Sunday, August 28, 2016

Iquitos: The river and the jungle

The Amazon River from Iquitos

Iquitos is a city In the far North of Perú on the Amazon river. It can only be reached by plane or boat as there are no roads connecting it to the rest of Perú. There's not all that much in the city itself as the main attraction is the Amazon river and jungle.

The Iquitos church

In the main square there are plenty of people who try to sell you trips to the Amazon - with various prices and itineraries. Shop around not just for the price but for the specific activities you want - many places will tailor something for you. I chose a trip heavy on trekking and animal watching and less on "Authentic" Amazonian artisanal markets.

My trip started with a two hour boat trip down the Amazon river until we turned into one of the many tributaries.

A tributary of the Amazon

The accommodation was basic but functional and was right on the edge of the river and the jungle.

The forest lodge

From here we started many treks into the jungle.

Our first foray into the Amazon Jungle to try and spot some wildlife. Sadly, despite braving swarms of hyper aggressive mosquitoes, we only saw a few curious monkeys.

Curious Monkey

Monkey in the tree

Thankfully, when we went out at night we were able to spot quite a few more animals (and mosquitoes - swarms of them).

Black Scorpion

Another Black Scorpion


Another Bullfrog


Forest rat


The next couple of days were spent on the river: swimming, mud bathing (which was surprisingly fun despite mud getting *everywhere*), fishing (I caught a sardine - yay me) and watching the grey and pink river dolphins. Sadly I wasn't lucky enough to photograph them, but the river was still beautiful.

Birds on the river


Sun over the river

The next day we went trekking in the jungle again looking for sloths. And, we found them.

Sloth in a tree

And some other interesting things

Lily pond

Ant nest on a tree

After two days in the jungle I headed back to Iquitos.

Amazon river

I was determined to see more Amazonian animals so I organised to visit a local animal sanctuary. The sanctuary could only be reached by boat from the far end of town - a somewhat sketchy area, however, I took a mototaxi to the dock and bought a snack at the local market.

Didn't go back for seconds

Before negotiating a boat trip to the sanctuary.

The little, possibly seaworthy boat

The sanctuary housed many different animals that had been found sick or injured or had been taken illegally from the Amazon. 





Happy sloth

After the sanctuary we stopped at a floating restaurant for lunch

Floating Restaurant

And then headed back to Iquitos to watch the moon rise over the Amazon.

Moonrise over the Amazon

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu

The Sacred Valley

Outside of Cusco are several valleys that were used by the Incas to cultivate crops and to mine precious metals. The Sacred valley follows the Urubamba river all the way to Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu.

Along this valley are many important Inca ruins. The first stop along the valley is the town of Pisac.

The Pisac ruins

Pisac was an important town for mining silver and cultivating food crops. The ruins of the Inca city have many terraces for growing food.

Food cultivation terraces

The town of Pisac below the ruins

The ruins also have one of the largest necropolis' in Peru. Each hole in the far bank is a grave. Unfortunately many of them have been looted for their treasures.

The necropolis

Close-up of the graves

From Pisac the Valley continues to follow the river past many inca ruins, until it reaches the fortress at Ollantaytambo.

Ollantaytambo ruins

Sadly this site has become overrun with tourists.

Hordes of tourists climbing the ruins

The Ollantaytambo ruins

More of the ruins

An aqueduct

From Ollantaytambo you can then take a scenic train journey to Aguas Calientes.

View from the train

Aguas Calientes is a small town in a valley below Machu Picchu. From what I was told it used to be a sleepy village, but a huge influx of tourists has made it more of a backpacker party town.

Aguas Calientes main square

At night

The square at night

From Aguas Calientes you can walk up to Machu Picchu or take a bus - both leave at 4 am and the number of people wanting to take the bus means it arrives at the same time as the walk.

The reason for the early start is to see the sun rise through the Puerta del Sol.

Sunrise through the Puerta del Sol

Sunrise over Machu Picchu

The rest of the day can be spent wandering around the spectacular ruins.

Machu Picchu

The ruins with Wayapicchu in the background

The ruins from the top terraces

The ruins from Puerta del Sol