It is night time at Lima’s Parque de la Reserva. A circus-like atmosphere permeates the park. Vendors hawk cotton candy, popcorn and caramel apples. Laughing visitors run through the colourful, arched water tunnel. A water show coordinates colourful spewing water with music. As fountains erupt to heights over 262 feet (80m), some of Peru’s most popular attractions, like Machu Picchu and the plains of Nazca are showcased with lasers against the waters. Amazing. But so are Peru’s mighty waters – Amazon Peru. I have come to Peru to cruise the Amazon as well as view the giant figures on the Plains of Nazca.
Plains of Nazca
Before cruising the waters, there’s the flight over the southern Peruvian desert to see the Plains of Nazca. Paracus’ modern airport is hot and so large that voices echo. Only 90 passengers a day use it. Hard to believe, there are 12 departure gates.
The 1-hour, 40-minute flight glides just slightly above the clouds. At first, the shapes are hard to distinguish. Once I attune my eyes to them, I’m awed.
These mysterious, giant figures – the hummingbird alone is 25-feet (7.62m) wide – were created by the nomadic Nazcan people between 2,000 and 7,000 A.D. Several theories surround these mammoth figures. Some say that they were markers to be seen by the sky gods or indicators of water. Others believe that they are landing sites for aliens.
Some say that they were markers to be seen by the sky gods or indicators water. Others believe that they are landing sites for aliens.
Several theories surround these mammoth figures. Some say that they were markers to be seen by the sky gods or indicators water. Others believe that they are landing sites for aliens.
The nearby Ballestas Islands surprise me, too. One of them, Candelabra Mountain, has a 595-ft (181m) high geoglyph of a candle holder with a triangle at its midpoint. Created about 200 B.C., some theorise that is a guide to landfall for sailors or that the triangle is a Masonic symbol.
Humboldt penguins waddle around other islands. Sea lions and bottlenose dolphins frolic around all of them. Birds like gray-footed boobies, Peruvian pelicans, gulls and cormorants are everywhere.
Some fly in formations while others swim or just roost. The abundance of birds on this island, make it white from guano (bird poo). Every few months, guano guys harvest it for fertiliser.
My evening digs, La Hacienda Bahia overlooks the Bay of Paracas. An added perk is its incredible private museum.
Pieces include etchings, textiles, silver, quartz jewellery and metal from about 200 AD. One of the fabric patterns looks much like the scarf I brought from Borneo.
But, the five-day, four-night Amazon Delphin II Cruise is my real reason for visiting Peru. It’s a two-hour drive from the Iquitos airport to the headwaters of the Amazon (the Ucayali and the Marañón rivers).
It’s a two-hour drive from the Iquitos airport to the headwaters of the Amazon (the Ucayali and the Marañón rivers).
Cabins are roomy. Sometimes frolicking dolphins can be seen from its big windows. Meals are an upscale sampling of Peruvian-style food. Daily lectures include ecology, indigenous foods and even towel topiary. Soon, the Dolphin II’s 30 passengers and friendly crew become one big family.
Delfin Amazon Cruise Excursions
Our first excursion is bird-watching in a creek. The water is like glass. The silence is broken by squawking parrots and squirrel monkeys jumping from tree to tree.
One rainforest walk traverses the Fundo Casual, part of Pacaya Samira National Reserve.
My travelling mate, Gail Goldman, is not very outdoorsy and insists on putting on makeup before the trip. In no time, it drips away into sweat.
The reserve’s ground undulates. A giant kapok tree spreads its roots before us. Birds entertain us with a jungle symphony. Our guide, Juan Luis, explains that each jungle has its own ecosystem.
Then, he goes about finding jungle animals. He picks up a giant tarantula. Yuck! I hate those hairy things.
He finds a poisonous, vermillion-colored great back frog. Locals use their venom as ammunition in their blow guns. He points out at a red-tail boa snake and an anaconda. I am ecstatic to leave these creatures.
Back abroad the Delphin II, Juan Luis lectures us about the ecology, geology, flora and fauna.
“The Amazon is like a spider,” he says. “It has many legs or tributaries.”
Pink dolphins appear near the swimmers at one of the “spider legs,” Rio Yanayacu.
Later, kayakers return looking to see them. Gail has never kayaked. Her instruction consists of, “This is the paddle. If you want to go left, paddle right and vice versa.”
She is doing okay until it starts to rain; not a drizzle but a downpour. This is life in the Amazon Peru. The rain is overbearing. I put my paddle perpendicular so someone will throw us a rope.
Later that evening, we visit a woman shaman, Carola, in her open thatch-roofed house. Through an interpreter, she explains her potions. They are made from bark, trees, and plants. Her patients come to see her and describe their problem. She gives them the proper medicine, sings, prays and shakes some leaves over them.
In some cases, she imbibes a hallucinogen and gets a vision on how to cure them. Some patients also get to drink the hallucinogen. Its effects last three to four hours. After a while, they get a vision on how to cure themselves.
Carola gets on her knees and prays for all of us. After lighting a cigarette, she moves from person to person putting powder in our hands and blowing it away with cigarette smoke. Besides the powder and smoke, I get a lot of spit!
On the last day, a skiff takes us to flood plains. The short, muddy walk is slippery. I fall on my butt, but it is worth it to see the Victorian lily pods. Pods, about six feet wide, look like they are on steroids.
Our day is topped off with a visit to Puerto Miguel, a native village. As we arrive, kids are jumping off trees like monkeys.
Wooly monkeys are also pets here as well as adorable three-toed sloths. There is a table laid out with local foods and tastings including grub worms. I pass.
The ride back to Iquitos is broken up with a visit to the Amazon Rescue Center to see endangered manatees. This Amazon Peru trip has flown by. Each day was unique and filled with something interesting and exciting.
I have learned so much.
Discover Amazon Peru
Peru is a land of mystery and history. Famous for Machu Picchu and the Cusco Valley, you could spend a month travelling around and not be bored.