Category archives for Peru
Out of the numerous, beautiful hotels we resided at over the course of the expedition, although it is hard to choose a favorite, I think we all utterly enjoyed spending the night at the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, a private, mountainside reserve in Aguas Calientes, a small village that sits right alongside the train tracks and the Vilcanota River. (Up against gigantic towering mountains, it is almost as if Aguas Calientes is a tiny toy town!)
Nestled cozily at the foot of jungle-blanketed mountains, not only was it an absolutely stunning inn, complete with beautiful outdoor plazas and stone-covered walkways, profuse and teeming with a vibrant array of delicate, blossoming flowers and native Peruvian decorations, but the Inkaterra was also a great educator–one that taught us all a meaningful lesson.
The rooms made us feel like we were lodging in a small, quaint cottage – a bungalow, really. The doors were made of tall, dark timber, and ivory-colored walls surrounded them. To our surprise, there were no doorknobs or key-card slots on the doors. There was a huge iron keyhole, though. We were each given a large metal ring with a single, old-fashioned key hanging from it to unlock our timber doors so that we could step inside our rooms.
The ceilings of the rooms were ashen, with coffee-colored timber rods and beams stretching across from wall to wall, like in a little cabin (they called the rooms “casitas”). Blanketing the beds were soft white sheets and a brightly checkered throw. A welcoming, comfortable set of brown chairs and a short wooden table sat in the corner by two tall windows overlooking the exquisite scenery of the hotel. The bathrooms were small and modest, consisting of a short sink, toilet, and crammed–but luxurious–shower.
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“Whoa!!!” I yelled when I lost traction in my wet, rubber boots. Splat!!! I was lying, facedown, in Amazonian mud. I can laugh now, but I sure wasn’t laughing then. It was 8 a.m. We had just started our journey to spot giant river otters at Oxbow Lake.
I pulled myself upright. I was covered from head to toe in brown, sloppy mud. This was not the look I was going for. I was OK, but I couldn’t say the same for my new camera. It was practically encased in the dirt. Perfect…
Thank goodness for Luis, our jungle guide. He took my equipment, wrapped it in a towel and put it in his backpack. We continued on our hike to the lake. Once on the boat, Luis wiped most of the grime off of my camera.
“You were lucky, Grace! The lens cap stayed on. Also, the body of the camera seems OK.” The zoom control was a different story. It was a mess. I sat there looking at my suddenly-not-so-brand-new-looking Nikon camera. I was filthy and worried. I put the camera away. It began to rain–and we didn’t see any giant river otters.
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Hi, it’s Becca again! One of my favorite moments of the trip was the school in Cusco. You get to talk to real kids from a country that a lot of people wish they could visit and see what they’re learning. As soon as we got there, the kids, in awesome costumes, started dancing for us and playing in their marching band. The dancers formed lines that wove in and out of each other, twirling before us. This way and that way; it made me a bit dizzy to follow one dancer in the group (and the high altitude added to that too).
Hi, everyone! This is Becca, here to tell you all about the Explorers’ Symposium ’09 at National Geographic headquarters in Washington, on Thursday the 11th! I drove down from Pennsylvania and arrived at the symposium at 5 o’clock.
Before going into the hors d’oeuvres party, I walked around National Geographic’s really cool sculpture garden with my dad. It had statues of lots of different bugs, my favorite being a group of leaf-cutter ants carrying the greenery on their backs. That reminded me a lot of the trip to Peru and how much I miss all of the fabulous people on it.
“All Aboard!” There it was! The Vistadome–a long strand of painted blue metal sitting heavily on the tracks at the Ollanta Station, waiting zealously for us to climb aboard, eager to carry us from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes, a small village at the foot of Machu Picchu.
Never in my life had I ever ridden on a train before, so getting to ride one in Peru was an absolute thrill! Our train twisted for more than an hour on a snake-like railroad track up the side of a mountain and revealed to us a stunning panoramic of the Peruvian countryside.
Photo by Grace K
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I knew that when I visited Peru I would see children. I wasn’t disappointed. Just like in the U.S, they were everywhere. I saw them walking home from school as well as running and playing with friends in the street. Some were sitting on the front step of their parents’ store watching the traffic roll by. Often the little ones were carried around on their mothers’ backs inside a colorful fabric scarf.
The kids in this picture are busy twirling around to some Peruvian music, while having a cool treat. I guess I got the little girl’s attention, because she started beaming at me. I got her to keep dancing, so I could get a picture. Her brother didn’t pay much attention to me. He was too distracted by his Popsicle.
Allillanchu! As you know that is Quechua for hello. There are many amazing things in the rain forest but my fave is the parrot clay lick. A clay lick is a giant slab of clay on a cliff. In the morning, the birds make their screeches, caws, and squawks and then they descend from the sky to the clay lick. There they eat damp clay that helps them with digestion. It slides down their throats and helps them chew their food in the gizzard. Also the minerals found in the clay enhance the bird’s health and well-being after digestion.
“Alpaca or llama?” was one of my FAQ’s during our Peruvian adventure. We saw these soft furry creatures everywhere. They were in the fields, walking along the roads, at small markets, and in the villages. Llamas and alpacas look very similar, but like any animals that are related, they also have some differences.
The alpaca is shorter and they are softer to the touch. Llamas spit A
LOT more than alpacas. (I found this out from personal experience…)
Also, the ears on a llama are banana-shaped, while alpacas have
Llamas and alpacas are considered pack animals in Peru. They can carry
as much as a donkey or horse, but have more benefits. they are easier
to train, their wool can be used for many different things, they can be
guard animals, and (unfortunately for the alpaca) you can eat them. At
one of the hotels that we stayed at, lunch for the adults was alpaca. I
could not bring myself to eat it, but my mom did. She said that it
tasted a bit like lamb.
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Our trip was spectacular–the nature and ancient ruins were beyond belief!
We dirtied our boots hiking to the Oxbow Lake while hunting with our
cameras for the giant river otter. To our dismay we did not see this
rare creature. However, birds, fish, and mysterious bubbles floating to
the surface from deep within the water set the perfect mood for our
pulled our boat close along the Oxbow’s banks. What made me jump was
when, to my surprise, our tour guide pulled out fishing poles–made of
simple sticks–and said, “Piranha fishing!”
Hey! This is Laura Beth again! I just wanted to write about what we did the last few days of the expedition, since we didn’t have Internet access where we are staying and couldn’t blog every day.
On Saturday we flew out to a tiny airport at Puerto Maldonado, which is in the rain forest area. I wish all airports were like that! Everything there was so calm and there was no possible way to get lost. There was one thing I was not prepared for, however, once I stepped out of the plane: the humidity. The air was so thick that at first it was kind of hard to breathe! I soon got used to it though, and started to appreciate the beauty of the area.
We drove for about an hour in a bus down a muddy road, and then took a boat for an hour and a half down one of the Amazon river tributaries. Once we got to our new home for the next few days, a few of us were very surprised. I guess the lodge can kind of be described as sleeping on a porch in a bed covered in mosquito netting. We didn’t have electricity or hot water, and there were no doors or locks to separate the rooms–just curtains! I don’t know about anyone else, but I loved it! We could all hear monkeys and birds at night, and the rain falling, and the first night I found a three-inch-long grasshopper (well, at least it looked like a grasshopper) in my bed! Everything was beautiful, even the cockroaches! My mom and I took pictures of the roaches we found in our bags because they were the prettiest roaches we’d ever seen–with red and brown bodies.
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Staying in the jungle for three days was like going to the best summer camp in the world. One side of our room was open to the trees, and it had a hammock in it! My favorite thing at the lodge in Puerto Maldonado, however, was the canopy tower. Standing 120 feet tall, it towered above the trees.
I thought that instead of writing my blog about the rain forest overall and the awesome activities we participated in, I would write about the lodge itself and the little details about our stay there. I want to give you a sneak peek into what it was truly like to spend three nights amidst the wild, free spirit of the Amazon rain forest surrounded by exotic animals and plants, the thick undergrowth of the jungle, and the overlying blanketing canopy above. It truly was spectacular…and a very interesting experience.
We finally landed ashore on muddy, steep banks after
riding for more than an hour down the Tambopata River. We trekked
through deep, sticky mud down a narrow, twining path cut in the edge of
the rain forest. It eventually led to the lodge that we stayed in for
three nights and two full days, the Posada Amazonas.
glance, the lodge looked almost like a vast tree house or wooden hut,
built with countless planks and boards of dark, water-soaked wood. The
path led to the lodge’s unique lobby that was literally completely
outdoors. There were no walls at all! The lobby was separated from the
thick surrounding undergrowth of the jungle merely by a few, sturdy
wooden rails, and a fragile straw roof.
On the last few days of our expedition, we had an awesome time in the Amazon Basin. We explored the Tambopata Natural Reserve. Although the weather was not great while we were there, we saw some amazing things. We woke up at 7 a.m. to look for the resident family of giant otters. We took a fifteen-minute boat ride up the river and then went on a half-hour hike through the rain forest. When we finally arrived it was raining, but that didn’t take away from the great scenery of the lake.
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Hi, it’s Elliot again. I’m on the way home but I wanted to write one last blog about the trip.
One highlight for me was that we saw all of the five different species
of Amazonian macaws. Another was a mouse possum that I spotted in the
dark with the help of my flashlight. It was eating a spider almost as
big as it was (check out the photo I took).
The whole Amazon forest has been the most amazing thing I have ever experienced in my life. One thing that really thrilled me though was the canopy tower. After a muddy hike through the jungle, we reached a rickety (well, it looked rickety) metal tower that seemed to stretch on forever and ever up into the sky.
Around and around we went up the winding metal stairs. Only after I was
convinced the metal structure never ended, we were at the top. For a
moment, I didn’t dare breathe. Stretching out below me was an endless
expanse of wonderful trees.
In the final days of the expedition we started our journey to the rain forest. From Cusco we took a plane to a small airport where we boarded a bus to our lodge. Instead of traveling on roads to get to our lodge we took a motorboat up a tributary of the Amazon River. We saw a caiman and two capybaras on the way there. After about an hour-long boat ride we reached the edge of the river near the lodge. From there we had to hike for about ten minutes through the forest. The calls of many exotic birds surrounded us. I could only wonder what they could be.
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Hi everybody, this is Rachel! Today was our first full day in the Amazon rain forest. Our group was split up into 6 different groups to do different activities at different times. Our morning team activity was to go to Oxbow Lake to search for giant river otters, which can be 2-3 meters (6-9 feet) long. To get to the lake, we went by boat ride on the river and then hiked on a very muddy trail for about 20 minutes. We never saw any otters but we saw bats clinging to the side of a tree, several birds, and we fished for piranhas! Grace K. and Dewey both caught piranhas. It was very cool. We did put them back in the lake after we looked at them.
So far this expedition has been unbelievable to say the absolute least. I’ve longed to travel to and explore Peru since I was five years old and National Geographic has given me the opportunity to fulfill that dream. This country is drop-dead gorgeous and amazing. It has been so breathtaking to explore Lima, Sacred Valley, Cusco, and now Machu Picchu.
There are no words to describe the feeling of walking on the same stones the Incas trekked nearly 600 years in the past. Now I see why the “Lost City of the Incas” was recently dubbed one of the Seven Wonders of the World. I still can’t believe we just saw this breathtaking “city in the clouds.”
This morning, after packing our bags, shooting group photos, and checking out of the Inkaterra Hotel, we all grabbed our seats on a bus, slipped on our motion sickness bands or took motion sickness medicine and anxiously peered out the windows as we zig-zagged on 14 switchbacks up the mountain.
Once we finally reached the peak of the mountain, we gathered at the gate of the path that leads to Machu Picchu and all sprayed on the thick layer of sunscreen and foul smelling bug spray.
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“Senorita, senorita. Mira, mira! Compra?” ” Little girl, little girl, look, look! You buy?” This is what I hear on the streets when we are walking. There are many street vendors on every corner. Mostly, they are selling things like Peruvian hats, shawls, blankets, and scarves. The men tend to sell paintings, carved gourds, and tour books. I even saw a couple of them selling memory cards for your camera!
When we came out of the airport, the vendors approached us rather quickly, because they knew that they would only get a limited amount of time to make a sale. They followed me to the bus, and even start tapping on the window to get my attention! At other markets, you could barter for the goods that you wanted for a lower price. When ever I bought something from a vendor, I always bartered. It was kind of like a game. I would start to low, they would start to high, and we would always end up somewhere in the middle. I wanted a necklace from a vendor on one of the stops before we went to Machu Picchu. She wanted five sols for it. That is the currency here in Peru. I thought that maybe I could get for lower, so I asked for about two sols. The lady agreed after a very short time, and I ended up subtracting three sols from the original price.
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Allillanchu! That is Quechua for hello. Quechua is the native language of the Incas before the Spaniards arrived in 1532.
We had a nice breakfast at the Libertador Hotel. I had watermelon with sugar and prickly pear cactus root. It tasted like the white part of watermelon, but it was red and had tons of seeds. We have been trying many different foods that you don’t eat in America. For example, they served alpaca, llama, and guinea pig. (I didn’t try the guinea pig because they are pets in America.) Another thing that was quite interesting was that Lijah let me try a little calamari (or octopus). It tasted like fish and was purple with tentacles.
After breakfast we boarded the bus and we drove through the Andes making a few stops along the way. We took pictures and stopped at the marketplace in a small village. The market was filled with people in colorful costumes who were there for a weaving contest. I bought a woven camera strap and an alpaca breeder mask. The mask is part of a costume that people wear in the dance to get the season off to a good start. Most of the masks are white with a cross and a stripe on the forehead. But there are many different types of these masks. They have cool colors, horns, beards, and faces. If you look at one from far away they look like a ski mask or socks with many colors.
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Peru has been extremely incredible! On the sixth day in Peru I still have not done anything that I did not love. We’ve seen quite an assortment of animals since we came to Peru.
Being in Cusco, we had a day of travels to get to our destination, Machu Picchu. On a photo stop, we were confronted by two woolly alpacas. They had the softest light poofy fur, though it was very matted. The funny thing about them was they couldn’t stop sniffing your face. They would shove their noses right into yours, and if you’re lucky (or unlucky, depending on how your look at it!), they would lick you. I’d never seen anything like it!
Hola everybody, this is Rachel Day blogging from Peru! Today we visited the Inca Ruins of the capital city of Cusco. It was at a very high altitude and we had to hike up because our buses were on strike that day, so most of the day included walking. Even though it was hard, it was kind of nice for me to be out of the buses!
The city ruins were very interesting and I learned a lot of facts, but I am not going to turn this blog into a history lesson! After the tour of the city and many new things learned, the group headed toward the rock slides. These are actual rocks shaped like a series of slides that you can sit on and go down. The first time, before you knew how to brace yourself, it was a little painful. Once you learned what was coming up you could prepare your position and then it was fun. While we were sliding we met some local kids and watched a magic show. It was very neat and unexpected.
Hi, this is Pete. Today, the fifth day of our journey, we took a hike to the ancient Incan ruins of Sacsayhuaman. The hike was much harder than most because of the lack of oxygen in the air. But the hike was worth it when we reached the top and saw the breathtaking structure. It was a myriad of boulders upon boulders. The largest ones were at the bottom to create a stronger support. The largest of the boulders were around 18 tall. It was a wonder that men could transport such mammoth rocks.
Even more impressive was the way in which these boulders were carved.
Each boulder was carved expertly to fit perfectly with adjacent
boulders. Every wall looked like a jigsaw puzzle, without any spaces
between pieces. It is amazing that such perfection could be created
over 600 years ago. We later learned that the area of Sacsayhuaman was
called Puma City and was made to look like a Puma. Every structure was
made to look like a specific part of the Puma.
The Incan civilization was so powerful and advanced that their history is almost addicting. I cannot wait to go to the Citadel of Machu Picchu to see more wonders of the Incan Empire.
Hi, it’s Elliot. Today we participated in the “Search of the Treasure” game, which took place high up in the Andes at an elevation of about 13,000 feet. We were divided into four groups for the game.
We were greeted by people wearing traditional and ceremonial clothes. Some people were wearing clothes representing the devil and a man was dressed as an Inca King. He chanted in Quechua, the traditional language, and then we started the first challenge, hair braiding. One girl in each group sat down, and with the help of a few locals, we braided as many braids as we could in five minutes. It was really hard to do and I could only do two braids out of our group’s 29. The whole time we were chanting to try and get more points.