Into the Jungles of Peru

Vast Amazonian jungle is not always the first thing that comes to mind when people imagine Peru. However, the Peruvian Amazon covers 60% of the country and a remarkable 96% of its fresh water eventually drains into the Amazon basin.

During our last excursion to Peru we explored the land of the Incas, ventured up the highest inhabited place on earth, and ate our way through Lima, South America’s culinary capital, so we figured it was time to return to Peru and head into the jungle.

This time I had a Peruvian friend, Marissé, who was willing to accompany me on a jungle adventure. She has family in Lamas, a enchanting town in the hills near Tarapoto. So we decided to head there and make a few stops along the way.

The sweltering jungle rainforest metropolis of Tarapoto lies at the edge of the Andean foothills and the boundless jungle. The muggy streets are packed with mototaxis, three wheeled motorcycles, and stalls piled high with fresh fruit.  The locals almost sing when they speak Spanish and are exceedingly friendly.

Tarapoto is popular vacation destination for Peruvians, usually the gringos head to Iquitos.  During the 80’s Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) terrorized the Amazon jungle and the central highlands. Years of coca cultivation and trafficking followed in these regions. Thus for many years large areas in Peru were off limits to travelers, but now it  is mostly safe and the burgeoning Peruvian middle class is taking advantage of the their country’s natural wealth.

The jungle is worlds away from the chaos of dusty Lima and the breathless colonial, Andean cities. It is a land of plenty. Seemingly every plant can be eaten or used in some way.  There will always be dinner. What they lack in modern amenities they more than make up for in spirit. No trip to Peru is complete with out a journey into the jungles of Peru.