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Travel Adventure - Backpacking Latin America's Gringo Trail Backpacking Latin America starting in Cuba, then travelling from East to the west coast of Mexico before making our through Central and finishing in South America.

The Amazon!

PERU | Tuesday, 18 August 2015 | Views [372]

Day 1
We checked in to our flight that was flying to Iquitos. It's probably the most incredible flight I've been on, firstly flying over the Andes which is a huge mountain range. Some parts had snow on them and cloud surrounded the peaks. I've never flew over mountains like that before. We then flew over the Amazon rainforest which was incredibly huge too and dense with jungle. It just went on forever and there were river and lake systems flowing between. No wonder there are parts of the Amazon which have not been explored yet and tribes which have only become apparent to us recently. The tour company we booked with greeted us at the airport and there were also another 10 people who were with this tour company. They transferred us in a shuttle from the airport to their office in Iquitos. The office backed on to a river which we got on a small boat which then connected to the Amazon to take us to our lodge. Most of the people in our tour are Spanish - a student American couple who are with a German guy who are English but speak and understand Spanish. Our guide is from a village nearby in the Amazon and speaks Spanish then  tells us what he can in English after. He's not that great at English and I can barely understand what he's saying. Which is a bit of a shame coz we won't really know what's going on and won't be able to learn as much as we could. We met the American couple later at lunch and even they said it's easier to understand what he's saying in Spanish rather than his English. Which makes sense coz he's Spanish but proves his English isn't that great :-/
We arrived at our lodge which is right on the river. We walked along a wooden stilt pathway to the restaurant/common eating area which had a huge thatched roof and all the cabins which also had thatched roofs were split off on stilts from there. It was pretty cool. We were served a welcome drink of a native fruit - yellow tomato juice. The guide did a welcome/briefing in Spanish and a little bit of English but couldn't really understand what he was saying. We then were shown our rooms. It was really cool staying in a lodge in the Amazon. It was extremely humid here, with no breeze at all. There is no internet/TVs or power in our rooms, just in the main eating area. 
We hired gumboots and did a quick walk through the jungle along the river of our property/lodge. We soon realised why we needed gumboots, walking through slush of thick clay like mud. We spotted a tarantula and got eaten alive by Mosquitos (maybe we should have taken those malaria tablets..) You could hear lots of birds in the trees and the guide  stopped and explained something a little while in to the wall which I didn't understand what he was saying. We gathered something about a medicinal tree and asked him again and he showed us that one of the trees with the thick roots, the Amazonian's cut the bark of the tree and use the sap as medicine to help with illness. We cut a bit of the bark and we saw the white sap ooze out. We went back to our cabins and when lunch was ready the guide hit a drum which echoed down to all our rooms. Apparently you can hear it 1km away and that was our alarm for meal times and when we needed to go on an activity. Meal times are served buffet style and for lunch there was rice, beans, salad, fish, plantain (cooked banana) and a root vegetable like a potato.
We then got back on the little boat to go to a zoo/conservation park on the river. All these monkeys came from the trees and out of no where. They were not scared and a little cheeky. A couple climbed up on to two ladies in our group, opened their bags and started pulling contents out of their bags! There were lots of little monkeys climbing the trees and jumping, running and playing about. When you least expected it they would be climbing on you. There was also a toucan, some macaws, a sloth, a turtle and a prehistoric turtle which had a bumpy shell and a pointy head. The guy also pulled out a baby anaconda which was 3m long and people got the hold it. Matt did, I didn't. It started to rain a little so we sat under the shelter where they served us a taster of the medina drink  and we could purchase bottles of it if we wanted. A little baby monkey climbed on to me while we were sitting and went straight over to Matt. It was sitting on another guy before so I think he really liked males (maybe coz they are taller and like to be up high?) it was the cutest little monkey though and cuddled in to matts neck and rested on his back. He just chilled there and we took photos. He had the cutest big beady eyes and was so sweet. When it was time to go we had to get the guy to take the baby monkey off Matts back coz it had made itself very content. When the guy pulled the monkey off it cried and hung on to matts shirt and didn't want to let go and part with him. It squealed and chucked a little tantrum when it was put back on the ground. My gosh it was so cute. It followed us back to the boat and even climbed onto our boat. We had to put it back on the ground again. We went to another part of the river as the sun set to look out for Dolphins. Unfortunately we didn't see any. Hopefully we do get to see the pink Dolphins advertised in the tour at some point and that wasn't our only chance. We went back to our lodge and watched a beautiful sunset at the dock over the Amazon river and took a few pics. We had dinner before an early night for bed. It was so cool listening to the sounds of the animals around in the Amazon while we drifted to sleep. We were out like a light after the past hectic couple of days with lack of sleep. 

 Day 2

We were woken by the drum alarm clock in the morning for breakfast. The sounds of birds were alive in the Amazon. We then went on the boat to visit a native Amazonian tribe called Yahua. We walked to a large hut where they had jewellery and handicrafts, blows darts, bows etc hanging up (assuming we could buy these later). Our guide played the drum fit a bit until people from the tribe started to emerge. They dressed in grass skirts and feathered head pieces. The man who looked like the chief went around to everyone and painted red war paint on our faces. They then played a drum and flute and did a dance. They pulled us up to join in on their dance, which pretty much was just leading us around in a circle to the beat of the music. We couldn't learn much about their history coz we didn't really know what the guide was saying even when he explained it in English. There's lots of stuff about the Amazon I want to google when we get back to internet connection. Apparently he said that the tribes used to kill people when they entered their area. But now have built up a relationship with tourist. They speak a native language and understand a little bit of Spanish. They didn't smile much (I think that's just part of their culture) so it was hard to tell if they appreciated you being there or not. We then got to try on their headpieces and have a go at the blow dart. The dart is really light and doesn't take much effort to shoot it. Matt got right on target and I got slightly off centre and got the wood behind the target. We then had a chance to look at the jewellery and handicrafts etc. I bought a woven bracelet to add to my travel band collection. There were about 20 people from the tribe. Women, men, kids and a cute baby. We walked back to our lodge through the thick jungle. It was cool to see how dense it can get, just by the river. I'm sure it gets crazy deep into the Amazon. We stopped by a tree which had thick roots. He said this was the only tree left like this because of logging and if you but your hands on it, it turns your negative energy in to positive energy. 
Back at the lodge we had lunch and in the afternoon went piranha fishing with wooden sticks. Matt caught a catfish and the guide caught a piranha and showed us it's sharp teeth! We went to a spot where you can spot grey and pink Dolphins again but couldn't see any. It was kinda nice to just be silent on the Amazon river and think wow I'm in South America right now, in Peru, on the Amazon river! We watched another pretty sunset over the river on the boat. 
Before dinner we put our head lights on and went down to the lake which is behind out lodges. We got in to a canoe to spot some alligators and anacondas as they are more active at night. The stars were so brilliant, there was no clouds about and no light pollution from cities so it looked like there millions of stars covering the sky. We turned off all torch lights and you could hear the sounds of frogs and crickets all about and see heaps of fireflies dancing around the lake. When we canoed close to the green growth some of the frogs sounded like bells, it was quite magical. The guide made 'alligator' sounds and would flash his torch to see if we could spot alligators. We canoed around for a bit and at the very end he shine his torch and you could see the red dot reflecting which was an eye. We canoed near the overgrowth and he shone his torch again and we saw a baby alligator swim in to the water. I was expecting to see something big but it was cute to spot a little one. At the end we hopped back on to the dock and the other canoe guide had caught one! Some people took some photos with him. We had then had dinner before going to bed. Our guide chatted to Matt and I for a bit, trying to better his English which was kind of nice. We said we needed to practise our Spanish too. He tried to teach us a couple of new words/phrases. His English was much better than our Spanish. We've learnt a few basic phrases and words but it's been really hard to pick up fully, even though we've been travelling in Spanish speaking countries for two months. I think you really have to immerse yourself in it. Most of the hostels and travellers we meet speak Spanish so we only really need to use it in some restaurants/cafes and getting around eg. Taxis 
 
Day 3
We woke up at 6am this morning to go on the canoe again and do some bird watching on the lake. There were so many different types of birds we spotted. Unfortunately the guide spoke Spanish the whole time so didn't really know what type of bird we were looking at (again will have to google later on). There were big brown ones, yellow breasted ones, toucans, small black ones with red beaks and a few more. So many in just one area, he said at different times and sunshine depends on what type of birds you see. 
We then had breakfast and afterwards went to a small village to see daily life. There were only a few huts here made from wood on stilts (sometimes when the tide is high and it rains it floods as to why they are built on stilts) and thatched roofs. There was a building which was a school and children were learning inside and a small church which had all rubble inside and must of flooded so was no longer in use. We went to one hut and a man showed us the wooden machinery and how they make natural medicines. He spoke Spanish to the group so couldn't really understand what he was saying, our guide translated as much as he could. Matt and I were definitely the foreigners in this tour. Some people had a go at turning the machine to extract the sugar cane juice. We then went upstairs and we got to try a couple of different medicines all made from different types of bark. One tasted smokey and almost whiskey tasting which apparently was good for getting pregnant... don't think Matt wanted me to have too much of that one! One tasted very gingery. There was a red ointment made from anaconda blood which was supposed to help cuts and went white when he rubbed it on his skin and we tasted some honey which was deliciously sweet. 
Apparently this is why the Amazonian's are strong and healthy as they use natural medicines. We walked through the village as the locals were doing their daily things. A lady was hanging out her washing and she had a baby sloth clutching on to her. I didn't know if it was her pet, if they had found it or what what but I had a cuddle and photo with this one. I usually try to avoid holding animals that are supposed to be wild or paying to see animals kept in enclosures etc but I think this one will always be in contact with these Amazonian people and isn't there just as a tourist drawcard. It was so cute and little, with a little smiling face. Its long arms just attach itself to you. They have really long claws which it wrapped around the strap of my singlet. It was slow moving and I don't think it could hurt a fly even if it tried. I did feel a little bit bad for it being passed around like a toy though when we came by but it was pretty dam cute.
Afterwards we went back to the lodge for lunch. Matt and I laid on the hammocks after lunch, they were so comfy we fell asleep. We usually have an hour or so down time between meals /activities and we usually just rest in our lodge and have naps, which I never can usually sleep in the day. 
In the afternoon we took the boat to the next activity. On the way we happened to spot the pink and grey Dolphins we have been wanting to see! The pink dolphin had more of a flat fin and lump on its forehead. Another guide who was on our boat on the way back who could speak much better English (wish we had him instead!) explained that they were fresh water Dolphins, with strong teeth which ate crustaceans, crabs, fish etc. and they are more related to prehistoric mammals than grey Dolphins. Apparently they are blind aswell so navigate underwater and for food by vibrations. 
The next activity was at a place where they had a baby anaconda (which was huge), fed 10 year old piranhas in a pond (which were a lot bigger than the ones fishing in the river). They went crazy for the food when you threw it in. Large Lilly pads, alligators (bigger than the one in the lake at night) and these huge fish that were about 2m long and had wide mouths when you fed them. There were a couple of beautiful parrots and macaws in the tree on our way out aswell. 
On the way back to the lodge, before having dinner, we stopped at the village again for a game of soccer against the locals. Matt and I and a couple of the older people on our tour group just watched (I can't play soccer plus the locals looked like they would be really good). A couple of the younger people from our group played and as there were more locals a few joined our team. It was a shorter field but everyone was pretty good and it was a fun game to watch. So cool to be able to be apart of something like that. A few children and people from the village came to sit around and watch the game too! 

 Day 4

Our last day in the Amazon. We woke and had brekky then had a bit of a relaxing day. We took the boat to a mudflat and could go swimming. Are there piranhas in there? I asked the guide. No he replied waving his hand like it was a silly question. The mud was dark and thick like clay. Apparently if you rubbed it in your body it had natural minerals in it good for your skin and to put on cuts etc it was pretty funny rubbing it all over bodies. Then I was like crap, this better come off easily, luckily it did when you rinsed it off in the water. You could see the whiskers of cat fish swimming by the shore. Apparently the spikes on them are poisonous so I decided to stay out of the water after I saw them. No piranhas but just poisonous catfish haha. We saw a fisherman catch a couple of fish in nets nearby on the river. He came over on his boat and a couple of people including Matt chipped in to buy them (including catfish and piranha to cook up for lunch. We ate a communal lunch back at the lodge and shared the fish that the chef cooked up for us before packing up and getting the boat back to Iquitos.
I noticed a lot of factories and ships on the shore heading back to Iquitos and lots of timber which had been logged and  ready to be shipped. It didn't look like a healthy sight for the environment and right on the doorstep to the Amazon. I wonder how monitored and ethical this logging is in Iquitos. 
We stayed in the hotel connected to the office of our tour company in Iquitos before getting a transfer to the airport the next day at 5:30am. It was a day spent in transit with a 5 hour lay over from Iquitos - Lima - Cusco that day. 
It was awesome to experience the Amazon, cruising on the river (the longest and widest in the world?) sleeping in the lodges in the jungle, visiting a local tribe and village and seeing Amazonian animals in the wild like the pink Dolphins, birds and baby alligators on the night canoe and falling asleep to the sounds of frogs and crickets in the lake behind our property. It was great value. Only $220US each for 3 nights/4 days and included airport transfers, accommodation, all food and all activities. Although the tour was actually a bit more touristy than I thought the Amazon would be like. It seemed like some things were a bit 'set up' and I felt sorry for some of the animals that were kept in the zoos for tourists to see. I'm not sure how the animals got there (captured, given or rehabilitated) and how conserved it was. They were in open spaces (not in enclosures) with not many animals so had lots of space which was good and it didn't seem like they were treated bad but the macaws and toucan had their wings clipped and the guy just grabbed down a sloth and passed him around which I don't think the sloth would enjoy everyday. There were lots of monkeys which was fine coz they were just hanging about in packs being cheeky and climbing on trees etc. doing normal monkey things. Seeing the wild animals in their natural habitat was a lot more exciting than the ones in the zoo. I don't know too much about it but would like to research more about tourism, environmentalism and conservation of the Amazon. Or ask my Dad, he knows a lot about everything. A shame also that even though our guide was really nice (all Peruvians actually seem very nice people!) He didn't speak the greatest English so couldn't really learn or ask ask many questions as we'd like. But  definitely worth the experience and it was awesome to see this natural wonder first hand. 

Tags: amazon, animals, lodging, monkeys, peru, pink dolphins, piranha fishing, river, sloth, tribes

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