If you know me, you would know I love wildlife, nature and being outside. I love the idea of hiking through forests, the canopy closing in overhead, the wisps of sunlight creeping through the leaves, the earthy scent and the sound of animals in every direction. Visiting the Amazon rainforest has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl, and visiting the Amazon and doing the Inca trail was a key seller for me on this tour (I waited to book the tour unless I knew 100% I would have a place on both.)

After doing the Rainbow mountain hike the day before and feeling ill from the altitude thankfully I woke up feeling free from the nauseous feeling. In the morning I packed up what I would need for the rainforest and ate breakfast. Our tour guide spoke to us about legends of the rainforest, one being El Chullachaqui, a guardian of the forest who in appearance is dwarf like and has goat legs (although that varies between stories.) El Chullachaqui takes the form of a loved one/or a known person and lures a person into the jungle until they are lost. The story our guide told us involves a relative who was in the army who was based in the Amazon, one day a lieutenant or along those lines from another base came and said that her relative must come to the other base its urgent, he followed this man who he knew into the jungle only for the man to start running and eventually disappear. Having grown up in the Amazon rather than look he sat down where he got lost and waited. Eventually people from his camp found him and he told them what happened, so they went to the other base and asked the lieutenant why he had run off and left him there, for him and everyone at that base to declare that he had been at camp all day and not left. Whether you believe in the idea of supernatural happenings, it’s an interesting story and I love hearing these stories when I travel.

At the airport, a few people were asking each other and me what animals they were most looking forward to seeing, honestly, I had low expectations. First, I know how unpredictable animals are, so I knew there was a chance we might not see anything! Secondly visiting the Amazon and in this area (Puerto Maldonado) I knew it was designed and developed for tourists and it would not be how you see the Amazon in documentaries e.g. thick, impregnable vegetation. I made sure I kept that in mind. The flight was forty minutes long and my first glimpse of the Amazon was out the window seeing endless amounts of green and the occasional pops of pink flowers.

We were picked up at the airport and driven to a reception area where we had to wait for a few more people to arrive, we were told half an hour and we ended up waiting for almost two. None of us were happy about this, eventually when the others arrived we got dropped off and climbed on a boat which took an hour to reach our destination that being ecoAmazonia. Honestly, the accommodation exceeded my expectations, the cabins were incredible, they had amazing facilities and the food was incredible. Since we had arrived late due to waiting for others that made us behind on our planned activities for the afternoon, so we had to rush our dinner and quickly drop our belongings off in our cabins.  

Our first activity was monkey island, prior to going I had read a lot about this island and how friendly the monkeys are for example they would take items out of your bag or sit on your shoulder. It sounded like fun and I partially expected to see similar behaviour. We took a boat to the island and quietly made our way into the jungle, our guide carried a bag of fruit with him to entice any monkeys we came across, the monkeys being used to the sound of the rustling the bag made. Our first encounters were brown/white faced capuchins who climbed down to get some bananas, after we went to a feeding station where half the food was placed. After waiting several moments more capuchins appeared, watching them was so much fun, one tried to carry a ridiculous amount of food up a tree with him and dropped half of it, another stayed on the bench eating as much as possible in one go, whilst others would take a piece and go eat in a tree away from the others. We stayed here for a while just watching them eat before we moved on to see if we could spot any spider monkeys, which we did but they were high up and none of them wanted to move. We started to make our way out of the jungle just as the sun started to set, which in the jungle looked incredible.

Back at ecoAmazonia we relaxed in our cabins before we went on our next little outing, which was looking for caimans. I didn’t take any pictures because my camera isn’t designed to take photographs (or half decent ones) in the dark. We saw a few, and they are so hard to spot. Our guide had a light which he would shine along the bank, which we catch in the caiman’s eye which shined like a coin stuck in the mud.  Once spotted, they would slip back into the water.

The next morning, we woke up early for breakfast, so we would be on time for a ‘hike’ through the jungle. Due to the location of the eco lodge a few animals had grown accustomed to humans, one being a peccary who would run around and steal items like wellies. There were also a few birds around such as a Scarlett macaw and a young toucan who would hop about it and was the cutest of things! Anyway, our first activity of the day was a walk, again we were told to be quiet as not to disturb any animals that might be close by.

Our first encounter was a giant snail slowly making its way across a log. Next, we came across some holes in the ground, not many people know that holes in the ground tend to be tarantula holes. Our guide picked up a long, thin stick and began to entice the tarantula out of the hole. Thankfully, spiders don’t scare me, so I did not mind getting to close to this enormous tarantula, I was told it was a Goliath tarantula, but I am not 100% sure. The tarantula would latch and grab onto the stick with such strength, eventually our guide got bored of prodding the tarantula, so we moved on.

I mentioned this when I went to Costa Rica, but I love learning about the plants and trees as well. Here, we were shown a tree that smelt like garlic and secondly a tree I can’t recall the name but known as the telephone tree because when you hit it with a piece of wood the sound echoes loudly throughout the forest, which could be handy if you happen to get lost… The trees although some were incredibly large, weren’t as thick or as tall as I imagined they would be but still fascinating to say the least. The scent and sounds of a jungle are my favourite, the rustling of leaves is always good indicator animals are nearby and we encountered a large group of squirrel monkeys who were running around in every direction. For me, and many others this was the highlight of the trip to the Amazon, we watched the monkeys for half an hour before they dispersed in several directions foraging for food.

We ended up at a pool of water, I can’t really say lake because it wasn’t big enough to be classed as a lake. Here, we climbed into a boat, there were so many species of birds (none of which I could identify) making an array of different sounds. There was one that had the strangest of calls, that kept repeating over and over, I find it so interesting the sounds and calls birds can make some of the calls they make don’t even sound from this world. Other than birds and butterflies, we did not see anything else. The water was also incredibly shallow, and we ended up getting stuck in the mud several times, our guide was tiny and struggled to get us out, using our brains we all started to move back and forth which shifted the boat out of the mud and we was able to start moving again. It was hilarious, and I am pretty sure it made our guides day.

The first activity of the day took around four hours, after we had walked and took a boat for half of the way back to the lodge we had most of the afternoon to ourselves. Me and a few others decided to go chill in the hammocks, where many lizards (unsure of the species) were running around. I need to get myself a hammock they are THE comfiest of things, I could spend hours in one doing nothing. After lunch, we went to a caiman lookout point. At first, we couldn’t see any, just the occasional movement of water and snapping of twigs. Then, our guide started to chuck items into the grassy area which startled a large caiman (around four metres) out into the water, it was too quick for me to get a picture off it. Our guide told us there were three different species of caiman living in this area of the Amazon, we sat and watched the water for a while with the odd eyes appearing before quickly disappearing.

It was here, I could really sense people’s disappointment in the Amazon trip. It wasn’t because we didn’t see many animals but more for the fact the trip was sold differently to how any of us expected it to be. These were the only activities we participated in, after returning from the caiman lookout we spent the evening playing card games. We left early the next morning. The trip was sold as two nights and three days whilst it was two nights and we spent roughly one day and one afternoon in the Amazon. For me, the cost I paid to do the Amazon trip did not really equal the value of what we were given. I was originally going to write a complaint about this, but I got side tracked and forgot to do so. Saying that though, having the opportunity to go the Amazon was an incredible one and one I will remember for a lifetime, I just hope one day I will be able to return and not as a tourist. 

Is the Amazon rainforest on your bucket list?

Tucan Travel - Rainbow Mountain, Peru.

Due to the fact our itinerary had changed and we headed straight to Cusco this meant we spent a whole day (and a half) travelling, not much of interest happened on the drive, although we did take over an entire Chinese restaurant in a remote village, not entirely sure the locals knew what hit them.

Cusco is the main location for several tourist attractions such as the Amazon rainforest and Machu Picchu. Since the itinerary had changed this meant I had more days in Cusco than what I would have had originally since I opted to do the Inca trail and the Amazon rainforest. Although, I was disappointed about skipping Arequipa I instantly fell in love with Cusco so I was so happy and grateful for the extra time spent here. So, I am going to talk about what I did in Cusco after I have blogged about the Amazon and the Inca trail.

One thing I did decide to do whilst in Cusco with an extra day was visit Rainbow mountain, before arriving in Peru I had never heard of Rainbow mountain. These mountains were only ‘discovered’ in 2015, with the first tours starting in 2016. The mountains get the name Rainbow mountain due to colourful sediments found in the ground, at the highest peak they stand at 5,200 metres above sea level.

For the tour, we were picked up early in the morning since the drive from Cusco to the starting point of the hike was around a three-hour drive. Cusco in the morning is so cold, so once I was in the van I huddled in the blanket provided and tried to get a few more hours sleep. Honestly, there are no words to describe how incredible the Peruvian landscape is, especially when you come from a country whose landscape is more or less flat, once I was awake I did nothing but stare out the window. Breakfast was included in the cost of the tour, so we stopped at a little building where breakfast consisted of omelette, breads, tea etc. I drank so much cocao tea and sucked on so many sweets in order to try and prevent altitude sickness!
rainbow mountain peru

rainbow mountain peru
rainbow mountain peru
The drive up to Rainbow mountain after breakfast was enough to keep you awake, the bus climbed up a dirt track carved into the edges, with steep drops on the side, whilst you could see Llama grazing peacefully on the slopes. The first thing we saw as we pulled up in the car park, was this beautiful snow-capped mountain in the distance, with little dots of people making their way in that direction. Our group was given a green hi-visibility vest to wear so our tour guide could spot us and we soon dispersed to take the walk at our own pace. I am not going to lie, with the high altitude and a gentle slope trail I was out of breath within minutes, I had no idea how I was going to walk the whole thing struggling for breath. Thankfully, there are horses to rent and after an hour of walking I managed to hire one (although I ended up feeling incredibly guilty and bad for the horse) I was so happy to no longer be walking, and although people are adapted to this environment I could not help but feel a tiny bit ashamed that I took a horse whilst the owners of the horses were running up and down, picking up and dropping of people all day! 
rainbow mountain peru
rainbow mountain peru
rainbow mountain peru
rainbow mountain peru Once, at the top I waited for the others (a few had also managed to get horses) before taking the last climb which would give a 360 degree view of the mountains. This was the hardest part, such a short distance but being on a slope made of gravel, it took me around twenty minutes after stopping several times to catch my breath just to get to the top. I am not going to lie, I was slightly underwhelmed with the view, yes it was pretty, intriguing and nice to look at but I also was not sure if it was worth it, although I am glad that I did do it at the same time. Any pictures you see of Rainbow mountain on the internet are edited (including my own) which make the colours so much brighter than they really are, in reality the colours are a lot more dull. I posed for the typical tourist shots and believe me you really do not want to be at the vantage point for too long, at least when I was there it was freezing cold and extremely windy so once I had taken photos I was gone, starting on the long walk back.
rainbow mountain peru

rainbow mountain peru
The walk back was hard but an easy hike, what made it hard was the fact I had started to feel sick and I had gotten a headache from the altitude. There were many points on the way back I just wanted to stop and keel over, to curl up into a ball and just stop walking and sleep away the headache. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do that, I kept walking and walking and watched the car park in the distance grow ever closer, reaching the car park I was so relieved, I was the first once back and I quickly found our mini bus, climbed in and closed my eyes to avoid the nauseous feeling that way growing.   

I waited for the others to come back, one who had altitude sickness to the point they were crying and throwing up, it is something to really consider before doing this hike. On the way back, we stopped at the same place as breakfast for dinner before making our way back to Cusco. Once in Cusco I swiftly had a shower and went straight to bed in hopes I would feel better for the next day! 

Is Rainbow mountain a place you would like to visit?

#TBS Event - Nottingham

A couple of weeks ago, now I went to a blogger event at the body shop (after hearing about the event on the East Midlands bloggers facebook page.) You may have seen a couple of these posts by now, so I hope mine does not completely bore you. It has been such a long time since I have been to any blogger events, I am completely out of scope with my local blogging community there was so many new faces!
the body shop nottingham
I have been using cruelty free products for a while now and although the body shop is against animal testing, for the longest time they have been owned by L’Oréal who do test on animals. I have had so many conflicted feelings from buying from the body shop due to this, but at the same time so many people who buy cruelty free products buy from companies whose parent companies are not cruelty free, it is a tricky subject. Those who do not know, testing cosmetics on animals is against the law in Europe, however if a company wishes to sell in places like China the ingredients need to be tested on animals. Honestly, I still cannot believe that in 2017 we are still testing products like this on animals considering how advance we are when it comes to science. At the time of writing this though, the body shop has now been officially sold to Natura a cruelty free company, so for those of you who did not want to buy from them due to L’Oréal’s ownership you can now shop away!  

This is the first event the body shop in Nottingham have ever hosted, so it was all completely new to them. The event was a showcase to show off some of their new products, on arrival we were greeted with some chocolate and a refreshing berry juice. We were then told a brief history about the company itself before telling us that they had a little competition that on the bottom of the cups was a coloured star and if you had a certain colour you had won one of their products. I had already placed my empty cup on the side so I picked up back up and flipped it over to pouring little droplets on the floor (typical me) but lucky for me I had a green star so I was gifted one of their new face masks the Japanese matcha green tea mask, it is a mask I have heard so many good things about and it aims to rid the skin of pollution. I also found out on the night that Nottingham has one of the highest air pollution rates after London.
the body shop nottinghamAfter the introductions, the shop was split into sections, a makeup section, skincare, body etc. Firstly, I went to the makeup counter, I have been using the body shops fresh nude foundation as a cheap cruelty free alternative but I found it just slid of my skin so I was eager to try their new matte foundation. I got colour tested for this, for the second lightest shade which matches perfectly although I may give the lightest shade a go at some point. I love this foundation, because it has done what no other foundations has done for the longest time and lasts on my face pretty much all day! I can touch my face and not have to panic that I have wiped my make up off, and it only costs £10. 

the body shop nottinghamI also needed a new moisturiser, so I went to speak to the skincare consultant who asked me about my skin. I have oily skin, which I have always known but she gave me these little papers to put on areas of my face to see just how oily and well it was pretty gross. She showed me several different products but in the end, I opted for the seaweed oil control gel cream.the body shop nottingham

the body shop nottingham
The body shop has so many different products on offer from lotions, perfumes, shampoo etc. in a variety of gorgeous scents such as vanilla, strawberry to orange. We were also give a preview of their new vanilla pumpkin range which I believe is on sale now (don’t quote me on that) and it was completely and utterly divine, even after I left I kept sniffing my hand because it was such a yummy smell. So yes, I will be going back to buy some of that range.It was a lovely way to spend my Tuesday evening, and it was nice being able to test out some of the body shops new products. They were extra generous on the night on gave us 40% of any products purchased along with a little bag with a few samples. Along with the foundation and moisturiser I picked up some of their hemp lip balm.

 Have you visited the body shop recently? Let me know what your favourite products are.

Tucan Travel - Nazca, Peru.

Huacachina to Nazca.

Day one.

The drive from Huacachina to Nazca was a short one, however I spent most of the drive debating on whether to take a scenic flight over the Nazca lines. Honestly, although I have heard of the Nazca lines my knowledge on the lines wasn’t the greatest but on the other hand seeing the Nazca lines is an experience unique to Peru, something I might not ever get the chance to do again. So, in the end I ended up jotting my name down on a scrap of paper confirming I would be taken part but even then, I was still debating crossing my name off. Our truck driver Richie highly recommended doing it, he told us we would be going to a lookout to see the lines from the ground and that seeing the lines from the ground is like seeing a tiny piece of a jigsaw puzzle, a puzzle that you cannot fully appreciate unless you see the bigger picture.
He was right, when we pulled up at the lookout I paid the one sol it costs to climb up to the top. Below me you could see lines, but it was extremely hard to work out what you were looking at, what the lines were an image off. I even had to point out the lines for one girl. Climbing back down the stairs I was happy with my decision to do the flight. Soon after we arrived at our campsite for the night, I cannot recall the name but it was a nice little hotel where we camped on the grounds complete with swimming pools, a bar and a wi-fi room. Once there we were given the obligatory demonstration of setting up the tent, which was easy, due to the heat though being inside the tent was intolerable! At lunch time, we were told the news we were no longer going to Arequipa, instead we would be staying an extra night in Nazca and arriving a day early in Cusco. This was due to an earthquake causing a landside on the road we would need to take into Arequipa, this was incredibly disappointing for me and many others since a lot of us wanted to visit Colca Canyon, and we had no idea what we would be doing with our other day in Nazca.

nasca lines

nasca lines

At lunch times those doing the Nazca flight was picked up and drove to the airport, where we were given a safety induction and that was it, we were given no information on the history of the lines, something I was expecting. The flight itself was in a small aircraft and goes over the most well-known Nazca lines, so I took my go pro to take photos of the lines and when I looked back over them I could not see a single Nazca line in any of them. No idea what happened there but I did get a nice little video over on my Instagram of the astronaut. I am not going to lie the thirty-minute flight was horrific, the sun was shining in through the window, the plane was going in all directions. Movement and heat was not a good combination and I honestly thought I was going to throw up. I was terrified, and when he finally told us we were heading back I was so relieved. Turns out everyone felt the same, so we all ended up buying ice creams to settle out stomach.

To be honest with you, after the helicopter ride I wasn’t sure how I felt about seeing the lines. I really felt like I did not appreciate the fact that I got to see the lines.

Day two.

Due to us spending another day in Nazca, our tour guide arranged an optional tour for us with a company called edunas tours. We were picked up in dune buggies (driving around in these are always so much fun but you also get covered in dust…) and taken to various locations. I could not highly recommend this tour enough, our guide was fantastic although I cannot recall her name, she provided us with so much information on the Nazca people that it made me appreciate the fact I did the flight over the lines. Unlike the pilot, she gave us a brief history of the Nazca lines, such as the fact there are hundreds of simple lines and shapes whilst more than seventy of the lines contain images that are animals, she talked about how they were made and why they have lasted so long. She spoke of Maria Reiche a German mathematician and archaeologist who dedicated a large portion of her life to unearthing the lines, a person our guide met when she was a child. Reiche is buried near the lines located near the lookout, and often referred to lines as her children. Today, many people do not understand why the lines were made, some believe they were offerings for gods to bring water to the area, for religious purposes, for art in general whilst our guide believed there may be a connection to aliens. Our guide believes that the Nazca people copied what they saw, hence why the Nazca people would use cranial deformation to elongate heads, why the astronaut line has a large head, because the Nazca people saw these ‘aliens’ and mimicked them. It is why the Nazca lines can only truly be appreciate from the air. There have also be many reports of abnormal skeletons found in Nazca, skeletons with three fingers and toes, short of structure etc. (whether these are a hoax or not I do not know.) Whatever the reason behind the lines, it is interesting hearing so many people’s opinions on why they think the lines are there.
aqueducts nasca

aqueducts nazca
Anyway, the first stop on the tour were the aqueducts. An aqueduct is a watercourse constructed to convey water. The aqueducts serve as a large hydraulic system which carried water underground to areas where water was needed, for example to water crops or to drink. The aqueducts allowed people to have access to water throughout the whole year, some of the aqueducts are still being used today and it is a prime example of the knowledge and intelligence of the Nazca people (or Pre-Nazca as many are still unsure when they were built.)

Cacti are very popular here, often growing fruit which can be sold, many of these Cacti are infected intentionally with a parasite called Cochineal, some of you may have heard of this insect as it produces the natural dye carmine. Why? Because carmine is worth more than what the fruit of the Cacti produce, it is commonly used in cosmetics such as lipsticks. Sadly, this does involve the parasite being squished, which our guide did to show us the colour produced which was the brightest of reds.
cemetery nazca

Cahuachi nazca
The next stop we visited a burial ground, like many of the Nazca sites over the years they have been subjected to graverobbers with many sites being dug up and torn apart. This burial site had the same inflicted upon, whilst other artefacts were removed and placed in museums, what is left is remnants of scattered skeletons, fabric and hair. The bones that have remained are extremely white due to being bleached by the sun. It did feel a little strange walking over this site where the chances of treading on breaking a human bone was very high. The burial site is located not far from Cahuachi, the next stop on a tour. Cahuachi was a ceremonial centre, the site wasn’t used for long term living but used for religion or pilgrimage and a burial site. It was fascinating to look around, and I was provided with so much information it was overwhelming to take it all in. When I visit sites like these I like to try and imagine what life would have been like, sometimes it’s hard to even imagine what it would be like. We were shown sites where food and water would have been stored/gathered (from holes in the ground) if you look at the ground you more than likely may see tiny bits of pottery that have been broken and scattered around somewhere along the way. The Cahuachi site is currently still be excavated so whose knows what else they may find!

We arrived back at camp just in time for lunch which was a brunch made up of scrambled egg, cheese scones, French toast, bacon and much more. Don’t let anyone ever put you off camping because of the food! A few of us decided to get together and book a tour to Chauchilla cemetery, this was a place we were meant to visit in the morning before driving to Arequipa and a few of us really wanted to go, for myself it was one of the things on the itinerary that really appealed to me and something I marked immediately as wanting to do.
Chauchilla cemetery

Chauchilla cemetery
The Chauchilla cemetery contains mummified remains and archaeological sites. The bodies that are located at the site have been so well preserved due to the dry climate, the bodies being clothed in embroidered cotton, then painted in resin before being placed in mud brick tombs. Again, we had a fantastic guide called Juan Tohalino who has his own hostel called Nasca Trails, also speaking four languages Spanish, English, German and French! What I loved about being in Nazca was meeting so many people so proud and interested in their heritage and in the history of their country. Again, this site has been targeted by grave robbers but so many tombs have been restored and there are many more still buried. 

After the cemetery, the tour also included a ceramic and textile workshop, none of us knew what to expect and thought maybe we might be making something.  Instead we ended up in a little rustic building where textile and ceramics are made and given a demonstration of each. We were shown beautiful dyed wool and told how they get the colours, once upon a time baby urine used to be used to make green dye. Then shown many stones used in their ceramic work.

Although I was disappointed about not going to Arequipa, I had such an amazing extra day in Nazca and it was so interesting to be able to learn more about the history of Peru. 

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