Thursday, October 11, 2012

Peru/Brazil/Argentina Day 17: Animals! Manatees, Large Cats, Toucans

May 19, 2012
Peru Day 17: Animals! Manatees, Large Cats, Toucans

Oh man that Air Conditioning sure feels great.

We woke up at 6am-ish, like usual. But this time, to glorious cool air and not the usual insanely humid punch in the face (that came later). Oh man, even WiFi? And even better... sending emails from the can?! This is the life.

Not only did I get this epic special cool AC air this morning, but as I was checking my email I got a message from the Dave Matthews Band Warehouse Fan Club to say that... the first NEW SONG from the new album called, fittingly "Gaucho" ("Cowboy" in Spanish) was available to listen to RIGHT NOW. The only time in the past week we've had internet. So. Amazing.

Everyone else was still asleep so I put on my earphones and literally listened to it on repeat about 10 times. It was glorious. Cool latin rhythms, starts off verrrrrrrry Two-Steppy, Under The Table/Crash/Crowded Streets-y... sooooo sick. The album was announced for September... oh man that friggin' ROCKS. The lyrics, as always, are amazing. In usual Dave style, the message is something to the tune of "Get off your ass if you want to bring change to the world, no one is going to do it for you". As usual, I love the tunes, and I love the message. What a great treat of AWESOME in the middle of this insane 1 bazillion percent humidity jungle. I couldn't download the song, I could only stream it from the website, so I just listened to it about 10 times while writing my journal and trying not to freak out due to the awesome and wake everyone else up.

Louisiana French Toast for breakfast
Large, large, large menu!
The owner, and more menu items!

The other guys met up with Oscar and headed to the Belen market, but Kev and I opted to just have a chill morning instead. We went back to that crazy Texas restaurant, and had some great pancakes and French Toast "Louisana style". We met the owner who was one unusual character, he seemed nice enough except for a few things he said that would get you a quick trip to the HR department in any company in this day and age. I wasn't sure if his tone was just the sort of endearing "oh, Grandpa!" kinda way, or something more negative. Anyway. They had some great food there and although Lonely Planet or some other guidebook had also mentioned the iffyness, it was a good start to the day. Had some great Columbian coffee with cream, definitely one of the best coffees on the trip so far.

After breakfast we went back to the Cohen & Son grocery store looking for the Star of David on the building but we didn't see it. We asked the guy at the restaurant if it was in fact owned by someone Jewish, and he said yep it was a Jewish rubber baron, apparently. He said there is still a small Jewish community - about 100 people still there!? Wow. He said they just had their weekly Friday night "meeting" - oh boy. It's called a "service". ;)

Jewish grocery store again
Puss in Boots cookies!

The famous Camu-Camu berries, I ate an entire pack of these last night!

We got a few snacks and headed back to the hostel. Oscar and crew were on-point, already back at the hostel and ready to take us to the Manatee sanctuary.

We headed there on Mototaxi and it was very awesome. It was well funded and connected to the Dallas Zoo in Texas. There was some great educational material there and excellent education for the next generation about how animals should be treated. It was incredible. As we were leaving, we saw a school group visiting and they were SO psyched to see us. They instantly wanted photos with us. Everyone also wanted a handshake which was very cute and hilarious. The teacher asked the (very well educated) elementary school class... in ENGLISH... "Do you have a question for them?" One boy piped up, "Do you... like... Manatees?" hahaha So adorable, this group!! It was really cool to see such an incredibly committed teacher, speaking English fluently with us and mostly Spanish with the kids. The entrance fee to this place was free, which was crazy. There was a donation bin there to help fund more school groups in the future (for Transportation), so that was definitely a worthwhile donation to make.

At the Manatee Sanctuary


Look at those teeth!

Then we headed to the Zoo that our new friend Antony used to work with. The contrast was immediately very strong between the Zoo and the Manatee rescue/rehabilitation place.

Antony told us all the history, how he had built water filtration systems there, cages where the animals had lots of room to explore, and he mentioned how much of a struggle it is to get work done in Peru. He talked about general corruption and how the Australian government pulled out of funding the place only a year or two ago, after sponsoring it for 20 years. He was very upset to see the quality of the care for the animals not at the level he set up for the place and what he would want. He was quite upset about the situation and I really felt bad for him.

He had a lot of close animal friends in the place. He had hand-raised a Puma, and she was growling and hissing, and then came over right away, calmed down and started purring when she saw Antony. It was very sweet.

In general the animals seemed OK, but he was saying there were some clear care issues like food being left out all day which could lead to bacteria and problems. Some animals were also being over-fed, he mentioned. It was interesting and sad to hear his perspective and story and history of the (prior) Australian funding compared to now.

Negatives aside, it was still quite enjoyable to see some unusual and amazing animals there. Though certainly would have been more ideal to see these guys in the wild, we felt lucky to have an opportunity to see them, even if not under the most ideal of situations.

Dolphin at the Zoo
I believe this is the Red uakari Monkey
Big cat!!
Big Jaguar!
Oh, hello.
Spider Monkey!!
Hangin' out
Emo Monkey
Jaguarundi, again
Antony talking with Kev on the beach area beside the Zoo

The cats were my favourite part, of course. The Jagurundi was so unusual, a small house cat/otter/wild cat?!! He was so weird and awesome!! The Cappybaras were amazing and their usual fat/funny/piggy selves. I don't think I'd seen one since I was 3 years old on the way back from Australia. Later on we saw an Ocelot which was cute, but my favourite 2 animals were the two in a cage together, a Margay and an Oncilla cat. They were sooooooooooooooo awesome.

Beautiful big eyes :) Antony raised this Puma from when she was a baby
Follow your nose
Oncilla (Left), Margay (Right)
Oncilla and Margay
Pygmy Marmoset

Overall, I was glad we went though I had mixed feelings about the Zoo given Antony's details about it.

After the Zoo, we headed back into town. We got a frozen juice and chilled out. We then headed to the 5-star Hotel Eldorado, to try to print out our boarding passes. Anthony had mentioned they sometimes overbooked flights, so we should print out boarding passes in advance. Ohhh man what a massive rigamarole it was! There was a LAN checkin machine there, seemed like it had potential, but it was incredibly slow. We went to the computer desks there, which were a bit faster. Frank emailed his to the front desk and they printed it off. I emailed it to myself and then fwd'd to the front desk... and they didn't get it? Ugh. Back to computers, tried to re-send, and now the internet is down! Blergh. Back to the LAN checkin computer, opened my Gmail in an ancient Internet Explorer, had Acrobat on that machine (thank goodness!) and printed it out to the connected printer! Success, and only took 1 hr!! Alicia was having trouble printing hers, but got it sorted out later. Whooo whee. Sure reminds you how different technology reliability can be around the world.

After the tickets, we went back to the hostel for some journaling time, and I packed up a bit since we're leaving for Brazil tomorrow. I went to "Ari's Burger" (referred to by the guidebooks as "Gringolandia"), and got a slice of Lemon Meringue pie to bring back to the hostel. I sat and shared the pie while sitting with Alicia and two guys from Cordoba, Argentina. I asked them in a sort of English/Spanish/French combo language a few things about Buenos Aires. They had lots of nice and encouraging things to say about our upcoming portion of the trip, it was great. The chubbier and funnier one of the pair said I take "good care of myself" for age 30!! Sweet deal!!

We all then took off on Mototaxi to Casa Fitzcarraldo, the epic hotel where the famous Werner Herzog and his film crew stayed when filming the movie Fitzcarraldo in 1982. We had wanted to stay there but there was a big group there, so we settled on dinner this evening only. When we arrived though, the sign said, "Closed till May 20th"... uh oh!!!! We went in anyway and asked, "Restaurante abierto?"... is the restaurant open? "Si, si! Come this way!" they said. They were expecting us given our reservation, and as we had hoped the sign on the outside was just for potential guests of the hotel.

There was a big Pharmacology student group there, that was funny. It was so cool to check the place out, and they put us at the back away from the big student group and right by the multi-floor tree house. It was awesome. We started with some epic river fish cebiche, and I had a Camu-Camu sour which ROCKED. We didn't really have lunch, so we all shared a Chicken parilla too. It was good chicken, amazing rice and platos!!! So good.

Camu Camu drink for dinner
A huge plate of Cebiche and Yucca

We Mototaxied back to town, giving me a moment to give Alicia a little gift for her upcoming birthday! We got back to the hostel and met up with Antony, and headed over to Musmuqi, a bar that specialized in drinks made out of Amazonian plants and fruits. I got a 7 Raices Sour which was strong and weird!! But fun. Alicia's one was the worst!! Frank's was pretty terrible too. Jess made the best choice, getting a Coca Sour (tasted like green tea). Frank's "Uno de Gato Sour" (made from the "Cat's Claw" plant) was rough. It was all very strange and fun.

Musmuqi, a crazy bar in Iquitos
Our big happy group
What we really thought of the "jungle plant drinks"

One our way back to the hostel, we went by Ari's for yet another Camu-Camu ice cream. I dropped my taste spoon. I'm like a 2 year old... my ice crreaaamm!!! Back to the hostel, finished packing up and time to sleep! A really long and fun day, and also the last full day with Kev and Alicia :( I packed up pretty quick, getting everything into my big bag (just). :)

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