Peru

A Continental Cuisine Series

Peru Journal

Part 2

Electricity goes off from 11pm til 5 in the morning, it’s the jungle.
I am woken at 5 with the distant thrum of the generator stating up, its pitch black and I switch on my flashlight, and all is still. I did sleep really well, but as Chris reminds me, it’s been 42 hours since we slept.
10 minutes later we are up, packed and ready to go and we meet our guide for the day Moses. We packed as we were moving on to another lodge later. After a quick breakfast and we are off on the boat again 2 miles up river for a 3k walk in the jungle Tambopata Lake. The air is misty and quite cool, but muggy.

The reason for getting up so early was so we could walk in the relative cool, it gets very hot and humid so all treks and trips are done in the mornings. We check in to the ranger and set off. Moses explains that the lake is a national park, and fully protected. Wildlife is everywhere as we film various pieces to camera, Cappucin Monkeys, Parakeets, Macaws and various spiders overrun the place. We finally get to a boat station and jump onto another long canoe. Alan steers us through the jungle then out onto the lake. Sunshine hits us, its now very warm.

We paddle around the beautiful lake surrounded by jungle and see small Cayman, a sort of alligator, numerous birds, piranha surface all over the place. We film some more passing shots and decide its getting too hot and paddle back into the jungle, instantly its cooler and a lot more comfortable.
We gently paddle back to the station and walk back to the main river, by now I’m tired, hot and very sweaty.
After the boat ride we arrive at the Reserva Amazonica, a beautiful jungle retreat. It’s stunning, with fully palmed reception, main dining room and bar and some 40 stunning small rooms set in the jungle. We again are given chilled towels and a passion fruit juice.

We check in and see our rooms, they are lovely, open air and showers with crisp clean linen, mozzy nets and yes that whistle.
We all meet up for a lovely lunch that included beef kebabs, mashed potatoes with olives topped with avocado. Sweet potatoes and that lovely fat white corn, I love it. Fresh fruit and coffee to finish off, all served by Jimmy, our server.
Full and relaxed its not long before we are off again, this time on a 5 minute boat ride to the canopy walk complete with hundred foot high tree house complete with beds and toilet, now that’s cool.
Sam cameraman is scared of heights mmmmm oh dear, we finally get all the shots we need and its good fun.
Back to my room for a quick dose, next thing I know its 7 o’clock and dark. I jump out of my mozzy net and chuck on some damp clothes, it’s so close.

I meet the guys and we have a Pisco Sour, I’m getting used to this. Dinner is surprisingly good considering where we are. I eat a Ceviche of local fish, very sharp for my taste, but lovely fresh fish. The other starter of Fava soup (dried bean) is a let down, thin and tasteless. Steamed chicken with eggs and rice in banana leaves is good, fragrant and filling. Desert is a Dulce de Leche tart with Brazil nuts its okay. A sort of caramel condensed milk cake, with chopped Brazils (Peru is the 4th largest producer of Brazil nuts in the world, they even use the spent shells in the jungle for their jungle tracks like gravel)
Again, no electricity ‘til 5, the sounds of the jungle are amazing, and I’m fascinated by it. I wake early and get some pictures of the rising sun over the swollen river.

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Breakfast is okay, scrambled eggs and a thick coffee; we set off the jungle farm that supplies the resort with fresh fruit and vegetables. It's a far cry from any farm I have been on. We see small sweet bananas drying in the sun, papaya, starfruit and tree tomatoes are everywhere. We film avocados, bananas, and cocoa pods and wild strong, spikey coriander before getting the boat to film up river with a local family tribe.

As we arrive, the family, all three generations are waving to us, dressed in tribal ware and faces painted. We all greet each other and they show us to their camp. It’s a semi-flattened area of banana trees and bush. Moses tells us that they are very happy for us to be here and that the men have to paint the faces of the men, and Janice is painted by the females. We are taken through a few local rituals of singing, playing homemade instruments and making fire. They even have a spinning top competition, its fun. Then I have to dance with them, I’m sure they are having a laugh with me, but its quite moving. They introduce me to their pet monkey who is tied up to a tree. I keep my distance, it will bite me Moses explains. They feed him baby bananas. I ask why he is tied up, they explain he will run off and cause havoc in the house.
We say our goodbyes and film them waving, and back to the Reserva for lunch. Its good with chicken bites with dipping sauce, beef stir fry with potatoes and salad, all finished off with fresh fruit.

The plan for the afternoon was to film with Antonio the food and beverage manager showing off some of the hotels famous dishes. We then went into the jungle to film a short sequence. Moses explains that the jungle is a dangerous place and points to a small hole in the ground. This he explains is the hole of a Chicken Spider; it will kill you he blithely explains. He strips a long piece of grass and chews the end. He then gently places the grass into the hole, and tapping the edge. Within 10 seconds he takes a pace back, and slowly a huge, hairy spider appears, it’s bigger than my hand. It creeps out attacking the end of the grass, I’m taken aback. As quickly as it appeared it was back in the safety of its burrow, wow. Its name comes from the fact it will eat a variety of things at night, but especially baby chicks. We walk on and Sam nearly walks into another large spider in a web. Thankfully its one that will not kill you, but still will put you in hospital for a day or two Moses explains helpfully.
The afternoon is moving on quickly, its really humid and we still have to do our cooking slot for the film. Antonio is organizing the cooking station on a low sand bank on the river, some 10 minutes away. I’m going to be preparing my version of the Peruvian classic Ceviche. So that’s a fresh fish marinated in lime or lemon juice, with some raw red onion. There are many variations on this theme. I plump for a version that includes garlic, ginger and jungle passionfruit juice. The passionfruit I tasted on the farm was sweeter and a softer that any I have ever tasted before.

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We set up and film with the sun setting and with the jungle in the background, its perfect. Well I thought so, the crew got bitten alive, we had a quick beer and went back to the Reserva for a cool shower.

My other new friend turned up with a Piranha for us to cook with, sadly it was a bit late, and so we had it for dinner. It has an acquired taste, put it that way.

We are up early the next day to film a quick sequence of fillers, so me in a hammock, in my towel, entering and leaving the room etc. etc. After breakfast, we start the long trip to the Sacred Valley. First we take the long boat for 1 hour up river the way we had arrived a few days earlier. Off we get and take the open truck to the airport.
The flight from Peurto Maldonara back to Cusco takes no time at all. We land and get all the gear together. We are to be staying at the Casa Andina Private Collection Hotel. We have a good lunch all washed down with koka tea. We film in the square and in the streets finally arriving at La Chomba a famous local restaurant. It’s been here for many years and specializes in all local foods including a famous fried pork dish with red onions, large white corn and large boiled potatoes. Its lovely, but huge, I can only eat a third of it. We film a local band that spark up in the restaurant complete with pipes and drum. I’m surprised they can stand up, let alone play instruments and sing, they are half cut.

The next table are tucking into what looks like a squashed chicken. After a quick conversation its turns out to be Guinea Pig, complete with curled up toes and head. It’s a speciality here and eaten at festivals and celebrations. More on this later.
We finish filming and then set off to find a bar to try the local speciality drink the Mojito at a bar called Angolitos and bar owner Walter. Trip advisor reckon it’s the best Mojito in the universe!! It was good, but I’m knackered and its very cold here, a far cry from the jungle. When we get back to the hotel the outside temperature is only 4C, what a contrast from the jungle. I sleep badly, headache and full stomach, not good.

 

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