As mentioned, I recently took a trip to Peru, visiting the Amazon area, Cusco, and Machu Picchu/Aguas Calientes… follow along as I show you everything I ate on my amazing trip!
After a fairly uneventful flight from Lima to Puerto Maldonado (minus some general shadiness…), HB and I clambered aboard the boat that would take us to Tambo Jungle Lodge, our Amazon home for the next few days. Ok, we were both a bit anxious as we clambered aboard the rickety boat, but a deep breath and the hand of our extremely helpful guide Albert were all we really needed to push us on. $210 had secured us a place at the lodge for 3 days, all inclusive – pick up and drop off at the airport, and all meals etc. – we didn’t take out any money (beyond tipping our lovely guide and the lodge staff) during that time. We were picked up at the airport along with another guest who arrived on our flight, a retired professor who had been in Peru for about 3 weeks and was finishing up a month-long sojourn through the country. He became part of our little group during this part of the trip.
Since the lodge was on the river, across from Puerto Maldonado, a boat was required to take us there and pretty much everywhere during the trip. This seemed to be the common theme, though, as we passed by many other boats picking up and dropping off their own guests; all the lodges were along the Madre de Dios river.
When we arrived, we were greeted with a cold glass of chichamoradas (sp?), a purple corn, apple, and pineapple drink, which tasted like watered down grape juice to me. The weather being oppressively hot and humid, this was most welcome. We were then given about 30 minutes to settle into our bungalows and told to return to the dining hall for lunch. The above was the sight that met us when we did.
Our first course was salad, tomatoes and cucumbers, and fried yuca, dressed lightly with a bit of cheese that had been melted on top. I was a bit surprised by the choice, given that I’m not much for heavy carbs when it’s hot and humid out, but that may just be my own weird self.
Our next course continued to surprise me; stewed chicken pieces with potatoes, veggies, and a small mound of rice. Extremely tasty – HB really loved this, and I found it pretty tasty as well – but still, I wondered at such heavy, hot dishes in such warm weather. There was no air conditioning and the fans were not on (it wasn’t quite at the “you have to turn on the fans!” point), but still…
A refreshing wedge of watermelon for dessert brought a smile to my face and a bit of relief from the heat. Feeling energized and pumped and ready! we were then given another short break before heading out for a night hike through the private property of the lodge, a bit of jungle in the back, where we ‘met’ our neighbors for the next few days – giant bugs, a lot of birds, some howler monkeys – okay, we didn’t really see the howlers, but we sure heard them. After about two hours of tromping through, HB and I had had enough and decided, without any consultation from the other, that we were done with the nocturnal activities and we would no longer require this sort of hike. I was pretty scared; night fell pretty quickly in the jungle once the sun decided it was time to go down, and we had to pull out our flashlights to see the trail as we made our way back to the lodge. Eek!
We were then given another short break to wash up before dinner. That shower was, to that moment, the best shower of my life.
Dinner started off with a simple but buttery soup with carrots, potatoes, and lots of fresh cilantro. It reminded me of my chicken noodle soup, minus the chicken or the noodles; I wondered how they made it so creamy and buttery when neither ingredient appeared to be a part of the soup. My chicken noodle soup is buttery from the chicken fat, and starchy from the noodles I cook in the broth; I don’t know, but the thoughts that floated through my head as I devoured this were “Yummy!” and “I think I can make this at home… I gotta try!” It was so simple and yet so delicious.
Our main course followed shortly after; a fully cooked fried egg atop a small mound of rice, a slab of meat, some potatoes, and a simple salad. The salad consisted of marinated green beans, carrots, and a piece of delicious avocado. The egg was fully cooked, to my sadness – I love a runny yolk – but still yummy mixed with the rice and bits of the beef. I found this a tasty preparation as well and happily nommed this down; HB enjoyed it, too.
Our dessert was chichamorados pudding; it appeared to be simply our drink from earlier, with gelatin mixed in and then chilled to set. I wasn’t a big fan of the dessert, but I liked the idea that nearly anything can have gelatin added to it, then chilled to set, and be called a pudding. I will have to try that sometime with things I like! 🙂
The next morning, we woke up very early so that we could get a jump on visiting Sandoval Lake. Our breakfast started off with a hot bowl of “quinoa” – which I’ve been pronouncing all these years as “keen-wah” as Food Network told me to, but our lovely guide, Albert, told us was “kwin-oh-ah”. This was no quinoa that I’d had before; it was ground down and/or blended till smooth. I wasn’t a huge fan of the taste, but ate it obligingly since I had no way of eating anything else, really, and it was hot and soothing. Oh, did I not mention? Overnight, the weather had switched and the wind had howled; it was now freezing cold. Or just not that warm; HB and I were confused with the day before being so hot and humid, but now it was definitively chilly and damp. I guess it is winter in the Southern Hemisphere, so that makes sense… but it’s the jungle! The Amazon! Either way, now the heavy meals were starting to make sense.
Though I wasn’t too interested in the cream of quinoa, there followed a plate of eggs scrambled with a bit of ham and a smattering of cheese. There was also plenty of bread and butter on the table, of which I partook a bit. I needed fuel for our hike, afterall.
After breakfast, we piled into the boat and took a quick trip across the river to Sandoval Lake. As we hiked around the river, looking at interesting bugs, plants, animals, and trees, I snapped this shot of the deserted trail. My overactive imagination kicked into gear as I ran through all sorts of scenarios… Why were there no people around? It was so weird. We hiked around to a part where there were boats, then took boats out around the lake and looked at birds, caimans, more birds, and spotted things around. It was very peaceful and really quite amazing, despite the slightly overcast day.
At the end of our hike and boat ride, we headed back to the pick up point. Our boat was late picking us up – I think they forgot about us! – but we managed to spot some monkeys while waiting, which was cool.
We were given another short break and then it was lunch time. Our starter this time were potatoes covered in a cheese sauce – very tasty – alongside a hard boiled egg. I really enjoyed this dish and wondered what kind of cheese they used.
Our main course was a pork chop, mashed fried bananas, a bit of salad, and a community bowl of rice along with a community gravy boat of more cheese sauce. I covered everything in cheese sauce… so tasty! Simple and yet delicious.
Another wedge of watermelon capped off another lovely lunch.
After lunch, we headed to Monkey Island to seek out monkeys. I caught some really good video footage of the monkeys catching fruit from our guides, as our guides tossed pieces of fruit to them, but unfortunately, something happened to the videos and they appear to be lost forever. (I’m pretty upset about it, but at the end of the day, what can you do? So I tell myself. At least my photos are alright.) Here’s a shot of Albert handing over some fruit to a monkey.
After cruising the river looking for caimans, we headed back to the lodge for dinner. Our starter of pumpkin soup with cheese was not overly sweet – in fact, I wouldn’t have guessed pumpkin except our guide told us it was – and was perfect for this chilly night.
A bit hard to see but this was lomo saltado, a type of beef stew, along with very mashed potatoes, some rice, and all very very delicious. HB and I were both scarfing down everything around us – in fact, this part of the trip marked the first time I consistently finished my food before everyone else at the table, nearly every meal (of 4 people, HB, myself, the guide, and the retired professor on our trip). I’m not the slowest eater in my group but I’ve never been the fastest, either! It was really weird.
Our dessert appeared to be that day’s drink but in pudding form – it had been passion fruit mixed with something else. When I tried to ask to clarify, I was brushed off, but I think I asked it wrong (I compared it to the chichamoradas pudding, but I was just told it wasn’t chichamoradas). Oh well.
On our last morning, we were given something along the lines of cream of wheat, which I actually really liked. It was interesting, anyway.
A pancake followed, which made me wonder if breakfast was catered more towards Americans, since this was eaten plain and not much to it. Interesting, to say the least, but not quite delicious.
Overall, the food at Tambo Jungle Lodge was excellent. Simple, delicious, homecooked meals that really soothed and hit the spot for between hikes and walks and treks – the Sandoval Lake trek was supposedly 5+ miles, though all flat, thankfully – and I was extremely pleased that we had such a good start to our vacation. What more could you ask for? Well, here are some bonus photos – these were all taken by HB… so you can really understand and appreciate the lodge and all its charm.
View of our bungalow from the outside – note the open air top and sides; you can see right in and the wind rushes right through, though we did have our own bathroom (complete with lizard and other creature visitors).
Mosquito nets were provided to drape over our beds, though, to keep the buggers out… I felt like an Arabian princess under there, thankfully my claustrophobia stayed silent mostly.
Each room also boasted a water cooler (room temp) to fill our water bottles with safe water, which was good such that we didn’t have to bother anyone to get water every night or morning.
The dining hall, which happened to be directly across from our bungalow (#2). Also open air, which helped on the hot day, but was chilly on the cool days. Rainy season must close down the place.
Our guide, Albert, and the other guide, Hugo, were both excellent guides, extremely knowledgeable about everything around us and both fairly proficient at English (though more than happy to practice your Spanish with you, if you chose). I recommend Tambo Jungle Lodge (no website) if you find yourself booking a trip to Peru and wishing to visit the Amazon area – they really do an excellent job covering all your needs with tours, treks, hikes, meals, transportation, everything. Despite a few moments of what I perceived to be shadiness (maybe it’s normal procedure), I was extremely pleased with our overall experience. (We were unable to visit the Salt Lick [a reserve area for parrots to lick salt blocks that we heard is really cool] because of the time constraints of our trip, plus it was too windy the one morning we might have been able to do it…)