Posts Tagged ‘backpacker’

The art of traveling in the Amazon with a hammock

By Campbell Plowden (cplowden@amazonecology.org); special report for the Pariwana Hostel Blog

Backpackers who want the adventure of traveling through the Amazon have two basic options for sleeping when going beyond hostels with beds – a tent or a hammock.  Many rural people and backpackers (mochileros) in Peru bring a tent or squared-off mosquito net with them to sleep when they’re on the move.  Tents give you some privacy to change and a place to keep your pack out of sight.  They should be lightweight, have a built-in mosquito net, and freestanding (you’ll often need to put it up on a wooden floor where it’s not possible to put in stakes).

Backpacker and reearcher Angel Raygada sleeping in mosquito net enclosure. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Backpacker and reearcher Angel Raygada sleeping in mosquito net enclosure. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

I prefer using a hammock over a tent – perhaps because I slept in one for a few years when I lived in a native village in Brazil.  One major advantage of a hammock is that it is essential to have one for long trips on “lanchas.”  These are the boats that carry dozens to hundreds of people to and from Iquitos and towns along the Amazon and major tributaries. Check out “Travel trips for boat travel in the Peruvian Amazon – Part 1: Large Lanchas” for ways to get around on these large boats. Relaxing in a swaying hammock is also a lot more comfortable than sitting on a hard bench for a full day in one of the smaller community lanchas (See Travel tips for “colectivos” for more about getting around on these smaller boats).

Backpacker videographer Greg Harriott sleeping in jungle hammock. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Backpacker videographer Greg Harriott sleeping in jungle hammock. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

There are three basic types of hammocks – nylon travel hammocks, “jungle” hammocks, and cloth hammocks.  The first kind is the lightest and relatively cheap. It’s fine for a nap but not so comfortable to sleep in for long stretches. Jungle hammocks have built in mosquito netting and tend to more spacious and a bit more comfortable than the simple nylon models. Some are also partially or completely waterproof. These models are good choices for camping in the jungle and usually need to be purchased at specialty camping stores or online.

Huitoto native woman sleeping in hammock with baby. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Huitoto native woman sleeping in hammock with baby. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Cotton hammocks come in a variety of sizes. They are bulkier than ones made of synthetic materials, but they are the most comfortable. They are also warmer – a nice asset in chilly nights in the Amazon. These are good choices for backpackers traveling on boats and sleeping in rural homes – less appropriate for camping in the forest. The best quality cloth hammocks are made in Brazil, but all types can be bought in Peru. Choose your hammock well because it will be your refuge for three days going by lancha from Iquitos to Santa Rosa (Peruvian town at the border with Brazilian), four days going from Yurimaguas to Iquitos, and five days going from Iquitos to Pucallpa.

Backpacker journalist Natalya Stanko playing with kids in a Bora native village.  Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Backpacker journalist Natalya Stanko playing with kids in a Bora native village. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Here are some tips for setting up your hammock. No matter what kind of model you get, tie four to six feet of chord, rope, or flat strips of strong fabric (called “pretina” in Peru) to the loop on both ends of the hammock. I use nylon rope that is a third to half-inch wide. Thin chords are lightweight, but they can become almost impossible to untie if the knots have borne the full weight of someone lying in a hammock for hours. Wrap or tie these chords to opposing metal beams or wooden rafters so the middle of the hammock hangs about two to two and a half feet below the ends. A timber hitch is a great knot for this because provides a secure attachment and is easily undone. On “lanchas” be sure to tie your ropes to beam above the plastic drapes so you won’t have to retie your hammock when these are let down during the night and heavy rain. If you’re not clever with knots and seem to be struggling, a Peruvian neighbor traveler will likely offer to help you.

Hammocks on large lancha at night. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Hammocks on large lancha at night. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

When your hammock is in place, push down on it hard and then gradually sit it in to see if your knots hold fast. Crashing down on your butt can be painful (although funny if it happens in slow motion). Then get in to test it lying down. You should be able to stretch out your full body lying diagonally. This position will allow you to keep your back somewhat straight and prevent back ache. Adjust the height and length of your hanging ropes if needed to get your hammock as comfortable as possible.

Hammocks on lancha Sofy at night. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Hammocks on lancha Sofy at night. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Space is a premium on the hammock decks of crowded lanchas. If you want to sleep next to a fellow backpacker, put your hammocks right next to each other or someone is likely to squeeze in between you. Lie down with your head toward the middle of the boat because it’s hard for people to avoid knocking into you as they walk along the side next to the benches. You can bonk your head less and let your fellow passengers sleep more if you can master the up and down slalom ducking between hammock ropes going to the bathroom or snack bar. It’s important to have a mosquito net covering your hammock when sleeping on land or a boat in port around sunrise or sunset. This isn’t buy cialis super active online so necessary on moving boats that have a nice breeze blowing through them. Having a mosquitero on a lancha, though, does give you some extra privacy and room to keep small valuables near you.

Enjoy the experience of gently swaying in a comfortable hammock on a boat trip bound for adventure in the Amazon. You may sleep as soundly as a baby.

Baby sleeping in hammock at Jenaro Herrera. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Baby sleeping in hammock at Jenaro Herrera. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

When you pass through Iquitos, you can find other backpackers at more than a dozen hostels and inexpensive hotels near the Plaza de Armas. A few popular ones are La Pascana, Mad Mick’s Bunkhouse and Trading Post and the local branch of the Flying Dog Hostel. My favorite place to have a drink, enjoy the only green Thai curry in Iquitos, hear about people’s favorite ayahuasca shaman and have an occasional game of chess with the owner is the Karma Café on Calle Napo 138.

Check out other articles in this series:
Travel trips for boat travel in the Peruvian Amazon – Part 1: Large lanchas
Travel trips for boat travel in the Peruvian Amazon – Part 2: Rapidos (speed boats)
Travel trips for boat travel in the Peruvian Amazon – Part 3: Colectivos (community lanchas)

Campbell Plowden is the Executive Director of the Center for Amazon Community Ecology, a non-profit organization that promotes forest conservation and sustainable livelihoods for traditional communities in the Peruvian Amazon. He regularly stays at the Pariwana Hostel when he passes through Lima. See his regular blog Campbell’s Amazon Journal. Visit or join the CACE group on Facebook.payday loans in fresno california payday loans in longmont co

Avoiding dangerous situations and scams

Peru is one of the world’s most beautiful and diverse countries.  With plentiful ruins from nearly a half-dozen ancient cultures, four distinct climate zones, and a number of gorgeous modern and colonial cities, one could spend a long time exploring all the country has to offer.

Another reason that so many tourists flock to Peru is its relative safety, but all places have their dangers, and a few tips on how to avoid some of the more common problems encountered by foreigners while traveling in the country can take you a long way (and isn’t that what we’re all after) and make sure you have your health, and your wallet, with you throughout.

One of the best ways to protect your money is to figure out a budget for the day before you leave your hostel, and not carry more in cash and credit cards than you need.  Having a safe hostel to store your things is essential to leaving things behind, and hopefully you can leave your credit cards locked up behind the front desk and not carry them with you.   A little extra money on top of your planned budget, for impulse buys, is not a bad idea, but carrying all your cards and lots of cash can put you in a vulnerable position to start out.

Once you know your budget withdraw cash from a safe ATM before you leave the area of your hostel.  ATMs attached to major bank buildings are usually a better bet than street corner, store or market machines, which are more prone to modifications that allow criminals to steal your card and pin information.  If you must use a less reputable ATM, something as simple as covering the keypad with one hand while you enter your PIN, in order to block the numbers from a possible hidden camera, can be enough to prevent the theft of your information, but such an activity will not save you from robberies that can occur after leaving ATMs, often committed by criminals watching the spot for an opportunity.  Ensuring that you have changed any money to local currency before you leave to explore the cities hidden treasures will ensure you don’t fall victim to similar wait-and-follow schemes with that form of cash access-and secure money changing businesses in buildings usually offer better exchange rates anyway.

The People You Meet

                Pariwana Cusco is an enormous hostel. It serves as a veritable crossroads for travelers of all types to meet. Not only do you run into compadres from back home, but you’re also exposed to particularly amazing travel experiences. I’ve met my fair share of travelers coming through the Pariwana, and I can say that the stories I’ve heard have inspired me viagra online canadian pharmacy to shift the way I go about traveling. There are so many ways to have an adventure worth not only the money you spend, but the time you invest.

Of all the travelers I’ve met, it’s hard to single out any one to show you what I mean when I say that the diversity of journeys is impressive. From bicyclists to motorbikers, busers to hitchhikers, car drivers to walkers; there seems to be an enormous drove of travelers aching for originality. I can tell you about a few of the backpackers I met coming through Pariwana in Cusco.

As an American, I always believed that a month of travel was a heck of a lot of time; I was wrong. I remember when I first met someone traveling for over 4 months; Jean-Luc from France. His backpack was of the Quechua brand, and it looked worn. He’d been travelling for 4 months on a curtailing journey through Bolivia and Peru. He back in La Paz, and visited the giant Salar de Uyuni. From there he made his way to Lago de Titicaca, and onwards to Cusco. In 4 months! I would’ve thought that 2 weeks would be sufficient!

So, I was even more surprised when I met Beth from Canada. She’d been bussing for upwards of 8 months through all of South America. Now, I can safely say that I was flabbergasted by her stories of Patagonian landscapes, Tango dancing, Bolivian Mines, Chilean soccer matches and Peruvian llama treks. My ideas for travel quickly widened after I met her.

However, of all the backpackers that I met coming through Pariwana, the most interesting one was Peter from Arizona. He’d been thumbing his way around the world for upwards of 2 years! He’d made his way from Europe down into the great African continent, and hitched a boat from South Africa to Ushuaia in southern Patagonia. This man truly inspired me to consider alternative ways of travel.

All these travelers, these adventurous backpackers that I’d met; I met in my sedentary position in Pariwana’s constantly changing environment.

Getting to Machu Pichu by Road and Foot

Traveling to Peru should probably entail a visit to Peru’s and one of South America’s most visited sites, Machu Pichu. Cusco lies about 10 hours by road and foot from the bridges that cross the river to the base of the site’s mountain. You can opt to take a train from Cusco, or even from Ollantaytambo after

Trail Cusco Camino Inca

having seen all the sites the Sacred Valley has to offer, however, there’s another way to go about it.

Pariwana Cusco staff can fill you in on all the details, but read this and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect. Let’s assume you want to go straight to Machu Pichu from the hostel by bus. The adventure will begin with an early morning wake-up call.

Pack only the essentials into your small pack, and leave your big one in Pariwana’s storage (otherwise just leave the un-essentials in a plastic bag and take your big back with you). You have a number of options. You can take a direct bus that should last around 7 hours that brings you from Cusco to Santa Maria, the last town on the paved road. Otherwise, you can take a combi (minivan) to Pisaq or Urubamba if you’d like to cut your journey in half.

There are plenty of hostels and places to camp in both of those towns, so your journey may still be a comfortable one! Anyway, the 7 hour bus ends in the small town of Santa Maria. Once there, you’ll be bombarded with taxi drivers crying out “Santa Teresa!” Santa Teresa is the last town before Machu Pichu. It costs 10 sols per person to get from Santa Maria to Santa Teresa in taxi. If you’re with a larger group, you can negotiate the per person price down. Otherwise, municipal pick-up trucks sometimes do the short journey and charge 5 sols a head.

Once at Santa Teresa, you can continue in the taxi for an additional 5 sols per person to the hydroelectrica, which is the hydro-power plant at the end of the road. Otherwise, you can walk the two hours to the plant.

Subiendo - Trekking

Trekking Subiendo

From the hydroelectrica, you’ll depart on a 2 hour walk to reach the entrance to Machu Pichu. You’ll follow the train tracks the whole way, and it’s a beautiful walk. If you go during the night, you’ll enjoy the moonlit views viagra online pharmacy all to yourself, as most are fearful of a night trek. It’s best to go in groups.

Once at the entrance to Machu Pichu, you can opt to continue 20-30 minutes on the railway or on the road to Aguas Calientes, where you’ll find hostels and other accommodation. Nearby the entrance to the ruins, however, you can choose to camp and be among the first arrivals.

A backpacker’s heaven, Machu Pichu will challenge your leg muscles, but the reward is an adventure worthy of lifelong memory!

Awakening to Peru

                 Peru is an immense country of diverse culture, gastronomy, and people. You simply can’t satisfy yourself completely unless you somehow figure out how to see the entire nation. You’ve got the endless ocean and various types of beaches all along the coast, the land climbing up into the alpine world of the Andes Mountains, then sinking down into the sweltering rainforest of the Amazon. Basically, it’s a backpacker’s paradise.
          From the moment you enter the country, you’re struck with a sort of romantic tingly feeling, which doesn’t leave you throughout the entire time you’re there. Going from one hostel to the next, a good backpacker looks to try everything and anything in terms of food and challenges. And boy does Peru have enough wonders to keep your imagination rolling!
          Every morning, whether staying in a nice hostel bed or sleeping in a convenient tent, you’ll wake and throw your backpack over your shoulder, taking in a breath of fresh air to get underway. And cheap price viagra what better way to see the world of Peru than on its streamlined bus network, flowing over green or brown hills of the altiplano, perhaps even on the highly-rated Cruz del Sur company coaches.
          The adventure begins, pack on the back, Quechua and Spanish phrasebook at the ready, and a big sack of mini mandarins or fried corn kernels swinging at your hip. The journey will eventually lead to the wondrous city of Cuzco, where nearby you’ll scale Machu Pichu, but not before passing through awesome Peruvian cities like Trujillo, Pucallpa, Tarma, Lima, Ica and Arequipa.
          Whether you entered from Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile or Colombia, you will be happy to follow the track of these writings, which describe snippets from a journey throughout the entire Peruvian nation. Jungle, mountain and coast combine to present travellers with the best of the ancient American culture.