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South America » Peru » Loreto » Iquitos » Amazon Rainforest
March 6th 2012
Published: March 7th 2012EDIT THIS ENTRY

Hola Todos! I have spent the last week in the Amazon rain forest. It was great! Although originally I had planned to go with my friend César, he couldn’t go at the last minute… But there’s nothing wrong with traveling alone. From what I have experienced, lots of people chose to travel that way (but not necessarily to the jungle, haha).
The city I went to was called Iquitos. It is in one of the northern-most provinces of Peru and is adjacent to the Brazilian Amazon rain forest. Iquitos is the largest city in the world that had no land route; or in other words, you need to take a plane or boat to get there. Although the boat rides are dirt cheap, I chose to go by plane.

The flight was only about an hour long. When I stepped off the plane the first thing I noticed was the heat. Pretty extreme! I still wouldn’t say it was nearly as bad as an extreme Maryland summer afternoon. The part that made it worse than back home was that you know there is no escape. No air Conditioning… anywhere. I got used to it pretty quick and after a while it wasn’t really a problem. The next thing I noticed was a big, rundown plane on the side of the runway in the grass. It was very strange to see a plane with vines growing out of the broken windows and a light layer of green slime coating the surface. I knew I wasn’t back home!

I had decided not to make hotel reservations so my first step was to find accommodations. When I got in the motor-taxi I asked him where a good place to stay was. He said, “How much a night do you want to spend?’’ and I said $10 (believe it or not you can find rooms as cheap as $3). He took me to a hotel called Maniti a block away from the central square. The atmosphere was welcoming so I decided to stay. It was actually only $6 a night. No hot water, shared rooms, no breakfast. BUT, how much do you really need in the jungle?

I signed up for a jungle expedition through the Amazon rain forest for 2nights, 3days. The price online was $200 a night, he wanted $70 from me, I paid $60. (I knew what price to go for thanks to my buddy Homero. He works for the hotel and showed me around the city. I bought him lunch and asked him what the bare-minimum price his boss would accept. Haha). My first night I spent watching movies and TV with a few girls from Spain, some guys from Chili, and the workers from the hotel. I left for my first day of expedition at 8am.



We went down river towards Brazil for 3 hours. We stopped at 2 nature reserves on the way. The first was towards the back of a local community. I and another Peruvian tourist got to feed piranhas, crocodiles, and paiches. The paiches were the most startling fish I have ever seen. They were each about a yard long, yet the guide said they were still small and would grow to at least 4x that size. However, they are usually hunted before they reach full size at age 30.



The second reserve had a billion monkeys. All the animals here were free to go where ever they wanted and even leave. However, since the food is handed out daily they have no reason to go very far. There were 4 types of monkeys. Each monkey had a name and had its own personality. One, King Kong, was very mischievous. At one point he went through my pockets and started taking cards out of my wallet! The guide said to be careful, because if he finds something he likes he will take it high up into the trees and hide it. ‘’This has happened with many, MANY earrings’’ he said. There were also several snakes here that seemed like they wanted to kill me. Since they were also free to go about as they want, I was a little taken back. They said there have even been instances where the snakes have killed some of the small monkeys whom decided they would try to play with them. Apart from this there were several sloths, as I am sure you have seen in my pictures. SooooOoOo cute. Toucans, Parrots, Ant Hills, Raccoons, Turtles.



We arrived at the property where my house was after that mini wildlife adventure. 3 hours down the Amazon rain forest, through the dense jungle, and I finally arrived. After disembarking the boat we had to walk for 2 minutes on land and then take another boat across a little lake. Finally we had made it! The whole structure was up and stilts to protect it from the water underneath. It appeared that the lodge had been built over water. In reality it was the wet season, and everything that I was looking at would be dry one day, as it had been in the past. I followed the guide to my room after meeting all the people who lived there. Although the room had 2 beds, there were not enough people to fill the lodge the whole time I was there so I essentially had a single. This whole place had no electricity and no running water. Combined with not having a cell phone, I felt completely cut off from the world. In reality, I was.

Each day followed the same structure: 830 Wake up, Breakfast, Activity#1, Lunch, Rest, Activity#2, Dinner, Sleep. Briefly I will go over each of the activities.

Day1 Activity#2 This morning we went to go see of on the local tribes, the yaguay. In an effort to maintain their customs and ways of life, they remain largely unchanged in their corner of the Amazon. However, the women produce small artisanal crafts to sell to tourist. This is their only source of income as they are self-sustainable and are not necessarily in need. For a tribe of 70+ people, they make less than $15 a day (total) on these crafts. This is generally used for medicines.

The tribe leader came over and told us a little about their culture. About a quarter of them know at least some Spanish, as they live somewhat close to civilization. We got to shoot their venomous dart gun one at a time. It was about a yard and a half long and very skinny. Imagining people hunting with this was just strange. Next we did a dance with the local women and they put face paint on us. Most of the women were topless… and old. Near the end, the tour guide walked up to me with a shot of liquid. He said ‘’Drink’’… so naturally, I did. It was one of the strongest, foulest tasting liquor I had ever tried. Half the tribe and my tour guide were standing in a circle laughing at my face. Afterwards, he explained that it was made from the yucah. I am pretty sure this is a type of squash. Anyways, the women CHEW up the yucah and spit it bite by bite into a big hole in the ground. Then they let it sit for 2 days. The fermentation from the saliva enzymes mixed with 24 hours of time ferments the vegetable into alcohol… which they then made me drink.
Day2 Activity#1/Activity#2 This day we did Swimming in the Amazon/Dolphin Watching/Piranha fishing. First we went swimming in the middle of the Amazon. One of the Polish guys refused because he said it was too dangerous and that we were crazy. The guide explained to us that he and all his friends have been swimming in there since they were born, with very few problems. (haha… very few..) The piranhas and crocodiles and snakes (and bacteria and parasites and insects) should leave us alone. So in we went. It was nice and warm, but the color of the Amazon is a foggy brownish color. Really, you can’t see more than 2 inches down. This made it all-the-more freaky. Although the water is brown, it didn’t look dirty or unwelcoming. The lush green and baby blue skies made it seem like the cleanest water in the world.
Next we took the boat around and looked for dolphins. In the Amazon River there are 2 types; the grey and the pink. This day we only saw the grey. Our guide said we were at least somewhat lucky because sometimes they don’t end up finding any. I didn’t even know there were dolphins outside of the ocean.

Day3 Activity#1 Lastly, I went on a tour through the High rainforest with my guide, Louis. There are 2 types of rain-forest; High and Low. The lodge was in the low amazon. Here, the trees are shorter and more light hits the ground. The High rainforest is a different story. Some of the trees grow to be very old. Each tree, however, is towering. Very little light makes it through the top layer of branches. Apparently when there is a plane crash it is almost impossible to locate it. This is because the plane falls and then the surrounding trees close the gap almost immediately with their branches. Anyways, we walked for about an hour and a half to tree that was 1000 years old. Needless to say, it was massive. This same species of tree can live for more than 1500 years in total. 1500 years!!! I got to swing on vines like Tarzan and climb as high as I could. Overall it was an experience I will never forget. The whole thing was.
We went back for boat (3 more hours) and again arrived at Iquitos. That night I went into my room to get a fruit I brought back from the jungle to show a friend. When I held out my hand to show him the fruit, something bit me very hard. I through the fruit down and realized my hand was covered in ants! And not regular ants, but the kind that bite! They started biting me without mercy. I had little red marks for the rest of the night. One of the managers helped me clean off my stuff and change beds. There were literally hundreds of ants everywhere, on everything.

I made a good friend while I was there, el Tío. He was the night manager of the hotel, age 60 (more or less). We talked each night and watched some action movies. He was the only local whom I really got to know. Apparently he was in the army for several years. Back then, when you were drafted, you didn’t even get paid. Can you imagine that? They gave him his cloths, weapon, training, and a place to live while on duty. He told me about the ‘’good ol’ days’’ when he was young and making $350 a month managing a log-farm. He talked as though that was a king’s salary. I think he learned a lot from me too. He asked me what I didn’t like most about it there, since we had already talked about all the good things. I explained to him how I didn’t like how they treated their women. All the men make very lude jokes and generally inappropriate gestures. In combination with how the women acted, the dynamic between men and women really showed I was in an underdeveloped part of the world. They each acted like they had a role to play. If the men were talking, the women would keep silent. It seemed like the only topics the females touched on were gossip, as though they weren’t accustomed to knowing things around the world around them. After discussing this for a while I think he really understood where I was coming from and appreciated talking about it. El Tío told me that if I ever come back, I can come stay with him and his wife for free.

My last day in Iquitos I went to Belén. This is the poorest Peruvian neighborhood, or so said the guide. About 2/3 of the community is floating on the Amazon river for most of the year. The houses are each constructed in a way that they stay above water. They stay tied to each other or trees, or else they would float away. If a family wants to move their house to another location, apparently it is not that hard. There aren’t even any applications or documents to fill out! Recently they did put in running water and electricity in the community. Honestly, the strangest thing was seeing that in about half of the houses, they were watching TV. I saw several families sitting in their ONE room house on the floor watching tv. They were even too poor to have a TV stand or really any furniture in their single room houses. Even with this, they found ways to watch TV. Out of the 20 channels they get, about 15 are American and 5 are South American/Peruvian. What a world we live in! Although these people lived in total poverty, I saw a lot of happiness. It took me off guard. The kids were running around and swimming. There was music playing from the floating bars and clubs, and I saw the bustle of life as people went around their daily business. It started to rain, yet the people acted like they didn’t even realize.

And then I left. It came and went so quick, but I feel like I did get a lot out of it. Definitely another chapter in my experiences that I will not forget. It has made me want to travel to new places that aren’t so touristic. They have a lot to offer (probably even more) and are cheap as hell. This was my first time traveling alone, unless you consider my entire study abroad experience. Haha. Anyways If you have any questions, Let me know! I really only touched on a little and I love talking about it.
Muchhhh loveeeeee

Chris



PS Other Interesting Things
--Abandoned Ship. HUGE, looked like it was for cruises. Reminded me of the abandoned plane.
--Giant Terrantula outside of my room in the dark
--Motor-Taxis. There was hardly any real cars, just these little motor bikes. very cheap, pretty quicks, and numerous.


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