Saturday, February 28, 2009

pondering the world on a bus

although i am writing this from my home here in S.L. i still plan on writing in chronological order; starting from when i left the jungle:
from Iquitos i took a plane to Tarapoto, spent the night, and then continued on a nine hour bus ride to the quiet town of Chachapoyas. this town is great because it is so damn hard to get to. i stayed here four days and met a total of maybe a dozed other tourists (one gringo). this area was home to the ancient Chachapoyans. the name means "people of the clouds" and they were known as great warriors. i will highlight some of this regions sites i visited:

-Kuelap: fortress built by the Chachapoyans about 1300 AD to defend against other tribes such as the Incas. the fort was overtaken around 1470 by the Incas by cutting off the town's water supply in the dry season. city walls reach 40 ft. i was one of seven tourists on the register that day. this place almost rivals Machu Picchu's grandeur in size and accomplishment.

-Gocta falls: third highest waterfall in the world. very few visitors, i spent the entire day there alone. i could have been walking around naked. i was accompanied by a puppy i fondly named Frankie along the trail and waterfall. he is my friend.

-Sarcophagus: the area has several sarcophagus and tomb sites in the steep hills around this area. it also has eight major caves used for sacrifices, rituals and worship. the shaman from Kuelap would venture out of the fort to visit these places and perform San Pedro visions.

Chachapoyas was my favorite part of Peru. it still holds mucho mystery and undiscovered ruins. it is also a friendly and virtually crime free area. to leave this place was difficult but after my four days moved on. i took a pensive nine hour bus ride outta there to the coastal town of Chiclayo.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Save the Rainforest

¡forgive spelling errors, the auto check is down!

my recent trip to the amazon rainforest was bittersweet. the experience was so great and yet i realized the rain forest is in danger of extinction in our life times. at the current rate of de-forestation the amazon rainforest will be totally gone by 2048. i knew this alarming fact going into the jungle, but it just didnt hit me untill i absorbed some of the powerful energy of that place. i witnessed some prety big lumber companies right on the bank of the river outside Iquitos. these were not small trees, they were trees only found in virgen forest. this was alarming enough for me but the fact is that the majority of the cutting (and burning) happens in brasil.

the problem is divided into two parts: logging companies and farming. farmers are a huge problem because they can buy Amazon land for very cheap. after purchase, they slash and burn everything on the lot to clear the way for crops or cattle. because rainforest soil depends on constant decomposing organic material for fertility the land is virtually un-usable in about three years. hence the cycle repeats itself. so what can be done to save the rainforest? i talked it over with my guide Ricardo over some tall boys (beers) on one of our dugout canoe fishing trips. we came up with the fllowing ideas:

-attack international demand for amazon hardwoods (europe, U.S.)

-establish green waste facilities for local communities so they can both reduce landfill tonnage and utilize precious compost.

-instatewell funded paper recycling programms in major cities.

-provide aluminum boats for local communities so they don´t have to cut down and hollow out one tree per year per adult.

-educate local farmers about the many benefits of composts/fertilizers.

-establish international co-operation to stop logging virgin forest and start sustainable timber farms.

these are just the results of two men simply talking on a boat in the river. so what can we do to protect the Rain Forest? what we need is a group of strong minded thinkers to act in unison...and a bunch of money. where can all that be found? politicians only care about popularity. rich men are wary of any cause that demands immeadeate investment and no immeadeate results.

my thoughts continue on this critical topic. i hope you too will pray for the forest.

Friday, January 30, 2009

some cool pics

sunset on the Amazon river

three amigos

amazon tributary

standard jungle home with lady washing clothes in river

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

La Selva

alright i am back from the jungle. as far as i know i am malaria and dengue fever free. i do however have several dozen mosquito bights. the jungle was cool, very cool. the energy of that place is both healing and humbling. the jungle has the cures to all. as a matter of fact, i had a cough for almost an entire month before entereing the jungle. it was gone in four days.

first i will talk about the city of Iquitos: it is the largest city in the world not reachable by road, it is a city with very little crime and a lot of love. the people are very happy and take pride in their proximity to the "corazon del mundo" (heart of the world). the streets are ruled by moto taxis, which are three wheel motorcycles with a bench seat on back for passengers (see pic). it is a little dodgy crossing the street at any hour. after much shopping around i managed to book a jungle tour with a company called Paseos Amazonicos. i recommend them, they were knowledgeable and accommodating.

i spent five days in two different jungle lodges up the Amazon river from the city of Iquitos. the experience was a great time to reflect and think. i was at the most one of four guests at the lodge and i was the only guest for one of the four nights. it was so cool to be almost alone in the jungle like that. i went on several jungle walks where i was attacked by some aggressive mosquitos. i persevered without comnplaint none the less. on these walks we encountered several interestimg imsects one of which is worthy of mention: fire ants. these ants live in the sapwood/hardwood of small to medium trees. the tree and ant colony have a symbiotic relationship. the tree is the ant´s home and these ants defend their home not just from invading colonies but from vine and tree parasites. therefore, the tree is clean and free to compete for sunlight. i also saw several impressive trees. these trees are unlike anything i have ever seen. the trees featured in the pics range from 300-700 years old

i did some fishing and caught four piranhas and one catfish. the fishing is actually very poor right now because as the river rises the bigger fish go into the jungle. it is necessary to have falling water for decent fishing in the amazon. i did however hear some great fish stories. the amazon has some massive fish: black piranha up to 15lb, pache up to 300lb and 9ft long, peacock bass up to 25lb, giant catfish up to 300lb+, a strange sucker fish that is covered in spikes up to 10lb, Candiru a type of catfish that lodges itself into human orphases (you must click on this link to read about this oneú), giant electric eels up to 200lbs and 9ft in length, and of course, pink dolphins (which are mammals). the river of course has many,many more varieties of fish but too various to mention here.

i visited several family run animal sanctuaries. most of the animals were free roaming and chose to stay because ov the good menu and relaxed conditions. it was a unique experience to get so close to these clever animals.

at night the jungle came alive with a beautiful symphony of insects, amphibians, and nocturnal birds. it was very relaxing. i also experienced a major lightning storm my last night there. what a trip! i would love to tell anybody about the experience in detail in person anytime. tomorrow i am off to a town called Chachapoyas, home of high mountains and dozens of ruins. i will make a plan from there. so until next time, adios.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Peru so far: Cuzco, Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca

it has been two weeks in Peru now so, it is time to post an update. i have some awesome photos to post too, but first i need to find a computer that won't give my camera a virus (Internet cafes are full of viruses). i will briefly touch on highlights of the trip so i don´t bore you, and i will probably capitalize very few words in order to save time.

after arriving in Lima my mom and i went straight to Cuzco city (11,200 ft above sea level) which is the spring board for several popular destinations: Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, river rafting, etc. this town is the old Incan capital before it was plundered by the Spanish conquers in the 16th century. the Spaniards found this city to be very wealthy and well organized. in order to transform the loyalty of the people into Spanish (and catholic) favor, the conquistadores destroyed all the Inca temples and built catholic churches on the old foundations. i learned on a tour of one of the cathedrals the Spanish did this all over the Inca empire (Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, and Argentina), but the most interesting thing is that they used the old foundations because they were superior to anything the Spanish could build at that time. just one example of the Incas advanced society before being totally destroyed.

After a brief stay in Cuzco we went to Lake Titicaca for three days. we spent the first night in Puno (12,600 ft above sea level) which is a fairly large town located on the shore of the lake. the next day we went out on the lake in a medium sized boat (40ft.) that was pretty sketchy at best. it had an exhaust leak in the cabin so i rode on the top deck most of the time while those who stayed down below drifted off to sleep...and became ill, vomiting one by one. we eventually arrived to some man made islands called Uros. these islands are made of reeds and anchored so they don´t drift away. the people that live here are very friendly and humble. the chief of the island we visited gave us a demonstration on how the islands are made: the roots of the reeds float so they smash down an existing reed area and pack it with several layers of reeds from adjacent areas to form a semi-solid surface. they then anchor it down with ropes, made from reeds, which are attached to large rocks. they build reed houses and establish small fish farms in the center of the island for food. they also eat the lower stalk of the reeds for sugars and carbs. the small islands (about 8,000 sq ft) last six months to a year, during this time the community grows other patches of ¨land¨ to live on in coming months. the most surprising thing about this community of 20 inhabitants was that one of the huts had a solar panel and a TV. the kids were gathered around in amazement watching decade old episodes of Scooby Doo.

we continued on to an island called Amantani where we ate dinner and met our family hosts for the night. we hiked to the top of a rather large peak called la Pacha Mama which means the Mother Earth in Quechua. the peak was over 13,000 ft and proved to be a challenge to both my mom and i because of the altitude. we then descended the peak to attend a local fiesta. that was a great party. we dressed up in local style and danced local dances to traditional music. it was a beautiful night accentuated by a full moon. i decided on this night that this place was the most peaceful place i had ever been. i recommend it to anyone who enjoys the silence and tranquility of la Pacha Mama.

the next day we went back to Puno where we witnessed a parade in the streets and nothing else of real merit took place.

we ended up back in Cuzco the next day where we prepared ourselves for the four day, 45K trek to Machu Picchu. we stalked up on coca leaves, toilet paper, and Imodium. the trek started the next day at 5:45 am. the first day was fairly easy with about six hours of semi-steep and flat hiking. i was astounded at the size and weight of the porter´s packs. they were carrying 100 pound packs and running up hill! i saw one man in particular who had huge, toned legs that were more impressive than most pro athletes. our dinner at camp that night was amazing. we rested early because day two is supposed to be the hardest of all and it starts at 5:00 am.

day two proved to be very difficult indeed. we hiked a steep pass called Dead Woman's Pass that peaks around 13,800 ft. we all made it through day two exhausted and all went to bed around seven pm. i however stayed up talking to our two guides and drinking rum. it was during this conversation i realized these Peruvian people are noble. they are very intelligent, easy going, and tough. i believe them to be the descendants of an ancient culture of people superior in many ways to modern societies. i respect and admire these people very much and i do my best to express that gratitude daily.

day three was also demanding with two mountain passes and nine hours of hiking. we saw three Inca sites and ended up at a hostel type camping ground where every person in the group had at least a few beers.

day four started at 3:45 am to avoid lines getting into the sacred city. upon arriving at the Sun Gate. we were all impressed at the spectacle of Machu Picchu. we wandared around the city for a few hours and eventually embarked on another hike up to the mountain above Machu Picchu called Wina Picchu. after this steep yet rewarding hike we made our way to the bus which took us down to the small town of Aguas Calientes.

i need to say that the scenery during the hike was spectacular. it cannot really be described with justice, so i can only say it helped me to make some important decisions in my life. the Incas worshiped, among many things, the mountains. the splendor and power of these peaks helped me to understand why. these Peruvian people are energized by these mountains, they are the sons and daughters of this land, and it shows in every aspect of their being.

another thing to mention is how great the coca leaves are for stamina and overall health. as a matter of fact i am drinking a hot cup of coca tea right now. well my friends stay tuned because i will post pics and more stories soon. tomorrow i go to Iquitos and then to the Amazon jungle.