No doubt the limited amount of sleep I received on the epic journey the night before had something to do with that.
First order of the day before heading up to the communal lodge for brekkie was a refreshing shower. Even early morning the humidity was already rising fast and a cold shower was a welcome kick-starter. The bathrooms in our individual hut/shelters are pretty fantastic. Very modern, considering where we are, and open enough to still feel like you’re showering outside which is always a wicked feeling.
With a hearty breakfast stored away, we joined Johan, our Amazon guide, for a trek through the forest en route to a canopy tower. The type of terrain ahead of us was somewhat given away by the fact that we all had to shed our individual footwear before setting off, and slipping on a supplied pair of rubber gum boots. As you can well imagine, everyone checked every set of designated boots thoroughly for creepy crawlies of any kind. I mean let’s face it, nobody wanted to slip on a pair of boots that some hairy tarantula nested in last night!
Footwear sorted and we were away! It didn’t take long for Johan to stop and gather the group to talk about numerous incredible plant and animal species that each seem to have their own unique way of battling for light and nutrients in a bid to survive below the Amazon canopy.
Arriving at the viewing tower which seemed to rise forever into the sky above, Johan spent some time reassuring the nervous ones amongst us of the safety of the tower and touched on the rewards awaiting at the top. Everyone seemed to be up for it, so in two groups, we started ascending.
From the top of the tower, we came face to face with the top branches of some of the forest’s tallest trees, and also had the chance to look down upon the dense canopy formed by so many trees all fighting for light. Butterflies flittered and fluttered around us as bright, colourful macaws flew past in numbers (too fast and far away to catch on camera, unfortunately). We could hear a number of different species of monkey (which Johan kindly identified for us), but were unsuccessful in spying them swinging through the trees below us.
After spending 15 minutes or so marvelling at the sights around us, our group of 6 (including Florian, Leonie, Anna, Simon) made our way down the tower allowing for the second group to make their way to the top. The neat thing about the tower being just a glorified, anchored, open set of scaffolding was that the whole way down you could still experience and view life in the forest at all levels.
Back at ground level, we continued along a well trodden and muddy trail through the forest, finding an assortment of insects and frogs as we went. The forest is literally teeming with wildlife which you can hear constantly, and see from time-to-time.
One of the things on my mental “to-do” list was to try and orchestrate an encounter with a tarantula. Johan found some holes/nests just off the trail and did his best to coax the timid eight-legged monsters from their underground safety (below). But alas, the nocturnal devils weren’t having a bar of it. Boo!
Lots more mud, more crazy plants that bleed a staining red all over your hands when you rub them between your fingers, a plant/leaf that literally anaesthetises your tongue and mouth when you chew it (bizarre feeling I haven’t really encountered since drinking copious half coconut shells of “Cava” in Fiji) later, and we found ourselves on the edge of a large body of water which we proceeded to head out into, in a medium sized long boat.
It turns out the reason Johan was taking us out into the lake was to view some bats that were sleeping on a partly submerged tree trunk, and also to give us the chance to witness the frenzied activity of a species of piranha as they fought over some food scraps thrown into the water around the boat. Crazy!
Although Johan tried to convince us that they aren’t really meat, or human, hungry by nature, I’m not convinced and wasn’t about to stick my hand over the side to experiment.
Next stop on the Amazon hike was a visit to a couple of VERY LARGE trees – a Strangler Fig and an Elephant Tree. These monsters of the forest dwarfed us all, and one can only wonder how long they had been here and what stories they could tell if they were able to talk…
Back at the lodge, we kicked off the sweaty, muddy gum boots, cleaned them up, placed them back on their drying racks and headed straight for the lounge and some well deserved ice-cold beers. They only come in one size around these parts, large, and that was AOK by us (Simon and Rob, below, agree).
It was universally agreed that perhaps the best way to escape the heat for a bit before lunch would be to enjoy a lightning quick cold shower, then head upstairs to the airy loft area where we could stretch out in some comfy hammocks and just chill out. As it turned out – it was the perfect idea…
…even if we DID have to share the space with some of the locals!
After lunch it was back down to the river and onto the long boat that carried us to this amazing slice of Peru. We headed directly across the river to the far bank where we jumped off and headed up to a private farm where Johan proceeded to educate us on a huge assortment of both familiar, and weird and wonderful, fruit and vegetables that are grown in this part of the world.
Bananas, melons, custard apples and some kind of fruit that tasted dangerously close to chocolate were all part of the selection that Johan presented and sliced up for our testing…
With a full day of Amazon exploration behind us, we headed back to the lodge where we had time to freshen up and relax by the bar with beer and popcorn (winner!) before dinner.
After dinner, we all gathered to head down to the river for one last adventure – a night walk and camen “hunt” (don’t worry, spotlights and cameras only). Considering how many of the Amazon’s critters choose the night hours to come out and be active, I knew this was going to be interesting no matter how it went.
On the way down to the river we came across an assortment of bugs and spiders, but it was the monster below, a “Tail-less Whip Scorpion”, that gave me the right heebie jeebies. This thing was dead set HUGE. To give you some idea, use the smaller spider top right of the photo for perspective. That “smaller” one is probably, outstretched, the size of a child’s hand. Yup… the scorpion one is THAT big!
If you look closely too, you can see the future generation of these creepy crawlies clinging onto Mum or Dad’s back. *shudders*
Anyway, once on the river we floated down river silently and stealthily, using a spotlight to scour the banks for eye flashes – the tell-tail sign of camen resting on the river bank. After 20-30 minutes of nothing, we thought we were maybe out of luck on this occasion. But all of a sudden we came across this beauty…
Some more wildlife spotting on the journey back to the lodge and we were all just that little bit more nervous about sleeping in our open walled huts. Insect netting securely in place, however, and any concerns I had drifted away as I slipped into a great night’s sleep!
Tomorrow – back to Cuzco!
Posted in: Travel