Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lovers Park and Condoms for sale.



In the morning, we took our time getting up and showered. We set out or find breakfast and the grocery store for some snacks. We stopped in a corner café for a roll and washed it down with some orange juice that closely resembled Tang. Next, we headed to the grocery store to peruse the local produce. We got a Cherimoya, a Maracuya, a star fruit, and some small plums.

We checked out of our room, as we would fly home later that night, and walked a couple blocks to catch a colectivo bus to the Miraflores District. On the bus, which cost s/1 to Miraflores, entertainment was provided by candy vendors and a video of Michael Jackson circa 1993.

We deboarded at a shopping center built right into the side of a cliff, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Way below, we could see mini-surfers trying to surf the mini-waves. We came upon El Parque del Amor – Lovers Park. A giant statue of two Peruvian lovers making out demanded attention in the middle of the park. All around the statue were benches, carved and decorated in a way that replicated Antoni Gaudi’s Parque Güell in Barcelona. In Lover’s Park, inscriptions were written in mosaic pieces all over the benches proclaiming love.

After killing some time by seeing a movie (El Novio de Mi Madre, or Homeland Security), we made our way back to our hostel to meet Santos and head to the airport.

Back at Hostal de Las Armas, we still had some time before Santos would arrive. Walking down the street, I saw several women standing alone, leaning against the buildings, just hanging out. I flashed back to a sign I had seen earlier that protested prostitution in the city. Hmm. Inside Hostal de Las Armas, in the room across from the front desk, and the same room we had left our bags in, was a giant video camera and movie set lights. Through our partial view of the room, we could see a painting of a unicorn on a mountain displayed right next to the bed, where a woman was laying down. This was strange. A very strange situation. There were several men standing around talking outside the room, but I couldn’t make out what they were saying. We saw another man walk into the hostal with one of the women from outside on the street, and get a key to a room down the hall. Twenty minutes later the man exited the room, with the woman trailing behind him, he turned in the key, and left.


A few minutes later, another man, in a business suit and briefcase, walked out of another room, with a woman in tow, turned in his key, and left.

Ok. Something is not right here.

The movie filming continued in the background.

We were starting to realize what was going on.

We. Were in. A whore house.

Ok, well maybe not an actual brothel. But there were plenty of comings and goings to lead us to believe there was some shady stuff going on in that hostel. Also, there was a chalk board with “Condon - Condoms 4 Sale” written in chalk above the front desk.

Back in the room with the cameras, the woman crawled out of the bed with a robe on, dressed, fluffed her hair and walked out of the room. A man placed a wad of soles in the palm of her hand, and with that, she left. Another woman off the street entered the room and began taking down equipment.

We were stunned.

Could it be? It must have been.

A porn shoot?!

Well, what else could it have been, honestly.

Cameras, lights, directors, exchanging of moneys before our innocent eyes to women a woman who had just crawled out of a bed.

I think this WFT moment took the cake.

We sat at the small table near the room. The giant stuffed condor and buffalo head staring back as us. We hoped Santos would get there quick. And that, by some stroke of luck, the rooms upstairs (where we had slept, showered, etc.) were travelers only rooms.

By the time Santos arrived, we were totally ready to get out of there as quick as possible. On the ride to the airport, I asked about making movies at the hostel. Santos laughed and asked what kind of movies. I told him I had seen big cameras, lights….perhaps adult movies. Santos said he didn’t think so. He said, in all his 14 years working for Hostal de Las Artes, there hasn’t ever been an adult movie made there. He said it was probably just a couple trying to have fun.

Ha, doubtful.

Waiting at the airport, Jill and I shared a personal pan pizza and she told off a bunch of kids who were making fun of homosexuals. Finally, we boarded the plane to leave Lima and leave Peru.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Anaconda, and Airplanes, and Risky Adventures, Oh My!



We woke again to jungle sounds. We had breakfast with Donald and Wadee’s friend, but Wadee was nowhere in sight. Too much fun the night before, we supposed. We ate our banana pancakes and fried egg, along with fresh fruit from the fruit trees. Later we headed into town to find an ATM and happened upon a little ice cream shop, selling ice cream in various typical flavors of the area. I had a cone with one scoop Lucuma (a fruit found mostly in South America) and one scoop Brazil Nut. The flavors were bold and tasty. More muy delicioso!

We returned to Anaconda and loaded up the moto-cart with our backpacks and Jose drove us to the airport. Before we left, Donald cut down some yellow and red bananas from his banana trees for us to take for a snack on the plane.

At the airport, we boarded the plane for our 5th and later 6th flights of the trip. We were headed for Lima.

When we arrived in Lima, Santos was waiting for us with a sign with my name on it. A short drive later, Santos dropped us off at Hostal de Las Artes. The hostel seemed to be in a bit of a seedy area of town, but there was a security door and the staff was friendly.

We decided to walk the 15 blocks or so to the Plaza de Armas and el Catedral de San Francisco. As we got more information about where to go and what to see at the front desk, the desk attendant suggested that I take off my watch and hide it. He said it wouldn’t be uncommon for someone to just walk up to me and cut it off. Keep in mind this was my Velcro, $10 Target travel watch. Ok, got it. Guard up. He gave us the information, told us good luck, and we were on our way. Lima was dusty. The plants were dusty, the building dusty, the taxis and colectivos dusty. We locked and guarded the one backpack we had brought along with us, but the desk attendant’s suggestions and “Good Luck” had me on edge. We saw the Plaza and the Catedral, surrounded by brightly colored buildings. We got a tour of the monastery and the catacombs. There were layers upon layers of bones places in intricate designs, placed there to be closer to God in death.

It had been a long day. Anaconda, airplanes, and a risky adventure in Lima. I fell asleep quickly, only to be woken up by Jill a short while later, who told me I was breathing deep and heavy, like a maniac.

Lover Proposing and Slapping and Dancing



The next morning, we left in the boat, and headed back to Infierno and then Puerto Maldonado. Along the way, we spotted a neon green and black snake, about a meter long, lounging on the shore. Just basking in the sun. It poked it head up, spotted our boat, and decided to go for a swim. It slithered its way, on top of the water, up to our boat. It must have found us completely uninteresting because it slithered around the backside of the boat and continued on up the river. Maybe looking for something a little easier to eat for breakfast.

Back in Puerto Maldonado, Explorer’s Inn dropped us off at Anaconda Lodge, where we would stay until our flight the following day. Walking down the dusty dirt road, we saw the fading sign: Anaconda Lodge/Thai Restaurant. Hmm, those two things don’t quite go together and certainly strange to be paired together in small jungle town of Puerto Maldonado. We walked through the gates and were approached by a staunch, German looking man striding to meet us, complete with a little black nylon fanny pack. The grounds were a little piece of jungle heaven inside the city. The owner, Donald, showed us all around (he was very excited about the tour) and let us choose our room. Each cabin had a pair of hammocks on the front porch, which we promptly used to take naps in the afternoon sun. Later, over a cup of tea, we found out Donald was from Switzerland and his wife, Wadee, was from Thailand. Ah ha! Now the Thai restaurant makes sense. Donald said he wanted to create his own jungle and had planted 50 different types of fruit trees on the grounds.

After our tea time, Donald and Wadee said they were headed out to a party/feast of sorts and asked if we’d like to join. It took 30 minutes by moto-cart (literally a cart hooked onto a motorcycle, driven by Jose, an employee of Anaconda) to get there.

It was the beginnings of a small carnival, complete with a big-wheel make-shift carousel ride. We had a popsicle – coconut flavor, with real coconut pieces in it. Since the carnival was only just beginning to be set up, we went on our way soon after arriving.

On our way back to Anaconda, we stopped at a park and were greeted by a white throated hog, nuzzling our legs and wanting to be petted. His fur was course and thick, his nose large and moist. There were animals of all kinds in this park, which was fenced in, and may or may not have been open to the public. Ducks and baby ducklings, macaws, happy little birds, and…. a sloth! A three toed sloth. It looked like a little alien and moved so s.l.o.w.l.y. We all sat at a picnic table and shared a Coke, poured into little plastic cups. All of a sudden a Tamarin jumps onto the table and tries to steal the Coke! The cup was too heavy for his little arms, so he tipped it over and the Coke spilled out across the table. The little monkey was satisfied with this and sat there licking up the sugary beverage. After he was satisfied, he used a hand rail to wipe his face clean. He began jumping around a bit, using our legs as spring boards. He jumped onto Jose’s shoulder and perched there while we walked around the grounds.

As we drove back to Anaconda, we realized that the entire town was all motorcycles! No cars! No wonder we were being chauffeured in a moto-cart. When we returned, Donald gave us an hour long tour of his plants. Fascinating for a while. But this guy was REALLY into his plants.

Now, you may be wondering “How come this fanny pack wearing man is spending so much time with only two of his guests?” Great question. Turns out, we were the ONLY guests at the Anaconda Lodge that night (also why we got to pick our cabin ourselves ;) ). Later, Wadee made Pad Thai for dinner, which was muy delicioso! From Anaconda, we could hear loud music, a concert, nearby. Wadee, a friend of hers and Jill and I decided we would head out after dinner to check out the concert. Donald, concerned and not to be attending the concert, repeatedly told Wadee to not drink many beers. Donald had the strong opinion that all Peruvians drank too much and never know when to stop. Also, that they were lazy, and dishonest. It seemed that his love of the jungle made up for his dislike of the people and culture. Later, we left to walk to the concert, and left Donald behind.

Once we got to the concert, Wadee, her friend, and I all bought a Cusqueña beer (“The Gold of the Incas”), and Jill bought a Coke. There were perhaps 20 other concert goers there watching, but the band was loud and powerful! After a while, we started to dance along with the band dancers, who were dressed in sparkly bras and knew high white pleather boots. We danced for a long time and Wadee (who definitely had had more than one beer) got all the Peruvians watching to dance too. Jill and I were hot commodities! I was asked to be a man’s lover and I turned him down of course, but he was angered nonetheless when Jose and I danced a bit later. He ended up slapping Jose in the face, which made Wadee mad and she slapped him in the head too! After all this lover proposing and slapping and dancing, we thought it was a good time to get going. Wadee, tipsy at this point, leaned on me all the way back. We knew Donald would not be too happy about Wadee’s defiant debauchery, but it had made for an entertaining night.

Strangled By a Vine, One Foot Thick.



I woke to the sounds of someone puking. As first I couldn’t tell if it was in our room, or another one. It was about 12:35am. Jill comes walking out of the bathroom to find a flashlight. Horrible to be sick while traveling! She thinks it was the vegetarian food she had for dinner. She also said she hadn’t thrown-up since 5th grade (!). This was a trip of a lot of “firsts in a long time” for Jill.

Three hours later, we got ready for breakfast and our morning hike through the jungle to catch a glimpse of the small river otters on their morning swim. Well, the “morning hike” turned out to be a half-day 10K hike. And completely exhausting. However, we did see a family of Tamarins, wild hog tracks, and all kinds of insects. We saw rubber trees that bleed white sap and trees that bulge out in the middle when they hold water. We learned about a snake, perhaps living somewhere nearby, who’s venom could kill a person within ½ an hour. We ate the stem of a plant that made out mouths completely numb for five minutes. We saw a 300 year old tree being strangled by a vine one foot thick that had wrapped around the trees trunk. Luckily, we did see the small river otter family (which we only had a 50/50 chance of seeing), swimming happily along the river in the morning sun. Finally, we came across a family of howler monkeys.

The hike was difficult. Although the jungle was in a “cold spell”, it was hot and humid. Walking through the jungle was slow work, climbing over roots and around mud swamps. The rubber boots we wore were not quite the right size and rubbed in awkward places on my feet. Finally, we made it back tired, sore and drenched in sweat. The icy water from the unheated shower was shocking but felt good. We ate lunch and rested for the afternoon, Jill and I happy we had scheduled the jungle trip as our last big adventure in Peru.

Later that night, we took a night walk through the jungle, which started with seeing a pink-toed fury creepy crawly tarantula! In all, we saw three types of tarantulas, along with many more spiders. Some poisonous, others not. We also saw an ant that lives in solitude and can paralyze entire sections of your body (eek!).

We also saw lemons on a lemon tree the size of softballs. We never see lemons like that at home. I suppose the wonders of the jungle are endless.