Written by Lynn Panepinto, Peru Amazon Adventure Program Leader.
Peru is an incredibly diverse country: from its scenic coastline to the awe-inspiring Andes Mountains to the lush Amazon jungle, there is truly something for everyone. We would recommend seeing a bit of each region, but for now, we’d like to focus on the wonder that is the Amazon.
Many people have probably heard stories about the many treasures that can be found in this particular part of the world and have conjured up images of what it could be like to spend time in a place that is so rich in culture. But the truth is, few people actually experience it. In typical OG style, we like to take it a step further and consider the beautiful, unique ways in which we can arrive to Iquitos, the heart of the Amazon.
Imagine yourself relaxing in a hammock, on a ferry with a group of awesome backpacktivists, floating along the Amazon and waking up each morning for 3 days to the spectacular view of lush green landscape and the peaceful river. By the time we cruise in to our destination, a land that is only accessible by boat or plane, we realize that this boat has become a second home, and the people who may have been strangers at the start of the trip have now become friends. But don’t take our word for it- it’s a journey that you’d have to experience yourself to believe!
Once in the Amazon, you will find a vast and sometimes overwhelming selection of foods, especially the tropical fruits. Savoring the staples of Amazonian cuisine, such as tacacho, juanes, and camu-camu juice is one of the best ways to immerse oneself in the culture. Browsing through the markets, chatting with the vendors about their products, and seeing all sorts of delicious snacks that you would probably find nowhere else is one of the best parts of traveling, and in Peru, it’s an experience that never disappoints!
Last but certainly not least, the people we have met and worked with while in Peru have made our experiences better than we could have imagined. The warmth and hospitality of the Peruvian people is truly unmatched; they are always eager to get to know you, invite you to their homes, share food, and go out salsa dancing! They are also very hard-working and dedicated to their communities. In particular, the partner agencies we work with have shown the impact that small groups of passionate people can have, when they are in tune with the community’s needs and dedicated to their value system.
Asociación Mayantú is a group of students and graduates from the Amazonian University who have come together to educate those who reside in the rain forest and fight the large corporations that try to exploit the people and natural resources. Kallpa is a non-governmental organization that works to improve the lives of Peruvians all across the country, and the branch in Iquitos maintains a very strong relationship with the Amazonian communities. We have had the opportunity to collaborate with both Mayantú and Kallpa on a variety of projects, from playground construction and maintenance to building a retention wall in a community at high risk for flooding. We are looking forward to all that we can learn and accomplish together with our partners and friends in Iquitos.
There is much more than we could say about Peru and the Amazon region, but now it’s your turn to explore and find out what you think are the best-kept secrets of this exceptionally interesting country. The Peruvian people are sure to welcome you with open arms as you do so!