By Steven Foster
Each year since 1994, the American Botanical Council (ABC) and the Amazon Center for Education and Environmental Research (ACEER) have co-sponsored ethnobotanical ecotours to the Peruvian Amazon and Andes, introducing hundreds of travelers to the medicinal plants and varied cultures of Peru. Now it’s your turn. From October 1–10, 2009, join noted herbalists and authors Rosemary Gladstar, Mindy Green, and Steven Foster for an unforgettable Peruvian adventure. We begin in the southern Peru rainforest, near the Bolivian border—Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica, a 17,000-hectare (42,000 acre) private ecological research reserve adjacent to the lush Tambopata National Reserve. This remote, yet easily accessible venue on the Madre de Dios River, a large tributary of the Amazon, is where famed Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson conducted seminal research on ant ecology. Our “home” in Amazonia, Inkaterra Lodge, located on the banks of the Madre de Dios, is about a 45-minute boat trip from the southern Peruvian city of Puerto Maldonado. One might describe Inkaterra Lodge as a cross between a scout camp and a 4-star luxury hotel. Thirty private cabanas, modeled on traditional Amazon housing, feature low-impact electricity, kerosene lanterns, and hot showers. Any preconceived anxieties of “camping” in the Amazon rainforest are quickly dissipated after a complimentary pisco sour—the national drink of Peru—then slipping between crisp cotton sheets for a good night’s rest. We will explore local markets, visit the Inkaterra Canopy Walkway (a series of 7 suspended walkways 100 feet above the forest floor, providing an unparalleled opportunity to view and study plants, birds, and primates in the forest canopy), hike to the oxbow Sandoval Lake with a chance to see the endangered Amazon giant otter, and explore medicinal plants at the Jardín de Plantas Medicinales with traditional Amazonian Shaman Antonio Montero Pisco. After 4 nights in Amazonia, we take a short 30-minute flight to the Andean city of Cusco, possibly the longest-inhabited city in the Western Hemisphere and the heart of the Inca Empire. From Cusco we head to the Urubamba Valley on the way to Machu Picchu. The must-see extraordinary ruins of plazas, palaces, and temples are nestled at 8,000 feet, surrounded by a wide diversity of flora and fauna. More than 1000 species of orchids are found within the Machu Picchu Sanctuary, as well as a wide variety of ferns, begonias, palms, and bromeliads. After several unforgettable days in the Sacred Valley at Aguas Calientes, we take the train back to Ollantaytambo to explore the traditional healing practice of the Andes, led by our guide and a curandero from the Sacred Valley. The Andes segment concludes with a day in Cusco, then back to the capital city Lima for the return home. The approximate cost is $3,309 plus airfare to Lima. For more information and a complete itinerary, contact: Mary Ann Robinson, ACEER program coordinator: MRobinson@WCUFoundation.org.