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Peru - Amazon

PERU | Friday, 17 May 2013 | Views [678]

AMAZON

The next morning we were on a bus to the airport on our way to Puerto Madonado and the start of our Amazon Jungle stay at Refugio Amazona.  We had about a half hour to repack some essential things into our day packs (flash lights, change of clothes, toilet items, rain gear) and leave our larger packs with the tour people at there office.  We rode about 4 hours up the Madre de Dios river, seeing several macaws at a clay lick, some monkeys in a tree, a caiman sunning on the bank, and a capybara.  We also had to check in at Reserva Nacional Tambopata, where we got an "Amazon Jungle" stamp in our passports. 

 

macaw   capybara

 

When we got to the Lodge we had to climb several steps to get to level ground, then a short hike to the Lodge.  Wow! It was not what any of us were expecting.  It was a massive log and bamboo construction, and beautiful! The main building held the common area, dining area, and bar.  There were raised walkways leading to the sleeping buildings.  The bedrooms were bamboo with the wall facing the jungle not a wall at all, but rather wide open with a balcony rail.  The beds all had mosquito nets.  The bathroom was also bamboo and came complete with sink, toilet and hot water shower.  There were candles for us, since the only electricity was in the main building and only for a few hours in the evening.  On their information brochure it said "Thank God we do not have a telephone available at our lodge!"  But that didn't stop people from charging their cell phones when the power was switched on.....

 

    Jungle Lodge  sleeping quarters  bathroom at Lodge

 

It started to rain that night and didn't stop until we left 2 days later.  But that didn't stop us from putting on the rubber boots they supplied and doing several kilometers per day trekking. 

 

trekking in the rain

 

 We learned that brazil nuts grow in a large coconut looking thing, which has to be hacked open to reveal the 10-20 nuts inside. We got to sample various leaves that are used for modern medicinal concoctions, such as rub A535 (smelled like it too), novocaine (made our tongues go numb), quinine for malaria, and the sap of a tree called dragon's blood, a natural antiseptic.  There were all kinds of strange and wonderful plants and trees - vines growing like gigantic ropes, ironwood trees, a penis tree, and even a walking tree, that actually moves up to 30 cm a year! Basically, its long above ground roots grow this way and that to help the top of the tree find better sun.

 

penis tree  rope looking vine

 

We went up a 30 meter tower to look over the jungle canopy.  A flock of toucans landed right in front of us! 

 

toucans

 

We went across the river to a farmers place.  Unfortunately for us, he had taken the river taxi into Puerto Maldonado to sell his bananas.  The water taxi only comes by twice a month so it was understandable that he was not going to hang around to entertain a bunch of tourists.  However, the guide took it all in stride and showed us around the farm anyway, giving us samples of oranges, persimmon, sugar cane and cocoa fruit.  He explained the slash and burn method we often hear about.  Basically, a farmer will have about 20 hectares of land.  He will slash and burn about 2-3 hectares and plant it.  Because the soil in the Amazon is not really that fertile, it begins to lose productivity in 2-3 years so he has to slash and burn another few hectares.  The old cultivated part goes back to jungle and in about 10 years it gets slashed and burned again to replace another area that has lost productivity.  It is a massive merry go round.  This farmer was proactive in that he planted mahogany trees, a tree that is going extinct due to its popularity.  It will take 60 years for these trees to be harvested.  He is definitely planning for his children's future.  That being said, there are fewer and fewer farmers in the Amazon basin.  The children have to go to school several hours away by boat, and stay boarded at the school. They tend not to come back to the jungle life.....

 

cocoa fruit

 

We went out one night to spot caiman, but only saw a few.  We went to the Oxbow Lake for a little canoe expedition and to feed the piranha crackers!  The piranha here are really scavengers and eat the dead things in the water.  We were in no danger at all.  We also saw some bats, a tiranchula and hoatzin birds.

All in all, it was a great adventure, even though it rained the entire time we were in the Rain Forest :-)  There was a howler monkey sleeping in a tree very near the dining area.  The Lodge set up a telescope so we could have a good look at it, but it remained sleeping and quiet the entire time we were there.  The guides said that all the animals were hiding and quiet due to the rain.  Oh well, maybe next time we will see and hear them.

We took a boat back to Puerto Maldonado.  It was much faster returning as the river rose about 2 meters in the 2 days and we did not have to maneuver around the rocks, as we did on the way there.  We quickly gathered our large packs and headed to the airport again and off to Cusco.

 

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