Personal Encounters of Peru

April 19th, 2011

By Danielle Lane

It never occurred to me when I took my seat in the plane back in November 2007 that I would soon fall in love with Peru, quit my swanky embassy job and return here to live for nearly 3 years.

Although I couldn’t quite place it, there was definitely something that drew me towards the country and its people.

Was it the sincere and kind eyes that show through the hardened faces? Or the constant tinge of adventure, whether on the streets of Lima or in a remote Andean pueblo? Whatever it was, I was hooked.

Over the years, I have made an effort to visit as much of this dynamic country as possible in pursuit of understanding what it is that has pulled me here.

It is rare that you will ever meet anyone who has traveled to Peru without visiting the Cusco region. And yes it is sometimes hard to believe that Cusco and the Sacred Valley region are as grand as everyone says.

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But they really are amazing. Having lived there for 6 months, I experienced the great, the good, the bad and the horrible of the Cusco region. From the undeniable exhilaration of visiting Machu Picchu for the first time to the frustration among Cusqueñans about the inundation of their city by tourists. From the sheer beauty of the Sacred Valley to the steady stream of tour coaches that ply its roads. For me, appreciating the rough with the smooth was all part of the experience.

But even more so than Cusco, the place that truly blew me away was the jungle around Puerto Maldonado.

The Amazon can be an overwhelming place. The sights and sounds, flavors and smell are a constant assault on the senses. From my arrival I was blown away by how spectacular everything was – from the time I landed at the airport to the time I took off again. The hospitality and patience of the locals was beyond any expectations. The boat rides to and from the lodges were like riding through a zoo: flora and fauna everywhere, with a trained local guide to share his knowledge.

The lodge was immaculately clean and the food was fantastic. The trail hikes and the night boat rides were fascinating. I absorbed the experience like a sponge and sure enough, on day three, I swam across the Tandapata River with the locals!

The Amazon seemed so surreal upon arrival, but by the time I left I could understand how and why people choose to live there. I may have left with more mosquito and sand fly bites than my entire group combined, but I was sad to leave. The high humidity and heat was not nearly as unbearable as I expected either.

And being disconnected from the world and able to sit around enjoying a few beers over candles with new friends was well worth it.

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