After I just finished up one amazing Peruvian experience of my life (hiking and camping through the mountains for 3 days and visiting Machu Picchu), I was on a plane to Puerto Maldonado for ANOTHER crazy experience: Spending a week in the middle of NOWHERE, in the Peruvian Amazon jungle, surrounded by lots and lots of wildlife!
I arrived at the airport (Sept 11) and the humidity was immediately EVIDENT…. phew! Hot! I had expected to join a big group of fun people for my tour for the week—just to find out I WAS THE ONLY ONE in my group! And it would just be myself and my tour guide for the whole week on my particular tour itinerary. Huh? I was a bit confused, but thought maybe there was a mistake, and was kind of disappointed as I sign up for these tours so that I can meet people. I boarded a van with my tour guide, Johan, and a bunch of other sweaty tourists, and we bumped and lunged over rocks and potholes in the ground as we were transported to the tour company’s office. I changed clothing and was instructed to transfer my belongings from my suitcase to just one SMALL BAG for the week. Eeek! I wasn’t prepared for this. I quickly had to decide what the heck I’d need for the week, and what would be left behind. Of course it was HOT and humid and I was a bit stressed, so I was uncomfortably sweating all over the place as I quickly packed and repacked my small bag for the week. Fingers crossed!!—hope I got everything I needed!
Another bumpy ride down streets and then through muddy jungle paths to our next mode of jungle transportation: The motorized canoe. What’s THAT? Canoes can be motorized? Is this safe? Not sure…. but we strapped on life vests and climbed aboard, as the boat swayed side-to-side as we piled in. And we were off!
The river was a bright orange, and for as far as you could see in every direction everything was lush lush GREEN! I could hear thousands of birds crying in the distance, and the fresh and humid air whipping across my face as we motored up the Tambopata river. I made friends with a few girls who were in my canoe, and found that they were on a different tour of only 3 days; my tour would be SIX days, and I would be going the deepest into the jungle that you could go! But at that point I confirmed that it was pretty much just me and Johan for the week… and we would come across other travelers as we’d go along, but nobody was on my particular/specific 6-day itinerary. You’d think most people would be happy to get a “private tour” for the price of a group tour, but I was NOT…. when traveling alone, one of the greatest experiences is traveling WITH other people in a group! SIGH… oh well, nothing I can do now.
A few hours later we arrived at the first lodge—Posada Amazonas– and were greeted with cold drinks and towels for our necks. The tour guides took a group of us on our first hike of the trip, and we were excited to spot a few monkeys already along the path! Awesome!
Back at the cabin I was escorted to my room, which consisted of a curtain for a door, an open wall to the jungle, a bed with mosquito netting over it, and a bathroom with a cold-water-only shower. Welcome to the jungle! 🙂 Ate a delicious meal that night and was off to bed by 10pm to be prepared for a 5am wakeup call. Yikes… I guess my whole Peruvian trip was turning out to be a 9/10pm to bed and 5/6am to rise daily schedule!
That morning, we were off to float around on a nearby lake for wildlife sight-seeing. It’s amazing how serene and peaceful the jungle can be in the morning, and the fog rolling off the water was quite a gorgeous sight. We spotted SO many different birds, and spent a GREAT deal of time trying to spot caimen— which are HUGE “jungle crocodiles”. We also tried fishing for piranhas! We used very basic fishing poles: a stick with some fishing line and a hook. Inventive! hah…. A few people were lucky enough to snag one of these sharp-teethed creatures, but unfortunately I wasn’t so lucky! Oh well…. I’m not the most patient person in the world anyway. 🙂
Back at the lodge, I actually had to gather my stuff together, as I’d be taking ANOTHER boat up the river to get to the “Tambopata Research Center” lodge that I’d be staying at for the rest of the week on my particular tour. I was really SAD, as I had just made friends with three fun girls, but they were staying behind. I climbed aboard the motorized canoe again—but this time was joined by an entire BOATLOAD of bird watchers. Ohhh….. good lord…. this was a pretty entertaining boat ride of 6+ hours with a bunch of 70+something-year-olds who JUMPED in excitement at anything that flew. And let me tell you—in the Amazon jungle–EVERYTHING FLIES! Oh!–binoculars out!–there’s a —- bird! Look!—over there, it’s a —- bird! Haha…. I think those seniors sure got a lot of neck exercise as their heads whipped left and right, binoculars glued to their faces.
By the time we reached the Tambopata Research Center, I WAS DONE LOOKING AT BIRDS for awhile! And that was fine, as I was pretty tired, and after a nice evening meal I was off to bed. I guess I was getting used to this 9pm bedtime afterall.
The next few days consisted of a morning hike and afternoon hike with my tour guide, Johan, pointing out different trees, insects, plants, birds, monkeys, and other wildlife we stumbled upon. In between hikes we had our three meals a day, which were SO YUMMY—man, and I was REALLY into the amazing soups they prepared! And I also had a bit of downtime during the day and would lay around in a hammock and nap or read, it was quite peaceful and MUCH needed. No internet, no TV, no phones, just NATURE. Everybody should do that at least once in their lifetime.
Because we were SO far out into the jungle, NOWHERE NEAR civilization, we had the best chance of seeing and experiencing tons and tons of wildlife! To get an idea of how remote I was, click here to see on a map where I stayed. You can see Puerto Maldonado on the map—that’s the airport I flew into—and then follow the river south down to the point I marked off. Yea…. 9 hours total by boat to get there… pretty remote!
I was SO excited to actually see monkeys in their natural habitat, jumping tree to tree, one after another—and sometimes they came incredibly close to us, hissed, and then jumped off into the trees above. It was pretty incredible to learn SO much about the jungle and how mother nature REALLY is “in control'” out there. Johan was SO informational and nice, and he helped me with my Spanish a lot along the way. I spent the whole week practicing with him, and asking questions about my grammatics, wishing I had been more proactive with keeping up my Spanish skills the past 4 years since I had lived in Spain.
One of the mornings, we got up INCREDIBLY EARLY—4am—to get out in the jungle early enough to watch the Macaws fly in to the nearby salt lick. Apparently this salt lick is one of the most popular places in Peru where traveling Macaws gather and nest. As we sat and waited patiently, the skies became LOUDER AND LOUDER with constant cries and screeches from parrots all over the area. It is almost hard to describe the sound unless you are there to hear it yourself, but it is incredible how loud it is, and how MANY birds there are! The tour guides exclaimed that we were REALLY lucky, because it was “high season” and these are the most Macaws they’ve seen in quite some time.
A couple nights that week, Johan took me on NIGHT HIKES. Yea… this was a bit spooky. Maybe if there were more people in our group, or at least somebody walking BEHIND me, I would have felt better… but trekking out into the jungle at night with nothing but a flashlight is a bit creepy and your mind tend to wanders to unpleasant thoughts. However, I trusted Johan and felt safe, and we DID spot some creatures we normally wouldn’t have during the daytime… moths, tarantulas, night monkeys, and EEEEK!— THE BIGGEST SPIDER I have EVER seen in my life!! ICK!! It was seriously bigger than my HAND, and as I stared at it in amazement, PRAYING it wouldn’t “jump out” onto me from its leaf, Johan informed me that it also is one of the most poisonous spiders out there! Ahhhh!!!… I had creepy “flashbacks” of that damn spider for days afterwards (and even now as I type this)!!
Overall, the whole week in the Peruvian jungle was the MOST unique experience of my life . . . sleeping under mosquito netting at night and just LISTENING to the jungle noises around you is something so incredible it gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. And you kind of become “one with nature” and really learn to respect our natural resources and how simple life really CAN BE without our everyday electronics, vehicles, and jobs.
It’s nice just to go out there and let it all go . . . .
To see photos from my jungle experience, look here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152430847100343.957300.596295342&type=1&l=c9e60fd155