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Published: September 15th 2013
After three flights we arrived in Iquitos which is the largest city in the Amazon jungle and the largest city in the world which isn’t accessible by road. On the drive from the airport to our hotel we started to feel more like we were back in South East Asia rather than in Peru – we’d gone from approximately 5 degrees when we left Puno to about 28 degrees, high humidity and roads full of tuk-tuks!
The following morning we were picked up by tuk-tuk at 9am and taken to the main Port of Iquitos. The port was actually just a set of uneven concrete stairs didn’t even reach the water (or boat) level so there was still a bit of a jump to get into our boat. We climbed on board with three Germans, one Brit and an American as well as some supplied which were to be dropped off at the lodge. Not long after boarding we headed off up the Amazon towards our home for the next three nights.
Along the way we stopped off briefly at a nearby town which was in the middle of a week -long celebration of the 130th
anniversary of the
town. Most people must have been in bed recovering from their hangovers as it wasn’t overly busy when we visited but there was a massive amount of chicken cooking over fires, presumably in preparation for feeding the masses when they arrived.
After 15 or so minutes more in the boat we turned into one of the tributaries which feeds into the Amazon and travelled upstream for another 5 minutes before we reached the lodge. The lodge was fairly basic but roomy and comfortable. There were a number of rooms with shared bathrooms, a large communal eating area, a hammock room, kitchen and a number of rooms with private bathrooms (including cold shower straight from the river). The roof was made from palm fronds and the walls / windows were made from fly wire to keep out the bugs which would have worked well if not for the massive holes... We were told that the roof over the hammock area would be replaced the following day which we thought would have been fairly interesting to see.
After lunch (rice, salad, fish, beans, fried plantains and fruit for dessert) we headed into the jungle with our guide Raul, a local
guy with a fantastic sense of humour, an infectious laugh and quite impressive English skills despite his initial “oh my English isn’t that good” comment. IT didn’t take long before we were drenched with sweat as it was quite humid and much warmer than the high altitude weather we’d been used to! During our stroll we saw a really pretty snake (a “yellow bellied something” according to Scott), monkeys (at a safe distance thank god), birds, ants, spiders and butterflies as well as lots of impressive trees, vines and a few pretty flowers.
At about 6pm we headed back towards the lodge as it was (rapidly) getting dark. When we got back to the lodge we were walking to our room when we came across a bright green whip snake slithering along the walkway. After dinner (rice, salad, fish, fried plantains and fruit for dessert) we headed back into the jungle with Raul for a night walk. We saw tarantulas, a huge scorpion spider, a frog which we would “need our glasses to see” (actually a massive bull frog which probably weighed about 2kg), bats and various other bugs.
The following morning we were woken up early by
Raul for our pre-breakfast boat ride. We saw lots of birds including hawks, vultures, king fishers, egrets, cormorants, wood peckers, falcons and a few others I can’t remember the names of as well as monkeys. Following breakfast (eggs, toast, ham, cheese and fruit for dessert) we crossed the river then set out on a walk to see the giant lilly pads in a lake. Along the way we had to cross a few bridges (logs across the river) and avoid getting sucked into the very soft mud! We made it to the lake without getting too muddy and Raul set off with the boys to explore the lake while the girls waited for our turn. When the boys arrived back they had bought Raul’s lunch (a fish) and a Piranha with a very impressive set of teeth that they had ‘borrowed’ out of someone’s net. After we’d admired the teeth for a while, the girls set off in the boat with Raul while the boys bashed through the forest with Raul’s machete. The lily pads are indeed giant! They can grow up to 2m in diameter, though the largest we saw was probably about 1.6m. The young leaves are covered
with spikes on both sides, but as they get larger the spikes on the top disappear. On the way back to the lodge Scott managed to step right in a very soft area of mud and sunk to just above his knee which was actually lucky as the girl from the previous group Raul had shown around had sunk to her hips in pretty much the same spot!
After lunch (rice, salad, chicken, beans, fried plantains and fruit for dessert) we set off on another jungle walk with Raul, this time in search of a sloth! After not long we came across a beautiful boa constrictor sunbaking. While we admired her, Raul went off and found a forked stick so he could pick us up and we could have a cuddle. Her markings were absolutely gorgeous mostly a greyish green and white, but with a brown, black and white tail. We all had a cuddle (though not too tight!) before leaving her along and continuing our search for a sloth. It took about another two hours of traipsing through the jungle before Raul found our first sloth, right at the top of quite a high tree. They are incredibly
hard to see as they are well camouflaged and don’t move very fast so you can’t spot them by the movement like you would with monkeys or most other animals! After a while we set off walking again before Raul and his amazing eyes stopped us again as he’d found a porcupine at the top of another tree. I had no idea porcupines lived in the tree tops but apparently they rarely come down. They also have a massive strong tail which they use like a monkey does. Not far from this tree Raul spotted our second sloth, again at the top of the tree and moving very slowly. They’re very strange animals indeed! Feeling quite successful, we headed back to the lodge in time for dinner.
After dinner (rice, salad, chicken, fried plantains and fruit for dessert) we headed out in the boat with the hope of finding some alligators or an anaconda. We were unsuccessful on both accounts, but were entertained by a fish on a suicide mission who leapt into our boat scaring the British girl!
The next morning we woke up lateish and lay in bed watching the tarantula slowly climb up one of
the truss members supporting the roof above our bed (fortunately on the correct side of the fly wire). Afterwards we had a fairly leisurely breakfast (eggs, toast, ham, cheese and fruit for dessert), before hopping into the boat and heading towards the Amazon in search of pink and grey river dolphins. It didn’t take long before we found them and Raul urged everyone to get into the water as they like swimming with people. Unfortunately I didn’t have my bathers on but Scott and the others hopped into the water. The grey dolphins look like smaller versions of marine dolphins, but with a much smaller dorsal fin however the pink dolphins look like the ugly step sister/brother! They have an ugly face and a weird hump looking dorsal fin which isn’t very well defined. After watching them for a while we all headed for the sand island and went for a walk around. On the way back to the lodge Raul found another two sloths in the tops of the trees alongside the river.
After lunch (rice, salad, fish, beans, fried plantains and fruit for dessert) we read our books for a while before heading out on our Piranha
finishing expedition. Once we’d found a promising looking spot, Raul baited up all our fishing rods (actually sticks with a fishing line tied to the top) and then prepared his own. About two seconds after he put his rod in he pulled up a small fish which we chopped up for bait. The rest of us got a lot of nibbles, but we seemed to be feeding the fish rather than catching them so we moved to another spot. This one turned out to be much better and Scott got things stated with a massive fish (about 5cm long) which was a relative of a piranha. I caught they next fish which was much bigger, maybe about 12cm long. Scott caught one more (maybe 13cm long) which put us (Team Australia) level with Team Peru (Raul who had actually caught a Piranha) and way ahead of Team Germany who had caught one tiny catfish. Team America and English failed to catch any. As we headed towards the next spot, I noticed a rainbow and some very dark clouds and said it looks like rain so we all our cameras away in plastic bags. About 2 minutes later the torrential downpour
started and about 20 seconds after that we were completely drenched. Despite the rain we headed towards the Amazon with the hope of having more luck there. We gave up after about 5 minutes as no one had had any bites and we were worried about our cameras so headed back to the lodge to dry off. The rain looked set to continue so our enthusiasm for a 1.5hr walk to the alligator swamp quickly faded. After dinner (rice, salad, fish, fried plantains and fruit for dessert…starting to see a theme?) we read books by the lantern and then went to bed early.
The following morning we were woken up by Raul for another early morning boat ride. Despite it raining pretty much all night the river level had dropped further so there were now heaps of fish swimming just below the surface and jumping out to try and catch bugs. We also saw lots of birds again before we headed back for breakfast (fried rice, bread and fruit for dessert).
After breakfast we headed out in search of a sloth hoping to find one which was low down enough to allow Raul to catch it so we
could all have a cuddle. We walked for about 4 hours through the jungle (and mud) and Raul managed to find two sloths, though unfortunately both were at the top of the tree so we couldn’t have a cuddle. We didn’t have any luck (not for a lack of trying!) so following lunch (rice, salad, fish, beans, fried plantains and fruit for dessert again) we headed back into the jungle again for a quick, hopefully lucky, walk before we headed back to Iquitos. We didn’t find a sloth but we did find some iguanas, including one that Scott got to hold. Eventually we had to admit defeat as we were holding up our boat so we headed back to the lodge (which still hadn’t had the new roof installed four days later), said our farewells to the Germans who were staying another night and a huge thanks to Raul our amazing guide before heading back to Iquitos.
When we got back to Iquitos the river level had definitely dropped and the uneven concrete stairs were now about 1.5m above the water level so we had to climb up the sand/garbage embankment. That night we went out for dinner with
the American and Brit to a nice restaurant along the river, and grabbed some churros on the way home from a little cart for dessert. We hopped into bed reasonably early and set our alarm for 4:45am in order to catch our boat to Colombia.
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