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Monday, February 6, 2017

My Amazing Amazon Expedition in Peru

We set out with a group of 38 singles and as usual they were initially timid but quickly bonded in friendship.

 On arrival in Lima we check into the lovely Belmond Miraflores Park Hotel which is one of the district's five-star hotels located in the district. There was a guided city tour and then leisure time to explore the area.

Miraflores is one of the main tourist attractions in Lima. The district is full of hotels, cafés, pubs, restaurants and shops, which draw large crowds of the local population on Sundays. Parque Kennedy, Miraflores' central plaza, regularly has flea markets and art exhibitions. Larcomar, a shopping mall overlooking the Pacific coast, is located in Miraflores, and is very popular among tourists, young people, and the middle and upper classes. There are restaurants, stores, a food court, ice cream shops, arcades, bowling alleys, nightclubs, bars, and the most modern cinema in Lima.

The main tourist attractions include La Huaca Pucllana, Kennedy Park, the church of the Miraculous Virgin (Iglesia Virgen Milagrosa), the Lover's Park (Parque del amor), Larcomar, and Calle de las Pizzas (Pizza Street). The Calle de las Pizzas, located in downtown Miraflores, is a favorite among the youth, foreigners and locals alike; it has many pubs, and as it name implies, offers not only drinks but also varieties of pizzas.

Miraflores has always been a major hub for tourists in Lima. There are a number of hotels in the area, including a couple of international hotel brands. Furthermore, there are several shops selling souvenirs and tourist products.

Later in the evening after all the exploring, we enjoyed a delicious dinner of sea bass ceviche at the Rosa Nautica restaurant built on an ocean pier.

Rosa Nautica Restaurant, Lima Peru

Next day we flew Lan to Iquitos where we were greeted by 3 top guides who remain with us for our 6 days in the jungle. They are truly pro’s on flora, fauna and having fun! All transport is by boat. 90 miles down river we arrive at the Explornapo Lodge in the heart of Amazonia. No plumbing or electricity, feels like an episode out of “Survivor.” Rustic to the extreme yet therein lies the unique charm. I fell in love with the resident “pets”. There was Adrian the toucan who would poke his long beak into the dining room door for a treat, along with several tame parrots and scarlet macaws. Charlie was a Capybara that looked like a mutant 100lb. guinea pig. When I’d scratch under his chin he’d close his eyes and make cooing sounds.

The pitch black nights were spooky with a symphony of wild noises. Our rooms were connected with a privacy wall and an open thatched roof. Like a giant slumber party, we all shouted “goodnight Johnboy” from our mosquito netted beds. Suddenly Sharon screamed and the guys run to her room. She found a giant lizard tucked in with her in her bed. At 3am I head to the latrine with flashlight in hand. Inside a bat flutters near my head as I repeatedly whisper “bat’s are good.”

Enough roughing it. We board our boats for “luxury in the Amazon” at Ceiba Tops. With air conditioning, tropical gardens and a pool, it feels like the Ritz to us. I take the world’s longest shower as others enjoy Pisco Sours by the pool. We all gain weight with fresh food throughout that is both delicious and plentiful.

Ceiba Tops

On daily boat tours we saw giant water lilies, sloths, countless birds and the elusive pink dolphins. We fished by cane poles for piranha to fry up for dinner. We visited a family with a pet anaconda snake. My brave clients drape it around themselves for a photo op. We delivered medical supplies to a remote clinic serving the poor river people. Here a tooth extraction costs $2 if they can afford it.

There were many highlights! We hiked the world’s longest canopy walk 100′ high in the trees. We visited Monkey Island, a research station for 8 species that roam free. For one photo I held 3 at a time. There was a lecture by two resident shamans who taught us about medicinal plants and then blessed us individually as they removed our bad spirits. At the Yagua Indian Village we traded our western goods for masks and blowguns (several of these were later were confiscated by TSA.)

A Yagua Village

The best part of the trip for me was a surprise visit to a rural school. Inside were 50+ children barefoot and wide-eyed who never see tourists. Tears filled my eyes as they sang their national anthem to us. We sang our anthem to them and deposited a ton of school supplies to the two teachers. It was a glorious sight.

Rural Amazon School, Peru

Back to Lima, we all scatter to shop the Indian markets. The dollar is so strong here that several in the group bought another suitcase to fill. I did my Christmas shopping in May. Our fabulous dinner was at a restaurant set in pre-Incan ruins. We toast each other goodbye with many hugs as I remiss a journey well done. This group was so prefect I’d like to clone them all for future AFS trips. I couldn’t hand pick better travelers for this adventure.

I have always loved the land of Peru. I am now designing a unique future trip to include Machu Piccu, boating Lake Titicaca, visits to natives on floating reed islands and crossing to La Paz Bolivia. For the moment, I've have my time in Europe. There is a spirit of humility found in the hearts of these people that I am unable to adequately describe here. Nor can my photos justly convey Peru. It truly must be experienced.

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Featuring a restaurant, Explornapo Lodge offers accommodations on the Napo River located 160 km from Iquitos.  

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