A Travellerspoint blog

Green Hell

A journey into the Amazon

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.

Posted by soupy 11:30 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

The Battle at Machu Picchu

A new apartment, ancient ruins, and foreign bacteria...

Dearest Readers,

After a series of days in the festering wound that is Loki Hostel, we miraculously made it out without contracting either a mass of STDs or liver disease. On Monday, I moved into a nearby apartment with Donovan, Steven, and Sam. We spent several days relaxing, cooking our own meals, and enjoying the silence that exists in the normal world. Steven and Sam left for the Pacific coast in the middle of the week, but it was certainly a treat having them around for the week. The remainder of the week was somewhat uneventful, but it was wonderful just meandering through the city, taking in the sights and smells of Cuzco. No one felt especially ambitious since we were all conserving our energy for the trek to Machu Picchu that took place this past weekend.

We woke up bright and early Saturday morning to head out to Machu Picchu, bright eyed and bushy tailed, but unfortunately for me, with one hell of a stomach bug. I guess eating meat sandwiches from street vendors and unwashed vegetables finally tipped the scale of the constant battle between the onslaught of foreign bacteria and my poor immune system. I woke up several times throughout the night with excruciating stomach contortions, and other "digestive issues" associated with such circumstances. I waddled onto our bus, and fought nausea for the next hour as we made our way through the winding mountain roads. We spent the next 2 hours on a train and finally arrived in Aguas Calientes that evening, and somehow I managed to avoid vomiting the whole way!

I slept the next fifteen hours or so, and woke up Sunday morning feeling much better. We took the 15 minute bus to Machu Picchu, and arrived bright and early, ready to see one of the wonders of the world. After being herded around like cattle for about a half hour, we finally started our tour. For some reason, the English speaking group was paired not with the English speaking guide, but with a plump little Peruvian man with a pair of crooked spectacles, a miniscule English vocabulary, and a voice so soft and gentle that we all nearly fell asleep throughout the tour. The bits of his dialogue that were comprehensible were interesting, but really the greatest part was just wandering around and seeing the ruins. It really is a magnificent sight to behold, crumbling ruins on top of a misty mountain surround by beautiful rainforest, unfortunately I still felt slightly ill and tired, so I fear my appreciation for the experience was slightly numbed.

After our tour of the ruins, we had a hike up Hynu Picchu, the tallest peak nearby Machu Picchu. The hike was somewhat grueling for us prairie folk unaccustomed to inclination, but we marched on, up the hundreds of stairs carved into the mountain by the priests of a long gone civilization. As we started the hike I felt excited, but about five minutes in I felt that ominous discomfort in my intestines, and realized we still had a long hike ahead of us... and that due to respect for the integrity of the sight, Hynu Picchu is completely free of toilets. By the time we made it to the top, I was getting seriously worried. The view was breathtaking, but once again, I could not concentrate on the majesty of my surroundings... I was consumed entirely by the physical reality I found myself in. In these types of situations, one always ponders their options, but in this specific situation, I had very few. Machu Picchu is very popular, and thus, there were people everywhere. Also, we were on a steep mountain, so wandering off into the bush was also impossible. The only option left was to trek back down, and so I waddled back down those steps, cursing the gods, and wondering what devious vendor had brought me to such a state. We finally got back down to the ruins, but there was still another ten minute walk to the main area with the facilities I so desperately needed. I abandoned the rest of the group, and half walked, half jogged through the twisting alleys of Machu Picchu. As I was nearing my destination, I was trapped behind a gaggle of Spanish tourists and could not get by. You don't realize how close I was to pushing those unsuspecting seƱoritas down the mountain... if only they knew. But I managed to restrain myself, and as soon as a path opened up, I sprinted past and didn't stop until I found the bathrooms, fumbling like a drunkard for the single sol coin to pay my admittance. I was saved.

We spent the rest of the day playing cards in cafes and waiting for our train back. We made it back to Cuzco late that night, and I was ecstatic to have a bed and bathroom so easily accessible. It was a glorious day, Machu Picchu was an incredible sight to see, and although it was slightly expensive, it was undoubtedly worth it. Along with all the pictures and memories of that wonderful spot on earth, I also will have a story to tell for the rest of my life... I very nearly shit my pants at Machu Picchu.

Posted by soupy 11:29 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

Alive and Well

overcast 11 °C

Dearest readers,

I don't want to devote a lot of time to this entry, but I think it's important to let you all know I'm alive and well in Cusco. After spending 28 hours in airports and airplanes, I finally arrived safe and sound in Cusco. Shortly after arriving I met up with the Saskatchewan crowd at our hostel, and though suffering from altitude adjustments and some serious sleep deprivation we managed to have a fantastic day. We had lunch at our hostel, perused a nearby market, stuffed ourselves once more at an East Indian buffet, and then waddled back to the hostel, full, tired, and content.

Apparently, the hostel we've chosen has a bit of a reputation for hosting parties, and unbeknownst to your dear traveler, it just so happens to be Australia day this very evening. As a result, the hostel is swarming with drunken tourists dancing on the bar table, painting themselves, and irritating me beyond belief. With a little tactical complaining, Georgia managed to get our room switched from a sub par room a few meters away from the bar to the best room in the hostel, with a staggering view of the city... for absolutely no charge I might add. So I write this while sitting on a king size bed in a beautiful 350 year old room, completely overwhelmed by the combination of sleep deprivation, the realization that I'm in a completely different world, and the pounding bass of the dub step dance party that is taking place in the bar downstairs. The beginning of this trip has been more wonderful than I anticipated, and if it is any indicator of the adventures to come, I have a feeling this is going to be an incredible three and a half months.

-Greg

Posted by soupy 19:28 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

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