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Published: June 24th 2013
Heading out for some animal spotting... jaguars and anacondas and alligators... Oh my!
What can I say about the Amazon? Pros: Alligators, tarantulas, monkeys, and cold beer. Cons: 100% humidity, mosquitoes, and jungle heat...
Mike and I just wrapped up a 4 day, 3 night trip to an Ecolodge outside Puerto Maldonado, 12 hours outside of Cusco right up near the border to Brasil and Bolivia. On day one, after the night bus, we accomplished very little as we acclimatized to the new climate and surroundings. We met our guide, Jackson, who brought us to the lodge and deposited us to be fed and sheltered. We then proceeded to make use of our free day by ploughing through Game of Thrones (I had book 2, Mike read book 1) and taking ourselves on a short self walk around the land in the ecolodge. The short walk was quite nice with the dogs in the daylight but I was unnerved to discover later that evening that that very path was home to a series of tarantualas and black widow spiders that are (quote) ¨Ten times more poisonous than rattlesnakes¨. Given that I would run away quite quickly from any rattle snake, I reasoned with our guide Jackson that
we too should bolt like Usian but he instead gleefully announced that fast movement provokes the spiders. Our ´Creepy-crawly walk´, as Jackson called it, was much better received by Mike, who reverted to his inner 8 year old, and shared in the delight of Jackson as we discovered a tarantuala the size of my palm. I squeaked in fear and meagerly took a picture upon command, all the while thinking of what my best friend Jackie´s reaction would have been (she literally roused us both out of bed one morning to kill a spider the size of a dime on her behalf due to her crippling fear of arachnids). Eventually my bargaining with Jackson must have worked because the walk wrapped and we were guided home to dinner and the nice dogs at the lodge.
Through this trip we further discovered our lack of jungle instincts. Mike was disappointed to discover that the sound that he had asserted came from a ´large guinea pig´ in fact originated from a cow named ´Moo´who lives tied up in the jungle outside the ecolodge. That arrangement seemed like something that would clearly result in an unfortunate ending for Moo (I´ve
Giant River Otters!
Only 300 left in the world and 4 of them came out for us - we were very lucky!
seen Jurassic park!) but nonetheless that´s where she lived and our Jackson found Mike´s assessment highly amusing. The only time I saw him laugh harder was when Mike excitedly announced his discovery of a tropical bird which turned out to be a shopping bag caught in a tree.
On the second day we went to the famed Lake Sandoval. The lake used to be a part of the Amazon river, but got cut off through the hand of us homosapiens. Now you can explore the lake and its plethora of wildlife after a balmy (35 degrees celsius, 100% humidity) mosquito infested (to say we had swarms trailing us would be an understatement) 45 minute walk to the water, where one takes a small rowboat into a cozy little canal where you paddle along alligators the size of Michael Oher to get to the lake. Once there, we were apparently very lucky to see many alligators and birds. What I enjoyed the most was the Giant Otters - there are only 300 left in the world and their den is actually offbounds for the tourists in the boats. But during our time in the lake 4 of the
notoriously shy otters paddled out to the middle of the lake where we could chase them from afar - guides paddling furiously and tourists playing with their cameras´ zoom capabilities (by law you have to stay 50 meters away). It was really cool to see them and we were close enough that I could hear them crunching the food that they surfaced to eat.
On the last day we went for a hike in the morning and I came to appreciate economist reasoning that a contributor to lower productivity in countries close to the equator is the heat. Hiking in the jungle is a very wet, sweaty experience. Jackson was a great guide - not only does he have a degree in biology, he grew up in the Amazon with 7 brothers who all liked to play with tarantulas found in the jungle during their hour long walk to school (apparently their Mother can be considered somewhat of an expert in tropical maladies through the treatment of numerous bites and stings acquired by her 7 boys over the years). He even acted as a personal guide for Mick Jagger´s son when the family came to the Amazon
The biggest rodents in the world...
several years ago (Mick apparently rented out the whole luxury hotel just to stay in his room and drink red wine. After our 3 hour jungle walk I couldn´t blame him but I think I would have opted for a chilled rose).
All in all we had a great time here in the Amazon but are looking forward to a couple days in Cusco to dry out. Following that we are off to the beach town of Mancorra - stay tuned!
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