Arriving at the airport for our flight to the Jungle and having already checked in, we were somewhat perturbed to find the rest of our tour had been told the flight was cancelled and were not allowed to check in with us! The group were infuriated to find not only was our Rainforest excursion cancelled but GAP would not be refunding any money and on top of this we would have to find our own accomodation or sleep on the streets if we had no money! (Tour safety truly shone at this point!)
Eventually finding seats on a new plane our trip was saved and we arrived half an hour later at Puerto Maldonado to be hit with intense sunlight and humidity, something we have not been used to in Peru. Taking a boat into the Amazon Rainforest we met our tour guides Jesus and Steven and their newly acquired lodgemate Guadelope the monkey who took great pride in sleeping on Emma´s knee the entire two-hour journey and later weeing on Joanna´s leg! Laura enjoyed his company from afar but could be heard shrieking whenever he got too close!
Arriving at the lodge, any hope of hot water or electricity faded as we were handed candles and upon entering our room found several mosquito nets made up the walls, ceilings and bed covers! Our first venture into the rainforest was at night with only torches lighting our path. We were told to walk in silence listening to nature until Jesus abruptly stopped us, pushing Emma to one side explaining we were about to see the biggest creature of the evening. Emma, convincing herself he had brought us there to kill us and was thinking ahead to an escape route, hid behind Laura as Jesus uncovered the smallest hole which Emma had previously been standing on to reveal a huge tarantula which scurried back inside the hole, our anticipation broken.
Dinner, on the other hand, was worth looking forward to - a three-course meal prepared by a French chef and sampling cocona juice, a delicious new fruit. Covering ourselves head to toe in DEET (mosquito repellent) we clamboured into our mosquito nets trying to fall asleep whilst the diversity of the rainforest kept us awake with random outbursts of high-pitched noise.
Three hours after walking and not having spotted a single animal the next morning (other than three monkeys about two miles into the distance, mid-jump) we were drenched in sweat and lacked enthusiasm about tree facts and ants. Continually asking the whereabouts of the pumas and jaguars, we realised the Amazon is more about bird-watching and insects than the safari animals we had hoped for! A fourteen-year old boy demonstrated this as he happily ticked off every single bird he saw through his binoculars and attempted to justify his passion to the rest of our unimpressed group!
Five hours after the walk began we munched our lunch from banana leaves, Laura assuring Emma they have no relation to the fruit! Boarding a smaller rowing boat which looked to be in a sinking state, Jesus left the untying of the ropes to Emma as we went on search of river otters. Later, after seeing nothing but a few dates growing from a palm tree, Jesus explained river otters can only be seen at 5am! (Not sure why we went after lunch?!) Slightly irritated by this point and just wanting to return to the lodge, Jesus felt it would be wise to send the faster members of the group off in front of him whilst he waited for the others to take pictures of ladybirds! Convinced we could not possibly get lost, we were slightly baffled when we came to a dead end where a tree fell into a lake halfway across as we had not been forewarned swimming was involved. Retracing our steps we found the others and returned to the lodge four hours later, having left Shruti and Joanna who had not waited and taken a different route.
Trying to remove the deet from our skin, Emma wanted to jump in a cold shower but needed a candle for light in the bathroom. Picking up the lighter she screamed as her hand covered in highly flammable deet went up in flames, dropping the lighter onto a deet covered floor created a huge fire and mass panic as the whole lodge was wooden and we had visions of burning the entire thing down (as has previously occured). Jumping around in her bra pouring water on the flames did not seem to put them out, we did not understand why nobody was rushing to our rescue. It later transpired that our yelps of "FIRE! FIRE!!" had been interpreted as "fly, fly" and Cleo in her towel was not prepared to sympathise with our pathetic concern! After throwing a towel on the fire, disaster was avoided and Emma´s pounding heart resumed normal activity.
That evening we took another boat trip this time to spot cayman (small crocodiles) where Jesus chose to leave the boat barefooted and chase the croc into a swamp, eventually returning with it in his hands for us to take pictures of. This would only happen in Peru and we both found it rather cruel as the cayman appeared helpless and terrified.
Returning the next day to Cusco and civilisation we enjoyed a well-deserved three-hour lunch at our favourite restaurant, Jack´s cafe which appeared even better after a disastrous take-away pizza in bed with no base meaning the topping slipped off.
Today we arrived after a seven hour journey in Puno, the grimiest town so far but with more nightlife than any of the other cities we have experienced. Venturing around the town we enjoyed the Peruvian market streets promising ourselves Emma´s alpaca gloves would be our last purchase in Peru. We look forward to tomorrow with some apprehension as we are visiting Lake Titicaca and staying in pairs with a local family on the floating island Taquile and being dressed up and partying into the night with them. The pictures we have seen look scarily like mud huts so it should be an experience!