Iquitos: Monkey Island

After being taken to the “wrong” Monkey Island, we were indecisive at first as to whether we should take another day and see the real Monkey Island. We were so glad we did though! It ended up being the highlight of our trip. It was different than we expected. We got a guide who took us to the first boat. This one was through a local market and was definitely more of a local boat, rather than a tourist one.

Plantains at the mercado

Plantains at the mercado

As each bench of four people was filled, they put in the backboard for the succeeding row of people, so essentially we were crammed in like sardines. I tried not to think about how we would get out in case of emergency…not to mention the lack of life jackets aboard.

Anyways, this first boat took us for about an hour and dropped us off at a large island that was sopping wet. Everything was wet and muddy.

Trying to get Olivia to smile

Trying to get Olivia to smile

There were the local women selling goods to people who lived on the island. One of the women had a baby, about 3-4 months old by my guess. It was curled up, sleeping on a blanket on one of the only dry boards.No one seemed at all put out or inconvenienced by the rain.  It’s amazing to me that they are just used to life like this in the rainy season.  We waited for a short while for a man to come pick us up and take us the rest of the way to Monkey Island (we weren’t sure he was coming there for a while…).

Boat at the second island

Boat at the first island

Since we were in the Amazon during the rainy season, the waters on the river were very high. In fact, when we arrived to the island we realized there was NO land! I’m still unsure how that physically works – it’s an island….but it’s covered in water, so….technically it’s just more of the river. Ha!

Monkey Island

Monkey Island

Our boat guy dropped us off at the island tour guide’s canoe and we all tried to board from boat to boat without dropping a child, camera, or capsizing the canoe.

Starting the tour of the island

Starting the tour of the island

First we saw a few monkeys in the cages.  The red faced monkeys are very territorial, and for that reason many of them are caged, but the majority of the wildlife on Monkey Island is just that – wild. Our guide pointed out some snail eggs as we rowed around.

Snail eggs

Snail eggs

When we arrived outside the buildings, the family that runs the island had some fruit ready for us to feed to the monkeys. It was about to get crazy! Sure enough, as soon as the first monkey caught sight of us in the feeding zone, every monkey within sight was in or around our boat!

Olivia wasn't so sure about it...

Olivia wasn’t so sure about it…

The kids were pretty nervous about it. I was a little too, mostly because we were still in a boat and there was no where to go to get away!

A little nervous...

A little nervous…

But it was so fun seeing the monkeys up close and getting to see some of their personalities. Some of them, the younger ones, were especially affectionate and would crawl up in our arms like a baby.

Katelyn holding a young monkey

Katelyn holding a young monkey

Olivia was really not enjoying the feeding, when the guide offered for her to sit next to him (he had a switch to keep the monkeys in line – he’d swat it in the air and they’d stop being naughty). I didn’t think she would do it, but she saw him sitting there at the end of the boat, with not a monkey on him, and she happily agreed.

Happy to be away from the monkeys

Happy to be away from the monkeys

Cliff was still nervous, but as long as I didn’t let the monkeys touch him he was okay with them.

Fun times!

Fun times!


"Do you have more food?"

“Do you have more food?”

The monkeys really liked David since he was holding the food can!

Feeding the monkeys

Feeding the monkeys


Trying to find more food

Trying to find more food

We had brought lunch along with us for later and one of the smart little monkeys must have smelled it in John’s backpack. He tried at the zipper for a while!

"Is there food in here?"

“Is there food in here?”

 Once the monkey exhausted the backpack he moved on to John.

Hungry little guys...

Hungry little guys…

 After feeding the monkeys, we toured the rest of the island.  It was amazing seeing all of the jungle plants.  We got to snatch a piece of starfruit and try it right off the tree.

Starfruit tree

Starfruit tree

 It was really tart!

Tart starfruit

Tart starfruit

 We spotted some cacao pods, too.  Cliff enjoyed playing with a stick in the water.

Captivated by the water

Captivated by the water

 Our guides assured us that piranhas weren’t actually that much of a threat, since like sharks, they usually only go after someone who has a cut or is bleeding.  Comforting, huh?  We thought so…

Olivia was delighted when we found a snail for her to play with.

Snail happy

Snail happy

 In fact, she lugged that thing all around the Amazon and David even managed to get it back to Lima for her, where it eventually died in the indoor plant of our apartment.  It brought her much joy for many weeks, though :).

At the end of the tour we got to plant our feet on some dry ground, which was refreshing after a full day on the water.

Say "monkeys"!

Say “monkeys”!

 Cliff finally warmed up to the monkeys at the end and had a lot of fun playing with them before we left.

Playing with the monkeys

Playing with the monkeys


Gotta monkey on your back?

Got a monkey on your back?


"Mom, check this out!"

“Mom, check this out!”

 Like all Peruvians, the monkeys were fascinated by his white blonde hair ūüôā

"What is this stuff??"

“What is this stuff??”

 Monkey Island was definitely the highlight of our trip!  If you’re ever in the Amazon, make sure you visit this great place!  The family who runs it is very sweet, too, and it was nice to know we were supporting a legitimate business.  I’d still like to go again sometime when it’s the dry(er) season – it would be a completely different experience I’m sure!

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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!

Iquitos: Off to the Amazon

¬†¬†Our much anticipated trip to the Amazon had finally arrived. When I used to think of South America, that’s what usually would come to mind. That huge river with wildlife so diverse and exotic that documentaries and books hardly did it justice. We hadn’t originally planned on taking the kids on this trip, but after living in Peru for nine months, we’d adjusted to the idea of traveling into more adventurous places with our littles. We talked to a few people who had done it successfully with children and found (not much, but some) information online as well. We got a great deal on flights when LAN was running a special, and though we waited on the Tarmac for about an hour, the savings was still worth the mediocre flight.

We arrived in Iquitos around noon, feeling the full force of the hot sun and the jungle humidity. Iquitos is an interesting city. The largest city in the world that’s not reachable by road. It’s full of motorcycles and mototaxis – literally hundreds crowd the streets in the afternoons and evenings.¬†¬†

Cliff riding a MotoTaxi with Aunt Katelyn & Uncle David

Cliff riding a MotoTaxi with Aunt Katelyn & Uncle David

We were staying at the Nativa Apartments. A good, clean¬†place to stay for a few days, or an extended period of time. Plus, they had a room big enough for all six of us. We were traveling with John’s brother and his wife, who had been staying with us and traveling around Peru the last few weeks.

That first day we didn’t do much, besides walk to the riverfront and grab lunch.¬†

Walking around Iquitos

Walking around Iquitos

Artwork by the river

Artwork by the river 

  We talked to a tour guide and got some information on day tours for later in the week. 

Talking to a guide

Talking to a guide

We were all pretty wiped out, and wilting in the heat and humidity, so we got a rest and then headed out to a local market nearby our hotel.

It was dusk as we arrived and some of the market was already closing up. The smell hit us before we even could see it. It was a pretty dirty market, maybe because we arrived at closing. We were looking for fruit and veggies to snack on since we had a small kitchenette at the hotel. We were also hoping to find some dinner…but didn’t have much luck amid the sea of chicken carcasses and gutted fishes. David did manage to find some grilled smallish fish and plantain that they bagged up for him, but none of the rest of us felt so brave (or had much appetite with all the strong smells surrounding us). We decided it would be best to go down to the river and eat at a restaurant for dinner.

When we got there we were amazed at the number of people out and about. It was a fun crowd. Lots of locals, kids, and tourists mingled along the riverwalk. We ordered some food at a patio seating area while the kids sat on the sidewalk and watched the busy excitement before them. It wasn’t long before a teenage girl came up to the kids and started talking to them.¬†¬†

Blowing bubbles with new friends

Blowing bubbles with new friends

¬†It happens everywhere we go – especially with teenage girls. They want to know their names, where they’re from, and if they speak English. Then they usually want a picture together. The kids have been through this routine so many times now that they can give their own answers in Spanish and just need the occasional verification from us on the pronunciation of their names. It’s pretty funny to watch, really. They’ve gotten really comfortable with it.¬†The young girl had a toddler with her, and after talking to the kids for a while, she went and bought a cup of bubbles. The kids had a lot of fun with that.¬†

Blowing bubbles

Blowing bubbles

¬†When a group of about 10 young people came over they agreed to take pictures with all of them one at a time. They looked like they were thoroughly enjoying themselves. As long as they don’t seem bothered, we don’t mind. When they want space they know to come back to us, and we always watch closely to see if they’re being smothered.

Surrounded by friendly Peruvian teenagers

Surrounded by friendly Peruvian teenagers

The food at Dawn on the Amazon was really good. Delicious local fish with a twice baked potato and some coconut milk smoothies to finish it off. We were glad we’d gotten to see a bit of the town, too, since during the heat of the day it had been pretty desolate. We were learning quickly. In this heat and humidity, enjoy the morning, go home for a nap, and come back out for the night. Seemed to be the way to do it!

Journey through Peru: Lake Titicaca

Our 5th stop on our Journey through Peru was Puno:

We arrived to Puno in the late evening, after a long drive from Condor Cross in the Colca Canyon. Our day there started early again with a 6:30am breakfast and a 7:15 departure from our hotel in Puno to the docks.

The docks in Puno

The docks in Puno

We were on a large enclosed touring boat, which was nice because the high in Puno was 55F that day. I was amazed to find that Lake Titicaca is the largest lake in South America and at 3,812 meters (12,507 ft) above sea level, it is the highest navigable body of water in the world.

On the boat

On the boat

Immediately we started seeing the famous reeds of Lake Titicaca, floating effortlessly in the water.

Floating reeds

Floating reeds

The name of the lake comes from the native language. Titi means Puma and caca means grey. Some people think it was called Grey Puma Lake because of the shape of it – the lake itself (on a map) does resemble a wild cat.

Lago Titikaka

Lago Titikaka

As we passed the reeds I couldn’t imagine people making whole islands, houses and boats out of this stuff. It had to be incredible.¬†The reeds were beautiful to look at – especially in the early morning light. We saw a lot of ducks, cormorants and the Andean gull.

Once we arrived at the floating islands of Uros it felt like we’d entered another world.

The Islands of Uros

The Islands of Uros

Brightly dressed women waved from the contrastingly tan reed shorelines, while boats made entirely of reeds floated nearby. It was beautiful. Even prettier than I imagined. A completely incredible experience.

We debarked our boat and got a bit of a demonstration by the locals of one of the islands.

The locals of Uros

The women of Uros – embroidering

They were very friendly people and seemed happy we were there.

Beautiful hand-embroidered blankets

Beautiful hand-embroidered blankets

They showed us how the islands are able to float. The roots of the reeds are very buoyant and hardly weigh anything. That is the base. Then, sticks are shoved into each square of root and they’re tied together with a hand woven rope.

The roots tied together

The roots tied together

Next, the reeds are stacked on top in alternating directions. Once that is done the people jump on the reeds to compact them and make them more dense.

Reeds and roots

Reeds and roots

After the island is completed they build houses, which have three layers of reed for the roof to keep the frequent rain out.

Completed demonstration of the floating islands

Completed demonstration of the floating islands

The kitchen is kept outside the homes.

The kitchen

The kitchen

The bathroom is a 22km boat ride off the island. Inside the little homes is a bed and hooks to hang clothing on.

One of the homes

One of the homes

Every 15 days they add more reeds to the floor. It seems to be done as needed as well – since as we arrived to the island one of the women grabbed a pile of green reeds and threw it on a sunken wet part of the flooring, then patted it down with her feet.

The boats are also made of reeds

The boats are also made of reeds

When boats passed the island and created waves, the entire island moved up and down in a slow peaceful motion. It was really incredible.

View from the island

View from the island

One of the younger women came and sat next to Cliff and me near the end of the demonstration. She asked his name and then asked to hold him. He went to her briefly, but she was quite happy to get a minute to hold him :).

Cliff playing on the island

Cliff playing on the island

The tower where they used to signal to the other islands still stood on this island. John went up and got a view.

View from the tower

View from the tower

The other islands - view from the tower

The other islands – view from the tower

It’s not used now since most of the people on the islands actually have cell phones! We also saw solar panels. Although they have no water source besides the lake, where they must boil it before use. They eat a lot of fish, as you can imagine.

Small catfish

Small catfish

Walking on the island

Walking on the island

It was such an amazing thing to see¬†and a truly great experience. We’re thankful for the hospitality of the people of Uros for sharing with us part of their life.

Family picture on the island of Uros

Family picture on the island of Uros

Next we headed to the Island of Taquile.

Walking up the trail

Walking up the trail

We walked up a very steep incline for about a mile. It was winding, at that high elevation, and we had to take several short breaks. But we finally reached the town’s center.

Hiking up the steep trail

Hiking up the steep trail

We were touring with a big group for this day so we had a lunch all lined up at one of the local restaurants.

At the restaurant

At the restaurant

After we enjoyed our delicious soup in pottery bowls, we two meals to choose from – I chose the trout, which was delicious. Olivia and Cliff found a little boy to play with when the meal was over.

The littles playing

The littles playing

The view from the “restaurant”, which was little more than a shack with a long table on a dirt floor outside, was gorgeous.

View from the table

View from the table

After lunch

After lunch

Family pic (Livi is sleeping in the Ergo on my back!)

Family pic (Livi is sleeping in the Ergo on my back!)

The walk around the island to the boat was beautiful too.

What a view!

What a view!

Such pretty countryside.

Terraces

Terraces

It was neat to see farms in working order and using the terraces that the Inkas are famous for.

Farmers on the terraces

Farmers on the terraces

The kids were so exhausted by this point. Both of them wanted mama, so John and I traded off and on.

Lugging both kids

Lugging both kids

I carried Olivia in the Ergo and she quickly fell asleep, but Cliff cried and cried as John carried him down the long path.

John trying to make the walk fun

John trying to make the walk fun

Every so often I would take him and be carrying both kids, but at that high elevation I could only manage it for a short distance before giving him back to John.

Life with two toddlers sometimes...

When only mama will do…

At one point we passed a herd of sheep and that was a good distraction for our cranky boy.

Sheep!

Sheep!

Another toddler toting mamita

Another toddler-toting mamita

We were relieved when we saw the boat. It had been another mile or maybe two walk to where the ship had docked and Cliff was still crying. Ah traveling with toddlers. Quite the adventure, it is :).

Finally to the end!

Finally to the end!