Writings by Deia Schlosberg
(click here to read bio)

Writings by Gregg Treinish
(click here to read bio)

Lifelong Dreams Realized
By Gregg Treinish

October 15, 2006

mummies monkeys

We began this section hiking in what is known as the richest archaeological area in Peru. We would not be disappointed. Soon after leaving town, we stumbled upon one of the usual mid week fiestas going on in a small town without much to do during the day other than dance and celebrate the birth or death of one of several dozen saints that each week is honored. Despite desperate pleas from the locals for us to stay and drink with them, we were in the town only to view Karajia and continue south. Karajia is one of several thousands of sarcofigos in the area. As the Spanish Conquistadors overthrew the Chachapoyan and Incan Empires, along with savagely killing the men themselves, they also destroyed as many of the burial chambers as they could get their hands on. Because Karajia is situated high above a cliff and all access is protected by death-defying precipices, six perfectly preserved Chachapoyan sarcofigos still remain undamaged at the site. Fully intrigued as to what we were going to encounter over the next several days we continued the trek and soon found ourselves descending into what I can only describe as the single most beautiful valley I have ever seen in my life. The greenest mountain-sides, the sun setting exactly as we were, and below, the perfectly flat, perfectly green, and perfectly untouched river valley that would have to inspire even the laziest of us. Spending the night near the valley floor, we enjoyed what was surely the most incredible views of the moon from anywhere on earth that night.

Soon the next day, we found ourselves in the one shack that exists in all of Belen sharing company, food, coca leaves, and cal with three local men who were altogether shocked that the first two gringos to chat in ten years had the decency to stop, hang out, and actually show some interest in their lives. After some long chats and a large helping of rice and some unknown type of meat, we were off to Gran Vilaya with one of the men. Wilson Tuesta Villa is a mayoral candidate who is completely enamored with the history of the area he lives in. Gran Vilaya is an area of 500 or more lost cities that is altogether undiscovered, unexcavated, and left completely as they would have been had no one ever happened upon them. We spent several hours climbing through the thick vegetation of the cloud forest and around the ruins left behind mostly by the Chachapoyans all the while listening to the incredibly interesting facts that Wilson had managed to gather in his years exploring the area. After an evening with Wilson´s sister and her family, we were off to Kuelap, the most important site in the north of Peru, which contains five times more material than the great pyramids in Egypt. Kuelap far exceeded our expectations.

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Nowhere else but Peru could be home to a site so important yet so accessible. As we began exploring the site, we soon entered the south end of the fortress which is almost completely unexcavated. Until the site closed and we had to leave, we explored the area finding ceramics, bones, potteries, and many other remnants of the several cultures that had once inhabited the area. Our brief go at becoming archaeologists would continue as we camped below the ruins at the project site where all artifacts that have been found at the site were being cleaned and organized. The sheer volume of remains was outrageous, boxes and boxes filled vaults, rooms, porches, even in the bathroom the quality of the ancient remains was equally as impressive. We did our fair share of exploring and late the next day were on our way to Leimebamba around 40k to the south. The closer we got to town the more we began to realize that we would need to make some sort of change as Deia´s feet and knees have been giving her more trouble than anyone should have to deal with. A visit to the doctor and x-rays showed great news that the pain was not due to a fracture and that after a two week rest we could return to hiking. Now the question was how to pass the time while we rested. What better opportunity would there be to return to the Amazon jungle and this time go it afloat rather than struggling through the vegetation on land. We eventually would make our way to Yurimaguas, the furthest town East that is accessible by roads. From there we would board a boat which would take us 12 hrs along one of four main tributaries that feed into the mouth of the Amazon River itself. As the pink dolphins swam around our boat, our excitement grew incredibly quickly for what we were about to encounter over the next week. We spent the night in the home of one Roly and his family who happily furthered the constant feeling of being welcome wherever we go. The next day Roly would introduce us to Raul who along with Armondo would be our guides through the Pacaya-Samaira Nature Reserve, which is home to one of the largest diversities of life anywhere on earth. Raul is a man in his late forties who has lived and guided in the jungle for his entire life. Every bird, every tree, every sound was immediately identified for us and explained in detail; there would be plenty to identify too. We left civilization behind and began a four day dugout canoe adventure down a narrow winding river through pristine primary Amazonian Jungle. Almost right away we were exchanging comments that "this is the coolest thing I have ever done." The sounds and feel we began to experience were quickly more intense than ever in our pre-jungle lives. Around every corner we would paddle through another group of overhanging vines, around fallen trees now serving as home to spiders larger than our arms. To eat we would learn to spear fish Huasaco and others from the river, exploring the shores we would discover thousands of plants and animals. In four days we managed to see and live with Howler Monkeys, Black Monkeys, Squirrel Monkeys, White Monkeys, Pichico Monkeys, Sloth or Perisoso, Crocodiles, Toucans, Macaws, Giant River Otter, a rare white toad, Anaconda, Piranha, Birthing River Tortoises, several other snakes, Pink and Grey Dolphins--yes, that is right, fresh water dolphins, Vampire Bats, Nutria, Electric Eel, Insects that only our pictures can describe, and more bird varieties than exist anywhere else on earth. The opportunity to visit what is possibly the richest, and most valuable place on our planet is something that for me was certainly life changing. For myself and I am sure many many others, a visit to the Amazon has been a life-long dream. To actually be there floating the muddy waters, hearing the forests that contain more life than I could have ever dreamed of, feeling the humidity in the air, all overwhelmingly added to a very very deep appreciation for the opportunities that Deia and I are fortunate enough to have. Often while paddling the river many important people in my life would come to mind. More and more I am appreciating those people and how they have contributed to my life. The ability to follow my dreams is something that could not happen without the endless support that we have been given. Thanks to those of you who know who you are. Additionally, an appreciation for the necessity to preserve our resources was constantly on my mind. I have hiked a long way in my young life, and spent more time in nature than most will in a lifetime. If I added everything living that I have seen in all those miles, it would equal less than one fifth of the life I encountered in the Amazon Basin. Even more important than the numbers is the value of the useful plants in the jungle. Medicines and tools that we as a people have not even explored, let alone discovered, exist around every corner in every root, bark, and leaf. Far too quickly, and believe me the evidence here is apparent, the borders of the jungle are encroaching. In and out of the reserve, poachers and loggers destroy what isn´t only theirs, and do so merely for profit. On the boat ride back to Yurimaguaus I tried to free three very large and endangered turtles illegally poached from the reserve. They were quickly taken and hidden for the rest of the voyage probably to be sold for meat in town. The knowledge that is to be found in the jungle is something that we cannot afford to loose. Seeing this first-hand completely makes this statement real and true. Please think more about your impact on the environment. Though most of you are far away from any tropical forests, your impact is felt worldwide, your example is followed worldwide.

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Despite never seeing the extremely rare tiger we had hoped to, we have now returned completely refreshed and excited to where our hike last left off. We are feeling strong and more than ready to explore the mountains to our south.