Well, there’s a first time for everything. And, while I sit here by candlelight, surrounded by mosquito netting, writing this post about today’s journey deep into the Amazon Forest, I can safely say this is a new first for me. Actually, where I am sitting right now on my bed in my private, but open walled room, is a stone’s throw from the rattling, shaking, hooting and hollering forest.
There ain’t no silence here, way out in the middle of nowhere. No siree. That there forest is ALIVE and there’s but a thin sheet of mesh separating me from anything that wishes to just enter the hut and say g’day. What an invigorating and slightly terrifying feeling!
But hey, I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself here. First, we need to deal with the events of the past 24 hours…
About Last Night…
When I signed off last night after a HUGE and memorable day wandering the ruins of the breathtaking Machu Picchu, I should have been tucked away in bed in our cosy hostel in Cusco. Due to some recent pretty heavy rain and resultant landslides, however, we were still anxiously waiting in the tourist town of Aguas Caliantes along with hundreds of others, stranded while the train tracks somewhere between Machu Picchu and Cusco were cleared.
Julio, our G Adventures guide was a superhero by the end of the night, dealing with all of us tired, cranky and somewhat tipsy (bar hopping to fill time will do that to a person) as well as doing his best to wheel and deal our way onto any next departing train.
We eventually did get aboard a train at around 1am after some pretty crazy pushing, shoving and running to grab a seat, and after that it was all a bit of a blur as we did our best to get any amount of sleep possible.
Above (L to R): Atholl, Rob and Julio get some long-overdue shut eye.
Above: The lovely Germans Leonie and Florian follow the trend, across from me.
Somewhere along the way, out in the middle of nowhere, we all disembarked and transferred to a small bus which carried us the rest of the way back to “Hostel Corihausi”. Again, a super human effort from Julio getting everyone conscious and vertical long enough to get us all off the train, considering our sleep-deprived, zombified states of being.
And here’s where the fun really started for me. Considering today was our first day in the Amazon, I was all scheduled to start a course of “Doxycycline” anti-Malaria tablets last night. My tablets were in baggage storage at the hostel in Cusco so the only thing I could do was take them as soon as we returned this morning. As instructed, the first dosage was a double one (2 tablets). The instructions also call for the tablets to be taken with meals. I was soon to find out why not obeying this suggestion was a bad idea.
With our flight out of Cusco and into the Amazon but a few hours away, I took the Doxycycline tablets (on an empty stomach), organised some washing and jumped straight into bed in an attempt to grab a couple of hours of dead-to-the-world slumber before having to pack and leave again.
After having dozed off for no more than say 25 minutes, I awoke to what I can only describe as the most intense heartburn I think I’ve ever had the misfortune to endure. To all those people who have had coronary episodes that took the form of severe indigestion-like symptoms… I think I know where you’re coming from…
Doxycycline 1 – Rob 0
All I could do was throw up violently, guzzle a LOT of water and try to go back to sleep. Needless to say, by the time I was packed and heading back out to the airport with our reduced group, participating in the Amazon trip, I was no better off in the sleep department. Not a great start to the day.
A short flight north-east from Cusco to the town of Puerto Maldonado and we found ourselves in the super warm and muggy surroundings of the Amazon Forest. Talk about a surreal experience. Yesterday, the cool, oxygen-starved Inca Trail through the Andes mountains, and today, the sweaty, humid Amazon Forest.
I rarely ever get sick – maybe once a year if I’m really unlucky, but when I do, it’s usually at the turn of the seasons when temperatures vary greatly from one day to another. It’s like my body freaks out and shuts down in protest. So far I feel fine (despite this mornings little episode), but considering the vast difference in atmospheres and temperatures I’m now experiencing, I’m a little nervous at how the next few days are going to go.
But I digress…
Arriving in Puerto Maldonado, we were met by our local “Rainforest Expeditions” guide, Johan. He collected us all from the baggage carousel of the airport terminal and escorted us out to the company bus waiting in the parking lot for us.
Climbing aboard, we had no sooner taken our seats when we were each presented with our own basket of rainforest snacks including salted banana chips (A-MAZING), brazil nuts and a native orange which was messy to eat, but delicious.
As we demolished our culinary gifts in a fashion that would have suggested we hadn’t eaten all day (which for some of us was the truth), Johan introduced us to the rest of his crew and explained that we were on our way to a port where we would transfer to a long boat and cruise up river to our accommodation – “Refugio Amazonas”.
Once at the port, we had the opportunity to stretch our legs, purchase snacks and drinks, visit the loo, chase around some chickens and generally stretch our legs a little before heading down to the river to board our next form of transport.
With a good 3-4 hour river journey ahead of us, all we could do after doning our life vests was grab a position on the wooden benches that lined the sides of our long boat, and try to get comfortable. Johan, meanwhile, ran through a few safety notes including providing us with reassurance that, should we end up in the drink for whatever reason, we were likely more at danger from camen alligators than from flesh-stripping piranha. Reassuring indeed. Thanks Johan.
Next, we were each handed another unique snack – this time a gourmet rice of some kind served wrapped in a large banana leaf. Yum! The meal certainly kept us quiet for the first quarter hour or so as we headed off along the muddy waters of the river, deep into the Amazon!
Above: I think that’s Florian’s “I can’t wait for this…” face!
Over the next couple of hours we had plenty of time to sit back and observe the vastness of the country we were in as thick forest after thick forest passed us by on the river bank. The increasing feeling of isolation was broken up from time-to-time by the rare passing of other boats and by the odd roughly constructed mud hut that appeared on the banks.
An abundance of wildlife is something I’m obviously keenly interested in seeing throughout this short visit into the Amazon. And while we didn’t see all that much with our naked eyes on the river this morning, we sure as hell could hear a massive amount of critters all around us, even over the top of the boat’s motor. There’s absolutely no doubt that the forest is alive with activity and I couldn’t wait to hit land and check it all out.
Above: Leonie watching the world go by…
Above: Simon keeping watch for any signs of wildlife at the front of the boat…
A couple of hours into our river journey and we were required to dock at a small checkpoint where we registered our entry into the “Tambopata” region and received some pretty cool stamps in our passport validating our visit to this amazing part of Peru. I wasn’t aware that you were allowed to stamp your passport with anything other than official country entry and exit stamps, but I was soon assured that it was all above board, so I jumped in line and got my passport inked!
It was here at the checkpoint that we all got out first close up glimpse of some Amazon wildlife as the trees above rustled with the playful movement of a couple of monkeys of some kind. It seemed to trigger a run of good luck for us as, over the next couple of hours on the river we saw more monkeys playing in the forest canopy and also a family of capybara foraging the muddy shoreline.
My camera simply doesn’t have the telephoto power to capture such sights with amazing clarity (damn you Peruvian thieves!!), but here’s a shot I captured of the capybara.
A pretty nondescript set of old wooden stairs leading up the muddy bank from the river’s edge and into the forest was all that marked our arrival at home for the next couple of nights – “Refugio Amazonas”.
Considering none of us really knew what we were in for over the next couple of days in terms of accommodation and activities etc, exiting the boat and heading along the muddy trail into the forest was pretty exciting in itself.
The unknown soon presented itself as we entered a clearing and set our eyes, for the first time, on the amazing “Rainforest Expeditions Lodge” like an oasis at the end of a lush, leafy green desert (or something), with its high pitched hardwood frame and just all-around awesomeness.
Needless to say, with available light starting to fade, cameras were quickly whipped out and everyone captured the memory of coming across this amazing construction in the middle of nowhere.
Seated in the bar area, Johan gathered us all around, introduced us to some of the lodge staff and tossed up the idea of heading out on an evening activity. We were all pretty tired after our hellishly long night last night and a long day of river travel today, so we passed on the idea, opting to push the activity to tomorrow evening.
Instead, we opted for the opportunity to settle into our amazing individual rooms, and enjoy a few cold beers set amongst our amazing new surroundings. This was followed up by a surprisingly decadent buffet dinner that left each and every one of us well and truly satisfied.
And that brings me full circle to now. In my much needed cage of mosquito netting, scribbling away by candlelight wondering what the heck it is that’s nestling and rustling away in the walls above me. To be honest I don’t really care. I feel oddly safe on the bed here and now I think it’s time to try the ol’ sleep thing, assuming the creature (whatever it is), that’s just started screaming out there to my right, gives it a rest soon.
Wish me luck!