Cola De Mono – The Jungle

The path that most people take to Machu Picchu is via a long tourist train from the Cusco/Sacred Valley area.

There are no roads that go all the way to Machu Picchu, but there is one that gets close via the jungle in Santa Teresa. Since this is the town where Gian Marco’s zipline company is located, we decided to follow him there, and then head to Machu Picchu by way of the mostly untraveled “back door.”

Little did we know what we were getting ourselves into. It was your typical horror show South American death road. Muddy, steep, and with eroding vertical cliffs, (no guard rails). Can you see the truck in this photo?

It was, however, an absolutely gorgeous drive, and we would not have wanted to do it any other way. I’m glad we lived to tell you what an incredible experience it was.

In Peru there is a saying that I think pretty much sums up travel in the entire country:

“A la vueltita, no mas”

Whenever you ask someone for directions they simply say, “A la vuelita, no mas.” This basically means, “Right around the corner, no farther”.

When you’re talking to someone you know and push for more details, you’ll get a response like we got from Gian Marco when we asked him about this drive. “It will take 4 hours, no mas.” I heard that and added two more hours to the estimate, just to be safe.

I figure there were about a half dozen river crossings. After the first couple, an engine warning light popped up on my dash. Something about an engine control system malfunction? Go Sprinter Go!

Although the river crossings scared Stevie, they really weren’t that bad. What scared me was this bridge. I’m no engineer, but as far as I could tell it had no real structural integrity, and what you don’t see in the photo is that the river drops off into a 500 foot cascading waterfall right below the bridge. I made Stevie and Sol walk across.

We finally made it to Cola De Mono after 8 hours on the road. Gian Marco claimed it was well within his margin of error. Fair game.

A la vueltita, no mas

After arriving, Gian Marco put us to work. We had an outdoor shower to build. He has an amazing place over there, and it is only going to get better!

He currently has the biggest and best zip lines in all of South America. Stevie and I had a blast riding the 6 different cables.

But what Gian Marco was most excited to show me was a rock cliff hiding in the jungle. He wanted to know if it would be any good for rock climbing. It was. Soon Cola De Mono will be offering rock climbing on the menu!

One of our top priorities was protecting Soleil from the mosquitos. A local man informed us that there was Dengue Fever in the area. That can straight kill a baby. Despite the heat, we kept her covered the entire time.

I was craving 100% Deet for 3 days! But since Sol is always touching us, neither Stevie or I wore any repellent, and we both ended up getting eaten alive.

(Please don’t post any comments suggesting that we use “all natural” repellent.  We’ve tried it.  If you think that stuff works, than you must be from Los Angeles like my wife.)

Sol faired much better and walked away with only a couple of bites, and no Dengue Fever!

She also made a ton of new friends!

Gian Marco has a new saying that I’ve adopted….

“Soleil Abre Puertas”

Translated, Soleil opens doors.

It’s true. Everywhere we go we’re interacting with wonderful people, mostly because of their interest in Sol. They all call her the same thing:

La muñeca – the doll

After 3 great days in the jungle we headed up for our grand adventure at Machu Picchu.

That’s coming up in the next post.





  1. Just smiles on this one. Loved it!

  2. Auntie Alexis says:

    I cannot wait to squish that cutie pie face and smother her with millions of kisses! Auntie misses you Sol!! Can’t wait to see the pix of M.P. I bet it was amazing!

  3. Natural remedies? Hah! You are KIDDING yourselves if you think 100% Deet works in that jungle!

    On a more positive note, looks like Sol is getting the nomadic equivillant of being raised in a traditional village. Maybe not ‘real’ aunts, grandads, cousins and the crazy great-grandmother, but she’s certainly getting lots of global love!

  4. Hey guys,
    Amazing how fast Sol is growing… Looks like an insane road (looks like a bicycle bridge) .Who is the beautiful woman with short dark hair holding Sol in the last few photos!!!
    With all respect she is very pretty!!

  5. In the jungle…the mighty jungle…the lion sleeps tonight…

  6. cheryll says:

    That is one beautiful baby!

  7. Stephanie Breese says:

    You guys are so brave! I can only imagine how terrifying that river was to cross with a waterfall underneath! Glad you made it across safely. P.S. Sol IS una muñeca! So adorable.

  8. Wonderful post!!!! That baby of yours is just plain adorable!!! Love all the pics and your adventure is contagious!!!! We start ours in 13 days and I can’t wait!!!!

  9. Nonituyas says:

    Love to my Little Buddha Baby. I can hardly wait for August!

  10. Liz Tompkins says:

    Thanks for the great update. I loved the pictures of all the new friends holding Sol. I imagine it is the first time seeing a white baby in those parts. You’ve given them a gift as well.


  11. Anonymous says:

    Good post but lots of spelling errors.

    • Thaks Anonmous. Speling was never my stong point. Eye always cheeted on all the speling tests in skool. If spel check dosnt catch the eror, I’m skrewed. -TREE

  12. Great Aunt Debby and Great Uncle Barry says:

    Leave it to you two to take the saying :It takes a Village” literally. So happy you are all surrounded by so much Love. Hey when we were in Panama I was a little one wearing a total outfit made of mosquito netting, head to toe, would that be a good thing for Sol to have?

  13. John Wilson says:

    LOL – I can relate to bridges like that. Better than have to forge that river…..

  14. Giuseppe Faresin says:

    Great and take care,ciao beppe

  15. Great post, as always!

    When we went the Ollantaytambo route, it was because we just couldn’t find much info on driving the Santa Teresa route (and the ones we found exaggerated the danger of bandits, etc). If you could post the route info (or GPS of your buddy’s place to camp) it might help others in the future… bonus overlander points!

    • ahhh, the bandits. How to avoid the bandits!

      We’ll try and get some directions up. Good suggestion bro.

  16. Judy Shuman says:

    Soooooooooo exciting! ~ Can’t wait to see the photos! ~

  17. John Wilson says:

    Great story guys.
    Always get a laugh out of your adventures.
    Play nice and travel safely.

  18. Emily Hughes says:

    OMG that kid is so cute!
    go family go!!

  19. Donna Clary says:

    Thank you for sharing! Wonderful pics, speechless…you are all so daring. What an adventure. Sol…beautiful as usual. She’s the kind of baby you just wanna reach through the pics and cuddle.

  20. Jene Fielder says:

    OMG, you two make me squeal..Tk G. your safe…

  21. One of the best bits of advice we received in Africa was from a South African friend. She said that the best way to avoid malaria was to simply not get bit. Yeah, we thought. Impossible. Sensing our disbelief she added that we cover up at 5 just before the mosquitos come out, wear boots at night, scarves, etc. She suggested that Glenn and I remind each other until it becomes habit. Of course there were nights were hikes drug on, etc but for the most part it changed our approach and saved us countless bites. And I didn’t get malaria again. It’s possible, as you have seen with Soleil.

    You guys are wonderful. These photos make my heart sing. Thank you for the wonderful updates. Kiss that little one for me and tell her I love her.

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