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zest&bare Most of the shadows of this life are caused by our standing in our own sunshine. Ralph Waldo Emerson

jungle fever

PERU | Monday, 14 September 2009 | Views [754] | Comments [4]

Ahh the serenity

Ahh the serenity

After my Machu Picchu adventure I was looking forward to some down time in the jungle…So off I went at 5.30am on Monday August 31 to Manu. Not exactly deep Amazon, more like the Daintree in Northern Queensland, but tropical nonetheless.

The seven hour bus trip was, well, it as a seven hour bus trip with no bathroom and along narrow and high roads. My hangover didn’t help (no matter how little I seem to drink at this altitude, I feel like I’ve downed a bottle of vodka the next day). Stupid as I knew this would be the case. At one point we were face to face with another bus, playing chicken. I think our driver backed down in the end (not sure as I covered my eyes). Eventually the driver stopped no where in particular and pointed to a path that was meant to lead us to our destination. Thankfully I was with four other troopers, so off we went down the random trail, which thankfully did lead us to the edge of the river. Being the city slickers we are no one could work the cable crossing to get to the lodge. So an old guy in Speedos swam across the river to help us (turns out the old guy is 71 year old Mario, who used to own the land).

Monday afternoon was low key and Tuesday we went with this Mario along the few paths surrounding the lodge. The lodge is made for volunteers and the odd tourist, with ‘bedrooms’ separated by low bamboo walls. So aside from the walls and the much needed mosquito nets over the beds, it’s otherwise open. Mario’s tour included a spiel on healthy living and clean air – followed by him lighting up a smoke about five minutes later. I think the irony was lost on him.

Using a machete to dig a hole (easier said than done in my case), we planted a few seeds to help the primary forest grow back (the bamboo is apparently taking over, and this is bad. Sure the pandas of the world would disagree). Wednesday, I helped mix some soil and put it into little bags and then Thursday myself and another volunteer were giving the seemingly easy task of finding bamboo, cutting it to size and hammering some nails into it and then into a door to make a handle for the tourist huts. For this task I was alone at one point, running around the jungle in gum boots with a machete looking for bamboo. Yes, you can laugh.

The brief was to make three handles. By Friday afternoon we had managed one. The first one we did literally fell off the door. So that was the culmination of my volunteer work in the jungle. Bet they were glad I came.

I spent my afternoons either at the waterfall or by the river, reading. On Wednesday, a few of us went into town…to buy rum. Again, I failed my brief and bought too little. So, two of the guys went back the next day to buy more. More meant four bottles for eight of us. Needless to say Thursday night was messy, made more ridiculous by singing our hearts out by candlelight to The Fugees (gotta love an iPod and crappy speakers in the jungle). Rob, my door handle partner was especially drunk and let’s just put it this way, he had to change his sheets and hose down his bed and surrounds the next day. Ewww.

We got into a bit of trouble for having the rum which is actually pretty funny as the owner is quite happy to pack her kids up in the car and go see a shaman, but no alcohol allowed?!

Bridget, Chloe and I left on the Friday afternoon (they arrived the same day as me) and leaving was certainly not a simple affair. It started raining around 4pm and if anyone can visualise proper torrential, tropical rain, then that’s what we got. To get the bus back to Cusco we had to walk to the ‘first’ town, about 20 minutes away, after of course crossing the river and going up the same random path that got us to the river in the first place.

The rain just did not stop and eventually we had to bite the bullet and go. Thankfully we were allowed to borrow some gum boots and I packed some clothes to change into in a plastic bag and concluded that the rest of my stuff was going to get soaked, including what I was wearing. It was getting dark so we tried to find our torches… to no avail. So we borrowed one and used another defunct lamp that literally just flickered on and off. As the oldest of our little group I (begrudgingly!) let the other girls go across the river first, together. Then I had to pull the seat back, lock it, get on, unlock it and as I’m getting flung across to the middle of the now-ridiculously heaving river, I had to pull the rope up and get myself across. The seat is open so you just have to steady yourself with your feet, made harder when you have your bags across you, it’s dark and it’s pissing down rain. There was one millisecond when I felt sheer panic (after I stupidly looked down)…then I willed myself to look straight ahead and get my self across. In the sunshine and daylight, that cable crossing looks just dandy. I assure you though, at that moment it was so bloody scary!

Next challenge was getting up to the road. So by now it’s dark and we have two pissy torches. We made it.

Then the road…well, it was full of puddles and at one point there was a huge branch across the road. We wondered if the bus would even be able to get through after all of this! Obviously someone moved the branch as after some time a few cars passed us. One truck driver offered a ride but we couldn’t all fit. As the next car came by, we were standing right up on the edge of the narrow road and to alert him we were there I waved the torch. I inadvertently flagged him down and the next thing you know we’re hitching a ride in the back of his truck into town.

Finally we made it to the ‘bus stop’ (which was at the house of the cleaning lady from the lodge) and the bus arrived an hour later. The woman I sat next to had a baby – they smelt like alcohol, milk and wet dog. She got off the bus at one point and asked me to watch her kid. Naturally he started squealing as soon as she left. Needless to say, the bus back was painful. Police searched the bus four times and the Peruvian music was so loud and out of tune I wanted to rip my ears off. Anyway we made it back in one piece at 5.30am Saturday morning (it took 9 ½ hours).

Perhaps it wasn’t the downtime I was after, but ‘the jungle’ was certainly fun and an adventure…

I´m looking forward to staying put for the next few weeks anyway!

 

Comments

1

Hi Danielle - I'm back in Canada from Cuba ... had fun in the sun, sun, sun!!! I found Rum to be my "new" drink - "Havana" & "Ron" are a good couple!! Ha Ha :)
I'm glad you had your shots before you left Oz - being bitten by a monkey from the Amazon doesn't sound too healthy!
Oh My God! Sounds like a real adventure & at times quite "scary"... thank goodness you made it back to Cusco "safe'n'sound." How are the babies in Cusco - sounds like you are really loving them ... it will be hard to leave.
Glad you are well & enjoying yourself. Love you - Hugs & Kisses - Mum xxx

  Cheryl Ryan Sep 23, 2009 1:10 AM

2

Hi Danielle - It was great talking to you last night. How was the Excursion? Do you have a "headache" today after your "farewell" last night?
Good luck with your next adventure in Bolivia.
I will be thinking of you & let us know somehow, that you have arrived safely in La Paz.
Take care & have a safe trip.
Love you - Hugs & Kisses Mum xxx

  Cheryl Ryan Sep 26, 2009 3:13 AM

3

Hey Dan, Great to read your adventures... Enjoy your next adventure to Bolivia and we will chat sometime over the weekend. Love ya.
Love Em, Brad, Madison and Jack xxx

  Emma - The Dixons Sep 30, 2009 3:26 PM

4

I just gasped when I read this - sounds like you are having some wild adventures! Loved the pic of you and the monkey too by the way - something I've always wanted to do - though not the biting part! :)
Thinking of you always, Amy, Keir, Milla and mini bump xx

  Amy Baker Oct 1, 2009 10:31 AM

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