We spent the night before the jungle at a lodge in Puerto Maldonado; a pretty bleak place to say the least. Despite the windows being covered in mosquito mesh, I managed to get bitten 13 times that night.. And we hadn’t even set foot in the Amazon.
The next morning we got in a long, thin, very low, extremely wobbly boat, which had to have the exact same weight of people on each side or else we’d be in danger of capsizing; luckily we didn’t seen the piranhas and crocodiles in the river yet, so it was simply the prospect of getting wet that wasn’t very attractive.
After an hour hammering it down the Tambopata river, we arrived at the first lodge. My prevailing first-thoughts and emotions: heat, humidity, relief to be off the precarious boat, apprehensiveness at sleeping in the open air for 4 nights (might as well hold a sign up saying “hey Mosquitos, come eat me.”).
Activity #1: climbing a 120ft rickety, swaying tower in the middle of the jungle. When we got to the top, sweating and barely able to breath, I was asked “do you have vertigo?” “Not until today I didn’t..”. 10 of us perched on the platform (which can’t have been more than 2m squared) at the top of the tower, clinging onto the sides as we watched for birds. Being above the tree canopy was a great advantage – I’ll give the tower credit for that. There were tons of birds around; some common, some rarer. My favourites were all the different species of beautiful macaws.
That night, refusing to be bitten another dozen times (didn’t want to end up looking like I had measles), I took all the precautions I could. Sleeping open to the air wasn’t ideal, but we were given mosquito nets which I tucked under the mattress, cocooning myself. This could have been cosy; despite the fact I was covered in sticky, stinky mosquito repellant and my clothes were clinging to me from the humidity. I swallowed my trusty malaria tablet and tried to get some sleep. The storm that started in the middle of the night, however, would have woken the dead. I felt trapped in a claustrophobic white box, boiling hot and barely able to think due to the thunder, and my already-closed eyes blinded by the lighting that illuminated my whole brain every 5 minutes. I lay awake until I was time to get up (4am) – relieved not to have been struck by lightning.
First, we went fishing on a precarious raft (some chunks of wood tied to a massive kayak..) and caught some pirhanas.
We stopped off down the river at a “museum”.. a totally bizarre discovery in the middle of the wilderness. This museum consisted of one room, boasting a few yellowed animal skulls in a corner, their Latin names barely visible for the dust and lack of lighting. An “insect display” occupied the other wall. It had obviously been there so long that the butterflies, moths and other creatures had actually disappeared (evaporated in the humidity? Decomposed? Burnt in the heat? Who knows.), leaving only piles of bug dust around their pins proudly stating their species. Amusing. After a bit more wildlife spotting, it was back to the lodge for an early night before another 4am start.
To be continued…
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