The children have the power to change this world. – Ania
Our next stop was Lima, Peru. We rented an airbnb apartment in the San Isidro neighborhood, right on the edge of Miraflores. We arrived late on Friday evening (about 11pm), and so we all slept in. Our apartment had a box of toys for kids, and our kids dove in from the moment they opened their eyes. And so breakfast became brunch. Our wonderful hosts had made a great list of what to do and where to eat with kids, and so we took a taxi to a San Antonio in Miraflores, essentially an upscale bakery/restaurant with yummie pastries, coffee and more. We didn’t quite fit in with our travelling-the-world outfits!
We enjoyed brunch tremendously, and consumed quite a few cappuccinos while mapping out our time in Lima. We walked and spent time around Park Central de Miraflores. It’s a wonderful, small city park, where local artists display their work. I was tempted to buy artwork, as always, and here especially as the rich colors of Peru enticed me. We took a double decker tourist bus to take us around Miraflores, and that was a good choice as the kids were sleepy and tired after that short night. Most impressive on the route where the Huacca Pucllana ruins.
Made from clay (?), there are millions of small stones stacked like books in a library. These structures withstood several earthquakes throughout the centuries (Lima sits in the ring of fire after all). The ruins have multiple squares and a sort of pyramid-ish temple for religious celebrations and offerings. The bus also drove us along the magnificent coastline. Lima basically sits on a cliff, and the coastline is edged by park after park. A famous one is undoubtedly the Parque Del Amor, with a giant statue of a man and woman kissing. Giggles all around :)!! A nice boardwalk weaves through the parks, and we were surprised to see so much sport and activity. Every park has work-out equipment, we saw a ton of gyms, and people were running, skating, surfing etc. Once of the bus, we were “hungry” for icecream, and googlemaps expertly navigated us to the nearest one, Rolo. That was a hit! They essentially poored ingredients onto an icy plate and chopped them into ice cream right there with a spatula. Such a fun and delicious experience!
From the bus, we had spotted a bouncy castle along the ocean boardwalk, so we decided to go check that out. Turned out that was for a private (very fancy) birthday party, but the kids took it well. We continued along the walkway towards Larcomar, where we planned to have dinner at Mangos, another recommendation by our airBNB hosts. Along the way, paragliders flew over, high up in the air. Matthias was incredibly impressed, already when we saw them from the bus. When we got closer and closer, his excitement grew and grew. He is a dare-devil. You could paraglide with an instructor and we decided then and there that Matthias could have a go. At 85$ not cheap, but it did not break the budget that day either. He did not hesitate for a second, did not ask questions; he just wanted to go. We gave Vincent the opportunity as well, but he chose to wait it out. It’s always fun to see their contrasting personalities: Vincent has the louder voice, but cautious inside, whereas Matthias is our quieter one, but more daring and independent. Matthias simply stepped into the harness, exchanged a couple words with the pilot, and off the cliff they went. He had a blast. Words can not describe his glow…
Dinner at Mangos fell through as we did not have reservations, but we had amazing food next door at Popular. The place had a cool, European vibe, and we both picked typical Peruvian dishes. The food was fantastic. Peru and Lima are a bit of a food mecca, and it shows. We loved the city. The areas we visited that day obviously were affluent, but truly beautiful with a fantastic vibe. I think we simply had missed some “big city time” after all those weeks in nature (and Disney).
We only found out quite late on Saturday, that the next day was census day in Peru. Essentially a day where the population is counted, to gather data on migration, workforce, ethnicity etc. It implied a “curfew” from 8am to 5pm where all Peruvians were to stay in their homes so that the census people could poll efficiently. All businesses were also closed. And it was literally so. There was zero traffic, and no businesses open. We were obviously not prepared, and had no food or drink at the apartment. We were lucky to find a taxi (who charged an outrageous amount), and had him drive us to a large hotel. As we hoped, we could join in on their breakfast buffet. We then walked into the old city center. It was very special to be walking through a city that otherwise is always always bustling with cars and honking horns everywhere, and was now deserted. We spent some time at the Plaza Mayor, watching the changing of the guards (that ceremony was not put off). Nothing was open for lunch (no restaurants, no shops, nothing!). Our kids were still exhausted, and so we simply went back to the apartment where they all took a long siesta (while we paid bills, did emails, ordered tickets to Machu Picchu and more administrative stuff). That evening, we went out for a nice dinner, and shopped some last items for our jungle adventure.
The next day we flew to the east of the country, over the Andes, to Puerto Maldonado. This town borders the Tambopata Reserve, in the Madre Dios region, part of the Amazon, and bordering Bolivia. We arrived late, had dinner in the hotel, and got a good night sleep. After repacking, only taking what we needed for the 3 days, we were picked up by Rainforest Expeditions and headed out into the jungle. It took a 2.5hr boat ride to get to the lodge. We found ourselves back in the humid heat of a rainforest … Friends of ours had visited Peru with their kids, and they inspired our route. They recommended this lodge in particular as they had a great children’s program. We maximized our stay there and filled every activity segment.
On our way in, on the boat, we had already spotted lots of birds, a group of side neck turtles, red howler monkeys and red and blue macaw parrots feeding of a clay lick. That night, a biologist held a great talk on some of the scientific programs they run there. Check out zooniverse.org – I had never heard of it, but you can find lots of science projects there that you can participate in (for example, by tagging pictures of animals taken by cameras all over the rainforest).
On our first day, we hiked towards a 37m high tower in the middle of the forest, taking you up over the canopy. It’s a special feeling to see Amazon rainforest 360 degrees around you, and for as far as you can see. After that, the boys kayaked on the Tambopata river, and Elyse and I relaxed. In the afternoon, we hiked to a very special spot, where a Harpy Eagle has nested. You could see its young on the nest. At the mammal clay lick we did not see mammals, but Steven spotted a tawny belly screech owl that the guides had missed thus far. Extra points for Steven! I was surprised to see how much our kids retain from earlier travels. When we saw a certain spider Vincent immediately identified it as the yellow orb weaver. After dinner, the boys went on a night walk (they love the creatures of the night!), and spotted scorpions and tarantulas etc. They also participated in the “discover new species” project, classifying tiger moths. That night, they gathered several moths, and maybe 2 of them might turn out to be newly discovered species. How cool would that be?! They have been sent to a university in Canada to confirm …
The boys did not get home till after 10pm, but at 4am the alarm went off. We would take the boat for 2 hours again, deeper into the actual reserve, towards the macaw clay licks, where sometimes hundreds of parrots will come to feed of the clay. The clay contains specific minerals they need in order to digest the saps of the seeds and fruit they eat. A little bit like the block of salt you see in a horse or cow prairie, for the same purpose: help them digest the grass. The group the day prior to us had to wait 4 hours for the parrots to descend, as they are very jitterish birds. As a larger bird of the turkey family flew over (quite harmless), literally all the parrots flew up and away repeatedly. We were lucky in that we spotted a larger group of macaws feeding even before we got to the “official” spot. Later that day, the children went on a guided walk just for kids. There is a fantastic trail set up, where the character of Ania teaches them about the history, ecology and preservation of the rain forest and its people. They got to make bows and arrows, and felt like real tribe-people dancing around the campfire. They went out looking for the “Forest Treasure” and they found it. Here’s the message from Ania:
Today, you were in the jungle of Tambopata.
You met my friends … from the biggest to the tiniest.
You were guided by your heart and love you have for Nature,
Especially for my home … The Rainforest.
You just got the great mission of helping me to change the minds and hearts of others.
You will be my voice in the rest of the world; teach your parents, your family, your friends, and neighbors;
the importance of the forest and how to care for our planet.
We can change this world and what we do in here.
Together we will succeed.
THE CHILDREN HAVE THE POWER TO CHANGE THIS WORLD.
Plants and animals are our brothers and sisters.
Also the land where we all walk and if you harm them, you also harm yourself.
This wisdom is the Forest Treasure.
I can’t begin to list all the insects and wildlife we saw: from bullet ants, to titi monkeys with babies on their backs, to the endangered capybaras, to the red necked woodpecker with his loud toc-toc-toc, etc.
It was 2 action packed, hot, sweaty, and stinky days. We had hesitated for a long time whether we would talke this trip to Refugio Amazones as it is quite pricey and blew our budget. But we got a good deal, and our kids said “these were the best 2 days of their lives”. So I guess it was worth it.
From the lodge we made the trek back to Puerto Maldonado by boat, then on the plane to Cusco. Arriving in Cusco was magical as we flew over the Andes, and the drive to Ollantaytambo is simply breathtaking. The road winds its way down into the Sacred Valley. The valley is rather green and lush this time of year. The mountain tops are still covered by snow. The massive Andes towers around the towns on all sides, with Inca terraces and ruins sprinkled on every flank. On the way we passed by plenty of men and women in traditional dress, with the typical hats, colorful scarves, and wide skirts…
Peru stole our hearts.
As promised – here’s our list of places to stay, eat and play that we found worthwhile mentioning:
* Refugio Amazonas by Rainforest Expeditions: www.perunature.com
* AirBNB in Lima with hosts Roy and Johanna: they were fantastic hosts with great communication throughout and they pointed us to all the nice things to do in Lima with kids. In San Isidro, on the edge with Miraflores.
* Lima – Popular: in the Larcomar shopping center by the coast. see Tripadvisor. We were planning to go to Mangos as it was recommended by our hosts, but did not have reservation. So … if you want to go to Mangos …
* Lima – San Antonio: a bakery meets sandwich bar meets restaurant. Large menu. Nice setting. Multiple locations around town: Pasteleria San Antion
* Lima – Rolo: such great way of preparing ice cream!
* Lima – Changing of the guards at the Presidential Palace on the Plaza de Armas. Get there at about 11:45am, 7 days a week.
* Lima – Paragliding – on the coast line, north of Larcomar … (can’t recall the company name!).
* Lima – Mirabus: www.mirabusperu.com. We took the double decker tour of Miraflores.
* Refugio Amazonas: www.perunature.com