Sunday, April 25, 2010

Peru Part 4

We went to the little museum in Cusco after a stupendous breakfast of fresh jungle fruit, yogurt cheese and eggs. Then we saw the 12 and the 13 sided stones and the Puma and Snake stones. The Inca were such master stone craftsmen that they shaped their sacred animals into the block stone walls. We bought me a silver and green pendant and I got a massage. ½ hour of glorious rubbing for only $7. Then we flew to Lima and then Iquitos with only a slight mishap. We lined up at the right gate for the departing flight in Cusco according to the flight attendant and were watching the line waiting for our turn to board the plane. Suddenly over the sound of my book on tape, I heard my name on the intercom. I looked up and saw we were at the wrong gate and had to race to get to the right place before they shut the door. Then in Lima, we were confused about the plane – asked he flight attendant for the correct directions – and she walked off never to return. So we left the airplane to go find our other flight and ended up going all the way through the entire airport and repaying the airport fees before we raced back to get on the exact same plane for the flight to Iquitos. Again we made is with just a few minutes to spare. It is much hotter and more humid in Iquitos in the Amazon basin. We found a restaurant called the Yellow Rose of Texas where you can eat these two amazing fishes; the Dorado and P something wrapped up in a banana leaf and baked with tomatoes and onions. So delicious.


Humanitarian Day: Met Steve Jackson, Kizzy and Dave Meza for breakfast. We went with a doctor, nurse and pharmacist to Santa Maria a very small village on the Amazon. While the medical people handed out medicine for malaria and parasites. We met with the villagers’ in a room and Kizzy spoke Spanish with them. As with any enterprise there are tons of problems with the project. Steve donated a lot of money for seeds and other supplies but the villagers are slow to clear the community hectare for corn. They have delayed 3 months and couldn’t get organized to clear the land. The corn is to be sold to help the whole village. However, the government bought corn seed and the seed is “missing” (probably going to a village with more important voting power). As it is so late in the season, the water will flood the patch of ground anyway. I handed out crayons and paper and they drew me pictures of the river, their houses on stilts, and the animals in the jungle. One boy had been to Iquitos and he drew an ambulance and 2 story buildings. The community chicken coop in the next town was a little better. It takes 100 days for a chicken to mature and they’re going to use the proceeds from the sale of chickens to replace the batteries for their generator. We handed out little toys to the kids in the village. We bought Don a tiger skin drum from the village handicrafter. We probably spent about 4 hours in the boat this day. But it was worth every minute because on the way home we saw a pod of Pink Dolphins chowing down on a school of fish. I was so excited.

April 19

We went with Freddie, one of the local tour guides, to view some jungle animal reserves. First stop “Monkey Island”. So many kinds of Monkeys in this little spot on a jungle island 35 minutes down the Amazon in the fast small boat. Iquitos is at the junction of three major rivers and each is a different color. The Amazon is chocolate brown while the others have more of a blue color. The two colors can run side by side for miles. The river is filled with branches, logs, and whole trees ripped from the river bank of the jungle. It is a hard and fast rule that small boats must be off the river before dark because of all the junk in the river.

At the Monkey place I told them I had to use the baƱo and that was a cultural experience in itself. Thank goodness the outhouse had a toilet seat and toilet paper because 80% of the toilets here don’t. This particular outhouse was open and wild. In the reserve there was a baby spider monkey with a yellow belly and a long face that thought I was his mom. He insisted on wrapping his tail around the back of my neck and cuddling with me the whole time. He had long thin soft fingers and toes. He liked to be petted and tried to taste my silver ring. He only weighed as much as my little granddaughter Charley and wanted me to carry him around the whole way to view all the other monkeys. I hope to have a pet like him in the Celestial kingdom; I hope he likes riding horses too. The monkeys loved to eat bananas and the baby ones loved to hug us. Then we rode more on the river to get to the ¨serpentaria¨ with snakes. There we got to hold a big boa and a baby 2 meter anaconda. On the way there Freddie informed us that a pregnant woman was washing her laundry on the side of the river, and a huge anaconda swallowed her head first. They found her when they cut open the snake. So when they showed us a small anaconda at the serpentaria I only wanted to hold the body, I was leery of holding the head. For lunch we had the most amazing Amazonian Peruvian food. Rotisserie chicken with piles of green rice flavored with cilantro and this yummy Peruvian style hollandaise sauce over
everything with ripe sliced tomatoes and avocados. I love the fruit and avocados in the jungle. When you are done eating and have them put the leftovers in a to-go box to give to a kid on the street. We bought embroidered fabrics from Amazon Indians in the center square
which I plan to make purses out of for presents. There are so many amazing fabrics and handicrafts and jewelry to shop for here – at least 3 lifetimes. Mark has been great as he lets me ride horses, buy jewelry and fabrics and waits patiently.

April 20

A nice restful morning for our last day in Peru and we headed out to the most bizarre market I have seen. I’ve visited lots of village market days and witnessed many bizarre meats and vegetables and people crammed into small spaces with colorful sights and smells to knock you off your feet, but never have I seen such a huge market with as such an outlandish concoction of strange things. There was even a Viagra row with shop after shop of multi colored potions and lotions to help old men. Unfortunately many of the show owners saw me as old enough to qualify for their wares. I was highly insulted and Tracy and Freddie just laughed. The rows of meat vendors ran for 3 blocks and included the usual piles of plucked chickens and pig’s feet, but also had piles of turtle, alligator, piranha, snake, and guinea pig, plus some mounds of general intestines. Right next to a purveyor of dead fish would be a great place to buy a nice watch. It was a mix mash of fabric and food with no sense or order. Cages of monkeys were next to a mound of yellow mush that promised larger breast for a woman. Lunch was being cooked and devoured next to gross displays of guts and innards. In these narrow little walkways people pushed past the stalls in a never ending stream of motion. We had to have a guide in front to mark our path and another behind us to protect from pickpockets. We wandered through down to the river’s edge. It was still city with buildings partially flooded. The river will rise another 12 ft before it starts receding and will completely put the first floors of the buildings under water. The people were in the process of moving to the second floor to wait out the annual flood. We went out in a small canoe to tour the floating city where the really poor people of Iquitos lived. They lived in very squalid conditions with bare wood walls and small rooms for a whole family to live. Little kids were swimming in this filthy brown river water chalked full of parasites, germs, and raw sewage. This trip creeped me out with how incredibly rich our lives are compared to so many people in the world, how can we ever complain about our lives.

We stuffed in a trip to the Iquitos Zoo where I got to feed the pink dolphin (he returned the fish to me so I got to feed him over and over again as he kept giving back the fish to me) a final lunch at the Yellow Rose, and even a little shopping before we caught the plane for an overnight trip to Chicago. Our target is the heart of commercial shopping American style along the “Magnificent Mile” at the Peninsula Hotel. It is without question the nicest hotel I have ever seen or stayed in. The contrast couldn’t be any more dramatic from the Amazon basin to Tiffney’s – polar opposites.


Danica McDonald said...

Wow wow and Incredible. What an amazing trip. I'm sad you didn't bring that aligator home!

Celeste said...

The thing I most jealous of is the pink dolphins! And reading your post made me hungry and nauseated at the same time!