Brazil: Rio de Janeiro

After our short stop at Iguazu Falls, we were back on another flight for Rio de Janeiro.  This was John’s favorite place he visited when in Brazil last November.  It’s amazing how nice and relaxing flights are when you don’t have two toddlers to entertain!  Don’t get me wrong, I was missing those sweet kiddos like crazy, but I was not missing flying with them ;).

The first day we had in Rio we visited the iconic Sugar Loaf or Pão de Açúcar in Portuguese.  Being in a country that spoke Portuguese was challenging for me.  It did help me see how much my Spanish has improved with living in Lima, but I was discouraged at how little I understood of Portuguese!  John had been taking lessons for the past year, so his was good enough to get us around, which was a good thing since I was basically useless on that front!

Half way to Sugarloaf!

Half way to Sugarloaf!

The tram up to the top had beautiful views!  It was a nice clear day, with just a little bit of haze.

View from the top of Sugarloaf

View from the top of Sugarloaf

The weather was warm and the sun was shining – it was a great break from Lima, which can be pretty foggy in April.  What I loved most about Rio was the temperature.  It was 80F when we woke up each morning, and 86F by the peak of the afternoon.  Not bad, not bad.

Rio below

Rio below

I was nearing the end of the first trimester by this trip, so thankfully the debilitating nausea that had plagued me the previous two months was subsiding.

View from the top

View from the top

At the back of Sugarloaf was a nature trail.  You had to walk down this super steep ramp to get there!

Ramp to the nature trail

Ramp to the nature trail

Not many people know about it I guess, because while there was a good crowd at the view points, there weren’t many people on the trail.  It was a nice walk and we saw quite a bit of wildlife.  The coolest thing we saw were these little monkeys – this one had three or four tiny baby monkeys hanging on her back!

Mama Monkey

Mama Monkey

We also saw some lizards, big birds (maybe hawks), and mosquitos…darn.  That’s something we’ve taken for granted in Peru!  No mosquitos!  The views were just incredible – there are tons of tiny islands all around Rio, which was really cool to see.

Beach below and islands

Beach below and islands

What a nice day!

What a nice day!

When we had explored all Sugarloaf had to offer, we headed back down to the city to do some more exploring.

The next day we visited another one of the 7 Wonders of the World: Christ the Redeemer.  We waited a while to board the train up Mount Corcovado.

Train Station at Mount Corcovado

Train Station at Mount Corcovado

It was a pretty ride, through lots of vegetation and there was a cool breeze blowing through the train car.  Once at the top you can either take the elevator or stairs to the statue.  This statue was built between 1922-1931 and created by French sculptor Paul Landowski.

Christ the Redeemer

Christ the Redeemer

 It is the largest art deco statue in the world, standing 98 feet tall, with arms stretching an incredible 92 feet.  Unfortunately it was very crowded the morning we went, so it was hard to get a picture without a photo bomb :).

At the top of Mount Corcovado

At the top of Mount Corcovado

Photo bomb!

Photo bomb!  And baby belly.

 But it was still amazing.  The views of Rio were again just breathtaking.

View from the top of Mount Corcovado

View from the top of Mount Corcovado

Sunny day

Sunny day

After our trip to Christ the Redeemer, we went downtown to visit the Museu de Arte do Rio (or MAR art museum).  We just happened to show up on half-price day, which was nice.  It had some really interesting exhibits, with mostly modern art.  I’m not a big fan of videos and lights in my art, but other than that there was some cool stuff.  John liked this one…

Victim of violence

Victim of violence

Not sure what this was supposed to be…again, interesting though.

Modern art

Modern art

What was really great is that nearly all the art was about Brazil – or even Rio more specifically.  It was cool to get a glimpse into the history and culture of the favelas and this huge city.  The view from the top of the museum was really beautiful.

Harbor view from the MAR

Harbor view from the MAR

 This was the harbor that once had been the bustling center of Rio back in the day, bringing in all those items from abroad.  Rio as a city is big, but it felt a lot more warm and friendly than some of the big cities I’ve visited.  Probably because everyone was happy to have beach time :).

Our apartment we rented through AirB&B was just a few blocks from the Ipanema Beach.

View of Sugarloaf from Ipanema Beach

View of Sugarloaf from Ipanema Beach

 We enjoyed our last afternoon relaxing and reading while soaking up some sun and sipping some fresh coconut water!

Perfect day for the beach

Perfect day for the beach

Wading in the ocean

Wading in the ocean

 That night we made it to The Girl from Ipanema (Garota de Ipanema) restaurant, known throughout the world from the top-charting song of the same name.

At dinner

At dinner

 The food was hearty and delicious and the atmosphere was great fun – with windows open to the street and a packed room, you felt like a part of the fun, busy city.  We’d enjoyed Rio.  It had been a wonderful getaway!

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Brazil: Iguazu Falls

While David and Katelyn were with us in Peru, they offered (or maybe John coerced them into it…) to watch the kids for us so we could make a trip to Brazil together.  It was our first time leaving the kids in quite a long time and I was really apprehensive about it.  Thankfully, the kids had a wonderful time with their aunt and uncle and everyone did great!  John really wanted us to go on this trip – he had already been to Brazil few months earlier for a 2 week trip traveling around the country, but he had loved Rio so much he wanted us to go back together.  When it came time to book our tickets, the prices had gone up so much that we didn’t think it was going to work out. I kept looking for options though, and finally realized that if we had a long layover in Iguazu Falls, we could save $100+ per ticket!   This almost covered the price of a hotel in Iguazu (like my money-saving logic? 🙂 ). So we flew in around 6pm and got a taxi to the hotel right at the falls edge.

View of the falls from the hotel

View of the falls from the hotel

The sun had just set when we arrived, but we could hear the water rushing over the falls.  The hotel was amazing.  Definitely a splurge, but totally worth it since we were right there (and only for 18 hours or so).  There weren’t any restaurants around the hotel, so we ate at the hotel’s amazing dinner buffet.  After having lived in Peru for the last 10 months, I was so happy to see some decent beef!  They had every kind of beef you could imagine, including some delicious filet mignon.  The salads and side dishes were also to die for.  We ate dinner on the festively-lit patio overlooking the beautiful pool.  It was such a beautiful place!

The next morning we awoke early to toucans outside our balcony.

Good morning, Toucan

Good morning, Toucan

We were excited to get a head start at the falls, before all the tourists arrived at 9am.  We wouldn’t realize just how much of an advantage that was until about the 10th loaded bus dropped off its’ passengers 6 hours later.  We were on the trail by 7am.

The falls early in the morning

The falls early in the morning

 The birds were loud enough that you could still hear them over the thunderous noise of the water rushing over the edge of the falls.  Iguazu Falls is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, on both the Argentinian side and the Brazilian side, and stretches nearly 2 miles across.  That’s twice as wide as Niagra Falls!

On the trail

On the trail

 We were only seeing the Brazilian side, since I didn’t have my Visa for Argentina before the trip.  It worked out fine though, since our time was so limited anyways.

Getting a little wet!

Getting a little wet!

 From the Argentinian side, it looked like you could more look over the falls.  Where as on the Brazilian side you got an amazing front view of the falls.

Rainbow over the falls

Rainbow over the falls

 The wildlife was amazing too.  We’ve never seen so many butterflies as we did that day.  There were literally hundreds in all different sizes and colors flitting every which way.  Most of the birds we saw were toucans, but there were also some large black and white birds that reminded me of magpies.  We saw these funny little mammals, too, called a South American Coati, or a Quati in Portuguese.

South American Coati

South American Coati

 A whole family of them….just out for a morning walk.  They were pretty used to people.  And for Olivia, we caught this picture of one of her favorite bugs – the snail.

Mr. Snail

Mr. Snail

 When we got near the end of the trail, we realized there was a walkway out into the middle of the falls – so we decided to do it.

Looking closely you can see the bridge into the falls

Looking closely you can see the bridge we walked

 We hadn’t brought rain ponchos, but hey, you only get to do something like this once!  We got soaked, but we ran all the way out to the edge and stood under the beautiful rainbow that stretched from side to side.

Getting wet!

Getting wet!

 Before we headed back we took the elevator up to an observatory deck and got a picture of us all soaking wet from the waterfalls spray!

Wet and happy

Wet and happy

 By then we were ready for breakfast, so we walked back to the hotel for an amazing buffet breakfast.

The Belmond Hotel

The Belmond Hotel tower

 We had a few more hours before we needed to be to the airport for our flight to Rio, so after breakfast we grabbed our suits and hit the pool for some reading and relaxation and a game of ping-pong.

Enjoying the morning at the pool

Enjoying the morning at the pool

 Despite the limited time, it was a wonderful stay!  We had just enough time to grab lunch and check out the hotel’s tower before catching our cab back to the airport!

In the hotel tower

In the hotel tower

In the hotel tower

In the hotel tower

 I was really liking what I’d seen of Brazil so far – I couldn’t wait to get to Rio!

Iquitos: rain, rain, go away

It had been a full five days since we started our Amazon adventure.  It was a really nice trip, even though we happened to be there during the rainy season.  The zoo had been great fun, as had the manatee rescue center.  We all got to hold sloths, pet snakes, and feed monkeys, and Monkey Island was the highlight of the whole trip. We also had finally made it to the real Pilpintuwasi Butterfly Farm and seen some great animal conservation efforts in progress.

Pygmy marmoset

Pygmy marmoset

 The farm works with the country of Peru as a home for animals that have been rescued from illegal ownership and exportation.  We learned a lot about the local animals and enjoyed seeing the butterfly house.

Búho (owl) caterpillar

Búho (owl) caterpillar

The dead leaf butterfly

The dead leaf butterfly

Live butterfly chrysalises

Live butterfly chrysalises

 We even got to see the jaguar feeding!

Our guide feeding the jaguar

Our guide feeding the jaguar

Hungry jaguar

Hungry jaguar

 In between our adventures in the Amazon, we’d been met with quite a bit of rain, though the worst of it did hold out for us until our last day.

The Amazon River our last morning in Iquitos

The Amazon River our last morning in Iquitos

 That last morning we walked to our breakfast spot – the one restaurant we had found reliable and clean – Dawn on the Amazon.

Walking in Iquitos

Walking in Iquitos

Piggy back ride for Livi

Piggy back ride for Livi

A rainy breakfast at Dawn

A rainy breakfast at Dawn

 It rained on us quite a bit.  Of course, we all forgot our rain jackets that morning and were pretty soaked by the time we made it to the restaurant.  Olivia had found a rain-sopped butterfly during the walk there, though, so she was very happy.

Olivia and her "pet" butterfly

Olivia and her “pet” butterfly

 A couple of times during the week, we had been caught unexpectedly in the rain and we all 6 crammed into one mototaxi!  It was funny and a little scary seeing the moto driver rev up the engine for a full minute before he could get us to move!  Wish we had a picture of that moment…ha!

Cliff playing in the rain

Cliff playing in the rain

 We had a great time in Iquitos and were thankful to make this once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Amazon happen.

On the Amazon!

On the Amazon!

 It was fun to share the experience with family, too!  We’re so thankful David and Katelyn made it along with us!  It’s something I hope our kids will always remember – at least they’ll recall the stories and pictures.  Thanks for sharing in our adventure with us!

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 🙂

"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!

Iquitos: Visiting the Zoo

One of the highlights of our five day trip to the Amazon, was taking a day to see the local zoo. It is located up by the airport, so a good half hour from the city’s center where we were staying. Basically the only vehicles in Iquitos are motorcycles and mototaxis (since it’s not reachable by road), so we grabbed two mototaxis for the six of us, and headed out.

Cliff riding a MotoTaxi with Aunt Katelyn and Uncle David

Cliff riding a MotoTaxi with Aunt Katelyn and Uncle David

Cliff was elated every time we got a chance to hop in one of these peculiar pieces of machinery. He really wanted to drive one and kept asking, all week. It was a perfect day for the zoo.

At the zoo entrance

At the zoo entrance

It had rained a lot that week, but the day we showed up was nice and sunny and fairly warm, though it was pretty muddy!

Before we even saw the macaws we could hear them shouting, “hola, hola!” They were very talkative as we approached, but quieted down as soon as we got close. Cliff wasn’t sure what to think about a bird that could talk…

Watching the Macaws

Watching the Macaws

Monkeys and Paiche, the huge Amazonian fish, were in the next exhibit.

Monkeys

Monkeys

While the monkeys were neat, what really captured our attention was trying to spot the enormous pink and green-tinted fish below the waters’ surface.

Looking for Paiche

Looking for Paiche

Some of them were six-feet long! They were pretty active and kept splashing at the surface.

After that we saw the jaguars. I’m always amazed at the lack of “security” in the zoos we visit in Latin America. No where in the states would you have a jaguar in a chain link fence, separated only by a log “fence”.

Trying to get a closer look

Trying to get a closer look

Close-up and personal!

Close-up and personal!

It always makes me a bit nervous with the kids!

Watching the Jaguars

Watching the Jaguars

It is neat to get to see the animals at such a close range, though.

We saw many more jungle mammals.

Weasel?

Weasel?

As usual, I was not positive what animals we did see since the signs were in Spanish. Often there’s not a direct translation for animal names. We know we saw the giant otter though, which was really cool!

Giant Otter

Giant Otter

He even jumped in the small outlying pond and grabbed a fish to snack on while we watched him.

The Giant Otter eating a fish

The Giant Otter eating a fish

The pink dolphin was a big draw for us in coming to the zoo.

The Pink Dolphin playing with a pool noodle

The Pink Dolphin playing with a pool noodle

 Olivia loves all things pink, as many 3 year old little girls do, I’m sure. We had promised Olivia she would get to see pink dolphins, and we weren’t about to let this once in a lifetime chance escape us! Here was an animal that actually came in her favorite color (we’ve had many discussions about the fact that pink cats and pink horses don’t exist in real life). We were hoping to catch the dolphin show, but were a few hours early for it. The dolphin was kind enough to do a few tricks for us, though.

Watching the dolphin play

Watching the dolphin play

At the zoo there is also a beach, which we had originally hoped to enjoy, but like most of the rest of Iquitos, it was flooded with the seasonal rains. Not only was there no beach, but the restaurants were flooded as well.

Have a little river water with your lunch?

Have a little river water with your lunch?

Don’t worry. This is apparently very normal for Iquitos. We also saw the huge Capybara while we were there.  For some reason Olivia and Cliff thought they were scary; I thought they were pretty cute.

Capybara

Capybara

 After the zoo we grabbed lunch outside at one of the local eateries setup.  They were grilling paiche and trout and also had plantain balls and fresh young coconuts for coconut water.  It was so refreshing in the heat!

On the way back, we stopped in at the Manatee Rescue Center for a quick tour.  It was a really beautiful setup, with lots of wildlife.  Olivia adopted a caterpillar and would not let it go the whole time.

Caterpillar

Caterpillar

Olivia and the caterpillar

Olivia and the caterpillar

 There was also a really sweet little monkey who followed us for a while.  The kids didn’t like him too much, but we had some fun with him.

Hanging out with the monkey

Hanging out with the monkey

 I was really fascinated to find out how important manatees are to the river’s eco-system.  They eat around 50 kilos a day in vegetation!

Katelyn watching the manatees

Katelyn watching the manatees

 Which means, if they are hunted out of the rivers, they will start to overgrow with aquatic lettuce and other plants that the manatees would normally be consuming.  The manatees we got to feed were “baby” manatees, but were all between 1-2 years old.

Baby manatee

Baby manatee

 They don’t reach adulthood until 2 years.  They were pretty big!  And happily chowed down on the aquatic lettuce we fed them.

Feeding the manatees

Feeding the manatees

 It was a really cool experience!

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!

Journey through Peru: Condor Cross

After our day of rest, we got up early, packed up and headed out again. We left at 6:30, ready to make it to Condor Cross in time to catch some of the legendary birds in flight. The drive there was more spectacular than I can describe.

Driving up to Condor Cross

Driving up to Condor Cross

The views of the valley and the volcanos were breathtaking.

The Colca Canyon

The Colca Canyon

We saw a lot of animals being herded along the road. More than once we noticed the women would actually be knitting or crocheting as they herded animals along the way.

Burros being herded while woman knits

Burros being herded while woman knits

The drive up there was long – at least an hour or maybe two. At one point we went through a deep, dark tunnel.  It was just wide enough for one car, so we were glad nobody came from the other direction!  Olivia thought it was hilarious when our driver turned off the headlights for a moment…we didn’t think it was quite so funny 🙂

Dark tunnel

Dark tunnel

We also passed some ancient tombs in the mountains.  You could see the tombs jutting out of the mountains like termite nests or something.  It reminded me of an Indiana Jones movie…

Old tombs along the mountainside

Old tombs along the mountainside

This was the prettiest view.  The valley was so breathtaking!

View of the valley

View of the valley

Gig 'em, Ags!

Gig ’em, Ags!

We got out at the first point and were shocked by the cold wind (I’m not sure why I wasn’t prepared for it).

Walking the trail

Walking the trail with our guide

Looking for wildlife

Looking for wildlife

The wind was worth it though. We finally were able to see the Giant Hummingbird! It measures 17cm long and is the biggest hummingbird in the world. In addition to nectar they also eat insects.

The giant hummingbird

The giant hummingbird

Condor Cross

Condor Cross

We also spotted a small mammal related to the chinchilla.

Cactus

Cactus

The kids with cactus

The kids posing with cactus

Next, we saw a young condor.

Young condor

Young condor

They are brown in color the first seven years of life. After that they turn black and white with a distinct white collar around the neck. They live 40-50 years in the wild and up to 70 in captivity. At the next stop we saw the big condors.

The Condor against the Andes

The Condor against the Andes

What’s really amazing about these birds is they can go 60 days without food! Since they only consume dead meat, food can be scarce. To conserve energy they live high in the cliffs of the valley and soar on the wind currents.

An adult condor

An adult condor

The view was great from here too. Our favorite part of Colca Canyon was this view though on the way back down, though.

View of the valley

View of the valley

The terraces formed almost an amphitheater and below were three lakes and the river.

The valley

The valley

We were able to stop in the village of Maca on the way back and see inside the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church in Maca

The Catholic Church in Maca

This church was destroyed by an earthquake in the 90’s and after being visited by Peru’s president, was rebuilt. It was amazing to see the elaborate ornate inside, while outside the church there was just an ordinary dusty town.

Original altar

Original altar

The wood was imported from Europe and then painted with gold leaf. Before the Spaniards came, the locals had never seen a mirror. Mirrors were one of the main decorations of this church. They traded gold for the mirrors because they were so amazed to be able to see their reflection.

Sculptures made of wood

Sculptures made of wood and mirrors to decorate

Outside the church Olivia found a llama.

Llama face! (inside joke...)

Llama face! (inside joke…)

This time she was a bit braver. She even got a picture with the eagle!

Eagle

Eagle

Wearing the "eagle hat"

Wearing the “eagle hat”

After lunch we headed back out of the canyon and made our way to Puno. The countryside was beautiful.

A small valley village

A small valley village

It was a long day of driving from there.  About 8 hours or so.  We tried to rest up, because more adventures awaited us in Puno!