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My EPIC Amazonian Adventure

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This is my longest blog-post ever but I smiled through the entirety of typing this. Living with an indigenous family in the jungle was one of the most incredible things I have ever experienced, I know its detailed but I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it…

We were really fed up of the tour companies fighting over us and confusing us as they all had different opinions, we were so flustered we just decided to leave it and head back to our hostel. Lena saw a guy passing us on a motorbike that she had spoken to previously about tours. He asked if we had booked yet, he was the only one so far who seemed like he was interested in what sort of tour we actually wanted and gave us options and suggestions. He said to follow him in a mototaxi to his office, a little risky at 10pm but he had seemed genuine and we agreed that if it felt in the slightest bit dodgy we would just turn around and go back.

During my time in South America I became very intuitive to my gut feeling, sometimes you just feel something in the air that makes you uneasy and it means just getting out of there at that moment. You can pick up vibes from people, their energy and as soon as you feel uncomfortable you know its probably bad energy, maybe a negative person and probably best not to talk to them. I have to say this intuition got me through my travels, I really met the best people, I met genuinely amazing people who I clicked with and locals who just wanted to help me and asked me for nothing in return. I made friends that will be in my life forever and the people I met are definitely what made that year extra special.

Initially, I had gone to the Amazon with big ideas of going on treks to find animals, multi-coloured frogs, puffins, parrots, colourful tropical animals that weren’t snakes was what I was on a mission to see…although I had hoped for an Anaconda sighting from a distance. We were told by tour companies that to see that wildlife you need to go on the longer tours that go much further and were therefore more costly, I didn’t have time and I was on a budget. We were told the nearby tours with sightings of such animals were either immensely rare or in most cases the animals are collected and placed in areas…for example their are Caiman swamps where you are pretty much guaranteed a sighting as they are bred there. I read up on it and it was actually true. I had come all the way to the Amazon and I wanted an authentic experience. We asked if we could stay with a family who lived in the Amazon and the tour-guide said he knew one and he said they could probably take us to do a lot of what we wanted to so it was settled.

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DSC_0110 DSC_0100 DSC_0113 DSC_0118We got a taxi boat to a town about an hour away and were met by our friendly host father Manuel. He took us on his boat about an hour away and we finally reached a fork in the river where he turned off and there we saw his hut. That was to be our home for the next few days. We were greeted by his wife Maria and pet parrot,their kids were at school except their older son who was in the jungle behind their house making coal. He took us to see, he was burning a tree and then chopping the parts that had become coal into pieces with an axe and putting them in sacks. He explained they don’t generally need money to survive but sometimes when they travel they do and these sacks of coal which were as big as me sold for a measly $7! It takes about a day to fill one sack, I couldn’t believe all that hard work in the heat would give them that and I wondered how they supported their family of 7 with such small amounts of money.

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We had lunch and asked if they could take us into the forest to try and sight animals, I was so excited as I still expected a sky ablaze with colourful birds and the prettiest of creepy crawlies. Well…we left and it began to rain, we wanted to continue so off we went armed with our machetes. Manuel taught us how to use them to cut the tall grass and branches so that we could walk through the dense jungle. I felt like Lara croft but I was aware that I looked like a hot mess, it was so much fun! We were walking through a marshland and were told we would see Caiman’s in the swamps…we searched and searched but we didn’t see anything, the rain was getting heavy and we decided to head back. On the way Lena saw a snake, I was too busy pretending I was in Mortal Kombat to notice and it was long gone before I even looked up so my animal hunt ended with nil points. We learned a lot about various trees and vegetation though, he was talking us through the trees and plants so it was pretty interesting. He owned a cassava plantation nearby and this was one of the ways he made an additional income but it was seasonal and quite small. The reason they didn’t need money was because they caught and grew all of their own food and exchanged things they had for what we needed.

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DSC_0081 DSC_0090We got back and all the children were home from school, we went fishing to catch our dinner, his 11 year old son did the fishing while Manuel steered the boat. He dropped a long net into the river and it had little floats on one side so it made a barrier and then we just steered the boat upstream for a couple of minutes and when he pulled it in it had about 20 fish inside!! We had a feast and it was enough for the next day too. The kids were so cute and we taught them card games and played with them. The 10 year old daughter sat with the mum and gutted and filleted the fish, they were like machines, in about 10 minutes they were prepared. As it got dark the jungle became louder and with no electricity our lamps were targets for all the bugs so I decided to call it a night. I woke up at 4am because I needed to pee…the long-drop was about 500 metres away from the house in the jungle and I was scared. I couldn’t find my torch so I took a lamp and began walking through, it was too dark to see if I was anywhere near snakes. I really regretted not waking up Lena to hold my hand haha and I literally prayed for the whole walk there and back, their were chickens and things running around so I just told myself that everything moving was a chicken and finally got back in my bed which was a mattress on the floor covered by a mosquito net and inside our room (Mine, Lenas and the 3 youngest children) there was a basket very close to my head where a massive hen was chilling in a basket, I ignored that too, pretended I was in a bubble that no insects or animals could enter and fell asleep to the sound of the jungle.

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We woke up a couple of hours later to the Roosters, I was pretty used to them since they seemed to be everywhere in Peru, some of them had really messed up body-clocks, they would crow every hour through the night but these ones let us sleep till sunrise. Manuel asked us if we wanted to eat Pineapple or Papaya, we chose Pineapple. He said we would go to the next village with our Papaya and exchange it for Pineapple, we didn’t want it that bad but we were both intrigued to see this other village. We got there and it was much bigger then ours, it had bridges and actual pathways. Ours was a jungle and it had a bridge and a freshwater stream where we collected drinking water and also showered (the shower was a like a waterfall part don’t worry you don’t drink shower water.) It was more civilised and had more money and more crops, Manuel said the government invests in bigger communities and if theres grew they too would get proper pathways and more structure. I actually loved the wilderness of ours, not even a shop, you had to get a boat to get a pineapple lol. Me and Lena explored our village earlier, we hadn’t seen anyone since we got there because they all lived further in the jungle so we crossed the bridge and walked the muddy track till we found a cluster of huts, some villagers came to ask us what we were doing and who we were, they were friendly enough, beyond the huts was a swamp so we headed back.  had fish for breakfast with some kind of tea….I sneakily shared mine with the chickens under the table not wanting to offend the family. I had asked Manuel to take us Piranha fishing so he made us some fishing rods and we headed out, this was my favourite day in the jungle.

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We had been sailing for about 15 minutes when we passed a small brook, I asked him if we could go in one and we did, if the Amazon was a main road, the river he lived on would be a side street and this brook would be off-roading on a muddy track. I knew we weren’t but it felt like we were the first people to ever go there, it was so untouched and SO beautiful and calm and green and we finally saw lots of birds. I sat at the front with my machete cutting low branches so we could pass, actually there was a lot of pressure on me because if I missed I would be the first one to be thrown into the Caimen and Anaconda infested waters and Manuel thought he had just seen a Caimans eyes poke out of the water. Suddenly we got stuck, a tree had fallen across and we could see it a couple of feet below the surface. Me and Lena climbed out onto it and helped pull the boat over, actually I mostly just tried to balance and not fall in. We managed and climbed back in and it started raining, I can’t describe how beautiful it was, the drops falling in the stillness of the water, I really felt like I was on the Discovery Channel. We explored a little more and then got to a place with too many fallen trees to pass so we turned back. We got back onto the main river (side-street) and kept going until we found another brook, we got in and parked, Manuel said this was where we would find Piranhas.

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He didn’t mean that brook we had to climb up the muddy river bank, which was high and broke as we climbed because it was wet so we had to move fast. He was great, he went before us and laid a track with cut branches so that the floor was stronger. We had been walking through this marshland for about 10 minutes in really tall grass and suddenly the ground swallowed me. Lena turned around and I was gone, waist deep in the mud, it was like quicksand and I realised the more I moved the deeper I went. It was so horrible I can’t tell you that sensation of being sucked in by this mud and it was really difficult to climb out, I had to kind of dig forwards and climb out. I was laughing my head off when I fell initially but after the mud was past my knees I was like “NOT funny”…I was actually scared of it happening again cause it took like 5 minutes to get out, we had to keep moving and squash the long grass as we walked so it reinforced the path. There were moments were you step on a part that sinks and you have to just quickly move and the closer we got to the swamp the worse it got. We had to cut branches and stand on them but eventually they would sink too, it was like the fire levels in Mario. We got to the swamp and cut a few branches to stand on, they were by no means stable and they rolled if you lost balance and we were on the waters edge. We put a piece of fish on our rods and cast it, the water suddenly began moving, their wasn’t a few Piranha, there were thousands so I tried my hardest not to fall. I CAUGHT ONE!!! I was so excited I started shouting to Lena and while she was looking it jumped back into the water and my branch began rolling so I quickly got my balance back and tried again. It was definitely dangerous, not ideal but actually SO MUCH FUN. I ended up catching 3 of the 5 and we headed back holding our catch. I put a leaf in ones mouth and it literally shredded it in a second.

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On the way back the mud had dried and had become cement like, it was so horrible trying to move fast over that mud while I felt like that but I kept seeing our Piranhas which we had skewered on a branch and it made it all worth it. We got back on the boat and after a couple of minutes I asked if we could jump off and get clean, we asked about Anacondas and he said they do live in the rivers but they won’t eat us so we took his word for it, we saw Pink dolphins and tried to swim with them, but they swam away. It was so amazing, the sun began to set and it looked so beautiful, I was sad that the sun was setting on our final day with the family. I would love to go back and stay longer but next time with more mosquito spray, I can’t tell you how ridiculously covered in bites we were but it was so worth it.

I learnt so much from that trip, I had seen and stayed with communities before who had nothing and were so happy but I had never lived that myself. Every day was an adventure and I would love to go back and stay a little longer, to know the jungle a little bit more and have Manuel take me on a trip deeper into the Amazon Basin where we can spot more animals and find new places. I think a tour would be fun too but I loved seeing the jungle through their eyes, understanding it as a home and exploring more of those untouched pockets would be incredible. I loved chit-chatting with them, they were such nice people who shared their lives and home with us and it was one of the most amazing journeys I have and will ever have because it really changed my perspective. I saw the Amazon as this wild jungle, I had books of these Amazonian animals in my house since I was a kid and have seen countless documentaries on the Amazons tropical inhabitants, but now I see the Amazon as the most beautiful home to over 150 million of some of the planets most resourceful people.

Amazonian Adventure (Part 4)

It was time to go to the monkey island!! I was so excited to see monkeys up close and as our canoe approached the island Lena told me they will jump on us as soon as we arrive… my heart started beating really fast. “But I don’t want them to touch me, I just wanna take pictures of them playing in trees.” Famous last words!

We arrived and the lady took us to our rooms in the hut on stilts, it was very basic and to be expected, I didn’t like the holes between the planks of wood and I spotted some creepy crawlies trying to invade so I covered my bed with the mosquito net but it was only big enough to cover half. We dropped off our bags and went outside, I saw these cuuuute little monkeys that looked a little like squirrels and I wanted to play with them. I went near them and started making kissy noises, one ran up to me, jumped all over me, bit me everywhere and ran away. He was like the Tasmanian devil, I didn’t really know what was happening and then he was gone. They weren’t as cute as they looked! One of the keeper’s came up to me and told me those ones were small but evil, he was violent and vicious and I had learnt to stay away. I was a little bit shocked by what just happened so I walked back to the hut and thought I should go in and just watch them from where I was safe but then some bigger monkeys ran to the door and were hanging over it, I felt like they were waiting for me. “Just pretend they aren’t there, ignore them and just walk in they wont come near you”, that’s what I told myself but this is what happened:

That monkey was naughty, his name was Panchito and he was the most mischievous of them all but could also be very cute. At one point he pulled Lena’s top down and flashed me, it was hilarious! All of that specie behaved like that, very naughty little monkeys but then they can also be calm and cuddle you and come and sit on your lap quietly. I realised there was no getting away and if I was going to enjoy the two days on monkey island, I had to embrace monkeying around. One Monkey, Karina, came up to me and held out her hand, she was the most human of all of them, a spider monkey. I took her hand and she pulled me into the forest, eventually she decided to jump into my arms and wanted me to carry her around…so I did. I think because she was so friendly I lost my fear and she was not aggresive or naughty like the others. We played, she would hang onto me with her tail and I would swing her around in circles, she loved it. When we got back the other little monkeys like Panchito jumped on me again, they cover your eyes and swing on your hair and bite you but then you realise they are playing and the less you struggle the more they just relax and chill with you.

There was a young boy working at the sanctuary, Juan, he was about 17 and he asked if we wanted to go to a nearby village, we just said yes and didn’t ask any questions. We thought you walk there but you get the boat, it was just across the river, a small village called Santa Victoria. Karina really wanted to come and wouldn’t let me put her down, eventually a keeper had to come and hold her while we left, I felt really sad like I had just left a child behind lol. On the way Juan told us he goes there to play football, while he played we explored. It was really hot and we didn’t take any water, I asked the villagers if they had any but they didn’t. All these kids were playing with us and we went and sat in the shade watching football and playing with the children. Me and Lena had explored enough and were ready to leave, we didn’t realise we would be there that long so we told him that we would wait on the riverbank for the boat and sat there. The children followed and sat with us, they had never been to the monkey island although it was so close you could see it.

As the sun set, our boat came into view and we went back. Karina was waiting for us on the riverbank and jumped into my arms, she was so cute and I loved playing with her. She would take me for walks all the time, I would just hold her hand and follow her until she found a tree to climb, she would hang on it and then jump on me. The island wasn’t very known to tourists, I think they had tours every few days where they spend 30 minutes there but we were the only crazy ones who wanted to stay there for 2 days!! It was basically a monkey sanctuary that was not enclosed so the monkeys were free to roam the Amazon. None of them ever left that area though because they loved it and got fed and even made money…I saw one steal the wallet of an American tourist – it was hilarious (he got it back eventually).They had two bedrooms in the house where the keepers lived and me and Lena took one. The house had no electricity and as night fell the keepers gave us candles. We had dinner in candle light and then sat at the table talking and playing cards. The forest sounded sooo loud around us, I could hear all kinds of animals and insects and HUGE bugs kept flying into our candle. I couldn’t relax and decided to go to bed. I took all my sheets off, shook them all and then got into bed because I was sure there were creepy crawlies waiting for me and my mosquito net was useless. I couldn’t sleep.

Karina came to our net windows and it felt like she was asking me to go and play with her, she just hung there watching us, and then suddenly a huge roar of thunder came out of nowhere and lightning followed with a torrential downpour of rain. The storm continued for hours, it was so windy and sometimes I could feel the spray of rain blowing on me. The lightning lit up the whole hut and I could see the creepy crawlies in all the corners, I got up, shook all my sheets again and got back into bed and as the storm stopped I finally fell asleep at around 4am. We got woken for breakfast at 7.30, we ate and then I smuggled some food outside for the monkeys. It was like a marshland, soaked with rain and muddy. Karina spotted me from a mile away and I could see her running towards me, she jumped into my arms and grabbed the banana. She was soaking wet and full of mud and dirt and now…so was I. All the monkeys started running towards us, I felt under attack and then the keeper came out with a stick and they all saw it and behaved. He fed them and I helped him, it was great and some of them were eating on my head lol.

I walked around taking pictures of them, fighting with them not to take my camera as they kept trying to pull it from my hands, I pulled it back from one and he lay on the floor covering his eyes and peeking at me through a little gap in them, he was upset. Another monkey saw him and came and hugged him, they hugged for ages rocking from side to side and then they both decided to attack me together so I stopped feeling sorry for them. They were so human it was crazy, I would even speak to them like they were babies except I felt like Karina was older then me haha. She was so sad when we were leaving, she tried to jump into our boat and then she just stood on the riverbank waving until we had gone.

I had such a good time, I would encourage anyone going to Iquitos to book a stay at the Isla de Los Monos, they told us people only stay once a month or so but it was really cheap and worth it if you can handle the bugs, personally one night was enough for me!

Ciao for now x

My Amazonian Adventure (Part 2)

At 2.47pm on Tuesday the klaxon blew and we pulled out of the harbour, that meant we had been on an anchored ship for over 26 hours! We were told we would leave on Monday at 3pm and to be on the ship by 12 to find a spot for our hammock so we did. As 3pm drew closer the ship buzzed with rumours of a late departure and slowly it got later and later until we were told we would leave at 10am the next day…which became 2.47 but as we pulled away I was relieved that we were getting closer to our real jungle adventure.

They serve breakfast and dinner on board, you line up with your bowl and spoon, it felt like Oliver Twist. I was starving by dinner time and was waiting for the bell to sound, as soon as it went off I rushed downstairs with mine and Lenas bowl, and hurried back. I handed Lena hers, tried to sit on my hammock, obviously in a way that you shouldn’t and fell off backwards, my piece of chicken and potato went flying past my ear and I landed with the bowl still in my hands with some rice left…I was devastated! I didnt even care that I fell because I was just looking at the chicken on the floor beside me. Thankfully Lena eats EVERYTHING so she was happy to eat my chicken and gave me hers (this is one of the reasons I love travelling with her).

The boat was taking us to Iquitos, the only city In the world that is not accessible by road, it was a city deep In the Amazon and although we were told our journey would take 2 days and one night, we were prepared by stories of friends that told us their journey ended up taking 5 days. We didn’t mind, we learnt to love the boat, to spend our days playing cards, chilling in our hammocks and watching the scenery as we floated through the Amazon.

There were several stops along the way, you were never told how long they would be but the ferry would collect cargo, often in the form of animals, or just more passengers. The second morning I woke up and didn’t feel too great, I told Lena I felt sick and shortly after began puking. It was nothing to worry about, this happened regularly to me in Peru, the food often didn’t agree with me. It carried on more then usual, a lovely couple who were both doctors came to see me at my hammock, they were from Germany. They gave me some medicine to make it stop and warned me that I should stay in my hammock as it causes dizziness… I got dizzy, the swinging of the hammock made it worse so I stumbled to the bench which was outside at the front of the boat and thought the breeze would do me good so I lay on it.

We had been stood still all morning, since about 6am at a village where they had been loading cargo. At around 10 Lena said she wanted to explore a bit and to get me something to make me feel better. I could see all these watermelons from the boat, literally thousands and I told her I was craving a slice. She went with Manuel, one of the Swiss guys, as she was walking off she said “Make sure the boat doesn’t leave without me” And I replied “If it leaves I will wave at you from my hammock.”

It was meant to be a joke but about 15 minutes after they got off I realised we were moving! “OH NO!!” I shouted to the other Swiss guy Peter and ran off to the captain to make him stop. He didn’t really care, he just said “too bad, they will have to get a car to drive them there.” I explained Lena had left her money on-board and they might be stranded but he just carried on driving very nonchalantly and it was really annoying me so that was the first time I got angry in Spanish. I told him we waited on the ship for 26 hours for him to leave and now he won’t even wait for 10 more minutes for them, we realised that the Daniel the ex-war veteran who was in his 60’s was also gone and so was the Brazilian, Eduardo! This did not sway the captains decision, I felt better that Eduardo was with them, he was this very cool and capable character. He had travelled the world and he was helping us with everything, he tied our hammocks on, told us about the various things we passed, showed me where the Amazon river really begins and how you can tell by the two colours in the water changing. He had all these amazing stories and just spouted knowledge and everyone on the boat knew him. Anyways I had to leave the captain to throw up and then I went back to my hammock, we were long gone by then. I was thinking about how I would carry all their bags and me and Peter decided they would probably have gone by car and will in fact be waiting for us there as its faster.

I heard a speedboat and some people went over to look at it, I just stayed in my hammock…they were all talking I was not really paying attention, just thought it was bringing more passengers but then Eduardo came up the stairs! I jumped out of my hammock and asked him where Lena was and if he even saw them. He said no he didn’t even know they were there!! Shortly afterwards they came up the stairs, he was joking! They all got the speedboat and we were reunited. “sorry I let the boat go, he wouldn’t listen to me” I said, “sorry I ate your watermelon” Lena replied. So I guess we were even…like I said Lena eats everything hahaha. That night we pulled into the harbour in Iquitos! We had made it!

We waited to get off but they wouldn’t let our boat dock, all these police boats were around and then we were told the small water taxi in front of us (which me and Lena take on our next trip to monkey island) had a murder on it. Apparently they robbed people and killed a woman and so we had to wait. Not the nicest welcome but I just thought logically that they probably wouldn’t rob trampy looking backpackers like us and they must have known those people had more to give then we did. I look forward to telling you about Iquitos and the monkey island, tune in for the funniest video of me getting attacked by a monkey, best places to go in Iquitos and how we lived with a family in the heart of the Amazon!

Ciao for now x

My Amazonian Adventure (Part 1)

“Lena!! I got the tickets from Chiclayo to Chachapoyas!!” I said excitedly, “Chachapoyas?! WHY?” she replied. “Didn’t you want to go to Tarapoto via Chachapoyas so you could see it? I asked confused” Blank faced, we realized…. we had last discussed plans before I went to Colombia over a month ago and they had changed so…the trip began with a slight misunderstanding but we were not going to let it dampen our spirits! We boarded our bus at around 10pm and would reach Chachapoyas at 8am where we would figure out how to get to Pedro Ruiz, a small town where buses go straight to Tarapoto. (FYI you can get direct buses from Chiclayo to Tarapoto)

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Tarapoto lies at the mouth of the Amazon and we were trying to catch a three day ferry down the Amazon river to get to its belly which was in Iquitos.  At about 4am the busdriver yelled “Pedro Ruiz!”. “OMG Lena! This is where we have to try and get to tomorrow, we should just get off the bus now!” “Yeah you should” said the annoying american girl sitting across from us who kept jumping into our conversations… seriously doesn’t she sleep? We sleepily stumbled off the bus and got our bags and then we realised we were in the smallest, quietest town ever. There was not a soul around, no hostels, no coffee shops, just mountains, a few houses, pitch darkness and the pitter patter of stray dogs. The bus station had its shutters down but the bus driver told us we could get in. We knocked on the shutters and someone let us in, he said there would be no buses until 8am and we should reserve our seats, so we did. We sat down at a table, half of the bus station was a restaurant, we asked for a coffee and played cards till about 6am. Then we decided to explore the town and we headed to the market at the crack of dawn. The market was full of people having breakfast, lots of stalls sold hot drinks such as hot chocolate, coffee, soy milk and a soup type thing made with quinoa. It looked like every other modello I had seen in Peru, only the sizes ever varied but they sold all sorts of nik naks, all had a meat and fish section, fruit and veg and the food stalls.

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We headed back and waited for our bus, it had gone 8.30 and I asked the guy what time our bus would arrive, he said soon…11am and still no sign. We entertained ourselves by eating, drinking and playing cards. Eventually the bus came and we reached Tarapoto at about 7pm. We found a decent hostel, got some food and went straight to bed!

Tarapoto was ok, we stayed a couple of days but were worried that we wouldn’t make the ferry in time as some journeys are shorter then others and we wanted to get the 3 days/2 nights ferry rather then the 5 day one that a friend of ours had ended up on. I felt disappointed with Tarapoto, considering we were close to the jungle you could not even tell. It was a pretty big city and the only greenery I could see was the plants in our hostel. We went to the market in Tarapoto which was huge and got some things that we needed for our trip, I wish we had bought hammocks as they were a fraction of the price and much nicer compared to the ones in Yurimaguas, you need them for the ferry journey.  We mostly chilled, talked and played cards, went to eat, walked around a little. I think we were tired from our journey and just enjoyed the feeling of not having to do anything, there wasn’t a lot to do anyway as we had planned to do our jungle tours from Iquitos and Tarapoto had similar ones.

We found the combi (minibus) that takes around 2 hours to get to Yurimaguas, we waited for about an hour which felt like nothing after our previous 10 hour waiting for a bus stint. The journey was picturesque and the roads were not made for people with a weak stomach as they are high up and full of sharp bends however we enjoyed the drive.

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We arrived in Yurimaguas and I loved it! It was a small place with so much character, we arrived on the night of the elections so the streets were full of people crowding around televisions to see the results. There was a beautiful atmosphere and it was more green then Tarapoto, you could actually tell that you were in the jungle. We ate delicious street food at this great place and we enjoyed the tropical climate AND we bought our tickets for the ferry which would leave the next day 🙂 I was sooo excited! I need a separate blog for the epic cruise down the Amazon, there you will learn how our boat journey became longer then expected, how the boat left without Lena while I lay in my hammock and our little ferry family 🙂 Look forward to sharing Part 2 with you tomorrow!

Toodles x

Travelling With An Open Mind

The 13 hour bus journey ended up being 15 hours…at the border I queued up for an hour and when I was next to be served their was a powercut!! We had to wait another hour and then oh joy I had to sit back next to mr.chatty with cheesy feet.

He was unbelievably negative, telling me he missed good food and Peruvians cant prepare food as he can with the finest cuts of meat. He was asking me why young people come here when it’s so dirty and you can’t even find good coffee places. He then showed me his very expensive sailboat and million dollar house. I tried to explain that travel was about appreciating differences and that I didn’t come here for coffee plus I think the food is amazing!!

Before leaving I read several blogs about Ecuador, I was shocked at how negative they were. One girl wrote 5 pages on how she constantly thought she was going to be robbed and everywhere was terrible. I kept reading as I figured her recommendation for somewhere good must be amazing as she seemed to struggle with saying nice things but she ended by saying the only good thing about her trip was that she stayed at the Hilton and it reminded her of home.

I think it’s important to try and make negative experiences positive, sometimes it’s just a case of opening your mind. I know here a lot of people stop and stare, it’s not because they ALL want to rob us, they know we are foreign and are intrigued by us. They are so inquisitive about our countries and our views on theirs. Giving people time to speak to you allows you to have a sense of immersion and a much better travelling experience because you understand their culture more. Try to see the best in things, it will enrich your experience.

I purposely began this blog in a negative way because I wanted to show you that if you focus on the negatives you will miss out on all the great things right in front of you, yes it was probably one of the most annoying journeys of my trip as he was also heavily into politics and had VERY conflicting views to mine throwing around comments like “Arabs are disgusting people” and that was one of many.

When I look back on that journey what I remember most is the beautiful landscapes, how breathtakingly green Ecuador is and the way the mist settled at the foot of the mountains. I remember all the cute little towns with people sitting outside talking till the early hours of the morning. I remember the beautiful sunrise peaking through the mountains until it flooded the sky with light…And I remember meeting a 60 something negative man who I eventually couldn’t ignore anymore because I really felt he should be wiser then he actually was and after giving him a very large piece of my mind he shut up and then 20 minutes later told me I was right. So I remember opening someone’s mind and I know that he helped me grow too, maybe just my level of tolerence but that’s growth too.

Always travel with an open mind and the intention to understand a new culture. Stop comparing things to how they happen in your country, people do what they know, the western world has a different level of efficiency/cleanliness/safety because that’s what we know, we have the opportunity to travel not to judge but to learn and teach in some cases and most people here will never have that opportunity. Learn lessons that matter, how people can be so happy with nothing, how if you have love and gratitude in your life you don’t need much else and always remember you get out what you put in!

Chachapoyas

This blog post also appears on the Academia Superior de Idiomas’ blog

I woke up feeling like we were about to fly of the mountain. The driver was going around 80 kmph going round really steep bends that were 7000ft high in the mountains. I pulled back my curtain to see where we were but we were in the clouds and visibility was low. That scared me even more because I knew the driver couldn’t see either and we were on a double decker bus which literally felt like it was about to fall sideways. We were on a 10 hour overnight bus ride to Chachapoyas. We had heard stories of how exhausting the treks we had planned to do were so we all knew we should try and get some sleep but my heart was pounding for the next two hours.

We reached our cute little Hostal Ñuñurco, just 4 blocks from the centre of town which was nestled in the majestic mountains. We began our 2 and a half hour drive to Kuelap, it was nerve-racking at times because of the narrow winding roads on the mountain edge and the inability to see oncoming traffic around the corners, but we made it.

Kuelap is a fortress 3000 metres above sea level which contains the ruins of more then 400 Chachapoya structures, some were homes and others were mass graves. The fortress walls also served as cemeteries where more then a 100 bodies were buried. Other pits contained animal and human bones which are thought to be sacrifices. One structure was an ancient compass…I know this because I sat on it thinking it was a pile of rocks and was immediately told to get up.

The panoramic views were beautiful and it was still a pretty quiet site not overwhelmed by tourists. It is known as the Machu Pichu of the South and is still relatively untouched. As recently as 2010 70 bodies were excavated and while we were there an investigation was going on into a new body which was discovered.

On the way back we stopped at a lady’s house who was cooking us lunch, we had the option to sample the local delicacy…guinea pig, I opted out as it looked like a rat on a plate but others in the group enjoyed it.

We went out that night to an artsy little bar called La Reina and slept for a few hours before our trek to Gocta, the 5th tallest waterfall in the world. I had never horse ridden before but as it was an option I thought it would be fun. I wasn’t really prepared for the lack of handles, the steep slopes and uphill climbs, nor the horse intrepidly walking along the cliff edge but I suppose it added to the fun. One member of our group got a crazy horse, she decided to get off and not a minute too late as he literally went buck-wild charging towards us neighing and bucking. I talked to my horse Pisco the whole way after that, telling him to be a good boy and to try not to throw me off his back and it worked because I made it back in one piece.

The waterfall was breathtaking, it really was beautiful and worth the 6km trail there.

If you’re in Peru, I would highly recommend a trip to Chachapoyas, I wish we had stayed longer to enjoy the town more. There’s a really cute restaurant called Terra Mia which had amazing waffle breakfasts and delicious freshly made sandwiches which we took for our hike. You can try the best Pollo a la Brasa (rotisserie chicken) for just 5 soles (£1) including fries, a salad and a juice located in the hostel Rumi Huasi. Their service was really fast which is unheard of in Peru and was perfect before we got our bus home.

Until the next adventure,

Ciao! xx