Laguna 69, Huaraz, Peru — Diary Of A Jetsetter

1 of 19 Despite the fact that I had been acclimatising to the altitude in Huaraz for 4 days I still wasn’t coping very well with the 3052m altitude. I was beginning to wonder if I would be able to do the Laguna 69 trek. It felt like someone was squeezing my head, the same…

via Laguna 69, Huaraz, Peru — Diary Of A Jetsetter

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Toms One for One

I had an eye-opening experience at the Tom’s store in Dubai Mall. I always knew that Toms were comfy and cute but I had no idea about One for One. Did you know that for every purchase of Toms shoes you make, a child in South or Central America receives a pair of shoes.

Having lived in Peru the video of the Peruvian children receiving shoes from the Tom’s employees brought back warm memories. We often take the simplest things for granted, to us shoes are a commodity but in many parts of the world shoes are a luxury. Blake Mycoskie the founder of Toms had the fantastic idea, A simple idea that has grown into a global movement: TOMS Shoes has provided over 60 million pairs of shoes to children since 2006, TOMS Eyewear has restored sight to over 400,000 since 2011 and TOMS Roasting Company has helped provide over 335,000 weeks of safe water since launching in 2014. In 2015, TOMS Bag Collection was founded with the mission to help provide training for skilled birth attendants and distribute birth kits containing items that help a woman safely deliver her baby. As of 2016, TOMS has supported safe birth services for over 25,000 mothers.

So next time you make a Tom’s purchase, you should be aware that your money is helping someone in need 🙂 I love my customised Toms, they painted Llamas on them for me as a little symbol of Peru ❤

 

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.

Chachapoyas

I had already been to Chachapoyas previously to see Gocta and Kuelap and they are well worth it but my second trip was a very relaxing one. Just a girly weekend away full of goodtimes and laughter. There was some kind of festival on while we were there so we checked that out, it was full of food and Chachapoyas is just so picturesque even if you sit and do nothing its beautiful. Enjoy the snaps:

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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

Sculpt and Pop Makeover

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Katrin has amazing blue eyes and I wanted to make them really stand out or “pop” as we call it in the make-up world. She has a beautiful smile and I wanted to sculpt her cheeks so I did a soft contour as her features are already pretty defined. Its important to always recognize features and face shapes and do what works. A strong contour would make her face look very harsh so I blended a medium brown into the hollows of her cheeks which really drew our her dimples and above that put a peachy blush and highlight to soften it. I slightly contoured her nose and added a highlight down the centre.

Brown eye-shadow really makes blue eyes stand out so I played with bronze tones on her eyes and lined with a brown liner. Since I wanted her eyes to be the focal point of this look I finished with a nude gloss on her lips.

A Jam-packed January

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I can’t believe January is already over! My memories of travelling are slipping further and further away and I am getting back into the swing of life in Dubai. I still have many travel stories to write and hope I will find the time this month. Although I am embracing being back in Dubai I am missing South America a lot. I am grateful for January’s array of events and being able to catch up with old friends as well as meeting many new people. I also had my grandma in town so it was nice to spend time with her, she loves flowers so I took her to Dubai’s miracle gardens which was lovely! There are lots of new venues opening up and it was a great but busy month here are my highlights:

New Years fireworks in Dubai are always fantastic but this year they outdid themselves by placing the worlds largest LED screen on the Burj Khalifa, they had a wonderful light show combined with the fireworks, the lightshow remained on until January the 8th. I booked a table on the balcony at the Rivington Grill in Souk al Bahar so that I could have a delicious dinner accompanied by a fantastic show:

I was happy to be back in the sunshine so enjoyed Market OTB which was a daytime event in Southridge park. Another nice family day out was Dubai’s Miracle Gardens, It takes about an hour and a half to see it all with stopping for pictures and they have little restaurants and cafés. The flowers are all the same but beautiful nonetheless and its incredible how they have made monuments out of them such as the Burj Khalifa, beautiful peacocks, houses and cars.

Theres a fantastic new restaurant in town called Tribeca Kitchen & Grill in JA Oceanview hotel in JBR. It was a really cool venue, huge and artsy and had a real cool loungy feel. They provide a platform for local entertainment – I loved the band they had for the launch. They have healthy and organic food, I tried a couple of the salads…they were ok, the cheesecake was pretty good. Will have to go back and sample some of the food, it serves Mediterranean and American contemporary cuisine. I think its definitely got a great vibe and is a nice place to hang out, it fills a gap in the market with it being a lounge that is also a creative space, it felt unpretentious despite the launch crowd which was full of Dubai’s socialites.

Another great restaurant that has opened up is the Delphine Restaurant at the H hotel. It has a chic art deco inspired venue with marble floors and crystals fringing the bar. The original restaurant is a popular celebrity haunt in West Hollywood, California. It certainly was a fine dining experience, the service was perfect and the food was delicious, I enjoyed everything…even a raw meat “kibbeh” dish which I was apprehensive to try. Afterwards we headed up to the 40th floor to check out 40 Kong, it is a beautiful venue but was very crowded as anticipated. I think its somewhere you can fully enjoy with a table reservation.

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40 Kong

It was V-Cloud’s one year anniversary party,  V-Cloud offers a world of unique opportunities, refined tastes and unparalleled exclusivity. It is a one of its kind rewards and privileges program designed to enhance your experience in the lap of luxury. We had a wonderful night at their lavish birthday party.

My most anticipated event was the Latin American festival, it was the first of its kind in Dubai and I was really excited to see what it would be like. I think they underestimated the turnout as it was jam packed but it was a really fun event. It was in an alley in Al Quoz, the street was lined with stalls selling Art, South American food and there were crowds around the salsa dancers who were performing. I picked up a few trinkets and was happy to practice my Spanish. I hope they have more events like that, it was a great night!

My Amazonian Adventure (Part 3)

We woke up and decided to go to the Belen mercado for breakfast, it was about a 20 minute walk from our hostel, on the way we passed the famous Belen neighbourhood. It is a floating shanty-town with 7000 inhabitants. The colourful houses on stilts are a wonderful sight and in the rainy season these stilts are immersed in water. The inhabitants can only leave their houses by boat and market traders come door to door in their canoes to sell jungle produce. Unfortunately when I was there it was the low season and its dirty, unhealthy and dangerous to walk around so we observed it from a distance. You get street guides offering to take you in but I wouldn’t advise it.

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The market was fascinating, it was huge and sold everything you could imagine. Every street sold something specific so you had a street of clothes, another of shoes, one of the shaman witch doctors, fruit and veg and meat! These last two were the most interesting streets for me, I had never seen some of this fruit and veg in my life and was so fascinated by the colours and shapes of these different fruits. I bought one of each to taste, the flavours were so foreign to me, I had literally nothing to compare these new flavours to and it was a great food experience! Next stop was the meat and fish street, unfortunately this was where I saw the most animals during my jungle experience…none of which were alive.

They had everything from caiman meat, to turtles to fish that I had never seen. I walked up and down taking pictures and asking what fish they were, it was a mixture of fascination and disgust. I could write an entire blog on this particular issue but I won’t because after living with a family in the jungle I realised this was a means of survival for them. There are so many issues to be addressed such as implementing limitations on hunting of particular species but many of these civilisations are even unknown to governments, they are so remote that creating such laws would be useless. For example the family we lived with were allowed to cut down as many trees as they wanted, there were no conservation laws whatsoever even for rare species. Something definitely needs to be done but the issue is very complex.

We tried many new foods but I didn’t dare eat the grubs, everyone kept telling me they were delicious with the mango salsa but just looking at them made me want to vomit. Lena said they pop in your mouth like eyeballs and then slimy stuff comes out but they taste good…I often say “No thanks I would rather eat my own eyeballs” but actually..I wouldn’t eat any! We decided on a typical Peruvian breakfast Lena had Ceviche (fish dish cooked in the acid of lemon) and I had Arroz con Pollo (chicken and rice), in Peru you get used to eating dinner for breakfast! Belen market is a must see for anyone in Iquitos, its colourful and full of locals, it doesn’t cater to tourists so you get the real deal! Just make sure you don’t take any valuables, its known for having thieves and is the most dangerous neighbourhood so always be aware of your surroundings and don’t ever look lost!

The rest of Iquitos was also a colourful experience, the weather was tropical and the greenery was lush. One day me and Lena tried to get to a lake and the mototaxi took us to a puddle instead…it was across town in the same direction but obviously not the right place. We got off anyway as it was a tiny village that looked really interesting. There were houses scattered around and a few small tiendas, after walking around for a few minutes we had seen it all and decided to head to a tienda (cornershop) to get some drinks and play cards. The owner quickly set up a small table outside with a view of the river and we got some snacks and just sat there chilling for an hour. Passers by were really friendly and it was a cute place. That evening we went for dinner to puerta Bellavista, it is another market except this time where all the fish and meat is you choose yours and they cook it for you on the barbecue! It was where the locals ate and was cheap and delicious. I loved Juanes, it was rice steamed in banana leaves with spices, I ate it everyday that we were there.

By the river in Iquitos there is a lovely malecon, we came here the first night to eat and I loved it. It was like an Amazonian covent garden – bars, restaurants and street performers and people selling random things (mostly jewellery). There was this buzz in the air and I loved the atmosphere. We ate at Dawn on the River restaurant which I would highly recommend, the food was delicious. A Peruvian American fusion of flavours and it really worked, everything was simple but cooked perfectly. While speaking about “must-eats” El Sitio was AMAZING!! Its a restaurant with an array of different skewers – fish, cheese, meat, chicken, veggies – you just pick up whichever ones take your fancy and they are barbecued. A really cute old man grills them for you, originally he used to have a grill on the pavement outside and he did so well that he now had this restaurant which was completely packed and once the skewers are finished its over so get there early to sample the best ones!! If I had found that on the first day I would have eaten there everyday..thats how good!

The malecon also had an artisanal market if you turn left from dawn on the amazon, its full of beautiful hand-crafted things many of which are made by Amazonian’s clearly under some kind of influence. The tapestries are created by ladies while drinking Ayahuasca, each piece is unique and intricately woven and the colours are breathtaking. I found out they are actually made in Pucallpa. Iquitos is not the place to go souvenir shopping unless you are buying things made there as it is not accessible by road everything is imported and therefore more expensive, it was one of the most expensive places I visited in Peru.

If you are doing jungle tours in Iquitos make sure you research them thoroughly and know which you want to do because the tour vendors will confuse you. They follow you in the streets really trying to persuade you to visit their tour companies and every hostel sells tours to, in fact so do most restaurants and so you can’t escape it. The night we went to book ours we ended up being so confused and annoyed and they are all so desperate for sales they say anything so you don’t even believe them. I was persuaded by a tour, spent 2 hours discussing it and then we decided to just do it and then the guy ends up saying its full. We got so fed up we decided to just forget it all together, I remember being annoyed in India by people selling me stuff but this was on another level. It was literally people fighting over you, telling you not to talk to this tour company or that and it was like you were caught in a tour war. We were walking back to our hostel and we saw this guy on a motorbike who Lena had spoke to a few days ago who had a tour company, he stopped and asked us if we managed to book a tour and we said no so he took us to his office…the tour was very different to what I initially had in mind but we were certainly in for an adventure! We had booked it for two days as the next day we were going to the monkey island, for those of you who have seen this video, you know part four is going to be entertaining.

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)

ferry journey

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

Live A Life That Makes You Happy

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Often we put so much pressure on ourselves to achieve goals that we forget to live in the moment and enjoy the journey rather then just trying to reach a destination. There’s no point having a happy ending unless the story is worth reading. I meet too many people just blindly trying to reach a goal, the same routine day in day out, we aren’t robots, we are people. We were made to feel love, passion and energy and you should try to feel that for everything you do.

Sometimes situations in life prevent us from doing what we love  but its important to always infuse your life with things that make you happy. If you hate your job and you can’t change it for the moment, make sure you make time to do the things you love when you aren’t working. Often your mundane job becomes the focus of your life because you don’t have anything else, create a balance.

I’ll admit…my job is OK, I don’t hate it but there are very few occasions when I REALLY love it… but I am in Peru, I am travelling and meeting people, exploring a new culture and lifestyle so far from mine AND learning Spanish – I love my life! That is how I chose to infuse a balance and their are thousands of other ways.

Many people live their lives for someone else, to please their family or satisfy others expectations. Remember you only have one book, write it for YOU! I can count on my fingers (on one hand haha) how many people were happy when I made the decision to come to Peru and I can tell you none of them were my family. I know everyone was worried and nobody understood why but sometimes… you gotta do what you gotta do! I knew if I didn’t take this opportunity I would forever regret it and this chapter is significantly important in MY story. I’m not saying be selfish and rebellious, ultimately the people I love let me come here because they understood. People who love you understand you, they don’t dictate your life they guide you. I left a situation where I could be saving money and building some kind of foundation but if I died tomorrow I won’t be taking that with me, I will take my lessons and my experiences and they are of more value to me then anything else. You should be able to look back on your life and feel proud that you fulfilled your purpose with passion and love. Its important to me that the people I love are proud of me too, and for that reason I would never do anything that they couldn’t be proud of …never compromise yourself or your morals for anything or anyone.

You have one book, make every page AMAZING!

Zohra x