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Upper West Side Man Ate Sloth and Toucan Meats in Peru

By Trevor Kapp | April 26, 2012 6:10pm
Aaron Low with a group of children during his visit to Peru.
Aaron Low with a group of children during his visit to Peru.
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Aaron Low

MANHATTAN — When Aaron Low booked his trip to Peru over three years ago, he thought he’d be hiking, sightseeing and partying for two weeks in the country’s beautiful mountains.

"I was a typical New Yorker on vacation," Low, now 30, said. "I didn’t think I’d be staying at the Four Seasons, but I’d been on a whole lot of international trips before."

What he didn’t have in mind, though, was that he'd get a real taste of the exotic — noshing on armadillo, toucan, sloth and turtle off plates washed in the Amazon River.

Low said he bought a flight to Iquitos, a town of about 400,000 people northeast of Lima. But the group he was with, which also consisted of a Brazilian filmmaker and a painter, among several others, then took an unexpected 20-hour boat ride up the Amazon to Pevas.

They eventually settled in the beautiful, but isolated, town of Ampyacu.

"I was the biggest outsider they'd ever had outside of missionaries," said Low, a freelance advertising writer from the Upper West Side.

Low said his diet in Ampyacu initially consisted of yucca. But he and his companions began to explore other options.

"The crocodile was the most refreshing," he said. "But the turtle was revolting. They gave me the liver and kept on insisting it was the delicacy in Peru. It looked like a black whoopie cushion. It was inedible."

Low also tasted sloth.

"I thought I was going to throw up," he said. "But these people had taken me in and had been so nice to this white guy and I didn't want to offend them."

Low said because the town was so remote, it took him an extra couple of weeks to arrive in Iquitos to catch a return flight to New York.

While he said he has no plans to go back to Peru, he added that the month he spent eating wild animals and enjoying picturesque scenery taught him some lessons he'll never forget.

"All they wanted was to be us," he said. "They lived in paradise, but they wanted to be New Yorkers."