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Published: December 6th 2010
Stunning Amazon Canopy
Here is a bird eye view of the Peruvian amazon with a chocolate river winding through
For me, travel isn't just about the journey...it's about the passion it evokes deep inside of me. Case in point...I now have an infectious strain of Jungle Love. I feel so alive here in the Amazon, even if the air is stagnant and heavy. While we march along single file on a jagged trail cut through dense underbrush, tramping down the crunchy debris as we go, the sounds of the jungle lull me into a dream-like state, and I become one with my surroundings. The Madre de Dios is quickly exceeding my wildest expectations.
Nearing the end of their dry season, small microbursts of rain make it feel like the whole Amazon is waking up from a long hibernation. Frogs sing about it, the scents of frangipani and ginger catch your nose as you pass by. Cicadas hum relentlessly, their legs rub so fast it sounds like a million little cell phones ringing. I stop myself a couple of times from asking outloud...does someone want to get that? The sharp smell of decaying foliage intensifies with a second rainfall. Everything you own is either wet or sweaty, and there is nothing you can do about it.
In the main
We snuck up on the Macaws playing around on the clay lick cliffs. They were so funny
town called Puerto Maldonado, roads become increasingly impassable as the wet season encroaches, so the thick chocolate river becomes the main mode of transportation, water taxis bustle to the villages that dot the edges. We too are shuttled in this manner to our Eco-Lodge, the trip is a short hour, but spectacular nonetheless, we are given a snack of cold fried rice wrapped in a gigantic banana leaf, which we all greedily devour with our fingers like it will be our last meal...sorta like when the flight attendants hand out those little packets of peanuts on the airplane.
Since I was about seven years old, I have always wanted to travel to the Amazon. I remember a glossy National Geographic magazine on my grandparent's coffee table spurred this fascination, I dreamed of living amongst the indigenous peoples and learning about medicinal plants deep in the steamy, thick jungles. Fast forward about thirty-five years, and my desire never dwindled, yet my reality changed slightly. I'm not as keen to attempt to sleep in a hammock deep within the bush, nor be covered in leeches while navigating a swamp - or at least, not while I'm on vacation. So, I came
I wish you could hear what this picture sounds like.
across a place called Posadas Amazonas that is owned and run by a local community, and seemed quite civilized really - flush eco toilets, cold showers, and real beds with mozzy nets. It ended up being even better than I imagined...a wonderful surprise of jungle luxury, yet still rustic and off-grid.
The compound is located in the Tambopata National Reserve and consists of a maze of thatch-roofed buildings connected by wooden plank walkways. No doors or windows, you are open to the elements 24/7. Magenta butterflies flit through unmolested. The only thing missing is a nice, peripatetic breeze...you almost beg for one...but concede to the brutal humidity, and drip wet from perspiration. A caretaker comes by at dusk to lower the mosquito nets around your bed and light all the kerosene lanterns. Nights are when the jungle is most active, so we only have time to drop our backpacks and don rubber boots, before we head back out for a hike in the rain. I'm not particularly bothered by any creepies or crawlies, but some of my group wig out when gigantic tarantulas or lizards skittle across their boots. The entire jungle floor crawls in the pitch black with
Sunset on the Dios de Madre
Sunset in the amazon is spectacular
wonderus stuff. I love it. While other creatures crash deeper into the bush to flee, we spot frogs and blind them stupid with our camera flashes.
The Tambopata river is drastically low right now, about three meters low, and the steep banks are covered in fresh grasses. Our guide spots a family of Capybaras obliviously munching away...comical noble-looking rodents, the father sits there while his babies run circles around him. He has a black bird perched on his shoulder, apparently each family unit has their own bird assigned, its job is to pick nits off everyone. We are seriously creeping them...and they are none the wiser.
Back at the lodge, the buffet style food is nothing to write home about, but the candlelight ambience makes up for it. We play cards and drink Pisco late while the jungle crashes and moans around us. Up early to head off for a day of trekking to an oxbow lake teeming with wildlife. An oxbow lake is a portion of the river that has become landlocked. A favourite place for creatures of all sorts, we paddle around observing birds and watching the river otters play. A gigantic prehistoric-looking fish surfaces near
sexy time frogs
Making more frogs for soup
our boat like a waterlogged tree and we are told it’s called a Payaras...we are also told they have been known to consume an entire human. Ay Carumba! As soon as you are aware what beasts may be lurking at the bottom of this river you become extra vigilant disembarking a shaky river boat gangplank, let me tell ya.
As the day becomes increasingly steamy, we lazily throw fishing line into the water for a little entertainment and catch some piranhas. There is a concentrated herd of them nearby, and I successful catch a few of the little buggers before they massacre my bait and line, and throw them back to murder something else another day.
Soaking wet but cozy warm, I'm clogging around in rubber boots and rain gear, completely immersed in Jungle Love. We attend a Shamans compound and spend the day with his people learning all about the plants used in everyday medicinal life. Each plant is lovingly revered and tended, and they prepare them the same way as they have done for centuries. You have your everyday aspirins, cough medicine, bandages, foot rot concoctions, along with various cancer preventatives, red bull equivalents, hallucinogenic for
River Taxi on a sand bar
Loved the river highway and the way we travelled them
rituals....and of course, because it's still very much a man's world, Viagra. He laughs at his own joke as he shows how the plant stands at attention on its own. Penis humour always gets a laugh.
Surprisingly, my perception of the Amazon wasn't what I thought it would be. I had the belief it was in a sad state of unfixable affairs. (Although I realize I was in a protected park for my stay)...I could still see what encroaching, enterprising humans had already done. From the airplane ride in, there was an obvious patchwork quilt of destruction following the roadways deep and as far as they eye could see. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by this ugly progress. But after meeting the locals and hearing their conservation plans, I was also left with some hope. Of the tiny chunk of Amazon protected park that I did see (obviously pillaged once before too, maybe as far back as the 1960's or 70's) Madre Amazon had begun to reclaim herself. I walked away with a deeper respect and admiration for the peoples of the Amazon, and their attempts to conserve their lands for the greater good of the world's peoples...these
Here is the place you come if you want to be treated naturally by a shaman
jungles are considered the actual 'lungs' of our entire Earth.
Waking up early to the sounds of the jungle in your outdoor room with 'jet airplanes' overhead -- which were the loud eerie calls of the howler monkeys as they echo back and forth at each other -- I didn't want my visit to end. We climbed a 37 metre tower and also scaled a majestic Brazil nut tree to survey the entire jungle canopy. Spectacular! The locals are trying for sustainable agriculture by selling crafts and food items produced directly from the endangered trees. All those beautiful massive monstrosites should never be cut down for wood, period.
Oh and by the way, I'm on horticultural overload. My favourite specimen so far is a "walking" palm tree called Socratea exorrhiza.
This tree actually uproots itself from where it originally germinated and moves across the jungle floor as it tries to find the best location for sunlight under the thick canopy. Very Pink Floyd planetarium if you ask me. We go on hikes to spectacular waterfalls, farther still to visit other local villages, and then come full circle and arrive at the gigantic cliff side of Clay along the
you need your wellies if you are going to trek through the bush
river....a favourite gathering spot for the wild macaws, they hang out like a bunch of teenagers at a 7-11, doing stunts and hanging upside down to impress each other, until a hawk swoops down and chases them all away.
The humidity of the jungle is energy sucking as the day descends into dusk. It's easy to pass the afternoon leisurely in a hammock watching leafcutter ants as they cart gigantic green leaves sixty times larger than themselves to squeeze through a doorway of their gigantic nest. Hours of fascination I'm telling you...and beats sitting at a desk in a cubicle staring at a computer screen anyday.
...And just like that, my first adventure with the Amazon is over. We arrive at the Puerto Maldonado airport just as a gigantic cloud unleashes tropic thunder on our asses. Sideways rain pounds down and we sit around for six hours waiting for our flight to arrive. There are only so many things you can do to entertain yourself in a tiny airport before you want to claw your eyes out...but I'm sure all you world travellers out there like me, adapt to your predicament. I do some sleuthing and quickly find
Touch my monkey. Touch it!
Crazy little bugger was hard to photograph
out there is a reptile sanctuary just a km or so down the road, so I decide it's worth the risk to wander off and go visit it. Hey, I've run like a madwoman before as to not miss my boarding call...I can do it again.
A good call it turned out to be, as they had freakazoid-sized Anacondas and other slithery things on display I was allowed to touch and wrap around. I return to the airport an hour or so later drenched, the locals watch me do an interesting flapping arm dance, my attempt to dry off in the cross wind vortex near the open glass doors. Unfortunately, our backpacks sat uncovered on the tarmac for the same six hours while we waited out the storm. Arriving in Lima, my bag was suspiciously dripping water.
Note to self: Amazon rainwater does not make for a good souvenir.
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