February 2012 - Peru- Amazon & Machu Picchu

The Capybaras

A Capybara

Aboard the skiff in the jungle

A native views the valley

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The Capybaras in the Jungle

Named the Capybaras, because, like their namesake, the world’s largest river rodents, they are so darn cute.  Well, maybe not……….

The first stop on the adventure was Lima, the capital of Peru and home to nine million friendly, busy people.   We explored the city and all the Spanish influence that dates back to XXXX.  We also learned so much about the Mayan and Incan culture and early history, dating back about 10,000 years.  We visited and explored the pyramids, earthquake proof even, that the early peoples built out of dried mud blocks.  Pyramids in Peru?  Incredible experience.

From Lima we flew into the interior of the jungle, landing at the Amazon River port of Iquitos.  This small city was the site of the early rubber plantations, established by Europeans about xxxx.  Of course native ‘riber’ people were used as the labor to collect the sap from the rubber trees.  Some mansions of the Rubber Barons still stand and are used as homes and hotels

At Iquitos we boarded our small river cruise boat, the Arapaima, for our five-day adventure on the Amazon.  The river is the longest in the world, has 13 times the water volume of the Mississippi and drains a land-mass equal to that of the US. 

Our forays into the jungle in the small skiff we towed behind afforded us the opportunity to see hundreds of species of bird and animal life: two toed sloths, monkeys, parrots, macaws, caimans, piranhas, etc., etc.  We also stopped at a number of native villages along the way, learning about their stilted homes, their crops, their food and their hunting and fishing results.   We even visited a native elementary school and had lunch with one of the families.  Our table was four banana leaves placed on the floor!

 At one village, we were invited to get into a dugout canoe and paddle back into the jungle, observing the plant and animal life very up close.  Every day’s a school day!  Wonderful!

Our Amazon adventure ended all too quickly but another was about to begin.

We flew from Iquitos back to Lima for an overnight and then it was a flight on to Cusco, capital city of the ancient Incas.

Cusco is located in the Andes Mountains at about 13,000 ft.  After a couple days touring and learning , we set off by bus and train, through the Sacred Valley to visit one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of the world: Machu Picchu.

Like the Grand Canyon, neither words nor pictures can possibly communicate the wonder, the glory, the awesomeness of this place.  It is really indescribable.   We are still shaking our heads in wonder and disbelief.  What those people did centuries ago, what they accomplished, and why, is a mystery.

The reasons for Machu Picchu remain a mystery.  Was it a royal getaway, a place in the mountains?  Was it some type of learning village, a college for future leaders? Did it have religious significance?  Theories abound, answers hide.   If you ever get the chance……..

The Capybaras arrived back in Phoenix eighteen days later, a tad weary, greatly enriched, and as cute as ever!

If you haven’t yet traveled with your ASURA colleagues, keep watch for future announcements.  We do like adventure.  In 2009, 20 Chopsticks walked on the Great Wall.  In 2011, 18 Boomerangs walked around Ayers Rock.  And just this year 9 Capybaras cruised the Amazon.  Want to cruise the rivers of Europe?  Or photograph Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe?  Or there is a wonderful trip to Santa Fe in October!


Story and Photos by Gary Anderson

ASU Retirees Association
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