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Published: July 14th 2009
Jaime bashed on our door at 5am the first morning and nearly gave us a heart-attack. As it happened I had been awake for the previous 30minutes listening intently to some sort of animal loudly munching the grass at the back of our lodge. I figured it had finally decided to attack...
Breakfast was at 5.30 and after picking up our rubber boots we left in a motor-canoe at 6am. Jaime advised us to bring insect repellant, snacks, a hat, sunscreen and lots of water. Boy, did we need lots of water. About five minutes into the rainforest we were both soaked with the heat. I'm guessing it was 30degrees but the humidity was stifling.
Every so often Jaime would stop in front of a tree and explain what it was and what the local people used it for in the past. The area is now a government protected area managed by the EcoAmazonia company. We saw a big Garlic Tree - locals used to soak the bark of the tree in water for a few days and then bathe in it before going to work in the forest. The smell served as a natural insect (and human!) repellant,
lasting about 4 days. Then we saw an Iron Tree, a Communicating Tree-you bash morse code off it, I think; and a Bi-sexual tree - don't ask!.
After trekking for about 2km we reached a river and hopped into a canoe that we paddled up the river for an hour, clicking away to our hearts content. From the boat we saw macau parrots and beautiful colourful butterflies. The stagnant water was home to lots of weird and wonderful bugs and some really pretty water lilies. The luscious greenery on the river bank really made you realise that we were in the middle of nowhere. After some of the over-developed cities we've visited, it is nice to think that there are corners of this world that mankind hasn't had a chance to ruin.
The boat pulled up a short walk away from a 70m watch-tower. Philippe stayed on level ground while I climbed about 100 steps to get the panorama shots of the tree tops. After a short snack break where we were joined nearby by a family of howler monkeys, our guide pointed us in the direction of the wooden board bridges that carry you over the pantanal
swampland. Nearly a kilometer later of watching your feet so you don't slip on the mossy rotton timber, and we reached the lost lake
We saw alligators, tortoises, vultures, parrots, mosquitoes, butterflies and enjoyed the peaceful silence of being in the middle of nowhere, interrupted only by the sound of some ignorant tourists blowing their noses and sneezing. (That'd be us then!).
With a look of glee in his eye, Jaime then informed us that we would have to hurry back to the lodge for one o'clock lunch. He then proceed to run (okay, walk fast) through the forest for 5km! We were shattered and sweating when we eventually saw the light at the end of the tunnel. We collapsed into the boat.
Lunch was a sit down affair, where we think we got chicken (could have been guinea-pig!), rice, veg and as much fresh juice as you could drink, and we were badly in need of rehydration. After a siesta, we had a free afternoon during which we had a dip in the compound swimming pool. It was truly just a dip as the water was freezing! Dinner was another, on schedule, lovely buffet.
Thursday wake-up call was at 6am. I felt woeful and considered not going. But I had to eat breakfast on schedule at 6.30 and by 7am I had convinced myself that it would be ok. We were going in search of Lake ApuVictor. It was pitched as a gentle 2.5km walk to another viewing platform. En route Jaime tickled a taratula out of its nest. They are as big as you expect them to be! Then the rain started. It poured from the heavens, non-stop. The rainforest grinds to a halt during rain, all the animals hide in the vegetation and we even got some respite from the mosquitoes. We also got completely soaked.
The watch-tower was only 12m high, and it had shelter, so Philippe didn't think twice about scaling it. We peeled off our raincoats and admired the view in front of us. I have to admit that I was feeling miserable and couldn't have cared less if we saw another friggin' bird or not! But I was grateful for the rest, particularly as the trek turned out to be 2.5km each way
. A certain resignation comes over you once you realise that not a single item
of clothing on you is dry, and that your socks are squelching wet inside your wellies. It is liberating, and we stopped caring about the mud and jumped on in like 5 year olds.
Being in a rainforest gives you the same sensation as being in a forest when you are a small kid. Everything is huge, new and interesting. On the way back from Apuvictor we got our Tarzan/Indiana Jones moment, when we came across a vine hanging from the trees. No one could resist having a swing. As you grip the vine with all you have, you realise how much upper body strength the monkeys must have - but then again they don't weigh as much as us either!
On Friday we had a sleep-in. Wake up was at 7am, with the boat leaving at 8. The boat was skillfully guided up a meandering river for an hour. We were going to Lake Gamitana to go fishing with pared sticks, a fishing line and lump of sirloin steak. Apparently there are piranha, catfish and other fish in the water. There were no avid fishermen in the boat and we soon lost interest when it became apparent
that nothing was biting. Jaime managed to catch a catfish as we all looked on jealously.
After fishing came swimming with the piranhas. Apparently they don't bite, unless you have an open wound. Philippe dove on in. I stayed behind - only because I wanted to get some photo's of course! Philippe reported that you could definitely feel fish swimming around your body, but that nothing seemed to be nibbling away at him!
That afternoon we went to Cocha Caiman
, or Alligator Lake. This was the best excursion in my opinion. We trekked about 1km into the forest behind the lodge. Jaime then chopped up a fish and laid it on the lake shore. Safely stowed on a platform a few meters away we watched as the aligators sized up the situation and then swooped in for the kill. We got a close view of the power in those jaws and were grateful for the safety of the platform. When most had eaten first and seconds, there was a fight for the leftovers. It was as close as I ever want to be to an Alligator, but it was a special sight to behold.
Alligator Lake was
Lara Croft I ain't!
the last excursion on our trip. We were sad to pack up, but were still feeling ropey and had seen plenty over the previous 4 days. Emotionally, I figure that I went through each of the 7 dwarves in the 4 days. We started by seeing the Doc, at breakfast I was Dopey, at dinner I was Bashful, after the five km trek I was Grumpy, when we saw the animals I was Happy, most of the rest of the time I was Sleepy and Sneezy! But given that it was a fairytale adventure, this kind of fits! The photographs say more than I can ever write here. It was an astonishing experience, one that we will never forget.
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