Bienvenidos a la selva!

by Courtney Slanaker

This weekend is the weekend that we really become a group. Whether it is the heat, the jungle’s beauty, or something about trekking for five and a half hours through a river, this weekend binds the group together. On Friday we were still in Huancayo, but we made some new friends and danced the night away with them. Saturday morning we left for the jungle (la selva). After a beautiful four hour drive, we were in la Merced, the city by our jungle tour. One enormous plate of fried chicken later, or in Alyssa’s case, one enormous omelette later, we happily went to our hostel. We explored the city a bit, and upon finding a very cool street vendor of handmade necklaces and bracelets, the girls spent about an hour picking out the perfect ones. (They may or may not have returned there three more times in the next two days). We also took a trip to Chanchamayo coffee, where they produce the most expensive coffee in the world. In Peru 100 grams costs 95 soles, and in Europe, one kilogram costs 1400 Euros. But it’s always good to know exactly what you’re buying. The coffee is so expensive because the coffee beans, along with pineapples and other fruits, are fed to an animal called the coati. There the beans ferment to make the characteristic delicious flavor of the coffee when, in the politest terms possible, they are excreted. There we also tried some jams made from jungle fruits and got hooked on the best orange juice I have ever tasted. For dinner, we went out for our first Chifa meal, which is a Peruvian-Chinese fusion and can be found on almost every corner. Later that night, we went to the discoteca. We had a blast putting our dance class skills to the test, dancing a little bit of salsa and trying to pick up a whole lot of cumbia.
Sunday morning everyone was a little sore from all the dancing, but we had a pretty busy day. Our first stop were some incredible waterfalls we could swim around and under. In our theme of conquering fears this trip, all of us jumped off a waterfall into a pool below. We ended up with some really great pictures of everyone, and quite a few pictures of me looking like a frog jumping off the falls. From there, we visited a native community, where our volunteers learned some Quechan phrases, sang head shoulders knees and toes in Quechan, and participated in a traditional dance. Very hungry, we made our way to La Jungla, where we ate yucca, plantains, chicharrón de doncella, a type of fried fish. Satisfied, we visited a butterfly reserve, where we saw South American monarchs, blue morphos, owl butterflies, and many more. The butterfly reserve had a path outside to an animal rescue that worked with local authorities to rescue animals, nurse them back to health, and re-release them after some time in captivity. We saw plenty of coatis, the paiche (the largest freshwater fish), piranhas, a boa, guacamayos, and plenty of monkeys. We hung around (literally) in some hammocks for a while, and then returned to the hostel, where Maddie and Jada practiced dancing like Shakira to one

of her concerts. We may need a few more dance classes.
Our last day was certainly the most herbal viagra jungly day. We met our guide, Nelson, early in the morning and headed to our trek for the day. Jack has done a trek like this three times already, so we were all excited to find out that this route was a little different. Nelson explained and pointed out a few medicinal plants, a natural dye, and a few interesting bugs. We got to the river, which we followed up for a few hours. Some of us got over the waterfalls more successfully at first than others, (I may have slipped once or twice or three times), but we all made it to the waterfalls called the tres reynas (three queens), and finally to the biggest falls any of us had ever seen, called Gandaki. We asked what that one meant too, but apparently it is just named after the owner of the land. We ate more delicious lunch with juice made from star fruit, and finally
left the jungle to go back to Huancayo. Even the ride back was fantastic, with some of the best stars any of us have ever seen. Even still, it’s nice to be back in Huancayo for our last week!

A trek to remember forever!

Quechan song and dance! Ready to start the climb UP the falls!

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