Welcome to the Jungle

Trip Start Sep 15, 2011
Trip End Aug 11, 2013

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Saturday, June 16, 2012

The bus arrived at 4am, it was full and one of the passengers had a live chicken she bought on with her,she sat at the back with it under her seat, every now again we heard a squawk but totally forgot it was on the bus so it made me jump.  Despite this, the journey here was awesome, a long one but awesome.  We travelled along unpaved roads passing through remote villages.  Marc and I were worried about being held up by bandits, as we'd read so much about this on the net, but the chances are being held up are very remote.   Our fears soon passed due to the amazing scenery.  Every so often though, along the road there were road blocks set up by a security groups who patrol the roads.  Everytime we went round a corner nd were greeted with eh road block, my heart jumped into my mouth as I thought it was a hold up!  To me they seemed to be a bunch of aging vigilantes.  God knows how these bunch of oldies would protect us against being attacked by bandits, you never actually saw them patrolling the roads, but they were always at road blocks carrying guns.  The road had quite a bit of traffic which I was thankful for as it decreased our chances of being held up.  We had to get off the bus on 2 occasions to cross the river, there were bridges, but they were being repaired so we had to get out and wait for a boat to take us and the van across.  I really felt I was backpacking now.  No other gringos, just Marc and I waiting by the banks of an Amazonian river. Whilst waiting for the first boat, the cafe has a pet monkey which was chained to a tree.  It was so cute until I watched it figure out how to unwrap it's chain so he could move further, then he launched himself at me, but he still couldn't reach, so he picked up stones and began to throw them at me!   

All the passengers got into a dug out canoe and the vehicles went on a barge made up of 5 canoes that had planks of wood nailed onto them to make 1 big barge.  Various people kept coming up and asking where we were from and were we'd been and how did we like Peru, and other stuff which I really didn't understand.  One thing I have learned is to be able to laugh at myself.  I know that these people are laughing at us at times as we have no idea what they saying, and they must think we are crazy to be all the way out here and not speak the language fluently!  The journey in all  took 10 hours.  We didn't stop for any lunch breaks, but had a stop in a small town just outside Tingo Maria.  The locals were really staring at us,and I heard an old bloke tell his grandson; look, gringos....we were quite an attraction!   I was glad to get to Tingo Maria, I was tired, stinky and sweaty. 

The countryside surrounding the towns is made up of vast hills and a limestone mountain range in the shape of a woman that sleeps, that is called "The Sleeping Beauty".  An ancient legend has it that a malign god was lying in wait for a beautiful native princess. He wanted to woo her with his charms but she, in love with a young warrior, repeatedly rejected his gifts and fine words. One day, tired and angry at the constant rebuffs the god followed her to a tranquil stream and hid in the trees waiting for the moment when he could bewitch her. She was horrified to see his face appear in the waters of the stream while the god turned himself in to a small, brightly colored bird and whispered in her ear: "you must marry me", he said "you will have power and riches and eternal life, commanding all the creatures of the woods". In tears the princess replied "I will never be yours. I shall die rather than give up my love". The god then flew into a rage and turned her to stone. And that is how the "Sleeping Beauty", the chain of mountains that dominates the city of Tingo maria was made into the shape of a sleeping woman.  

The hotel we stayed was cheap, only 35 soles for a double, it had no wifi or hot water but it had cable and a comfy bed.  Interesting though, every room had a mirror the length of the wall facing the bed, and pictures of naked women on the walls, we were greeted by a picture of J Lo with a sheet barely covering her and then one of Madonna with her titties out in the hall ways, seemed like a weird set up.  We didn't do anything the first night as we were exhausted.  

Sunday, we had a walk round the town which was just like any other town we'd encountered so far.  Loads of car and tuk tuks all beeping their horns.  We had planned to go to a couple of waterfalls, but Germany were playing in the European Cup, so that put a spanner in the works as Marc is supporting them in the tournament.   I went off and booked a waterfall tour into the national park for the following day as it's really hot here and swimming in waterfalls is just the ticket.  That evening we had a walk to the square which was more like a long rectangle and found this town actually has bars!  We'd been searching for a bar since we left Mancora, but could never find one. We had a couple of beers and then had dinner in really nice restaurant who served beef and vegetables. I'm so over eating rice, chicken and chips! 

The next day the weather was shite.  It was cool and raining.  Why???  of all the days for the weather to be crap, I was really looking forward to the waterfall tour.  NOT HAPPY.  I know that I wouldn't swim if it wasn't hot as I'm a pussy like that. We were picked up by our guide who again didn't speak any English, and he drove a tuk tuk to take us on our tour. Our first stop was a look out of the town, mmm fascinating....then we drove to the National Park where he pointed out cocoa plants which chocolate is made out of, then he showed us a coca  plant which cocaine is made out of, or rather the locals pick the leaves and use either as a tea drink or chew on it as it help with altitude sickness. We then went into a cave in the park which was full of bats, it stank, and to me, a cave is a cave, plus it had a walk way and was fenced the entire walk, so it wasn't like we were adventuring or anything. After that we went to El Carmen Falls, which were impressive and we were the only ones there. I actually went for a swim as after all I had come all this way to swim in the National Park, and I'd never be there again...blah blah blah...it was cold at first, just as I knew it would be, but it was refreshing! After this we had lunch and then went for a massive walk through a village and through a jungle to some more caves. These I didn't like as we had to craw through them and we had no torches, only the guide had one and it was pitch black.  When he rounded a corner I couldn't see anything, it was pretty scary.......Again, Marc and I commented on how we could've just hired a tuk tuk driver to drive us around, plus this was not the tour I had booked due to the shitty weather, the guide changed the tour.  

Our next destination was Huancayo, in the middle of the Andes, as we were planning to get to Cusco via the Andes and travel the length instead of going via the coast and Lima as most travellers do.  We had to this in 2 stages.  We first had to get a place Huanuco, which is about 2 1/2 hours away, where we would get a bus to Huancayo.  The only was to get to Huanuco is by a taxi which was going to cost us 40 soles for the short ride, but this was the only way to get there.  Again we were in for an early start, we were to be picked up at 5am..... 
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