Days: 266-267 (18 March 2015-19 March 2015)
Total distance travelled: 52,438.1 kilometres (32,570.25 miles)
Whilst I had a vague knowledge that the Amazon Rainforest in fact spilled over the Brazilian borders into several neighbouring countries, the river itself was something that I’d always just accepted as a given, was solely within the dominion of Brazil.
Turns out this was in fact misplaced.
This incredible river, with a length of around 6,500 kilometres, actually has its source in Peru, along with roughly the first 900 kilometres of its length (so said our guide in any case).
It was on this section, the Peruvian Amazon, on which we spent 3 days (2 nights) at Tucan Lodge, about 2 hours down river from Iquitos.
We were joined for company by our guide, Rene and a fellow tourist, a Pennsylvanian by the name of Josh.
The journey down river was scenic, but uneventful, the lodge itself aged, rustic, but perfectly adequate for a couple of nights in the jungle.
After getting ourselves settled, as we had some additional time before our first scheduled excursion, Rene took us for a walk through the adjacent jungle.
This was actually a really cool way to kick off our Amazon experience, as he was quickly able to identify many jungle fruits and plants, many of which we were able to experience.
We were fortunate that we’d been issued gumboots (rubber boots or wellingtons) as the place was ridiculously wet and much of the time we found ourselves traipsing through thick, sticky mud.
Despite this, it didn’t detract from the experience at all, as we thoroughly enjoyed testing various medicinal plants (that numbed the mouth), natural gum, and many delicious (and some not so) fruits.
In truth, the damp only added to the authenticity of the jungle experience.
Our afternoon saw our party of 3 (well 4 if you include our guide Rene) pile into a boat and make our way to a place dubbed ‘Monkey Island.’
With the high water levels at this time of year, the reality was that much of the island was actually submerged, in fact were the hut to which we ventured not on stilts, it too would have been beneath the waters!
We couldn’t help but feel that this place was just wrong.
At first I’d assumed this place was something of a Monkey reserve, a place where they roam wild amongst the trees.
Sadly, it was much more of a tourist junket, where a couple of primates scampered about in between photo opportunities with tourists. The addition of a gorgeous, but incredibly frustrated Sloth and a couple of other ‘wild’ animals completed the troupe.
Despite being repeatedly offered the chance to hold one of these lovely animals (although in truth, the Monkeys were little shits, quite eager to steal anything that wasn’t safely zipped away in a pocket), we declined, ultimately disappointed with the experience.
At least the return journey to our lodge was a much more wholesome experience.
By all accounts, the late afternoon is the most opportune time of the day for this, although they can be spied at any time.
Where our tributary met the mighty (it truly is a mighty, ridiculously wide river) Amazon, we lingered, our eyes peeled for the fabled Amazon River Dolphins.
In short time we spotted our first fins break the water, and before long we’d seen not only the grey variety, but also the amazing pink version.
We floated for about half an hour, largely unsuccessful in our attempts to photograph them, but happy enough to just have seen them at all.
A hearty evening dinner later and one could be forgiven for assuming our day was done, but in fact we had a final excursion for the day.
It was at this point that we realised what a general failure our small torch was, for this was a night stroll through the jungle, this time not on the hunt for fruits, but instead the vast myriad of insect life that abounds.
We were fortunately lent a torch from the lodge… which promptly proved useless as it last less than 5 minutes before it blinked out for good.
No matter, Rene and Josh both had decent head lamps, taking up the front and rear positions respectively, whilst Sarah and I made do with the light of her phone.
Our second day began with a cruise through some seasonal tributaries, by which I mean, for the dry season they are in fact dusty paths as opposed to navigable waterways.
It was especially nice when we cut the motor and all four of us took up the oars to guide our vessel through the tree lined tributary.
Apart from a possible Finger Monkey sighting, this was all about the scenery, which was truly lovely, before we made a brief stop at a local home besieged by the rising waters.
In fact it was not uncommon for us to see homes where the living areas were fully submerged, but for this time of year, apparently it’s simply the norm.
They either build higher on stilts, or simply live around it, incredibly, at least from the verbal assurances we received, electrocutions are somehow uncommon!
We sampled their food and drink, gawked at them like zoo animals as politely as we could, before continuing on our way.
Ahead lay that most iconic of Amazon experiences, Piranha fishing!
Another group from our lodge was already out on the water and their party of five returned with three of these fiesty fish between them.
We found our spot, which in truth was for all appearances in some families back yard, and cast our lines.
Seconds later, after only her first cast, Sarah landed a fish!
So it went for much of the afternoon.
After hauling no fewer than five out of the water before they jumped the hook, I finally managed to get a Piranha on board… by which time Sarah probably had eight or nine.
The tide slowly turned for Josh and I, and eventually, with a grand total of seventeen fish (at least ten of which were credited to Sarah) and the possibility of a little sunburn, we were done.
Content with our efforts, we chugged back across the Amazon, that incredible river that even this far from the ocean, was at least 1-2 kilometres in width, back to our lodge.
Our final morning was scheduled to begin with a 5am bird watching cruise… torrential rain from midnight for the following eight or nine hours scuppered those plans, so the last adventure for us was to a local village.
It would appear we’d arrived a little early, so we were redirected to another landing point, seemingly to allow them time to shed their shorts and t-shirts, so they could instead don their grass skirts and face paint!
Here, as they attempted to hang their wares in the hope of a sale, we were treated to a blowgun demonstration, after which we each had a turn, and a supposedly local dance.
Apparently I was incredibly fortunate at this point, selected as I was to dance with one of the younger, very topless women.
In truth, I was too busy trying to keep my footing on the muddied ground to be able to truly appreciate the view before me!
It was actually a bit of a sad way to end our Amazon experience, once the drumming stopped and the final dance concluded came the bombardment from all sides by these ‘traditional’ peoples trying to sell us gaudy bracelets or blowguns with Amazon or Iquitos printed along the length.
We acquiesced, grabbing ourselves a woven wristband (of which two of my five beads were lost within the first week of wear) from one lady, who gave herself a generous tip by pocketing the change, but ultimately we left a lot of them rather disappointed.
A final lunch and a couple of hours travelling up river saw us back to the relative civilisation that is Iquitos…
* We negotiated our price down to $750.00 Soles for 2 people for the 3 day/2 night trip with Manati Expeditions http://www.manitiexpeditions.com/