I’d heard about the Amazon jungle. I’ll bet you have too. I was a little worried about going there because it’s so hot. In the end, we visited the ‘top end’ of the jungle – selva – where there are still lots of mountains and fast-flowing rivers. Even so, it was too hot for me but I liked seeing coffee, papayas and bananas growing. It was fun to imagine swimming all the way down the river and all the way out into the Atlantic Ocean, thousands of miles away to the east. You see, once you cross the Andes another butterflymountains, all the rivers flow east and join up to form the Amazon: the world’s biggest river.

The journey was incredible. We started in the cool cloudy desert at sealevel in Perú’s capital, Lima. Then we headed to the mountains and climbed into hot sunshine. An hour or so later, we’d driven over a high pass called Ticlio (an incredible 4832 metres, almost 16,000 feet high!) and it was snowing. That was fun. Now it was downhill all the way. Soon, big trees covered the mountain slopes and I saw and heard lots of beautiful parrots. We saw busy little towns and loads of fruit and coffee beans being prepared to send to the markets in the big city of Lima where we’d started from. fishAnd the river, the Rio Perene, gets larger and larger as many smaller rivers join it. But it’s only one of hundreds like it which merge to become the giant Amazon River. (first 5 slides)

Me at Machu PicchuLater, we visited another part of the high Peruvian jungle much further south. This time we took a little train which runs from the mountain city of Cuzco down a steep gorge to a place called Machu Picchu. Have you heard of this incredible ‘lost’ city? These world-famous ruins were built by the Inca people over five hundred years ago. The city was ‘lost’ in the jungle until re-discovered less than a hundred years ago.

carved puma figureIt’s always raining in these high jungle mountains and so we all got very wet. But the ruins are fantastic, perched on the top of incredibly steep rocky mountains high above the Urubamba river. Much further down this great river, far away to the north west, the Rio Perene (which we’d visited earlier) joins and the two flow on to become part of the Amazon. (second 4 slides)

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Coffee and fair trade

Coffee comes from beans. Everyone knows that, don’t they. But where do the beans come from? Originally, coffee plants came from Ethiopia in east Africa. People brought them to South America and found that they grew well there too. “There’s an awful lot of coffee in Brazil,” goes part of a famous song. And there is – and in Peru too!

Most people wouldn’t recognise a coffee bush if they fell over it! You can’t see the beans because they’re inside the red berry-like fruits. To get the coffee, these fruits have to be picked and dried in the sun. The beans inside are white and have to be roasted in a special way to make the dark brown coffee beans you can buy in some shops. The roasted beans then have to be ground up and steeped in hot water to get the coffee drink people love. These days, most people prefer to use instant coffee from glass jars.

Coffee-growing can be an important way for farmers to make a living but they mostly don’t get a fair price for their beans. So a few years ago, some kind people got together and started to buy coffee directly from farmers or farmer groups in countries like Perú and Costa Rica. They paid a fair price so that the farmers could make a decent living for their families. Then they sold the coffee directly to shops. The price was higher than mass-produced brand names, but people who bought it knew the money was going mostly to those people who’d done the work of growing and picking the beans instead of into yet more profits for the big companies which make the popular, well-advertised brands.

Today, fair trade is growing all the time as more people buy products like coffee, tea, chocolate, bananas and many other things including clothes, knowing that they’re helping support the people who actually grow or make them. Click here to find out more about fair trade.