Iquitos: On the Amazon River

Our second day in the Amazon just happened to be Easter Sunday. It was a very quiet morning in Iquitos and we had a little trouble finding an open place for breakfast. We managed to find one though, named for the movie that was filmed in the Amazon, Fitzcarraldo. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but the restaurant was not much to write home about. Still, at least we had satisfied our hunger and were ready for the day. We grabbed a couple snacks and some blended coconut drinks and decided to hop on a boat for a tour. 

Boats along the river

Boats along the river

Olivia and Aunt Katelyn

Olivia and Aunt Katelyn

 Our tour guide told us he could take us to both Monkey Island and the Butterfly Farm. The boat was great. A narrow wooden boat with two boards running along the sides and a couple hammocks hung in the middle. It was nice and cool with the breeze blowing off the water.  We got to see the colors of the river change as we merged from one river into the other.  

Rivers merging

Rivers merging

 Not long after that, we had already arrived at what appeared to be Monkey Island. We walked up the planks to the floating platform and were greeted by several very friendly monkeys. 

The monkeys were happy to see us

The monkeys were happy to see us

The kids were pretty hesitant and Cliff definitely kept his distance. As soon as you had anything in your hands they would climb right up your legs and jump to the fruit! 

Looking for a snack

Looking for a snack

Katelyn and the Monkey

Katelyn and the Monkey

It was pretty funny to experience.

Next, they took us to see different animals found in the surrounding environment. Unfortunately, we discovered later that this was NOT the real “Monkey Island” but was an operation that draws tourists in by paying tour guides to bring them under false pretenses. We enjoyed getting to see the wildlife up close, but felt bad that we’d unwillingly and unknowingly supported a place like that!

Bridge to the animals

Bridge to the animals

Holding a sloth

Holding a sloth

Happy with a full tummy

Happy with a full tummy

Unfortunately, it’s very hard to find specific information on places online and when you speak to your guides they usually tell you what you want to hear. So for those of you who are going to Iquitos, make sure you are very clear with your guide about where he is taking you, and know how long it should take to get there.

Holding the Macaw...Olivia wasn't so sure about this.

Holding the Macaw…Olivia wasn’t so sure about this.

Our next stop was the Butterfly Farm. We thought we were going to the Pilpintuwassi Butterfly Farm, which is a rescue center for jungle wildlife around Peru.  However, it wasn’t until afterwards that we realized no where had we seen the name anywhere….again we had been duped.

It was really neat seeing the lifecycle of the Amazon butterflies up close. Olivia loved all the caterpillars and was very excited to get to hold a couple of them.

Caterpillar

Caterpillar

We saw all the life stages, from the eggs, to tiny caterpillars, to the large caterpillars, chrysalis and cocoons, and butterflies.

Holding a butterfly

Holding a butterfly

Then we got to see the butterfly house, where the butterflies fed on fruit and flowers. At the end, our guide let us release two butterflies from the cages and then picked some fruit off a tree to send with us. The fruit was reminiscent of a lime, and they eat it dipped in salt. They told us pregnant women in Iquitos love it, and I approved :). It was pretty refreshing in that heat!

More about our time in the Amazon coming soon!

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Panama: Punta Culebra

Our second morning in Panama we grabbed a taxi and headed for The Amador Causeway, a narrow strip of land that connects Panama with four small islands. After passing our destination once, we finally arrived back at Culebra Point, to explore the Smithsonian funded Centro de Exhibiciones Marinas.

Ready for our morning adventure!

Ready for our morning adventure!

At the gate, we waited 20 minutes to enter because no one was there to take our money…interesting, no?

Cliff can have fun anywhere...

Cliff can have fun anywhere…

We made the best of it and watched the pelicans floating just off the beach.

Watching the pelicans

Watching the pelicans

pelicans

pelicans

Once we started the trail we read each of the signs explaining what to look for in this “dry rainforest”. I looked up in one tree and thought, huh, that looks like a big pile of moss. It’s not moving…must be moss…just as John read aloud the sign explaining that sloth often look like big piles of moss. We both realized at the same time what we were looking at.

A two-toed sloth

A two-toed sloth

It was awesome to see one of these two-towed sloth in person! He was taking a good nap and didn’t so much as twitch a finger (or toe). But he was still fairly photogenic :).

After the sloth excitement we went to the touch tanks where the kids enjoyed the starfish and sea cucumbers.

Cliff liked the starfish

Cliff liked the starfish

I think it was more meaningful for Olivia because she remembered the Monterey Bay Aquarium at our last home. She really enjoyed it!

Olivia's favorite were the sea cucumbers

Olivia’s favorite were the sea cucumbers

The touch tanks overlooked the beautiful blue Pacific and bright green mountainous islands.  We took the opportunity to snap a picture with our Texas A&M flag.

Whoop!

Whoop!

Gig 'Em!

Gig ‘Em!

The tip of the island had amazing views, where we saw many large ships waiting around for their turn to pass through. Storm clouds started forming while we were out and raindrops started steadily dropping, which was nice to cut the humidity.

Overlooking the Pacific

Overlooking the Pacific

Watching the ships

Watching the ships

Best friends...

Best friends…

watching the ships

watching the ships

We even caught a family picture in the mirrored windows of the small island aquarium.

Family mirror shot

Family mirror shot

On our way out we saw some sea turtles and sharks, which the kids were enamored with (probably just because they intuitively know that their mother is terrified of sharks).

sea turtle

sea turtle

While the rain came down, we ate at a small island cafe for lunch and sampled some yummy ceviche and local sausages. The kids were beat by that time, though, so it was back to the hotel for naptime. They really still need that time to reset. We knew in Nicaragua they wouldn’t get many naps, so we were getting them in while we could!

Panama: hiking a rainforest

Our first trip outside Lima this year was Panama. When we arrived in Panama City we were greeted by light showers and beautiful green mountains. Even from the airport we could tell this place was a lot different from Lima. Stepping outside, the warm air hit us like a thick steamy wall. We found a cab and made it all the way to our hotel near downtown Panama City.

Number one on my list was seeing the rainforest and spotting some wildlife! So on our first full day we went to Parque Centro Metropolitano, a preserved rainforest just 15 minutes from the city’s center. It was pretty empty for a Saturday morning, but then again, we were in a party city.

packing Cliff

packing Cliff

Tall mango trees stood unassumingly in the parking lot and the whole area screamed rainforest (or maybe that was the monkeys). Right away we started seeing big bright butterflies dashing from flower to flower.

butterflies, lizards and flowers

butterflies, lizards and flowers

We chose a fairly easy hike but even so, 10 minutes into our tromp on the path, we were all dripping sweat. The humidity was so high that I felt like I could almost see the air in front of me. We heard monkeys on several occasions but never got a glimpse of one. The plants were amazing, though! So much variety and so much green!

rainforest plants

rainforest plants

palms and moss

palms and moss

birds and moss

birds and moss

We passed by a large pond with tons of red slider turtles swimming about and a few good sized fish too.

our sweet girl!

our sweet girl!

checking out a hollow tree

checking out a hollow tree

The flowers were gorgeous! So bright and big. We also saw a banana or plantain tree, not sure which.

plantain or banana?

plantain or banana?

At one point I spotted a very long line of leaf-cutter ants crossing the path. It was so cool to see them up close! In fact, I got so distracted showing the ants to Olivia and taking pictures, that we didn’t see their trail moving towards our feet. We got a couple bites from these huge ants, but nothing too terrible.

leaf-cutter ants

leaf-cutter ants

As the light started shining through the rainforest, we started noticing these large spiders in enormous webs, spun just off the side of the trail. Once we saw the first one, we realized they were everywhere – a very good reason to stay on the path!

spider

spider

big scary spider

big scary spider

Poor Cliff fell asleep half way through. Bet not many people can say they slept in a rainforest!

sleeping in the rainforest

sleeping in the rainforest

Livi ran out of energy near the end of the hike, so I ended up packing her out.  We are definitely learning it’s necessary to take it slower and be flexible when traveling with two toddlers.  It’s a lot harder traveling with them at these ages than when they were infants, that’s for sure!  But we all enjoyed the hike and seeing so much of Panama’s famous wildlife!

first hike in a rainforest

first hike in a rainforest

Right before we finished the hike we saw these little mammals crossing our path… They were like a funny cross between a mouse, a deer and a rabbit. I think they were capybara, or some similar animal.

capybara

capybara

It was a fun adventure! We sure were sweaty by the end!

hot and sweaty

hot and sweaty