Sooo, back in Cusco for Christmas eve and day. Slept in sort of, and away Karen and I went to walk around town to see the Christmas parades. It was kind of neat, all the surrounding villages get dressed up in costumes and march around the main square. Very colorful and interesting, most seem to make fun of the Spanish, but at the same time, are deeply Catholic. We watched from a second floor coffeshop and then it began once again to rain. A Peruvian woman who said her name was Paula, latched onto us, trying to sell us some carved gourds (yes, we did buy some). Anyway, she wasn't as obnoxoius as others and we negioated what we thought was a pretty good deal; $50 for 3. They are pretty intricately carved and a nice reminder of Peru.
I managed to make it through a good part of the day, but as the group decided to continue walking about, I got too tired and went back to hotel to sleep. At this point, my breathing sound was freaking me out a bit, so I asked Karen if she could hear it. She said yes, but that it had happened to her and it was no big deal. I may be able to use that line for the rest of my life.
The group went out for dinner on Christmas day, and then out drinking and dancing. I didn't even eat dinner and laid around trying to rest and sleep. The next morning, we left for the jungle, another travel snafu as we weren't even sure when we were leaving or what we could or should bring. We landed in Puerto Maldonato in the early afternoon and were met by our jungle guides. We were bussed to their company headquarters, given some fresh fruit juice and water and then a tour of this snake rehab center. Very interesting. They also had humping turtles, a small cheeta-like cat and lots of snakes. Got to hold a boa and had my photo taken. Down at sea level, I thought I'd feel better, but not really.
We drove around Puerto Maldonato for a bit, not much to see but unfinished bridges, dirt roads, an unfinished highway, lots and lots of motorcyles and scooters and the usual unfinished buildings. We finally drove off into the wild, down dirt roads to our long boat canoe for the boat ride to the jungle encampment. The boat was about 30 feet long, and about four or five feet wide, wooden with one of those long handled motors that can be raised in shallow water. The ride was interesting, passing multiple unfinished bridges, as well as several families doing laundry in the muddy creeks. The boat ride was fine, we were fed lunch once we were underway, and the trip was pretty and interesting, but very, very long. The river was kind of high, with quite a bit of flotsam such as trees and large branches. Thankfully, we didn't see any dead animals or bodies. As the sun began to go down, we were not near the lodge, and then the trip became an adventure. One guide was in the bow with a light, shining on the stuff the captain was to miss and there was a lot of trees and large pieces of debris in the water at this time. I was slightly nervous, because although I knew I could swim, I wasn't sure if things in the water would let me!
Finally we arrived safely at the lodge. We had to climb up an embankment and walk a bit to get to the lodge, and I nearly passed out trying to walk up the slight hill. I was really getting tired of the not being able to breathe thing. The lodge was very neat and we ate a nice dinner immediately. Afterwards, we were shown to our rooms, which were partitioned off under a large roof, with two beds with mosquito netting, a hammock, and a seperate bathroom. The walls did not go up to the roof, and they were quite thin. There was a family next to us that had the loudest snores I have ever heard and all of them snored. As I struggled to sleep, I realized that it was not just the snores keeping me awake....my guts had started to roil.