We had less than a day in Lima, so we had to take full advantage of our short time there. We landed at around 10:45pm and after waiting for over an hour to get through customs and immigration, we finally made it out of the airport. We read that the Lima airport isn’t the safest place to be late at night, and also read that if you’re going to take a taxi, Taxi Green was the one to take. Everything we read said that the fare should be between 45-55 soles to Miraflores (about $15-20), where we were staying.
We didn’t even have to look for a Taxi Green driver. As soon as we left customs, he found us. We made a quick trip to the ATM and then we were off to Miraflores. We had booked our hostel online, and as soon as we arrived, 2 men immediately came down, grabbed our bags, and led us to our room, which actually looked like it was someone’s bedroom. We went for a quick walk to get a bottle of water, and then went straight to bed.
We had planned to wake up at 7 and be out at 8, but we overslept a little and didn’t make it out until 9. Our plan for the morning was to take a bus downtown to Lima to see the government palace and the main square. The man working at our hostel tried to explain where the bus stop was and that we wanted to take a green bus, but we soon realized that there were tons of different buses, and pretty much every single one looked different. Thankfully, a nice man on the street came up to us (I guess we looked like we needed some help) and walked us to the correct bus. About an hour later, we were dropped off downtown, and next we had to find our way to the main square.
On our way there, we wanted to stop to pick up a coffee. Finally, we found a place where we could take our coffee to-go, so we ordered 2 cups. We didn’t realize that they would be serving us instant coffee (aka a spoonful of coffee with hot water poured on top) though. We didn’t know if that water was ok to drink and on the first day of our trip, we didn’t really want to take any chances, so we ended up tossing it 😦
Shortly after, we found the main square, which was filled with colorful buildings and lots of police officers. We spent some time looking around, taking pictures, etc. and then headed off to explore. Of course, the first we found was the huge market in China Town (why does every single city have a China Town??). There were rows and rows of meats, fish, veggies, whole animals, pig heads, and pretty much everything else you could imagine. Our favorite!
After the market, we spent some more time walking around the city. All over the place, there were tons of street cars and food vendors selling everything from pineapple out of shopping carts to little hard boiled eggs to ceviche. We opted for something that looked like a little spinach quiche and a churro. Each snack only set us back 2 soles (or about 75 cents), and both were delicious (though the churro could have been a little warmer).
Finally, we decided that it was probably time to head back to Miraflores. At that point, we were a little turned around, and again had to ask about 10 different people for directions. Again, we realized that there were about 100 different buses and every one of them looked different. The one similarity between all the buses though, was the driver’s assistant, who stood in the doorway of the bus and hung out yelling the buses destination. Seems like a pretty dangerous job, but we asked pretty much every single one that we saw if they were heading to Miraflores. Finally, one of them said yes!
The ride back was somehow much shorter than the ride there. We were dropped off in Parque Kennedy, the main square in Miraflores, aka American Central. On one corner alone, there was literally a Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Burger King, McDonalds, Chilies, and more. We opted for Dunkin, considering our coffee fail earlier that morning.
We walked around Miraflores and back toward our hotel. After looking at a map, we realized that we were very close to the beach so we went to check that out. Turns out there really was no beach, just a huge park overlooking the ocean. We walked down the coast until it was time to go back and head out to the airport. Fortunately for Dave, the coast had a little impromptu gym like the one on LSD in Chicago from Diversey to Belmont (near the driving range), so he was able to get a quick workout in.
After that, it was time to head back to the airport. This time, since it was in the middle of the day, we took a bus right around the corner from our hostel. It was the first time all day we didn’t have to stop multiple times to ask for directions! The bus took about an hour, and then we were off to our next stop: Iquitos!
Iquitos and the Amazon:
We arrived in Iquitos at around 9 and were greeted at the airport by a representative from Wimba, the company we were using for our 4 day/3 night Amazon Jungle adventure. We spent the 25 minute drive from the airport to our hotel asking about a million questions about what we’d be doing for the next few days. We were dropped off at Hotel La Casona and told we’d be picked up the next morning at 9am.
It was getting late, but we still wanted to take a quick peek around Iquitos, so we headed out to check out the main square and pick up a local beer. The rule in Iquitos is that at any restaurant, you can take a bottle of beer to go, but for 1 sole extra. If you bring the empty bottle back, your 1 sole will be returned to you. We found a spot in the square, shared a big beer, returned it, and then went back to pack our bag for the next day.
We were greeted once again by a Wimba representative at 9am sharp. Already, this company seemed to really have everything together. They took us to their office a few minutes away, where we were introduced to Max, our guide for the next few days. Little did we know that he would be our personal tour guide and we would spend pretty much every minute of the next few days with him. Lucky for us, he was awesome!
Max helped us with our bags and brought us to the dock, where we boarded a motorboat for our 2 hour trip down the Amazon River to the Wimba Lodge. The Amazon River truly amazed me. I remembered learning about it in school and it felt very surreal to be boating down it. After about an hour and a half, we pulled up to a dock and started the 20 minute walk through a village (which weirdly had a concrete road running through it) to another dock, where we’d board a row boat that would take us to the lodge. About 5 minutes into our walk, a lady walked out of her home with a sloth in her hand. She held the sloth out to me and told me to take him… So, I did. He looked like ET and was a very good hugger. His fur was also unexpectedly coarse. Dave and I both took turns holding (hugging) the sloth before handing him back to his owner.
We finally reached the lodge and spent an hour relaxing in one of their 4 hammocks in the dining room, while we waited for lunch. For lunch, we ate hearts of palm salad, meat and fries with rice, and then my favorite, fried plantains. Once we finished, we set off for night one of our three night jungle adventure: camping in the jungle.
The next three nights were amazing, but also very challenging. We had three nights there. We camped in the jungle (no tent, just a mosquito net) for the first, slept in a local village at one of our tour guide’s homes (no walls in the house, and again, just the mosquito net) for the second, and then finally, the third night, we stayed in the jungle lodge, which pretty much seemed like a 5-star hotel compared to the first two nights.
During our first night camping, there were so many mosquitos it was almost unbearable. We got into our mosquito net the first night and spent about an hour killing all the bugs in there before we were able to go to sleep. By the 3rd night I was pretty much a mosquito killing machine. In the end, I’m glad we did all of it and had a night in each place. Definitely something we will never forget.
Everywhere you go in the amazon, you pretty much go by row boat (with us rowing) or motor boat if you’re lucky. The Amazon River is pretty amazing and every time we were on it, I couldn’t believe that we were boating down the amazon. We saw so many cool animals from monkeys to sloths to anacondas to toucans to macaws to pink dolphins (did u even know there was such a thing?), all of which (minus the dolphins) we got to hold.
We went fishing for piranhas using a stick and a piece of string. I caught the first fish and then 3 more after that, Dave didn’t catch any 😦 but probably because he was too busy trying to wash his clothes in the river and swimming. When we got back, we cooked the fish we caught for lunch (piranhas don’t have very much meat on them, but what we were able to eat was good!).
We also went on a walk through the jungle on our first night camping. I spotted a water snake and then our tour guide found pretty much the biggest frog we’ve ever seen.
When we were in the family home, we went swimming in the Amazon. And by swimming, I mean we jumped in and swam across then got out because little fish were trying to nibble our toes. When we slept in our guide’s home (again, really a hut with no walls, only a roof), we slept on one side and his family (of prob 10 ppl) slept on the other.
I broke my personal record for longest time not showering/changing clothes. 4 days without doing either. Surprisingly, it wasn’t that bad! During our stay in the Amazon, we met a number of different travelers, some of which camped with us and others of which we met at the lodge. From the outset of this trip, I’ve told Dave that as impressed (or thinking we’re crazy) as our friends/family have been about our trip (a month in South America, a month in India/Nepal and a month in SE Asia before teaching in Bangkok), as soon as we leave the States, no one would be impressed as the majority of travelers we’d meet will be from Europe, Canada or Australia. True to form, while on our Amazon trip, among other people we met, the two we became closest with were a British college student (Richard) who was traveling through South America for 5 months and an Israeli girl (Lauren) who had just finished her stint with the IDF and was traveling for 7 months. Thus, our little 3 month vaca seemed like nothing to them (though they were impressed with the teaching in Thailand part). As an aside, Dave is planning to write an e-book (or perhaps published book) about the difference in culture between American travel and elsewhere. Stay tuned for that.
On our last day in the Amazon, we were supposed to take a boat back to Iquitos in the afternoon and arrive at 5 or 6, but we ended up coming back right after breakfast and we got back by noon. It was nice to be able to catch up on emails (we didn’t have service for the whole time we were there), and we were even able to drop off our laundry and have it done for us for $4! Not a bad deal.
We had an unforgettable experience in the Amazon, and now we’re ready to check out Cusco and Machu Picchu! Stay tuned for that post soon…