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Written by Bill Grimes Study of the Amazon Pink Dolphin

Late in the afternoon on February 13th we tied up at the confluence of the Pacaya and Amazon Rivers. Dave and Dottie Bonnett already had the acoustical equipment ready. Pink and Gray Dolphins were nearly always breaching. Within minutes of turning the engines off Dave had the hydrophone in the water experimenting with depth, calling out instructions to Dottie to log into the records. Dave put on the headphones, turned the digital recorder on and excitedly called out, “We have communication! Ohh, the clicks,… The chirps,… What was that? It sounded like a fog horn. Did one just blow? Dottie write that down. Get the time. That was no catfish! Shirley, did you see it? Pink or Gray? Dottie write that down. Now it sounds like popcorn popping…”

That recording was exciting, the equipment worked, the technique was good, the boat was quiet, but what we wanted we could find only far inside Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. Strange as it may sound for a scientist wanting to study Pink River Dolphin communication, there were too many dolphins at this location. Dave wanted only Pink River Dolphins (Inia geffrensis), with no Gray River Dolphins mixed in. He wanted no background motor noises or even the sound of paddling a canoe. Here, subsistence fishermen worked with the dolphins to net their family’s supper. Still, it was our first recording, and we were happy.

Early the next morning we officially entered the reserve to begin our scientific study. This was a hawk day. Some days are sloth days. This was a hawk day. We were amazed at the number of species of birds of prey. One expedition through this same area in late May and early June we saw over 50 sloths. I only saw one sloth this entire trip. If we had come to study sloths we would have gone home with no data.

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Written by Joe Lara

Spirits Airlines lacks 'spirit' in Peru Spirit Airlines, the United States based low cost airliner, has officially made its way into the Peruvian aviation market by offering daily non-stop service between Lima, Peru and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  For frequent travelers between these two cities, Spirit’s low cost travel fare provides an attractive alternative to seemingly increasing prices offered by other airlines such as American, Delta, and Chile’s LAN.  Despite very attractive prices, I personally found Spirit’s service to be lacking, err, spirit.

Having previously flown other  low-cost carriers such as the U.S.’s Southwest Airlines, I realistically expected some types of sacrifices in the areas of comfort and service.  Understand that a ‘low cost carrier’ is essentially a ‘no frills airliner’ where traditional services and comforts are eliminated in order to keep ticket prices low.  Everything from the drinks, snacks and baggage (yes baggage!) is not included when you purchase your ticket with Spirit.  There were no television monitors, pillows, or blankets… No problem!  The problem I encountered with my experience had nothing to do with comfort but rather with customer service.

I flew on Spirit’s inaugural flight from Lima’s Jorge Chavez Airport to South Florida’s Fort Lauderdale International Airport on June 27th.  Talking with some of the passengers, I found that quite a few had purchased their tickets for the ridiculously low price of US$0.88!  Unfortunately, I paid quite a bit more than that though my fare was still a great bargain compared to other carriers servicing Lima and Miami.

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Text and photos by A.J. Rivera

Let me give you some information about myself: My name is A.J. Rivera, I am Mexican American by birth, in culture, and in nationality.

I can tell you of many nice people: fishermen that have given me fish, families that have opened their homes to me, native farmers who have shared their planted sandbars, or of empty beaches full of nesting shore birds, terns, and nighthawks. the Amazon

 It is something else, difficult, if not impossible for me to tell you why a fifty-four year old, obese, accountant would embark on a 3,500 mile kayak journey. It is a lifetime of passion that has culminated on this adventure. The years of preparation and research preclude it from being a manic episode – some who know me would argue that point.

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Cycle Touring Peru: Winter Solstice Bike Trip to Chankillo

(Written by special contributers Aníbal & María Elena)

Chankillo, Peru According to a study published by archaeologists Ivan Ghezzi, Universidad Católica del Perú and Charles Ruggles, Leicester University UK, there is evidence of the oldest known observatory in the world. They stated that "The towers of Chankillo provide us with evidence of the first solar observations and of the existence of advanced cults to the sun, 2,000 years before the cults made by the Incas from Cusco."

Before now, based on the references of the first Spanish chroniclers, it was believed that the first observatories were in the Coricancha region, near Cusco and were constructed by the Moche culture, 600 years after Chankillo. Chankillo was constructed when one of the major religious centers collapsed, Chavin de Huantar, between 200 and 300 B.C.

Located some 15 km south of Casma, about 400 km north of Lima, Chankillo is made up of a fortress strategically situated on the top of a hill, composed of 3 concentric oval shaped thick rock walls (with 5, 4, and 3 entrances respectively from the outer to the inner). These leveled doorways lead to elaborate corridors, its roofs are made with thick algarrobo wood that still support the weight of the wall above. Surrounding these concentric circles are 2 round structures and 1 circle. The C14 analysis of the wood shows us that the wood is 2,300 years old.

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Photos by Mylene D’Auriol potatoes are famous for their flavor and size
Huancavelica’s 16th century Cathedral is one of the most important examples of colonial architecture in the city.

(LIP-jl) — Located in a valley that is as deep as it is beautiful, the city of Huancavelica is a destination often overlooked by tourists in Peru. Its traditional architecture, gorgeous landscapes, and the hospitality of the local residents make this corner of the Andes one of the most interesting spots for a weekend trip.

It is a while yet before the sun will emerge from behind the rugged mountain peaks but Faustino and his family have already been up for more than an hour. In the pre-dawn darkness and bitter cold, the sound of light footsteps on the hard ground heralds the arrival of another day in the village of Taraco.
Faustino is getting ready very early this morning in preparation for his customary trip to the nearest community further down the valley. The llamas can be heard bleating as they approach the house and, with pieces of ice clinging stubbornly to their thick wool coats, assemble outside the family’s simple mud and stone dwelling to be loaded up for the trip.
Although I am wearing just about every item of clothing I have with me, a blast of freezing mountain air still cuts right through me. Luzmila, Faustino’s wife, smiles and hands me a thick woollen poncho to provide added protection against the icy wind coming off Lake Choclococha, which looks even bluer than usual in the half light of the early morning.

Sunlight shafts into the patio and highlights sacks of dried llama meat or charqui, piles of leather strips, and the smoke coming from Luzmila’s kitchen fire. Around fourteen llamas patiently wait their turn to be packed with goods. With amazing patience, Faustino and his son, Julián, distribute the loads evenly into thick flannel sacks. “There must be nine kilos on either side or the animal refuses to walk,” Faustino says, as he tugs on the ropes around the belly of a large, midnight-black llama. One by one, the animals are readied for the trip. Little Julián ties some metal bells around the neck of the llama that will lead the pack. “That’s so the others don’t get lost or stop to graze on the way,” he says with a smile. potatoes are famous for their flavor and size
A peasant couple proudly showing off their wares: corn from the Huancavelica valley.

The large black llama with the metal bell in the lead, the long caravan starts down a narrow gorge on its three-day journey along the valley below.

Faustino says goodbye to Luzmila and little Julián. “Next time you can come with me,” he promises, giving his son a light pat on the head. With his knapsack filled with just-cooked potatoes, some corn and jerky, the llama herder sets off on yet another trip to trade with peasants in the lowlands. He plans to exchange jerky for corn, lima beans, some pasta, and maybe some sweets for Julián. Faustino takes the same route used by his father and grandfather before him, both of whom were llama herders.

The llamas he uses today are descendants of the pack built up by his grandfather.
It is as if time has passed by this face of ancient Peru in this little corner of the Huancavelica highlands. The story I have just described took place only metres from the road to Huancavelica, the city of the stone idol, in the upper reaches of the central Andes.

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(Written by Virginia Velasco)

Journey into Peru's Amazon rainforest Noise, traffic, too much work? Unable to rest?

Would you like to wake up to sounds of birds chirping or watch the rain pouring down while you rest in your hammock? Well… Iquitos and the rainforest are waiting for you, very close in time, though more than 1000 km away from Lima.

Iquitos is the largest city in the Peruvian Rainforest, it has the charm of a laid-back city, which experienced its “golden age” at the end of the XIX century thanks to the rubber export. The old steel buildings and the glazed tiles of the façades give a glimpse of how beautiful the city must have been at the time. Iquitos’ treasure is the Amazon River and its tributaries Nanay and Itaya, all three rivers flow around the city. The Amazon River is the largest river in the world by volume, to experience sunset or dawn sailing on the magic Amazon River is an unforgettable souvenir.

Just around Iquitos is one of the world´s treasures: The Amazon Rainforest. You have plenty of lodges to choose from, often scattered in the surroundings. This time we visited the Amazon Rainforest Lodge.

Journey into Peru's Amazon rainforest We arrived to the lodge at night, after we sailed almost 45 minutes with our guide Antonio. We were welcomed by a friendly bartender with lemonade and later we had home made local food which was very tasty and healthy. That night we could hardly see our surroundings, but we could listen to many strange noises. In the morning we enjoyed the lodge’ view from the wooden lodge which used palm tree leaves as its roof – much like the traditional houses of the area. Different animals live there and walk freely in their “home”, Rigoberto the tapir, Aldo the toucan, turkeys, and others who were in cages such as parrots and the world´s largest rodent, the “ronsoco” or capybara.

Having the lodge as your base, it is possible to go on several tours, even for families with small children. There are small villages spread throughout the area. We visited Gen Gen, a village next to the lodge supported both by the owner of the lodge Peter Schneider and the Rotary Sunrise Club. People live primarily from agriculture, fishing, tourism and their handcrafts production; there was a small school and a health care center, using solar power panels to run electricity and water, these are the sole services the people have access to. There are shortages of doctors and teachers in the entire region. Despite the simplicity of their lives, people seem to be happy with the small amount of things they have.

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(Written by Elise van der Heijden, kindly provided by Anaconda Lodge –link-)

00Peru: Puerto Maldonado city guide
© Photo by Helard Aguilar Centeno

Are you going to Puerto Maldonado, into the heart of the Amazon to marvel at its abundantly colourful wildlife, but would also like to get to know the town itself? Search no more, we’ve brought together an in-depth city guide for you, covering all the ingredients that make up your exploration: cultural attractions, shopping, eating and last but not least, the nightlife.


You arrive at the Padre Aldamiz International Airport after an hour’s flight from Cusco or Lima. Greeted by the hot and humid climate of the rainforest, there is no mistake you’ve arrived at the rainforest, and just outside the terminal you will start to hear animal sounds and marvel at the variety of tropical vegetation. The airport has 2 interesting attractions just a stone’s throw away: The Serpent’s House is a refuge for sick and wounded snakes and other reptiles, whose local volunteers offer an interesting tour that will leave you a lot more acquainted and possible less fearful of this mysterious animal.

The other attraction doesn’t require quite as much nerve: Japipi is a butterfly house, their garden housing a wonderfully colourful range of butterflies of the region, and offers an interesting tour educating visitors about the rainforest ecosystem and biodiversity.


The main square, the Plaza de Armas is a good place to start exploring the city’s shops, with various souvenir shops on its flanks. Continue by following the road Leon Velarde, which has several clothing shops, tourist agencies and pharmacies (a good opportunity to get insect repellent for those who’d forgotten). Jump in the back of a motortaxi to take you to the city’s Mercado Modelo to get some wonderful fresh fruit of the region, or freshly baked bread, as well as a sense of what everyday life is like for the locals in this jungle city. If you are lucky, it might even be in the right season to try “suri”, a worm the locals love eating roasted, and also swear by its healing properties for throat infections.

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Text and photos by Walter M. Wust paiche
The sale of the paiche is limited. Progress in its conservation pleases the fishermen, because it was in the brink of total disappearance in the Dorado.

(LIP-jl) — Aiming to save the paiche, the biggest freshwater fish in the world, a small group of local fishermen from Loreto decided to work for their conservation. The result was a successful example of how resource management is beginning to bear fruit.

If Brazil has the Pantanal and Botswana the Okavango Delta, then Peru should feel proud to count Pacaya-Samiria among its protected natural areas.

More than two million hectares of lakes, swamps and wetlands form this corner of the Amazon forest, creating a true magnet for wildlife.

It is, without doubt, the kingdom of aquatic species, among which the gigantic paiche stands out. Weighing in at up to 300 kilos and measuring some 3 meters, it is the biggest freshwater fish in the world.

In the heart of Pacaya-Samiria lies El Dorado Lake, a remote place of incomparable beauty. Here, among the ancient forests and rivers that resemble mirrors, nature seems to have been protected since the beginning of time.

But it wasn’t always like this. Even out here, many days from Iquitos, the hand of man was about to end the existence of one of the forest’s most valuable resources.

Attracted by the abundance of different species, fishermen came to El Dorado in even greater numbers. The fishing was good, and the boats returned with full cargos to the markets of Iquitos and Belén.

The bonanza lasted for a few years, and then the paiche became scarcer. Each time the fishermen went out they had to go further into the network of rivers and lakes to find fish of a reasonable size.

The forest fell silent. The loud cries of the giant of the jungle were no longer heard. The paiche was on the verge of extinction.

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Text by Walter M. Wust, photos by James Poso and Walter M. Wust, Arequipa, Peru
Dawn breaks over Puica. The sun has yet to light up the valley, but the smoking chimneys indicate that the town is waking and preparing for a new day.

(LIP-jl) — Discovered by adventurers just 20 years ago, the Cotahuasi Valley is a blend of a rich pre-Colombian heritage and the tradition of picturesque villages surrounded by a breath-taking landscape. Come with us and discover the wonders of the Cotahuasi Canyon.

The glacial highland wind slaps us in the face as we jump put of our cars. Dawn broke just minutes ago, and the clouds are only just beginning to light up in a range of hues. The frost-covered ichu grass glitters in the sunlight before melting away under the rays of a highland sun that today seems to be more intense than ever.

Before us, still wreathed in early morning mist, stretches a dizzying gouge in the Andes, a gigantic wound slashed into the rough skin of the majestic mountains. From the bottom of the valley drifts bird song, carried by the mist which drifts uphill at surprising speed.

We would have liked to stop a moment longer to gaze upon this dawn spectacle in this solitary waste, but we are pulled away by the burning desire to plunge into the past down the zig-zagging road that leads to Cotahuasi Valley, our final destination.

The narrow valley, located some 375 km northwest of the city of Arequipa, is the result of the rushing waters of the Cotahuasi River between two hulking mountains: Mount Coropuna (at 6,425 masl, Peru’s highest volcano) and Solimana (6,093 meters).

From its origin in the pretty lake of Huanzococha, at more than 4,750 meters, the Cotahuasi is further swelled by the Huayllapaña River, near Pampamarca, to the north, and Huarcaya, near Tomepampa to the west. Its waters growing ever-more turbulent, the river heads west and then south, flowing through the deepest areas of the canyon. Finally, the river merges with the waters of the Marán before flowing into the Pacific Ocean near Ocoña, from where it gets its name for the final stretch.

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(Written by Doug Norvell)

Easing into Iquitos, PeruWant to go for a jungle adventure, but, well… not quite ready for rainforest camping? Try, like I did an albergue, or jungle lodge near Iquitos on the big river Amazon.

The albergue I visited is called Heliconia, for the jungle flower.

Instead of a flower, Heliconia should have been named for a jewel, a kind of emerald that a hiker might kick up in the rainforest covered with the kinds of ferns and vines that consume everything with their color.

Helconia is a paradise, except for the mosquitoes. But what’s a rain forest without mosquitoes?

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