Day 8:  Time to go home.  It was a long day of traveling, leaving the lodge at 7 am and not getting back to Soundview until almost 12 noon the next day.  We had to take a boat to a bus to the airport; a plane from Puerto Maldonado to Cusco to Lima; a 6 hour layover that turned into an 8 hour layover; flew from Lima to Newark; and finally a van back to Soundview.  Whew!  I think the boys were tired by the end of the trip.  

We made it back!



Day 7:  Up and at 'em!  5 am wake up call when in the Amazon. The morning activity was a hike - better described as a muck-walk - through the jungle to a giant oxbow lake. It was not easy walking through all the mud.  We were told the area had received below average rain for the last week, so I hate to think what it would have been like with more mud.  

It was well worth the walk, however. We reached a boat that would take us out to the lake via a small canal through what I would describe as a swamp.  We got to see lots of wildlife around the lakeshore and the breeze was nice to have back after walking through the stifling jungle.

 In the afternoon wegot to go fishing.  Unfortunately, we didn't catch our dinner, but Mrs. Kessler won the catch of the day prize. A catfish!


Day 6:  We had our first chance to sleep in today and traveled from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado, a town where motorbikes dominate the roads - never seen so many!  Even the taxis were mostly motorbikes.  When you stepped off the plane you could feel the heat and humidity hit you.  We took a quick ride by bus to a dock where our boat awaited to take us into the heart of the Madre de Dios River.  When we got there, we got a quick glimpse of how they build these very long and narrow boats.

The lodge was a really well run camp where each room was its own above ground cabin.  They got hot during the day and you didn't want to spend time in your room, but the main house had a recreation area and cafeteria that were much bigger and better insulated. After we arrived, we were served lunch wrapped in a HUGE jungle leaf, similar to tamales. 

After lunch it was time to go visit Monkey Island.  We were lucky to find and even feed some monkeys.  Everybody had a chance to feed one, and Ada even showed us how they can drink from a water bottle.  Monkeys suffer from thirst and need it to rain daily because they are afraid of the river, so they can only drink from fresh pools of rainwater. We caught a perfect sunset over the river on our boat ride back to the lodge.  In the evening, we loaded up into the boats one more time and drifted down river with our local guides explaining about the constellations of the southern hemisphere. The stars are completely different in the southern hemisphere, which is not so profound when you think about it, but it had never occurred to me! 



Day 5: Machu Picchu.  We were able to squeeze in a stop at a llama and alpaca farm on our way to our destination.  We all had fun feeding the animals and learned about the many different varieties of each species and their relation to the camel.

The trip to Machu Picchu was long but beautiful. The Andes mountains are the steepest I have ever seen.  They are covered in green plants, mostly shrubs but some trees, and do not resemble the Rockies.  It was a 2 hour bus to a 1.75 hour train.  Both followed the sacred river through the sacred valley, which eventually reaches the Amazon and the Atlantic.  The train ride was great because as we descended, following the river, we had views of everything - the river, the mountains, and the jungle.  Finally, we arrived.  Machu Picchu, I think, is probably a lot like some people's experiences of the Grand Canyon. Photos don't do it justice and it is massive.  The city itself is designed to support only 400 people, but the mountains that surround it give it a feeling of mystic grandeur and size. 



 Day 3-4: Travel day.  Day 3 began as planned and we headed to the airport early.  We even boarded our flight and began our descent to the Cuzco airport.  Unfortunately, we were turned around back to Lima due to an accident on the runway at Cuzco.  We spent the night in a hotel back in the San Isidro District of Lima, and made our way back to the airport Monday.  Although we were confirmed for a flight, we did not have seats – it was really disheartening.  It looked like we might not get to Cuzco at all for another 24 hours.  Our luck changed right when things were looking at their worst, and the airline created a new flight which Ada managed to make sure we were on. We had a rough stretch there, but we are hoping it is all behind us now. Making it to Cuzco was a great feeling – and believe me you can feel it.  The elevation here is for real, over 11,000 feet.  All of us felt a bit weak or off because of it by the end of the night.  

We had the after noon to tour a Catholic church that was built over an Incan temple, called Qorikancha. And we also managed to get to see more incredible stone ruins (only ruins because the Spanish destroyed and removed 70% of the stones to make their own homes and churches) at a place called Saqsaywaman.  The stonework in Cusco far exceeds that of Machu Picchu, as this was the capital of the empire.  Most of the stones here are placed with absolutely zero mortar.  (My apolgies for the sideways photos, hopefully I can figure out how to change those, so far no luck).




Day 2: We had a great breakfast at the hotel.  We toured the city of Lima, which has a population of 10 million! Traffic is an issue, though it was Saturday, and not as bad as it could be. We toured two gigantic Catholic churches, though the first and most interesting one we could not take photos. We were taken through the catacombs of the building and saw the crypts where they estimate over 20,000 people were put to rest. Lots of bones and skulls!

We then went to a pre-Incan civilization history musuem.  I found the accounting system fascinating, with the different strings, twists, and knots all used as a way to maintain counts of thngs.

Last part of the tour was a trip to the Park of Love on the Pacific Ocean.


Day 1: We have arrived! We got to our hotel by 1030 or 11. John picked us up at the airport, and we will meet our tour guide, Ada, tomorrow.