Peru Homemade: Ají de Gallina

Although going out and experiencing new restaurants in Lima has been extraordinary, there is something to be said about a good old fashion homemade meal. We’ve been blessed with the option if we ever we are in need of food we are always welcome to take a 15 minute walk over to bae’s aunts’ house and we will be met with food abundant. One such day we walked over to have a family lunch and I was introduced to one of Peru’s classic meals, Ají de Gallina.

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Now if you aren’t aware of this already, one of the main attractions in Peru is the gastronomy. It has 2 restaurants in the top 10 of the world’s best restaurants. (click here for the full list. We had the opportunity to go to one that I’ll talk about next post) It’s the main reason I started this blog in the first place, I knew I was in for a treat while I was here. What I didn’t expect was for bae’s family to have one of the best chefs I’ve ever met working for them who was going to make me amazing food on a weekly basis. ( #blessed ) Isabel is a force in the kitchen and after tasting her Ají de Gallina I knew I had found my sensei for studying Peruvian cuisine.

The simplest way to describe Ají de Gallina, besides calling it perfection, is to say it’s shredded chicken (like pulled pork) that is mixed in a creamy ají amarillo sauce that’s been thickened with bread, evaporated milk, walnuts, and parmesan cheese. It is traditionally served with yellow potatoes (papas amarillas)  that are smothered in the chicken and ají sauce (as bae’s aunt told me you must completely cover the potatoes with the sauce, it’s imperative!), topped with a hard boiled egg and black olives, with a side of white rice (obvi!). So I asked Isabel to teach me her ways and I figured I would grace the rest of the world with pics of my kitchen adventure. One day we will have smell/taste-o-vision, but for now I hope these pics will suffice!

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Chef Isabel teaching us the proper ají peel

 

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Click here to look at all pics

This is seriously one of the best meals I’ve had in my entire life! The sauce is so flavorful and the shredded chicken makes the perfect match. I can’t wait to bring this recipe back to the city, it will definitely be a new staple!

Isabel you are my hero and this post is dedicated to you and all that you’ve done for us! <3<3<3

Thanks for reading!

Xoxo,
ItsSajdaa

See A Play Without Hearing It

One of the most privileged parts of growing up in New York was my proximity to Broadway. As a child nothing excited me more than buttoning up my overcoat and slipping my hands into my faux fur muff, ready for a night of theatre. (This is not a euphemism. I was like 6 or 7 when I saw my first Broadway show, don’t be gross :p)

With this in mind, while here in Lima I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see my favorite form of art within a new cultural context. So the bae and I went to see Peru’s version of Lady Day called Lucha Reyes: Sin Decirte Adiós (Lucha Reyes: Without Saying Goodbye)

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Now is probably a good time to mention that when I say I speak a little Spanish what I really mean is I can tell you my name, how old I am, and that my favorite food is french fries. That’s about it.  So I knew going into this that my experience of this play would be limited, and thus this will not be a review, but closer to a journal entry. A sharing of how I saw a play without hearing it.

The subject of the play is one of Peru’s most famous singers of the past, Lucha Reyes. Her name and voice is recognizable to almost every Peruvian. I definitely won’t be able to do her history justice in this post, but from what I know, as an Afro-Peruvian woman her journey in life was not an easy one. Born into a large family with little money and her father passing at a young age she found that singing gave her a place release herself from the burdens of her life. However, her struggle with diabetes would sadly take her life at the young age of 37. On October 31, 1973, Lucha Reyes suffered a heart attack on her way to a Mass at the Peruvian Society of Actors , for the “Día de La Canción Criolla (Day of the Creole Song)” and passed away. This is where the play begins.

We open up to a  peña (A small Peruvian bar where you would typically go to hear creole music)  where the band on stage is waiting for Lucha’s arrival and is forced to fill the time. When she finally comes on stage through a door of pure white light she explains to the audience of her death. With her iconic big hair, bright blue eyeshadow and long lashes she is both regal yet overdrawn. Someone who is trying to coverup, or overcompensate. It took me a second to catch on,  I didn’t realize at first that the play was taking place in this afterlife of sorts, (Although duh Sajda, doorway with bright white light? I should have known immediately) but as characters from her past appear from the audience and confront her it becomes very clear who these people were to her. Father, critic, husband, and child all here on this stage as a way for her to reconcile with her life and with her past. The play utilizes her songs and flashbacks to paint a picture of Lucha Reyes’s life. You see moments of love, pain, betrayl and without words you understand that this is a person who was constantly put down by the people she loved and by society. Never pretty enough, never rich enough, and too black,  but the one thing she did have was her voice. Her music and her songs were her air to breathe and the one thing in life no one could take from her. There is an extraordinary moment and the end of the play as she takes off her wig and jewelry and proclaims to the audience and to the people of her past that singing is all she has, and all she’ll ever need and begins to sing. It is both an empowering and heart breaking moment at the same time. To come face to face with such a beloved person of Peru and to see the hardships of their life I think has the ability to really illuminate that person’s humanity and gives you the opportunity to see them as truly complex being, more than an icon. The bae told me afterward that some of the dialogue used by the tv host/critic’s character was actually really harsh and abrasive, exemplary of the racism of the time. (That character was also based off of a real  Peruvian tv host Augusto Ferrando, so it’s possible that some of his dialogue might have actually been things he said)  Bae mentioned that it might be shocking, especially for an older audience who may have felt or spoken in that way, to come to terms with their own past behavior, which I think is pretty daring.

It was actually quite amazing to see a play without understand the words, because it allowed me to focus on the emotion of the piece. I was able to follow along in the story just with body language, lighting, and vocal intonations. I think almost every theatre maker should do the same. It really shows you how to make the heart of your piece really stand out, and to make your work about more than just what’s being said. I mean theatre is a visual medium after all.

Thanks for reading!

Xoxo,
ItsSajdaa

Cusco, I Love You

I have to repeat myself here and say I don’t think I’ve ever been to a place as magical as Cusco. You are in a bustling little city while surrounded by lush mountains everywhere you look. It’s breath taking. They almost look like someone threw a green velvet blanket over them, they’re picture perfect.

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Although we were only there for a few days we definitely made the most of it!  Tours of ruins, alpaca textile factories, and you know a casual cleansing from a shaman.

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Click here for more pics

Other than the landscape I’ve was also captivated by some really incredible food during my stay in Cusco. Here are my favorite spots!

Cholos

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It’s a perfect little hidden beer garden! Definitely the type of place you could see opening up in Astoria. (Queens if you’re not familiar with NYC hoods)  A wonderful beer selection and dynamite drinking food.  This is a perfect place to just grab a beer and chill.

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Turkey sandwich and fries! OH yeahhhhh

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Classic cheeseburger and fries

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Anywhere cute pups will just come up to your table is a the place for me!

L’atelier

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This cute little gem may be a steep climb away, but it is well worth it. Little trinkets everywhere, gorgeous views, and a pot of Mate de Coca for something like 7 soles, I was sold!

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La Feria

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Located in the main plaza in Cusco center, this popular spot came as a recommendation that did not disappoint. The menu full of Peruvian classics, you can’t go wrong.

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Egg soufflé on top of thinly sliced potatoes in a cream sauce. Almost like a potato gratin. Yummo!

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Lomo Saltado  with a fried egg! Yass hunty!! The steak was so tender I could die!

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The pièce de résistance was my CHICHARRON BABY!!!! Who doesn’t want fried pork all day everyday? Well, I guess vegetarians and vegans, but they have kale so good for them.

Eusebi & Manolo Cafe

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This quaint little coffee shop was a life saver on Labor Day! Mama needs her cappuccino’s and bae needs his hierba luis tea! I spied on the couple next to us that had the waffles and DAMNN they looked good! I wish I snagged a pic, but that would have been awkward.
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La Bodega 138

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We hit this spot at just the right time, boy can it get crowded after 8pm! It’s because they have a brilliant drink selection and…IMG_5392.jpg

PIZZA!!!! So yes I already had pizza in Peru before this, but it was sad and disappointing, but this? This was perfection! And with a little Peruvian flare we got the pie with arugula, prosciutto and aguaymanto. Aguaymanto is known in the states as “goldenberry” or “Cape gooseberry”.   It’s like a sweet and tart cherry tomato. Here’s a closer look at this beaut of a pizza

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The atmosphere of this place is certainly why it’s also so popular, look at these poster they have up

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I mean really, these are literally my life mantras on the wall.

La Osteria

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This was also a wonderful hidden gem. A fusion of classic Peruvian flavors and Italian cuisine. Just really comforting pastas and wines.

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Your classic Bolognese with house-made pasta

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Bae’s favorite, Ossobuco with a pasta and pink sauce side. I’m not a hug fan of bone marrow, but I appreciate the artistry.

 

Cocoliso

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Now my blog may say coffee and fries, but as someone who has worked in many a tea shop, I am also a big fan of teas, especially chai and I was blown away by this place which is located in the same little nook as La Osteria.

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Like L’atelier there were trinkets and things, but what was brillant about this place was not only how tranquil and relaxing it was to just sit here and enjoy some tea, but also that the shop is both a cafe and a high end alpaca clothing boutique. The designs in the place were out of this world. It look a lot of effort to not buy anything. (Not for lack of need or desire, but for lack of space in the backpack I had brought with me) I could really see myself spending so many evenings and afternoons in this space. It was the most comforting moments of my entire time in Cusco.

 

I really do have a love affair with this city, and I could absolutely see myself spending a lot more time there, but for now Chao Cusco! It’s been real!

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Thanks for reading!

Xoxo,
ItsSajdaa

 

 

Machu Picchu

If you follow my Instagram you may have caught some pics of my recent getaway to Cusco! It’s one of the most enchanting parts of Peru I’ve been to. I’m determined to retire there and open up an actors yoga studio/retreat! Of course while being there I had to see Peru’s most touristic destination, Machu Picchu, and boy did it not disappoint!

DSC_0198.jpgIt’s just an incredible place. To be surrounded with all that history and ingenuity, I felt in awe of both nature and humanity.

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Click Here for more pics!

Now if you’re planning your own trip and you don’t intend on doing the Inka Trail (which lol me “roughing it” for 4 days, no thank you, but to each their own) Then I would suggest planning at least 4 days for the trip. Here are my suggestions for the best Machu Picchu adventure.

Pre-plan!!! Do not go to Cusco and just wing it. Getting to and from Machu Picchu is not an easy task. Have 2 hotels/airbnb’s booked. One for your first 2 nights near the PeruRail which is the train to Machu Picchu and the other in Cusco center for your other nights.  Make sure you have your Machu Picchu tour tickets booked before you arrive. This means buying both the tour ticket (which should include a bus ride up the mountain) and also buy your PeruRail tickets from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu. You will also probably want to invest in a tour guide since the site is ginormous and lots of important features could be missed. Also pack altitude sickness pills just in case. Machu Picchu is actually less above sea-level than Cusco so you should be fine there, but it’s no fun feeling like your brain is going to explode, so having them on hand is always a plus!

Day 1- Arrive in Cusco. If you have a lot of luggage or heavy bags take a car to your first hotel straight from the airport or if you only have a backpack and want a little traveling break go to the city center and grab a Mate de Coca to help with any altitude sickness. The drive to anywhere near PeruRail is going to take anywhere from two and a half to three hours so I would aim to be at your hotel at least by dinner time. So take that into account when picking flights. Talk to your hotel front desk to make sure all is set for your morning travel to Cusco. Inquire before hand if they can print out your bus and train tickets, if not make sure to have those with you before you go. Get a good night’s rest before traveling to Machu Picchu the next day.

Day 2- I thinking the morning tour is probably your best bet. We caught our train around 8:30am and I think we had the perfect amount of time at Machu Picchu. Bring water! There are stalls leading up to PeruRail so if you get there early snag yourself a nice big bottle. The train ride is about one and a half hours and then another 15-20 minutes on the bus going up the mountain. You will have a chance to use the bathroom right outside the park entrance but they charge so make sure to bring a few soles with you ;P . Once you’re through the park entrance there are no places to buy food, water or use the bathroom. When you’re done with your tour you may want to look around the town below Machu Picchu so maybe schedule a returning train for 5 or 5:30pm? We got back down around 3:30ish and an hour or two to grab lunch and walk around the merchant stalls was nice. We sadly made the mistake of having to go back to Cusco after our day at Machu Picchu and it was way too much traveling. Stay the extra night in your hotel so you don’t have to worry about bags and things and just take a cab/bus back to Cusco in the morning. Your body will thank you!

Day 3 & 4- Once you get back to Cusco center on day 3 just have fun! I will post about my food and other Cusco adventures soon, so look out for some fun trip ideas there!

Thanks for reading!

Xoxo,
ItsSajdaa

P.S. If you would like to follow me on Instagram link is  here and in bio! Instagram 

LIF Week 2018

This lucky gal got to go to Lima’s Fashion week last week! Yassss your girl is finally a socialite! Sadly though I only went for 2 days as I needed to prep for my mini vaca to Cusco. (That post will be up soon!) But I did get to see some amazing looks from incredible designers. I mean look at my face

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Is that not the face of the most excited person on the planet?

Anyway, now that I’ve expressed my excitement and vanity here are some of my fav looks of the season!

Amaro Casanova

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Edward Venero: VNRO

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In the words of Michelle Visage, “What you packing?!”

Sumy Kujon

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I never underestimate the power of a boss ass sweater

José Clemente

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Henry Cavill?!?!…oh no it’s not him. But hello Superman, I did not know you run on the way. 😛

AYNI

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I. CAN. NOT. WITH. THIS. LOOK! If I was that model you couldn’t have paid me to take this off!

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I was really in love with the ANYI runway. I would have also worn this…and yes with areolas out #freethenipple

EVOLÈT by Jercy Gutiérrez 

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I wish I had a better pic of this one, it was flawless.

Ana G.

One of the full runways I got to see at LIF Week. Her work is so much fun! My pics were not so great, but here is a link to a video I took.

Ana G LIF Week 2018 

Sitka Semsch
She was my absolute favorite of the shows I got to see. I was lucky enough to see both her short line in the afternoon showing and her full runway. I was blown away.

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Here are links to 3 videos I took of her runways.

Sitka 1

Sitka 2

Sitka 3

Show Room Pics

Here are some pics of things I loved from the exhibit room.

Alberto Caceres Trelles

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Mia Perú
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Evelyn Monteza

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Also a shout out to Inka Moda who was there and sent me to their store in Cusco where I bought a fabulous alpaca sweater!

And that’s that folks!

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Thanks as always for reading!

Xoxo,
ItsSajdaa

Chifa and Churros!

Although we can all enjoy the self -satisfaction that comes from eating a healthy diet high in leafy greens and nutrient rich veggies, life is about balance. And balance to me includes sitting on the couch eating a small (who am I lying to, I get a large)  General Tso’s Chicken with pork fried rice while watching RuPaul’s Drag Race.  In honor of this I will be sharing with you my experiences with some of Peru’s classic cravings, Chifa and Churros!

Chifa

A quick history lesson just so we are all in the loop, Chifa is a Peruvian cuisine that is a fusion of Chinese and Peruvian flavors. This beautiful blend of food came to be due to the influx of Chinese immigrants into Peru during the late 19th century. With the ending of slavery in 1854 came a labor shortage and thus Chinese immigrants came to fill in the void.

For my first go around I of course went with some Chifa experts (My boyfriend and his best friend) to the wonderful Chifa Chung Yion-Union in Barranco.

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It was actually one of the most comforting experiences I’ve had so far. Just like your everyday NYC chinese food restaurants I walked in and was immediately hit with the fragrance of fried food and grease and instantly began salivating.

We decided to order some of the classics for my first go around. First up, wontons! Although in New York I would normally order cheese wontons the ones here are filled with chicken, but other than that the texture is very similar and was served with the usual sweet and sour sauce. Yummmmm!
You can also see in the pic below that I ate my Chifa the traditional way,
CON INCA KOLA!!!!!!!

 

Next up was of course Chaufa which comes from Cantonese and means “fried rice” We went for a veggie version, with mushrooms,  bean sprouts and green beans, but like all good fried rice it came with egg mixed in. A touch softer in texture than what I had come to expect from fried rice, but super flavorful! Also it made me realize, I should really add more bean sprouts to my diet.

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Our last course, since this place does serve family style, was Chicken Chi Jau Kay. It is a thick battered, flattened chicken breast, almost like Milanese, that is then smothered in a rich brown sauce. The batter although thick is simultaneously airy creating a wonderful crunch as you bite into it. From what I could research about the sauce I believe it is an oyster sauce base which gives it a super rich flavor.  This Chi Jau Kay was served with cashews, which isn’t traditional, but  I thought was a wonderful addition and giving another layer of texture, but also a nice almost buttery flavor to the dish.

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Chicken Chi Jau Kay

All inall it was a very successful Chifa experience, and although it is a Peruvian classic I felt right at home.

Churros

The complete history of Churros is still debatable, but it I believe in this case it is safe to say that they take their lead from their Spanish colonizers.  In case you aren’t familiar with this delightful snack. Churros are made from choux pastry dough and then fried to perfection. Now if you live in NYC you might get your churros from the lovely latin women who sell them in the 14th street subway station when you transfer from the L to the A,C,E, but here in Miraflores, I was taken to Manolo!

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Here’s what’s fun about the bae taking me there…we were not planning on getting churros! We were just innocent hungry bystanders and they’ve got their beautiful display of churros right up front for all to see, and what you expect me, a now food blogger, to just walk by? No, so we went in, and just like at Chifa Chung Yion there was something vaguely familiar to this place. We sat down at our round little table bathed in fluorescent light and I took a look at the menu and at the decor and it clicked, we were in Lima’s equivalent to an New York diner! Too many food options on the over glossy menu, super durable dishwear, and glass cases to showcase all their desserts and specialty food items, I was home! I was still in the mood for the classic however so we ordered the plain churros, just sugar on the outside, with the hot chocolate dipping sauce…WHAT!!!!!! If the latin women selling churros in the subway added that to the menu I think new yorkers would go insane. It would be the new version of the Turnstyle market. The churros were beautifully crisp on the outside, soft and airy on the inside and then dipped in a super thick hot chocolate. I was more than glad we stopped. IMG_4594

You can see bae’s hand in the picture wanting desperately for me to stop taking photos so he could eat 😛   Thankfully we are not staying too close to this place or all of my soles would be spent right here. Although there is a place in Barranco not to far where I think I can try churros filled with Manjarblanco…

That’s for another post!

Hope I didn’t make you too hungry with this one 🙂
Thanks for reading!

-ItsSajdaa

P.S. If you wanna read some more about Chifa and its history here are a few links!

Chimu Blog
Immigration Talk
The Culture Trip

Jungle Adventures

Being in Puerto Maldonado was such a surreal experience. Almost like being on an episode of Planet Earth. Dirt roads, dogs roaming free, large lush greenery everywhere you turn. As someone who has spent a majority of their life surrounded by concrete, highways, and skyscrapers it always puts a smile on my face to walk off a bus or plane, take a deep breath, and smell true fresh air. Being there was exactly what I needed to really shake off NYC and welcome in Peru.

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Lodgings

We stayed in amazing collection of cabins called Ecoaldea Kapievi (Kapievi Ecovillage) where we were completely surrounded by the jungle. Instead of Cabin in the Woods, it was Cabin in the Jungle. Sleeping under canopies at night you could hear every sound! Every minute chirp, flutter, howl! (They had 2 dogs on the property, but it sounded like a full on pack so I still have no freaking idea what was howling so much!) It was pretty incredible. We specifically stayed in the “Sol” cabin if you’re thinking about making the trip yourself, it was the perfect place to stay.  Every morning we were greeted to a wonderful breakfast with a bowl of fresh fruit, coffee, warm fresh bread, and of course fruit juice! Every day was different, sometimes papaya, sometimes camu camu, but each were wonderful and freshly made.

We didn’t even realize until more than halfway through the trip that, other than our first night, we had all actually been on a vegetarian diet for our time there. Going to the food market in those little moto taxis and sticking to the fruits and veggies the jungle provided, meat didn’t even cross our minds. This was really rare for me because I freaking adore meat, but it was really refreshing to take a step back and only eat “of the earth” for a few days.

Amazon Shelter

We got to do something I was really looking forward to while we were in the jungle. We got to visit an amazing animal shelter. Amazon Shelter, which is run by the incredible Magali, is dedicated to rehabilitating and conserving the wildlife of Peru. Located off road and deep within the jungle Magali and her team work tirelessly helping these animals become healthy again, and hopefully with a full recovery, return back to the wild. When we first got to meet Magali she was holding a small howler monkey who looked really banged up. With his arm in a cast Magali explained to us that he had fallen off of his mother while hunters were attempting to catch her for food. If left on the floor of the jungle alone he most certainly wouldn’t survive, but he was here now and recovering.  You could see immediately how much she cared about all of the animals in her care and would do everything in her power to make sure they get the care they need. It was truly an incredible experience. We got to see adult Howler Monkeys, Wooly Monkeys, Dusky Monkeys, and the ever so regal Emperor Tamarin.

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She also cared for toucans, parrots, an adorable red deer named Valencia, and…ANOTHER SLOTH!!!!  (Two sloths in one trip you guys?! This is insanity! ) One of my favorites though was this adorable wild jungle weasel. She had previously been a house pet, but now that she was at the shelter she was being rehabilitated to be released into the wild. This meant that as much as we all wanted to pet her and shake her paw when she reached out to you we couldn’t, *sigh* it was for the best.

Seeing all of these animals and watch Magali and her team building new enclosures, prepping the right food for all the animals diet, and really giving their all for these animals was so inspiring. If you are ever looking to visit, possibly become a volunteer or even just donate to the cause, here is the link: Amazon Shelter . I think it’s super important to recognize people that are doing good in this world, so thank you Magali and Amazon Shelter team for all that you do!

Lake Sandoval

Our last excursion in the jungle was to the beautiful Lake Sandoval. Now here is just a little warning, or shall I say piece of advice for those hoping to also make your way there. For those GOT lovers out there, the night might be dark and full of terrors, but so is the 5 mile hike to Lake Sandoval. Once you are suited up in you knee high wellies and your plastic poncho (because you know what’s a 5 mile hike without downpour?) be really sure you understand what a 5 mile hike in the jungle means. As our group headed out on our adventure we saw groups return caked with mud, completely soaked, and bae and I shared a look of “Oh no, what have we done”. There is no straight path to heaven and there is no straight path to the lake. You will be covered in mud, you will almost slip and fall, you will have to thank the jungle for the trees as they are your only saving grace when you try to stay on the least muddy path/you need a hand out of the mud as your boot makes that gross suction cup sound when you finally get unstuck. It will be a lot, but you will probably do it anyway because I mean come on, when else are you going to “safely” traipse through the jungle? All that being said, Lake Sandoval is a thing of beauty.

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By the time we got onto our boat the rain had stopped and the lake was completely silent. once you make your way through the cluster of trees and unto the lake itself it is the most tranquil experience. You see before you just a wall of trees, taller than you could ever imagine, greener than you could ever imagine. Although due to the rain we didn’t see too much wild life. I really wanted to see the Amazonian Giant Otter. They call it Lobo de Rio because they are stealth AF and hunt together in packs. They were on an episode of Planet Earth and I would have died if I actually saw one in real life. I would have truly felt one with David Attenborough. However, we did get to see some of these amazing, (almost?) prehistoric birds, so I was satisfied. Once on the other side of the lake, on top of a cliff side looking out you could really appreciate the beauty of the Amazon and the amazing balance of nature. We also saw the cleanest cat in history which was laughable when you took in the sight of our entire group head to toe with mud and sweat. It was torture to then turn around and do the 5 mile hike again, but it was a once in a life time experience that I’m really happy to have done. If you’re looking for a true adventure the trip to Lake Sandoval is where it’s at!

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If you want to see more pics of my jungle adventure click here!

Thanks again for reading!
-ItsSajdaa