Category Archives: peru travel

Llama Expeditions: Giving the Gift of a Llama Through Heifer International This Holiday Season

Llama Expeditions
Llama Expeditions

I’ve been trying to figure out what to get my friends and family this holiday and what better way to say “I love you” than with a llama? Enter: Andean trekking specialist Llama Expeditions who are inviting kindhearted adventure travelers to join owner Diane Valenti in gifting a llama to a deserving Peruvian family this holiday season.

Llama Expeditions offers a range of guided tours through Peru, from sightseeing and surfing to multi-day hikes along the Inca Trail. In addition to taking in the stunning scenery and experiencing true adventure, these tours also allow travelers to make a personal connection to the country and its people. Entrepreneur and outdoorswoman Diane Valenti hatched the idea for her company in 2008 over a home-cooked chicken dinner at close to 14,000 feet in the Peruvian Andes. She has been able to apply her over 20 years as a business consultant working with clients such as Genentech, Nike, and Starbucks Coffee Company to her enterprise that goes beyond just ordinary tourism. Offering full cultural immersion to give guests the opportunity to see how Peruvians live—to talk with them about their dreams and accomplishments and to learn about the challenges they face – are woven into the itinerary. In addition, participants also texperience the difference gifts of healthy food, school supplies, clothing, or sunglasses can make in the lives of some of the world’s poorest people.

Llamas along the Inca Trail
Llamas along the Inca Trail

The donation, valued at $150 per animal, is made possible through Heifer International, the organization that empowers people by providing animals that can make a difference in their livelihoods.

“To make the trek with llamas, the camel-like beasts of burden of the Incas, is to follow in the traditional steps of a great civilization in a way that leaves minimal impact on the land and a positive effect on a local family’s income,” says Llama Expeditions founder Diane Valenti.

The company is encouraging others to think about that person on their list that already has everything and to honor them with a gift of a llama ($150) or shares of a llama (at $20 per share) in their name this holiday.

To donate please go to:

Llamas help bring sustenance to families who care for them, providing transportation, rental income and wool for blankets, ponchos, carpets and rope. This year’s Heifer International catalog tells the story of a couple who now have a herd of 60 alpacas from their starter two. Each animal provides four pounds of wool, the proceeds of which are helping to educate the couple’s children.

How does this relate to Llama Expeditions? “The company fills the spot between responsible tourism and voluntourism,” said Valenti.  “This is a real vacation for people who work hard and want a chance to relax. But it’s also a chance for culturally curious travelers to make a meaningful connection with the people and the land of Peru.” Guests are encouraged to “pay-it-forward” by contributing to a variety of local community development organizations.


One Luxury Amazon River Cruise in Peru You Can’t Miss

Aria - Peru

Meet my latest obsession: Aqua Expeditions. With the Aria and the Aqua, they’re the first luxury cruises to sail along the Amazon. You’ll experience the Amazon River’s three powerful tributaries in modern sleek style: the Marañón, the Ucayali, and the Puinahua as well as several hidden black water lakes. Combine this cruise with a pre or post-cruise Peru tour of Machu Picchu, Lima and Cusco and you have the makings of an unforgettable Peru luxury vacation.

A Room Aboard the Aria Overlooking the Amazon

Here’s a little sample of what you’ll see and do:

  • Arrival to Iquitos, transfer to Dock and Check-in
  • Iguana Isles and Piranha Fishing
  • Dolphin, Birds and Monkey Expedition
  • Magdalena Village or Yanallpa Flooded Forest
  • Pink Dolphins; Macaws at Sunset
  • Amazon Source, Village / 3 Nighters Depart
  • Forest of Mirrors / 4 Nighters Arrive
  • Nature Excursion
  • Jungle Walk, Meet the People
  • All-day Primary Forest Excursion; or Morning Rainforest Walk
  • Afternoon Caiman Expeditions
  • Breakfast with Pink Dolphins
  • Fishing Trip
  • Iquitos City, Visit Manatee Rescue Center and Departure

3-7 day cruises along the Amazon from $2800-$6300

Peru: The Amazon & Ayahuasqueros, A Voyage to the Deep

Blue Morpho: Iquitos, Peru

Some people think that wearing skulls and leather, having tattoos, and drinking to excess makes them a ‘Rockstar,’ but you know where they’re wrong? They wouldn’t tell their boss they’re taking a mental health vacation and heading to the Amazon with little more than a month’s notice. That’s where the legitimate rockstar differs from the conflict diamond wearing latte toting stand-ins. The legitimate Rockstar flies by the seat of his or her pants and worries about the boss after they worry about their mental health. That said, most of us aren’t fearless (or stupid) enough to venture alone to the Amazon and stay with the local tribe. In this case, shamans, caimans, and the Jaguar people of the Peruvian Amazon.

(c) Piers Vitebsky

Alas! Jaunt uncovered two options that we think are strictly for the cutting-edge:

Option #1: For the Shaman Ready Rockstar
Option #2: For the Luxury Eco-Loving Rockstar

I recently heard about ayahuasqueros and their icaros (sacred medicine songs). I thought to myself… I must have suddenly grown up because even I couldn’t do that, but it tugged at me… this mild fascination with the art of ritual hallucination. In fact, it sounded so heady mind-fu@king exhilarating that I had to dive in and find out more for you.

Here’s what I uncovered (after several misspelled versions of the magical plant entered into Google). If you feel like heading to the Amazonian jungle, staying in thatch and wood huts (don’t worry… they’re clean and moderately bug-free), get ready to drink a scared plant with similarly-minded Ayahuasca Adventurers and check out:

The jungle surrounding the Amazonian town of Iquitos, Peru.

Blue Morpho, based in Iquitos, specializes in, can you dig it… Shamanistic Workshops! Sitting on 180 acres of privately-owned primary forest, it’s a perfect setting of serenity where you’ll go back in time and attempt to heal your wounds, expel bad vibe, and greet your inner child. Keep in mind, you have to be that uniquely brave sort of person willing to rough it in the jungle and drink a hallucinogenic plant to find yourself. You’ll vomit and gag… potentially lose your mind, but hey, that’s life, isn’t it? It’s perfect for the lover of yoga, meditation, & tabs of LSD in the college years sort who’s all grown up with at least a few hours of pent up issues in need of a good purge. The sacred plant spirit is supposed to remove the weight of your sadness and get rid of that heavy energy or hucha.

A group of Ayahuasca Adventurers.

They say the songs of the Ayahuasqueros spontaneously come forth. These men of the jungle singing only what the plant tells them to sing, calling the plant to purge you from your past in order to find you again. Is this real Amazonian healing magic or just your imagination running wild as you drink from a trippy shrub? Hmmm… it’s certainly worth investigating. Just be cautious… and in a clear enough state of mind so you can handle whatever that glittery power plant sings to you.

Here’s a sample program:

“9 Days Shamanic Workshop and Jungle Trip” begins on a Monday morning at 10:00 A.M where you’ll depart Iquitos at 11:00 A.M. to begin an hour and a half trip to the Shamanic Center, go on a Medicinal plant walk and finish with an optional Camalonga Dream Journey. The Camalonga Dream Journey requires an evening fast where you drink Camalonga, a sacred teacher plant that guides through dream journeys.

For those wanting to stay in the Amazonian town of Iquitos, another helpful site highlights the medicinal markets, Belen Street Market, Jaguar people, Things to do, Restaurants, Hotels and how to navigate around as a gringo or gringa-rette. Apparently, hotels are negotiable and relatively pricey due to the isolated location. Iquitos can only be reached by plane. The secret is to ignore any attempt by the taxi driver to bring you to a hotel that he recommends.

If, however, you don’t want to find your content inner child or purge your demons, there’s always a more luxe way to go.

Amazonian River Boat: International Expeditions

Option #2
An Amazonian river boat trek!! Yes, International Expeditions, the world leader in nature travel, just announced a $500 per person savings ($1,000 per couple) on its February 29, 2008 10-day Amazon Voyage. Guests on this departure will travel twice as deep into the Pacaya-Samiria Reserve with an extra night on the river, going deeper into the Amazon than any other outfitter.

The per person price for the February 29 departure is $2,698 for lower deck cabins and $2,798 for upper deck cabins, including the savings. Prices include all accommodations, most meals, local transportation, guides, and group transfers. Airfare is additional, but can be booked by International Expeditions.

FYI – Back in 1980, they supported conservation projects across the globe before the word “ecotourism” was even coined, bringing some of the first leisure travelers to the heart of Peru’s Upper Amazon. Today guests explore the Peruvian wilds in comfortable style aboard an intimate 28-person riverboat (talk about Agatha Christie fun and mayhem). It’s specifically designed to sail the upper Amazon Basin, considered the most diverse ecosystem on Earth. You’ll witness the awesome panorama of a rainforest filled with more than 100 kinds of birds, pink Amazon River dolphins, eight species of monkeys, sloths, giant otters, and nocturnal animals such as caimans and capybaras. Throughout the journey, highly trained guides lecture on the complex environment in constant need of preservation.

Man, I love wildlife (and highly trained Amazon river guides).

In addition to explorations on small excursion boats for access further into the heart of the vast wetlands, you have the opportunity to visit small villages and get a glimpse into real life along the river. In case you’re not ready to purge your hucha with Shamans, of course. You can visit local schools, hand out donated supplies to children, and even assist with community projects.

What we like best?

International Expeditions is a pioneer of environmentally responsible travel, committed to preserving natural habitats and improving the welfare of the people and communities it visits.

So take your pick. Either way, I’ll think you’re Rockstar.