Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

June 5, 2012

Eco-travel is an experience like none other


CNHI

— Machu Picchu might be Peru’s headliner, but there’s an eco-lodge you can visit in the Amazon jungle just named an international Sustainable Standard-Setter for 2012.

I was there a few years ago and my memories are sustainable too. Incredible experience. Posada Amazonas is the name.

Rainforest Expeditions is the overarching company, one of 10 receiving the 2012 Sustainable Standard-Setter award recently in New York City.

Isn’t it grand to travel with intention and purpose, along with the fun? Rainforest Expeditions crossed my radar after I booked an adventure in the Peruvian guesthouse called Willka T’ika in the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

That’s when I added another week of travel, flying from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado on LAN Peru and boarding a 20-foot roofed canoe for the 45-minute journey on the Tambopata River.

Lunch was served — a rice mixture in a banana leaf. Recycling is a sustainable practice, right? Into the river was acceptable for that leafy plate.

The boatman kept my juice glass for later filling. Juice and water abundant throughout the lodge; hammocks too.

Doors are curtains, and walls are made of local cane. No need for one facing the jungle because this is all about the view. Wide open to the monkeys and toucans and parrots kind of view.

Dark really means something on this jungle vacation because the stars in the Southern Hemisphere sky are the main lights. Orion was just beginning to appear for me.

Kerosene lamps can be lighted in the hallway but lights out is 9:00 p.m. Sharp. I learned fast to be under my mosquito netting by 8:59.

Private baths with each of the 30 rooms; showers cool which was always welcomed. Hammock naps happen in your own room, or the common hammock lounge.

Staying awake is good too because the tamarind and red howler monkeys play grand games within view of the hammocks.

A canopy tower offers vast views of the river and forest if you’re willing to climb the scaffolding. I say do it, and did.

Four little communities in this Peruvian region called Infierno provide all the staff.

Ese’eja the people are called and Rainforest Expeditions shaped a 20-year contract with them in 1996.

The Standard-Setter Award explores the improvements those relationships have brought to the region.

Superb hiking guides and bird watchers. Skilled healers, willing to stroll medicinal gardens to teach visitors like me about ancient plant-based traditions.

For instance, I learned that I should never boil the vine of the una de gato plant longer than 15 minutes or it might cause blindness instead of treating cancer.

Posada Amazonas has enough trails to hike before and after every meal, and after dark with a flashlight to light up many-legged creatures.

Family farms can be visited, up close with machete-farming. No mechanization here amidst the yucca, avocados, plantains, mangoes, bananas and star fruit.

Rainforest Expeditions added two lodges after I stayed at the Sustainable Standard-Setter recipient Posada Amazonas, so I ought to go again.

Refugio Amazonas is a three-and-a-half hour boat ride and the more remote Tambopata Research Center is four hours beyond that.

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Christine Tibbetts is a travel writer for The Valdosta (Ga.) Gazette. Contact her at www.TibbettsTravel.com