Adventure in the Amazon
The Amazon had long held a special fascination for me. Ever since I studied the area and cultures in my university Latin American Studies classes, I’d been ready to visit. I didn’t want to cruise through, I wanted a more authentic experience. We did it with a three-day adventure into the jungle where the Amazon originates, from Iquitos, Peru.
After landing in Iquitos, they verify proof of your yellow fever shot and send you on your way. We headed directly to the Amazon Queen and set off down the river for the Ceiba Tops Lodge, luxury by Amazonian standards.
Although we had booked our experience through Abercrombie & Kent (A&K), we were traveling on our own. Our small bungalow had a private bath, very weak lighting, and much-welcomed A/C. That bit of cooler air provided a respite from not only the heat but the insects and wildlife. We were very firmly in their world.
The experience was amazing. After venturing 100 miles deeper into the rainforest to a very basic lodge, we were stuck midday in total darkness during a heavy rainstorm. Capybaras were running around and signs near the enclosed open-pit toilet warned of tarantulas. We were captivated by the canopy walk 155’ up in the trees at a research station with 14 observation points.
Our transportation during our few days was by tricycle taxi, boat, and on foot. During one hike I was saved from stepping on a huge snake by our guide who halted me mid-stride. My husband was cautioned from pulling the hanging vines because things (like snakes) could drop down. The jungle hides a lot of secrets and I was thankful we had a guide.
Catching Piranha in the opaque water was a huge highlight of the trip. With strings tied to branches and meat tied to the end, the fish hit the instant the bait was below the murky surface. Small but evil-looking with their razor-sharp teeth, it was a thrill. We caught four, in spite of the fact my husband’s twig-pole snapped in half. Our fishing guide brought along a young niece and nephew, and let me tell you having a lose Piranha flop around in a small rickety open boat with the kids and me jumping around was a panic.
We searched for the pink freshwater river dolphin (called Bufeos) where the black water met the brown and were rewarded with success. The more they move, the pinker they get. You can venture out at night to find caimans, but since we live in the only place in America with both alligators and crocodiles we passed. We saw so much wildlife, interesting plants, insects of every type. and birds.
Back at the Ceiba Tops Lodge, we enjoyed a cultural program performed by some very attractive/handsome local students. One evening my husband spotted our fishing guide from earlier in the day headed our way, carrying a platter . . . well, they proudly cooked, garnished, and presented the Piranha to us. I had no intention of eating a fish that regularly consumed dead animals, but I also didn’t want to offend our hosts. I did taste one bite (it was very salty) and then made a big display of moving it all around my plate to look like I had eaten more. Fortunately, we had plenty of other food to eat.
Three days were enough. Humans are the invasive species here. It’s a hard life for those who live in the Amazon, and I am privileged to have experienced the region. I only hope we can preserve this incredible rainforest and its place in the world.
Of Note: When traveling here, you really need to heed the advisories. We treated our clothes in advance with Permethrin, used DEET bug spray religiously, and diligently took our Malaria pills (2 days prior, during, and one week after the trip). Regardless of the heat and oppressive humidity, you must keep well -covered and we took hiking boots, socks, hats, long-sleeved tops, and long pants. If bare skin was exposed for a second, it was covered with insects. We were careful to stay hydrated with bottled water and avoided any food not cooked, or peeled by us. Melons are also to be avoided since we were cautioned by locals, they often inject water to pump up the weight and therefore the price – so no melon for us.