

Peru: Amazon Blow Guns, Piranhas & Pink Dolphins

Besides Capybaras and Canopy Walks, the Amazon has much to offer the ecoadventurer. Pink dolphins are tricky to spot but the pet sloths are tame.
Blowing darts is eerily accurate.

These young children are resourceful Jan was a successful piranha fisher We remained calm during our breakdown and rescue

June 12, 2010

Peru: Charlita the Capybara

Capybaras are the largest rodents in the world, reaching up to 140 pounds and 4.3 feet in length. Charlita was gentle as the children fed her leftover cake from lunch.

Peru: Canopy Walk

Explorama constructed one of the world's longest suspended walkways over the jungle canopy - 1640 feet long and rising to 122 feet. We were fascinated by the construction and the views.

June 11, 2010

Peru: Iquitos, Amazon River & Ceiba Tops Hike

The mighty Amazon River is at least 4000 miles long and second in length only to the Nile. For me, the Amazon has always conjured up images of deer-eating pythons, deadly frogs, and natives with expertise in poisonous blow darts. The Amazon is also a working river. As we motored upstream from Iquitos to our lodge at Ceiba Tops, I marvelled at how some of these boats managed to stay afloat.
Our lodge was far more rustic than the Casa Andina Private Collection and Teresa's penthouse apartment in Lima, but we still had a private bath and A/C in the room. From our lodge, we walked among frogs and spiders and creatures we preferred not to think about. Some spiders were well camouflaged ..... .... and other spiders were quite bright. We felt incredibly brave just holding a frog and only after our guide assured us it was safe.

June 10, 2010

Peru: Caral

Caral was settled between 3000 and 1800 BC, making it the 3rd oldest “civilization" after Mesopotamia / Egypt and before India / China. Peru is struggling to develop this site to give it the attention it deserves. They are leaving many of the monuments under the sand dunes to prevent looting until funds are available to restore and preserve the monuments. For more insight into this civilization, view this BBC special:


June 09, 2010

Peru: Arequipa

Maria de Guzman founded Santa Catalina in 1580 as a means for women from wealthy, high-class Spanish families to enter religious service.  Every nun brought a significant dowry, 25 listed items (some even brought fine English china) and between 1 - 4 servants / slaves.  Although they could not leave the convent, they lived a lavish lifestyle with concerts and parties and surrounded by fine art.

 Life was good until Pope Pius IX sent Sister Josefa Cadena to "reform" the monastery in 1825.  Things went downhill fast from there.  After a few earthquakes in the 1960s, the convent  was restored and opened to the public for tourism with proceeds helping to support the small religious population still living within these walls.

We were extremely fortunate to view "Juanita" in the Santuarios Andinos Museum as she often travels to other museums.  Juanita is still frozen and in a special glass box for viewing. (These pictures are from the museum website.)

 Johan Reinhard and Miguel Zarate discovered Juanita high on Mount Ampato.  Finding her body was amazing enough and there was even more drama during the second climb to retrieve her body.

Juanita died ~1450-1480 when she was ~11-15 years old.  There is reason to believe she was a religious sacrifice (bashed in head, so far from home).   Her tissue has provided many insights into Incans of her time.