Archive for the ‘Peru’ Category


Lake Titicaca, from Puno

Lake Titicaca lies between the borders of Peru and Bolivia. We stayed in Puno, on the Peruvian side, and visited Uros – a group of floating islands. The history books say that the islands (built of reed) were constructed by locals to keep inhabitants of the area safe from invaders… though nowadays I can’t figure out for the life of me why they are still there. Must be the tourism industry.


Reed – in its natural state.



Reed – turned into the foundation and building materials for the Uros Islands.

IMG_3241 The island artisans.

We spent one night in Puno, and from there took an unpaved route around the south of the Lake to Bolivia – and experienced the strangest border crossing to date.

Entrance into Bolivia is notoriously difficult for Americans, since we have to apply for a Visa and pay a $135 USD reciprocity fee. Crossing the border through Desaguadero instead of Copacabana proved to be easier – although not without its challenges. (It only took us about an hour, despite horror stories we had heard about four and five hours through immigration, and officers only accepting brand new dollar bills, turning people back, etc etc)

Highlights of the border crossing:

  • going through four different immigration officers to get our Visas
  • finding a place to make photocopies of our Visa, since the immigration office didn’t(?) have a copy machine
  • one officer grilling us on why we didn’t have children for no less than ten minutes
  • another officer having pornography on his desk in plain sight


We took a colectivo out of the border town and into La Paz, the capital…


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From the jungle we headed to Cusco, with the intention of waiting for Macchu Picchu to open. Rumor around Peru was the Incan ruins would be opening no later than March 15th (reports say the Cusco area loses three million dollars a day that the ruins are closed). After waiting a week, the date of opening changed to April 1st, so we decided not to stay any longer…

Cusco is a beautiful city – albeit a little too touristy for my liking. And by too touristy, I mean people will follow you for three blocks asking you to get a massage, or take a tour, or eat at their restaurant, or take a horseback ride, or buy their souvenirs, or, or…

IMG_3167 Cusco by day.


And by night.

Ryan and I were both under the weather while in Cusco, so I don’t have too many pics. We spent a lot of time in our hostel (The Point, which I highly recommend if you find yourself in Peru.)

Most of the rest of the time was spent wandering around the city – since all of the museums and ruins in the Sacred Valley require you to purchase a ‘Boleto Turistico’ (tourist ticket; aka $50, which is really lame.) The coolest thing about Cusco is that most of the buildings are built on old Incan ruins, meaning the bottom half of the building is Incan limestone and the top half is Spanish architecture.



The Sacsayhuaman ruins. Not a good substitute for Macchu, but still really cool. Made of Yucay limestone blocks, some up to 8.5 meters high and weighing 300 tons.

From Cusco we headed to Lake Titicaca, on the border of Peru. From there –crossed the border into Bolivia, and are in La Paz now. Bolivia is spectacular!

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(Happy St. Patty’s day! Someone have five or twelve Irish Car Bombs for the Khalerias… there’s not a Guinness in sight around these parts…)

From Iquitos, Ryan and I took a five day, four night canoe trip deep into the Amazonian Jungle with a native guide and a cook/boat driver. We spent our days on a tributary of the Amazon called the Ucayali – canoeing, fishing, and looking for (i.e. eating) weird animals and plants. Our nights were spent set up at a campsite made by our guide with a machete and some seriously strong arm muscles.

Among the giant spiders, beautiful butterflies, and millions of mosquitoes, we saw pink dolphins, sloths, monkeys, toucans, tarantulas, water snakes, alligators, and an electric eel. And unfortunately, I have documentation of very few of these. Jungle creatures aren’t too fond of being photographed.

  • Coolest jungle-ing adventure: night hunting for alligators
  • Worst ever: having over 800 mosquito bites. each.

IMG_2889 The ride in.

IMG_3022Makeshift campsite.

IMG_3064 Our guides navigating the jungle by canoe.


Tarzan. (or Jane)

IMG_3091 Afternoon fishing.

IMG_3000 Tastes like chicken.

Don’t be fooled by the pretty pictures… the jungle is a scary place with evil monsters lurking around every corner, and it will make you crazy if you stay in it long enough. Five days was about two days too long for me… although I will blame the mosquito bites for that, and not my inner wuss starting to kick in.

PS. A note on the infamous Amazon River dolphin (aka ‘bufeo colorado’): yes, they really do look like the picture below. It’s not really known why they are pink – theories say it could be the iron rich content of the water, the high number of blood vessels close to the surface of their skin, or a result of the crustaceans they eat. Also, the vertebrae in their neck aren’t fused, meaning they can turn their head a full 180 degrees. Which means they might be aliens.

pinky Pinky the dolphin. (this is not my picture. obviously)

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A Case of the Incas…

The opening of Macchu Picchu has been delayed – again – to April 1st… (not a good Aprils fools joke) so Ryan and I are bidding adieu to Cusco and heading to Lake Titicaca, and then onwards to Bolivia!
Anyone want a t-shirt from Titicaca?

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The highlight of Iquitos is the Belen market, where all of the local indigenous people from the surrounding areas bring in their goods from the jungle to sell. There you can find pretty much anything (seriously: anything) you want to buy.



Care for a turtle part?

IMG_2860 Honey – fresh from the hive.


Croc hands and tobacco.


Piles of meat.


Sleepy sloth.


Grub: Timon and Pumba are jealous.


Skulls from… something?

From Iquitos we headed five days into the jungle for some extreme camping and sightseeing…

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Iquitos – the largest city in the world that is not accessible by road – was the destination of our boat trip up the Amazon River.

The history of Iquitos is really interesting…  the city was built on the huge influx of wealth from a rubber boom in the 1800s. Some decades later, a few seedlings from the rubber tree were smuggled to Malaysia, and the city suffered a massive crash of their economy. The result is a lot of really old, unkempt buildings that look like they used to be gorgeous.



The most interesting area of Iquitos is a district called Belen – which houses 20,000 people in floating homes connected by waterways (think Venice… kind of.) The locals travel around by canoe.


IMGP2837 Our canoe trip through Belen with the Sweds, Erik and Elin*

*Big thanks to Erik and Elin for the photos in this blog post – my camera died the day we took the trip through the Belen floating villages and markets.

More on the Belen Market soon – it deserves its own dedicated post!

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The Gilmer, a cargo ship, carries passengers and cargo up the Amazon River to villages and towns upstream that cannot be accessed by road. We spent five (crowded) nights on hammocks on the boat deck with 250 other travelers.


The Gilmer at port.


Mass hammock = not so much space.


Villages along the river.

The trip itself was really cool; we stopped at different towns along the water to pick up/drop off passengers and supplies. Among the cargo on our ship were the following things:

  • Two monkeys
  • Three pigs
  • Five dogs
  • Enough chickens to feed 250 people a day for five days
  • Countless birds
  • A few cats
  • A million spiders
  • Two million children
  • Five million bananas

One of the monkeys was the cutest. Even when it tried to steal Ryan’s stuff out of his backpack. This also spurred the previously mentioned desire to buy a pet monkey.


Other highlights: Ryan and I were followed around by a kid the entire trip, who enjoyed pinching us when we weren’t looking. And I was the victim of a water balloon ambush by a group of Peruvian children for two days straight. They liked to drench me with water balloons and yell ‘gringo!’.

Overall: The Amazon is awesome. And really pretty. Especially the sunsets…


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