After a few days of indulging in the best cerviche in the world in Lima we catch our flight out to Iquitos, the largest town not accessible by road and the gateway to the amazon. Despite these facts, I was expecting a quaint little jungle village not the bustling, large, loud, dirty city that is Iquitos. It kind of reminded us of a mini Bangkok with really loud tuk tuks everywhere-even penetrating the walls of the hostel making it difficult to sleep past 5am. The town, like the rest of the Amazon was in the middle of one of the worst rainy seasons and while it was generally dry, the lower edges of the town were completely immersed in water and there was a lot of construction going on as a result. We went to the Witches market hearing we could find some crazy amazonian food, but after walking through the wet, smelly, littered markets and seeing a hell of a lot of chopped chicken gizzards our only cool dead animal was an armadillo.
The next day we headed out on our 2 night Jungle lodge tour with four young peruvians and our personal guide, Danny. It was a 2 hour boat ride through the devestated cities of the amazon which were all underwater, to get to our lodge which was also on the verge of flooding. This lodge was large and beautiful with high thatched cielings, balconies and a hammok room however the entire back area of the lodge was already underwater. We stood on the balconies and walkways watching the rain and the water creep higher. Thankfully the afternoon cleared up and our guide took us out on a little dug out canoe- proper amazonian tribe style- and we went animal hunting. This guy has lived in the Amazon his entire life and at the age of 28 has never left. He knows how to spot the claw of an Iguana high up in a tree or the lump of a sloth from 20meters away in the dense jungle. He was incredible!! He showed us birds, sloths, monkeys, Iguanas- some up close, but some so far away it was like he had a sixth sense for finding these creatures. He was definitely in tune with his surroundings and would be bursting with excitment upon finding a cool animal to show us- giggling to himself while rowing the canoe up to whatever he had discovered.
On our first morning we woke at dawn to the river literally at our feet and went out for a canoe. It was super peaceful and we were lucky enough to see a pink Dolphin gracefully poke its head up a few times as it swam down the river, going about its business. During that day the river rose so high in the lodge that we were slushing around in gumboots and a strange phenomonen began: frogs started falling from the roof! Splatting one by one in every corner of the giant lunch room they fell from the 8meter high ceiling only just avoiding my rice and bean dinner. Confused and a little worried about this "raining frog" phenomen I concluded that the only plausible explanation was some kind of sign from god that, being 2012 and all, the end is nigh. But with more rational people around me, they put it down to a little snake in the ceiling trying to catch frogs and to escape they were jumping out of the roof. I wasnt sure which explanation I prefrred.
In the afternoon, Danny took us to see his village which was completely shut down, the water so high that chickens were on roofs, horrified cats were balancing on ralinings and most human activity gone. Those that stayed in their houses were restriced to sitting on planks of wood when not wading waste deep in water to get their daily chores done. It was a little sad but Danny said that the locals are used to flooding, although it normally isn't this high. Throughout the day we saw a big Caman crossing the river in front of our little canoe which was lucky to see considering they have fled to dry land about a 2 hour canoe ride away. Danny paddled us deep into the jungle, macheteing his way through palms and under spider infested ferns to where we could see the enormous trees that must have been growing for many centuries.
That night, with the lodge having no electricity and the flood waters rising, Danny our guide was on the hunt for snakes. Lucky he is an incarnation of Tarzan because as the sun set he caught a deadly snake out where the local family were cooking us dinner which included small children. Freaked out, the snake exploration didn´t end there- we found another water snake just cruising on through the amazonian water in our living space like we were on his turf and not vice versa. Then, just as I had tucked into bed for the night, Danny our guide knocks on our door with a giant smile and a little giggle to show us a third tree snake he had in his hands, not making my prospects for sleep very hopeful.
Despite all the crazy animals, insects and flood waters, it was increaidble to litterally be living in the Amazon for three days. It wasnt just at our doorstep but at the end of our bed. We were sharing our home with snakes, frogs and tarantuals and were spectators of nature at its best. It really is another world!!
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