Posts Tagged ‘peru’

Sailing The Amazon

Written by Will on . Posted in Budget Travel, Living in South America, Tips, Travel, Travel in South America

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I think it’s fairly common knowledge that the Amazon River and the surrounding drainage basin are both massive. Incomprehensibly so. Let me start with a few quick facts:

 

 

 

 

  • 40% of the entire continent of South America drains into the Amazon Basin
  • The river, at its narrowest, is 1.6KM (1 mile) wide
  • The flow of the Amazon is greater than the next 7 largest rivers COMBINED
  • For perspective on the last fact, by my math (may be flawed) the Amazon could fill Lake Michigan in 17 seconds!
  • 1/3 of all animal species on the face of the planet are found in the Amazon Basin
  • The Amazon accounts for 20% of the world’s river flow

These facts do little to reveal the true scope of the Amazon and its drainage basin. I am quite simply, awestruck, after realizing that I was in constant motion for 4 days and only saw a sliver of this massive ecosystem.

The journey WAS the destination

I feel quite fortunate that this is my life. Imagine, sitting around the house one day and simply deciding to go! With no real plan we left the next Tuesday. Transport in Peru can be somewhat challenging, long bus rides cover vast distances at a fairly slow pace. Bus rides are quite commonly nine hours at a minimum. We decided that we would get a bus from Trujillo to Chacapoyas and from there make our way to Tarapoto and finally Yurimaquas where we would arrange passage on the river to Iquitos. It ended up working out surprisingly well.

15 hours on a bus got us to our first stop. Chachapoyas turned out to be an incredible place with many natural wonders and archaeological sites on offer. The area is best known for the ancient ruins of Kuelap, but we opted instead to visit the Sarcophagi of Karajía(click to embiggen).
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We also did a bit of spelunking ‘ghetto style’ where our guide was equipped with a car battery in a backpack which was connected to a homemade lamp with a couple strands of discarded baling wire.

From Chachapoyas we backtracked a little bit to the crossroads town of Pedro Ruiz to catch a bus onward to Tarapoto. At the bus terminal, a lady had called the police to report the theft of her cell phone. She was pointing fingers, making accusations and demanded that the police do something. Eventually they gave in and started searching all of the males for the cell phone. As people were done being searched and boarded the bus, someone came back from the bus with her cell phone that they had found in her seat. This incident set the tone for the next eight hours on the bus.

We overnighted in Tarapoto and the next morning arranged transport to Yurimaguas. We knew that the boat trips between Yurimaguas and Iquitos are fairly spartan, so we knew that we would need to be gathering supplies. We had originally planned on spending the night in Yurimaguas so that we would have time to procure everything we would need (hammocks, rain gear, eating utensils, water and wine) but that proved to be unnecessary as out moto-taxi driver was more than willing to earn a commission by taking us to a local outfitter. The few soles extra that we spent by going with him was well worth it!

Everything that we had read indicated that this trip would likely take three to five days, so with our supplies purchased and passage booked we settled in for the cruise. We left Yurimaguas at sunset and hadn’t even pulled out of port yet before our first river dolphin sighting.

We ended up only taking two days to get to Iquitos, but it was a very interesting two days with many stops made to load and unload cargo at remote Amazonian villages along the river. By mid-morning on the second day we had made it to the confluence of the rivers Marañón and Ucayali which come together to officially start the Amazon. From there it was only a few hours to Iquitos.

The largest city in the world inaccessible by road

Iquitos turned out to be very interesting. It’s quite a scene, to say the least. We were surprised by the expat community there with an English language newspaper! We met a very interesting character who happened to be the proprietor of a floating bar/restaurant/hostel. I visited the shantytown of Belen, and we HAD to visit Casa Fitzcarralldo (which turned out to be somewhat disappointing). All in all a very rewarding trip!

Support local business owners!

Iquitos is fairly heavily touristed. One thing that has always bothered me about places that get a lot of tourist traffic is the number of foreign business that spring up to cater to these tourists. Travel agencies, booking offices, tour companies, hotels and restaurants are nearly all foreign owned so the locals end up benefiting very little. Whenever possible, I prefer to support locals who are often freelancers. While in Iquitos, we happened to meet a jungle guide from a nearby village. He spoke very good English and was quite friendly and comes highly recommended by past clients. His name is Pedro, but he’s known as “Wolf”. If you ever need a jungle guide in Iquitos, and especially if you don’t want to take some pre-packaged tour, you should get in contact with Pedro. He can be reached by email at pedro_wildlife AT hotmail DOT com or on facebook (Pedro Peña) in Iquitos, Peru. Seriously, this guy can set you up with whatever, whether it’s an ayahuasca ceremony, hallucenogenic toad licking or remote wildlife viewing, he’s your guy.

And now, the photos:

The Worst Hostel in South America

Written by Will on . Posted in Budget Travel, Expat Life, Global Travel, Living in South America, Nomadic Lifestyle, Tips, Travel, Travel in South America, Travel Nightmares

kitesurfing mancora peru

My first time traveling to Peru could have easily been my last. My first impression of Peru was the beachside resort village of Mancora. Mancora embodies everything that is horrible about over-touristed travel destinations, including the worst hostel ever!

Mancora is well located on the coast of northern Peru. The beach is actually quite nice, has great surf and predictable afternoon breezes that

attract surfers and kite surfers.

So, why do I think Mancora is so horrible, and what about this hideous hostel experience? First, the beach in Mancora isn’t open and accessible without going through either a hotel or a restaurant, it’s like trying to get out of a casino.

And the hostel…so, here’s the deal: I had made the mistake of booking a Loki hostel ahead of my arrival in Mancora. Booking ahead meant that the money was already spent…always a risk, I know, but the pictures looked nice, so I went for it. Loki hostels are a chain operating in Bolivia and Peru. They’re foreign owned, operate in a handful of already over-touristed destinations and add to the ugliness of tourism.

Upon checking in, I was immediately adorned with a wrist band that I would need to get in and out of the gate. Now, I can understand that maybe management thinks that this practice is in my best interest – you know, keeping the “bad” people out, but in reality, the wrist bands are about branding for Loki. This presents two problems. 1) I can be immediately identified by thieves and other ne’er do wells as a patron of Loki and marked as someone who must be an absolute sucker. 2) I’m forced now to be a walking advertisement for what amounts to be a corporate franchise. A bit ironic, methinks.

So, having been marked with the Loki brand, I was now free to roam the dusty streets of Mancora. I like beer. I like to drink beer poolside. Loki has a pool but their beer selection is limited and the prices are hyper-inflated. I did what any logical person would do and purchased some beer at the bodega outside the gate. I wasn’t allowed to take the beer back inside the hallowed Loki grounds.

The folks at Loki claim:

We are a group of backpackers
who met in Lima, Peru and over a
number of nights out decided to build
a hostel

I wonder if they, as a “group of backpackers” would like to be treated the way they treat their customers?

Peru Bullfight Video (Warning: Graphic)

Written by Will on . Posted in Expat Life, Global Travel, Living in South America, Travel, Travel in South America

Ultimately, I travel for the experience. Without immersing myself in the local culture, I may as well stay home. Bullfighting is an important part of Peruvian culture, though it is losing favor. I can’t say that I’m glad that it happens, but I can say that I’m glad for the experience.

Not to judge, not to condemn no condone but merely to observe

The Saturday Extra – Huanchaco Sunsets

Written by Will on . Posted in Expat Life, Global Travel, Living in South America, Nomadic Lifestyle, Travel in South America

Sunset at Huanchaco Beach - Peru

Sunset in Huanchaco


Ahh….the good life! beachside, sunsets, umbrella drinks. It doesn’t get any better than this. I hope you all are enjoying your weekend as much as I am. To see more, browse the gallery below!

Isn’t it Dangerous?

Written by Will on . Posted in Budget Travel, Expat Life, Global Travel, Living in Asia, Living in South America, Nomadic Lifestyle, Travel, Travel in Asia, Travel in Europe, Travel in South America, Travel Nightmares

While traveling the globe and relating my stories to people unfamiliar with travel, some form of this question almost always comes up. Aren’t you scared? Won’t you get robbed?

It’s a common travel question and I certainly understand why people ask it, but at the same time, it’s doesn’t seem very well thought out to me. Seriously, I was traveling in New Zealand and was asked this question by a local: “Aren’t you scared?” In New Zealand of all places? I was stymied.

Where Does This Mentality Come From?

I can’t say for sure, but I think a few different factors feed in to the thinking that travel is somehow inherently dangerous.

  • Media Sensationalism
  • Imagine if the mainstream media reported on every traveler who didn’t get mugged or robbed. That wouldn’t make for very good headlines, but the fact is, plenty of people travel the world without incident and the incidents we hear are few and far between when compared to the shear number of people who travel.

  • State Department Warnings
  • Nobody reports their experiences with not getting robbed, mugged or scammed to their embassy. If nothing awful happens to a traveler, the embassy probably doesn’t even know they exist. State Department advisories and warnings have their place, and I’ll get to that later.

  • Unfamiliarity
  • There’s a good chance that you could be robbed, mugged or scammed while in your home country or hometown. But it probably doesn’t happen because you know how things work there. You know which areas to avoid. You understand what situations to avoid. You hang out with familiar people who you know and trust.

Are You Saying Travel is Completely Safe Then?

No, of course not. There are many factors that make a place more or less dangerous than another. Local laws and law enforcement (or the lack of) will shape what kinds of crime exist and what sort of risks criminals will take. For instance, in Romania, violent crime is dealt with very harshly, while pick-pocketing is not, so of course, pickpocketing is very common but in the case of Romania, you’re not going to be targeted simply because you are a traveler. Criminals there are equal opportunists.

Local economics also play a huge role in the types of crimes and scams that might be common in the area. If people are poor, hungry, desperate and have no hope of earning an honest living they may very well resort to scams or crime. It isn’t personal but as a traveler, you could be targeted specifically because you are seen to have more.

All of that said, let’s not lose sight of the one common denominator here: People. People, no matter where you go in the world, want to live a peaceful existence. They want to raise their families. They want the same basic things that you or I want. People aren’t evil by nature, no matter where they live.

How to Minimize Your Risk

I’ve been to some dodgy places. Kashmir comes to mind. Everybody there had a gun but me. I’ve been in parts of Mexico at the beginning of an uprising. I’ve been in some extremely safe places that are relatively crime-free. In Taiwan, for example, I once left my iPhone in a taxi cab. I actually got it back. I’m not sure that would have happened anywhere else in the world. I’ve only ever had something stolen once, and while that was a bummer, I think that considering the amount of time I’ve put in traveling, it’s pretty good odds.

    Here are some handy tips for minimizing your risk:

  • Common Sense
  • I know what “they” say. Common sense ain’t so common and that is evidenced by the fact that many people become victims by taking risks that they shouldn’t have.

    1. Moderation in Drinking
    2. The temptation to get caught up in having a good time with fellow travelers is strong. Go ahead, have a good time but don’t overdo it. You should know your own limits and you should stick to them. If you’re incapacitated by drinking your judgement will become diminished, your reaction time will be slowed. You will become more likely to make mistakes.

    3. Avoid areas that aren’t well lit.
    4. Especially if you’re in an unfamiliar area.

    5. Try not to be alone
    6. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t travel solo, but if you are alone, try to stick to areas where there are other people.

    7. Be aware
    8. I call this “paying attention to my spidey-senses”. Be vigilant, pay attention to your surroundings. Listen to your own intuition, and if something doesn’t feel right, get out.

    9. Know the risks
    10. Having knowledge of what kinds of crimes are common in the area where you are traveling will help you spot a scam or a dangerous situation. That’s where State Department travel information comes in handy. Some scams or diversion tactics have the same elements worldwide, some are more regional or local. Know what you’re likely to encounter so that you can recognize it for what it is early.

So my answer to “Isn’t it dangerous?” is no, not really, at least not so much that I’m going to let that notion keep me from exploring the world around me.