It's a Rainforest, Not a Jungle

Published: June 25th 2017
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Machigenga TribeMachigenga TribeMachigenga Tribe

This man was one of the older people living in this family group. He helped welcome us by singing a song that is sung to visitors and by playing a flute. Here he is demonstrating how to spin a top that is made out of a large seed.
Geo: -12.6, -69.1833

The difference in a rain forest and a jungle: The rain forest has open spaces, even if they are small, that allow you to walk through. The jungle is so thick that you would have to have a machete or some other tool to clear the way before you could walk through.

Three nights at the Inkaterra Lodge seemed like a long time when we first made the reservations, but it has been just right. We have been on two excursions the day we arrived, three the second day, and one on the last full day here. That gave us time to enjoy the excursions and still rest a lot, too.

Visiting the Machigenga tribe yesterday was really interesting and enjoyable. That is a new excursion offered at the lodge. We went up the river about 25 minutes to their land. We were met by a teen boy and two adult men. The younger of the adult men is the second leader of the family. He speaks Spanish and is learning English as well as speaking the Machigenga language. The people were willing to let us visit, and they graciously told us about their lives. They showed us
Trail through the Inkaterra Reserva AmazonicaTrail through the Inkaterra Reserva AmazonicaTrail through the Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica

These cut log trails were all around the lodge and bungalows. The ground stayed muddy when we were there, even though we were there during the dry season.
to a spot where they welcome guests, and an older woman and little boy were there to greet us, too. They sang some songs, showed us how they used a bow and arrow and how they played a game using a toy like a spinning top, and painted our faces. It is their custom to welcome visitors by painting their faces. Always a woman will paint the visiting women and a man will paint the men. Phil and I had different designs painted on our faces. It might be considered an insult to refuse the face painting, although they seemed to know that foreigners wouldn't always accept it. They let us take photos and ask questions. At the end of the visit they showed us some handicrafts that they had made. We bought a couple of the toy tops, a purse, some earrings, and a bag. They are all made out of materials they find or grow.

When we were ready to leave the Machigenga, we returned to the boat for the trip back to the lodge. The guide had had trouble getting the motor on the boat started when we left the lodge, and again he had trouble getting it going to leave. He finally got it started, and we pulled away from the shore. We had only gone a short way when the motor died again. Carlos tried to start it; it was the kind of motor where you pull a rope to get started like a lawn mower. He pulled three more times without luck, then on the fourth pull the rope broke. We're drifting farther away from the land as Carlos tells us he has no paddles in the boat. He does have a radio though, and he sees one of the other boats from the lodge a short way down river. He calls the other guide that he sees down river who comes up to rescue us. They tie the boats together, and we get towed back to the lodge. During the towing, both guides are in the other boat; Phil and I are still in the disabled boat by ourselves. I sure kept hoping that the tow rope didn't break like the other one had.

In the afternoon, we went upriver again to the Hacienda Concepcion. It is a botanical garden where they allow the local school children to come to learn
Attention PassengersAttention PassengersAttention Passengers

In the event of a water landing, your seat cushion may be used as a flotation device. I have heard that phrase many times. This is the first time that I believed it.
about the ecology of the area. We took a nature walk there and saw more plants and birds that we'd never seen before. We saw an inch worm which had fallen on one of the other visitors. It really did move like I'd seen only in cartoons before. It was about an inch long, and it moved by stretching out it's full length then picking up its rear and placing it right by the head and repeating. Pretty silly looking, yet effective.

After the walk, we got in a canoe, thankfully the less leaky of the two available, and floated through a small oxbow lake for about half an hour. No life jackets on this canoe. I kept thinking that this was just like the jungle ride at Disneyland, except this was the real thing.
This boat got stuck on some vines and branches that were floating or growing in the water. We each helped push as we passed the biggest branches and could grab hold of them and finally got moving again. Carlos somehow lost his watch in the maneuvering to get us unstuck.

After the canoe ride (there was more water in the canoe when we got out
White CaimanWhite CaimanWhite Caiman

On the shore on the right side there is a white caiman.
than when we got in), we walked back to the bigger boat for the trip back to the lodge. On the way back, we saw more animals than we had before. We saw a white caiman on the shore and watched it until it dove into the river. We also saw a couple of capybara (river pigs) on the shore a bit farther down. One of them had a fresh wound on its neck with a streak of blood running down. It seemed to be okay and moving around as much as the other one. We didn't see any other animals around that might have fought with it. Capybara are the largest living rodents in the world.

In the evening, we took the Twilight River cruise. We saw more caimans, black caimans this time. The boat driver moved the boat up within about five feet of one of them. They are not aggressive like alligators and crocodiles are so we were safe. We also saw the same river pigs that we had seen this afternoon. The one with the bloody wound still looked like it would be okay. They put on a bit of a show pacing back and
Black CaimanBlack CaimanBlack Caiman

We got an up close look at this black caiman on the twilight river cruise.
forth and around on a sandy beach by the river.

Dining at the lodge has been okay. The menu is pretty limited, but the food is fine. We still have very little appetite, especially considering we are getting a lot more exercise than we usually do. Perhaps that is still the leftover effects from being in the high altitude. Sherlock has graciously waited on us at every meal. He is the head waiter and has a few assistants to help out, too.

Today we took only one excursion but it was a good one. We took the canopy tour. Ninety-five percent of the people who come to the lodge take the canopy tour. (The only ones who don't go on the canopy tour are people who are afraid of heights.) It is supposed to be one of the best canopy tours in the Amazon. The canopy of the rain forest is the area from 25 to 35 meters up. We climbed the tower up to the 30 meter height. We stayed on that tower for almost an hour watching the bright-colored birds and butterflies in the rainforest. One of Ethan's buddies brought up a scope to get a better
Canopy WalkCanopy WalkCanopy Walk

One of seven bridges on the canopy walk.
look at the birds. He also had an I-pod with a recording of the call that some birds make when they spot food and want to let others know about it. When he played that recording, even more birds appeared for us to see. We saw woodpeckers, toucans, hummingbirds, macaws, and many more birds with names that I had never known before.

Next we started making our way over the seven hanging bridges. The longest one was 140 feet long. They were made of wooden slats held together with ropes and steel cables. The hand rails were about four feet high and had netting from the rails down to the slats. The bridges swayed and shook, and we crossed them one at a time, the guide going first and waiting at the next platform. The platforms between bridges also swayed in the wind since they were built around trees. We had the amazing feeling of being suspended in the rain forest with animals and foliage on all sides. The sounds of the rain forest were all around. too.

During our stay at the Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica, we had one guide assigned to us. If he was not available to go on
Bungalow in the Rain ForestBungalow in the Rain ForestBungalow in the Rain Forest

Very comfortable. It was colder than usual while we were here, but they provided extra blankets. There is no heating or air conditioning in the bungalows. The restaurant seemed to be air conditioned though.
each excursion we wanted to take, he made a point of introducing one of the other guides at dinnertime who would take us on the trip the next day. We were encouraged to take as many of the excursions as we wanted. In fact, when we only signed up for one excursion on the last day, we were pressed somewhat to add another one. We were happy to sit in our bungalow and read and nap.

The bungalow was open-air on three sides. The walls were only screens on the top half. The front room of the bungalow had two chairs and two hammocks where we could watch the birds and see the beautiful plants on the lodge grounds. Behind the front room were louvered folding doors leading to the bedroom which had windows with just screens on both sides. The beds were covered with mosquito netting, and we were encouraged to tuck it in all around before going to sleep. While we were out on our evening excursions, someone from the hotel stopped by and lit four kerosene lanterns and placed them around the cabin. Before we went to bed, we extinguished all but one, which we placed in the shower as a night light. All the electricity was turned off at 10 p.m. The door to the bungalow did not have a lock on it. That seemed so very strange when we first arrived, but after seeing that the rooms were mostly screened walls, it made more sense. It is nice to know that there is still at least one place where you can go to bed and trust that no one will bother you. The wake up calls for the early excursions were not phone calls. The guide for that excursion just walked up close to the bungalow, called our names and asked if we were awake.


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