On my recent trip to Peru, we spent five days in the Amazon. After flying from Lima to Iquitos, we boarded a launch that sped up the two-mile-wide Amazon River for about an hour to the Explorama Lodge. There are no roads in the Amazon, so the rest of our transportation was either by boat, on foot, or on the path to another river by Tuktuks, called Motocars. I was surprised by how much flotsam there is on the Amazon- not garbage, but tree trunks, branches, floating plants. I learned that the river floods as much as 40 feet in the rainy season, so this is stuff washed from shores every year. We also learned that the Amazon starts in Peru, not Brazil. It begins at the convergence of two other rivers and flows 2300 miles to the Atlantic.
The lodge is in the rain forest, up a substantial bank from the river, which has open walls with screens and ceiling fans. Our cabins were air conditioned, welcome in the 96 degree heat, with 90+% humidity. We hiked locally but also took boat rides with our local guide who is a biologist. In addition to his expansive knowledge of all the flora and fauna of the jungle, he spoke excellent English as well as Spanish of course, plus Yagua and other local tribal languages! A highlight of the time was a trip that took a boat ride down river to a little town on the shore, followed by the Tuktuk ride (motor scooter with 2 seats) on a path thru the jungle to the Napa River, another hour-long boat ride to the Amazon Conservatory for Tropical Studies, plus a three-mile hike to the 1500 foot-long canopy walk above the jungle treetops on a rope bridge. There are a series of steps up to 7 platforms, then another 8 flights and platforms down. It was a great adventure, but sooo hot and humid. I don’t think I have ever perspired that much. And of course we had to hike the same three miles back to the Conservatory lodge for lunch. The jungle is so dense that no breeze breaks thru, even up 100 feet at the treetops. But we did see a bunch of spider monkeys playing in the trees as we watched.
Other adventures in the jungle included a jaunt up a side river to fish for piranhas, see scores of sea birds, including the “Jesus bird” because it walks on water (Wattled Jacuna). And we fed fish and turtles in a pond until an Anaconda snake interfered, but we were safely on a little bridge! We met with a shaman who showed us all the medicinal uses they make from the plants in the jungle. We also visited a school in one of the villages on the shore. The kids had learned to say, “My name is -----“ in English, so they showed off for us. When they learned that one of our group’s birthday was that day, they all came and gave her hugs!
We visited the Yagua Village where people live as they did for centuries. We were greeted by the tribal leader, entertained by their local drummers and dancers, shown how they use a blow-gun to hunt, and invited to see (and purchase) some of their crafts. They make baskets of palm leaves, carve masks from balsa wood, and make jewelry of animal bones. Their community and culture are dying though, since young people move to the city for work.
Such a contrast from the desert climate of the Andes where the Inkan civilization thrived, built incredible structures from stone, designed ornaments of gold and silver, and was conquered by the Spaniards five centuries ago.
“And into the forest I go to lose my mind and find my soul.” John Muir