The Andes vs. The Amazon

From the coastal metropolis of Lima to the majestic Andes and the adventurous Amazon, going to Peru feels like you visited three different countries in one vacation. Upon my return when I told friends about my trip,  the most common question I was asked was, “What was your favourite part?” to which my politically correct answer usually was, “I loved every bit of it, even when I got sick in Cusco.” But, that got me thinking it wouldn’t be a bad idea to compare the highlights from the trip to discover what my favourite part was (and it would probably help me plan future trips, no?)

The biggest problem in conducting that exercise? You can’t really compare all the unique elements of Peru; it’s almost like comparing Asia and Europe. In fact, packing for Peru felt like packing for a trip around the world – I had to make sure I had warm sweaters, windbreakers, hiking boots and thick socks, while also stuffing my bathing suit, sweat absorbing T-shirts and flip-flops into my backpack. I had to stock up on a supply of both altitude sickness pills and bug repellent (Alas! Despite all those layers of bug spray, they still got me!)

I narrowed down my favourites to two exotic regions of Peru – the Andes and the Amazon – and compared them based on completely random categories. Here’s what I came up with… Continue reading

A Native Tune

After soaking up three days of Panamanian city life, culture, food and vibe, it was a great experience to drive an hour out of the city (on a very rough road) to enter the Chagres National Park. This preserved area is crucial for Panamanian economy because it supplies 80 per cent of water needed for the Panama Canal to function.

Not to mention, it attracts hoards of tourists. Like us.

Mom, Dad and I piled into a motorized canoe with two other families and started gliding down the Chagres River. A small ride lead us to Lake Alajuela. Settled on a dam at this lake is the indigenous community of the Embera people.

Fellow travel junkies and The Amazing Race fans might recall this village tribe from season 19’s semi final. If you were too busy rooting for the snowboarders (like myself) and missed out on some information, here is a little bit of a background: The Embera people are originally from the Darien province neighbouring the northern border or Columbia. Due to guerrilla wars and drug trafficking, that area started becoming dangerous for the Embera families so they relocated to the Chagres River in 1975.

Not only did this new location give the Emberas a more secure home, but also gave them more accessibility to medical facilities located just an hour away in Panama City.

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