Co-Trip Leader: Carla Constantino
Co-Trip Leader: Clair Quenzler
There are 28 club members that can say they sweated non-stop in the Amazon, climbed Machu Picchu, explored Cusco and stepped foot on the Floating Islands in Lake Titicaca. After seeing Lima, we took a 3-hour flight to Puerto Maldonado, transferred to a 90 minute bus ride on dirt roads then got on a boat for another hour down river to the dock where we trekked 15 minutes into the Amazon jungle to our lodge. Every building is open to nature including our rooms which had 3 walls. The non-existant 4th wall was open to the jungle where critters could come in, steal your food and hide your stuff! There was no air conditioning anywhere and limited electricity. Despite the lack of luxury, everyone was astonished with the Amazon. We did not expect to learn as much as we did about plants, animals, environment, crops and what the rain forest can offer the modern world. Plus, we went Piranha fishing. We enjoyed our time here, however, it sure was nice to get back in some a/c.
The main draw of course was Machu Picchu. A train ride to Aguas Calientes takes you to the base, then a bus takes you to the15th century Incan ruins at 8000 feet. UNESCO describes Machu Picchu as an absolute masterpiece of architecture. To stand on the grounds of Machu Picchu and try to understand how it was built and comprehend the sophisticated systems created to sustain a community is mind boggling. A seriously big shout out goes to the 6 people who got up at 5am to climb Huayna Picchu. (Check the photo with the big, steep mountain next to Machu.) It is not for the faint of heart or body. Kudos to: Jeff Koss, TJ Jordan, Pat McQuoid, Tom Freeberg and the only female hanging strong with the guys, Kathy Freeberg. A super salute of admiration to George Dalmas who kept up with the youngsters all the way! Honorable mention goes to Jo Dalmas who in made it to the Gate of the Sun, a different hike that takes heart and strength.
Back in Cusco, a little down time allowed us to take it easy. We toured the ancient city and colonial sights which gave us a more complete feel of the area. The Sacred Valley is surrounded with smaller villages, mountain views, sightings of llama and alpaca. We took in the colorful world of markets with food, textiles, art and native woman dressed in traditional clothing at every turn. And if you are looking for a traditional meal of guinea pig, it is easy to find although most Peruvians only have it a couple of times a year.
Our last stop was the Floating Islands in Lake Titicaca. It is truly difficult to believe this place is real. Entire communities of the Uros people live on islands they have build from totora reeds. We learn how the islands are built and how people live. What they cannot provide for themselves, they barter with mainlanders. Standing on an island that moves is something to experience. Homes are one room used mostly to sleep. Life is simple. To know people live here without modern conveniences that are a short distance away is completely baffling. Visiting the Uros people was a real highlight for all of us.
From the Amazon jungle, to the Sacred Valley, up to the top of Machu Picchu and out to Lake Titicaca, we can’t say we did it all in Peru but we did plenty. Our group was fun, cheerful, cooperative, non-complaining, mostly on time, helpful and appreciative of all that it took to bring this trip together. We say mucho gracias times twenty-eight to all our esteemed regulars and those of you who joined us for the first time. We hope everyone had a wonderful trip because it was a pleasure to lead the way.
Clair and Carla