A journey into the Amazon
11.02.2012 - 15.02.2012
My Dear Readers,
Shortly after finishing The Lost City of Z (a tale of deadly misadventures into the Amazon rainforest) I ventured into the green hell myself with full knowledge of the diseases, bacteria, venomous animals, and fish that plant themselves in human urethras that lie within. That book is based on expeditions taking place in the early 20th century and the rainforest is now a much more civilized place, so it is no surprise that I made it out free of parasites or foreign diseases.
We made our way to Puerto Maldonado on the 11th where we hopped onto a river boat and cascaded down the Madre de Dio river. When we were booking our Amazonian expedition, we had two tour companies in mind. Not wanting to throw ourselves foolishly into the Amazon, the group decided to go with the safer bet that was slightly more expensive. When we arrived at our lodge, we soon realized that the safer bet was more of a resort in the Amazon than anything else. There was a swimming pool, a bar, a massive dining room, and hammocks aplenty. Despite it being slightly more cushy than I would have hoped for, we were still undeniably in the Amazon, and so looking past the rows of bungalows (or boungalous as the sign labeled them) was a pretty incredible thing. Shortly after arriving, we met our guide for the four days we were to be there, a friendly Peruvian man by the name of Guido. The first evening we went out to Monkey Island, an isolated 2 square kilometer patch of land were they reintroduced rescued monkeys back into the wild in a safe environment. We saw black and brown capuchins as well as the shy and passive spider monkeys. Of course Guido had brought bananas along, and since the monkeys were used to humans, we got to hold them out and have the cute little buggers grab them right out of our hands. The one spider monkey that was present was so friendly in fact that he hopped right on Georgia's back in an attempt to steal the water bottle out of her backpack. That night we went out on the river searching for caimans, but since it was the rainy season, the river was too high to properly see any. Instead, Guido killed the engine for a good 10 minutes and silenced us so we could listen to the sounds of the Amazon jungle at night.
On our second day, we woke up bright an early at 5 A.M. to go on a day long excursion. We hiked, canoed, and hiked some more as Guido told us about the plant life in the Amazon. We saw red howler monkeys, caimans, turtles, macaws, a tarantula, fire ants (Georgia in fact got bitten by one), leafcutter ants, and an enormous variety of plant life which was equally as interesting as the wildlife. We were all pretty bushed from getting up so early and hiking around for eight hours, so we did very little aside from hanging around the lodge and playing with the cute little tamarind monkey that lives there.
On day three we went out on a boat to a branch of the Madre de Dio river. We didn't see anything too interesting, but we stopped to fish for piranhas at one point. Unfortunately they weren't attracted to the beef niblets that Guido provided, so we decided to use ourselves as bait and hopped in the river. I'm actually completely serious, we went swimming in the exact same body of water that we were fishing for piranhas only moments before. Our guide assured us it was safe, the piranhas wouldn't bite, and the dirty ol' urethra fish didn't live that far south. After we finished swimming, it started to pour a good old fashioned Amazonian torrential downpour. It was so hot outside that it was extremely pleasant, and we just kept our bathing suits on as we boated on back to the lodge. That evening we hiked out to a nearby swamp and observed some white caimans from a catwalk. We saw about 20 babies and one full grown caiman that was about 2m long. We didn't see the more impressive 8m long black caimans, but it was still quite neat.
Day four was pretty uneventful. We went hiking out to a nearby lake, but everything we saw we had seen before. Also it had been raining since midnight the night before, and no one was feeling particularly enthusiastic. The lack of sleep and repetitive diet (rice and meat, meat and rice, rice and meat) we were experiencing was starting to get on everyone's nerves, so we got back soaking wet and proceeded to play about fifty games of Kaiser. That marked the end of our Amazonian adventure. It was an extremely mild introduction to the rainforest, which may or may not have been a good thing. It was comfortable and very planned out, in fact, not very adventurous at all. But still, we actually got to see the Amazon rainforest. We saw plenty of wildlife, and the brilliant flora that actually prevents a single ray of the sun from reaching the ground. It was a pretty spectacular experience... not quite a early 20th century expedition filled with malaria, cannibalistic tribes, and flesh eating bacteria, but hey, you just can't have it all.