Cuzco -> flight -> Puerto Maldonado -> bus & boat -> Tambopata Jungle
So, today we had a long travelling day .. and covered pretty well all modes of transportation! We got up at an ungodly hour and eventually got to Puerto Maldonado around noon. Our new guide, Noemi, was there to greet us. This little city has been growing over the years, and is primarily focused on gold mining, logging, and brazil nut harvesting (mmmm I ruuvv brazil nuts). As of late, however, tourism has become more lucrative and so the focus is changing to one of wilderness conservation and ¨jungle¨ experiences (our trip purpose). It is basically a starting point for people to get to and from the jungle, first by bus then by boat.
After a few market stops, we picked up another few travellers, dropped off our big bags at the local office, and headed to our boat (to take us 1 hr up river). This area is definitely HUMID (85-90% humidity) and hot (about 33 celcius) .. and we were sopping wet by the time we reached the jungle ¨lodge¨.
Basically, our lodge was the first to be built in the reserved area. There have been somewhat recent regulations put in place, protecting the flora and fauna, in hopes of preserving the varied wildlife. Our guide told us that only the indigenous people are allowed to hunt, and it must be for their own sustenance only.
The place was very well setup. Upon arriving you see 3 or 4 bungalow type buildings, each with 3 or so separate ¨cabins¨ that had ensuite bathrooms. Everything was made of wood, and we were equipped with mosquito nets and candles (no electricity or heated water). I had my own room, as per usual, but felt comforted by the presence of other people in adjacent rooms 😉 You could literally here the person next door breathing, un-wrapping candy, and all other flattering or unflattering noises that a human may make. In fact, the ever-hilarious Ali told me in the morning what my pee schedule the night before had been. Oh the joys of jungle living 🙂
Electricity was in the main hut from 5-8pm only, and our rooms were raised up off the ground (for creepy crawler protection purposes). In terms of pets, there was a Macaw (kind of like a big, colourful parrot) that lived near our cabins and apparently didnt like girls .. perhaps because he was rescued from the black market (bad experience with an owner?. He had a limp and his name is Wow-wee. I found him to be quite endearing, especially when I fed him Brazil nuts.. 🙂
The first night we went out on a Cayman sighting boat ride. It was sooo fun! I have seen Caymans (the gold variety) on a safari in Africa, and Alligators/Crocs in Florida and Australia .. but never very close up in the wild, and always during the day. Well we got about 1 foot from these little creatures with our boat, and spotted them using a bright spotlight at the front which would catch the reflection of their nocturnal eyes. We also had a really great few minutes of silence on the boat, motor off, listening to the sounds of the jungle.
Dinner was delicious, as per usual (I am definitely not coming back shrunken in any way shape or form) .. and sleep came very easily – which is a surprise – despite the tremendous heat and awkwardness of being engulfed in a mosquito net. For the 21st night in a row (since my horrible avatar face bug bite incident in Buenos Aires), I covered my face in bug spray. Not sure how healthy this is, but so far, no defects I can see! Seriously though … hmm.
Today was unique .. ! To start things off, we got dressed in the dark (I am getting good at this, though I don´t come out looking too spectacular) and had a candelit breakfast at 5am. Our aim was to hike 10km (5km each way) and catamaran down a lake to see howler monkeys and maybe even a jaguar or python! En route, we sweated more than Sylvester Stallone in Rocky, and stopped many times to reapply bug spray and learn about the wild life. Some of the things we saw/tasted were:
1. Hot lips flower – the main food for hummingbirds here
2. A rubber tree – was a huge export until seeds made their way to Asia and it began being planted elsewhere
3. Tree bark that tasted like garlic – delicious!
4. Leaf of a tree that completely numbed your tongue within 3 seconds – ´twas fun!
5. Tiny bear-faced Tamarin monkeys – they came about 2 feet from our heads!
6. Frogs (see first picture above, sitting on a leaf) and crickets – they were camouflaged far more effectively than me in my camo shorts.
7. An erotic looking tree (see above) – no my mind was not in the gutter, as my guide clarified. It was believed by the natives to have viagra like qualities.. and let´s not lie – LOOK AT IT! Don´t tell me you don´t see what I´m talkin´ bout.
8. Walking trees – like from lord of the rings or whatever that movie is.. haha..
9. Crazy spiders – yellow and large and just plain unattractive..
10. Incredible butterflies – I´m talking irridescent, bright blue, orange, etc.
11. Birds – lots of them!
During the boating experience we saw:
1. Howler monkeys – one gave us a special defacation & urination show whilst perched in tree, about 4 feet from the other tourists boat. He TOTALLY knew what he was doing´, given he moved out from the centre to hover just above the boat 😉
2. Giant sea otters – they get up to several metres long but these were far away..
3. Jaguar heron – a heron spotted like a jaguar! It scares the life out of you when it runs through the bushes, given how similar it looks to the more threatening species that comprises it´s name!
4. Piranas – under the floorboards of the hut on the water
Later that night, in my bathroom, I saw:
1. A cockroach – not very exciting and quite harmless, but I enjoyed the company 😉
All in all it was a very jungly, sweaty, humid experience .. with lots of learning and about the same amount of bug bites 🙂 Seriously though, I enjoyed the contrast to the Andes .. It made me realize that I like hiking (even when it´s 13 hours in a row) more in high altitude places with a view, than in the jungle. That doesn´t mean I didn´t enjoy myself, though .. it was a great experience!
Some concluding thoughts (Yes, I´m STILL thinking! Even after almost 7 weeks.. 🙂 :
(1) I always forget that things like kneecaps, eyelids, and interphalangeal joints can sweat like nobody´s business. It seems my memories of this from trips in the past just fade away … until it happens all over again 🙂
(2) Bugs like me (no real relevation here)
(3) Having breakfast over candelight really doesn´t hold a match to a candlelit dinner – and in fact – downright messes up your daily clock!
(4) Cockroaches really don´t scare me … but my snake phobia lives on, given I wasn´t able to deal with my issues face to face (i.e no boa sighting).. at least not this time 😉
Anyways, back to the city (flights via Cuzco to Lima) for group goodbye(s) and a last few nights on my own.