Just got back after 4 days in t´he Amazon Jungle. WOW, is all I can say. So far, one of the most wonderful experiences ever. There was a group of 10 of us, Clayton and I were the only Westerners, the others were all Peruvians. We set off on Thursday morning and took a boat for a couple of hours down a river tributary until it hit the mighty Amazon. It is one bloody massive river, I´ll tell you that now. The current flows really really fast and its a muddy brown colour to. Apparently it always stays tat same colour, its because of all the sediments and minerals in it. The river provides 20 percent of te worlds fresh water, so you can imagine just how massive it is. Our first stop was to the Jungle lodge, a darling place made of palm leaves and mozzie screens. We dumped our stuff and headed straight out to see the Yagua Indians, one of the Amazonian tribes. There were probably about 20 of them including children in this reservation. God, they were SHORT, I have never felt so tall in my life. They wore skirts made out of shredded palm leaves that came down to their midcalves, and also wore hats made of te same. The skirts were dyed ochre by the pulp of a fruit that grows in the Amazon. They also use this as an insect repellant and to paint their faces. Upon arrival we were all introduced and the chief painted our faces to match theirs. I guess he took a liking to me because he informed my guide that I was to become his 7th wife, if it pleased me. Hmmmmm.
The indians then gave us a demonstration of their traditional weapon which is a blowgun. Its a very long, very straight tube which they fit darts into. The darts are ust very thin bits of wood sharpened to a point with Pirhana teet and then wrapped in cotton. The cotton is then soaked in a poison, whether from treefrogs, snakes, or plants. The hunters of the group shot the darts into a totom pole target and then let us all have a go. I missed completely, Clayton of course was a crack shot. The chief then told our guide that I had to stay behind and marry him since I was obviously going to be s*** at looking after myself. I guess Clayton was going to be part of my dowry since he proved himself as quite the hunter.
After that, they showed us a traditional tribal dance (it looked Irish to me) and the Indians grabbed some people to dance. They stayed away from the 2 massive Westerners though, which was in a way, a relief and insulting!
After the dancing we hopped back into the boat and headed back to the lodge to have lunch before going out again to meet a shamen. That was really interesting, he dressed just like us, and had a casio wristwatch on, but it was clear that we were from different worlds. He had a lot of plants that he had gathered to show us, that worked on all sorts of ailments from Rhumatism to arthritis, to heartburn, infection, infertility, contraception, god, all sorts. He had made us a drink called¨"7 Roots" (although it was from 1 root and 6 leaves) which was supposed to be pretty much a cure-all. It smelled of cloves and was bloody delicious. Aparently its also known as¨"the Panty Breaker" because it makes men so virile. Yeah, whatever. They also made a halucinagenic drink but yours truly didnt get to have any because it required a whole nights ritual and we werent going to be there the following night. Oh well, next time Im in the Amazon, im definitely doing one.
After the Shamen, we went into the jungle to see some animals. I saw a sloth! 3 in fact! God they are so damn cute. I want one as a pet. They just sit in trees and sleep for 20 hours a day. They simply are not interested in anything, noise doesnt bother them, AT ALL. They blend in almost perfectly with the trees and look like they are smiling. Actually, they look totally stoned. Our guide poked one with a stick and it looked around sleepily for ages and stretched its arm out (quite an effort, im sure) and sort of grinned before falling back asleep. I have some marvellous photos which i´ll post. The other one was a 2 toed sloth which gets to be really big, and it was just sleeping in a branch upside down. It was so close that we could touch it, it was so so so soft. It also didnt give a s*** that we were there. As we carried on walking the guide pointed right above my head and their was a boa constrictor RIGHT THERE dozing on a branch. It was the most wonderful red and yellow and black colours. It wasnt very big but it still made me jump to see it. We also saw a spazzed out spider monkey and one called a wooley monkey that looked as it sounds, like a big ball of wool. We were standing there marvelling at their antics when out of the undergrowth this massive Capybara came charging out. They are the largest rodents and look like a giant guinea pig and are bright orange. It came barrelling through the group, bypassed EVERYONE else and leapt on my leg and started humping it! It was the weirdest thing and I jumped a mile. It was so determined to lay my leg that the guide had to beat it off with a stick, whereupon it disappeared from whence it came. I dont know what sort of pheremones Im putting out, but goddamn im popular in this country!
After that little excitement we carried on walking and saw a type of turtle that was almost a complete rectangle, and then the bloody capybara came back again and went for the same leg! It was so funny, it just kept charging at me. It got shoved off again and we decided to feed it some grass, and it calmed down a bit then, enough to get some photos of it.
After the walk we went to see ow sugarcane juice (which is used to make rum) is traditionally squeezed. God, what a hard job. Each stalk is stuck in a wooden compress and squashed with a stick. A localgirl demonstrated and got so much juice out, enough to fill half a bucket. She then let us have a go. I barely got a thimblefull out, I need to hit the gym again because it was really hard! We added some lemon juice and then drank it and wow, it was delicious. Really great. If you leave it for a couple of days it gets alcoholic, about 3 percent, and if you leave it for a couple of weeks it becomes almost lethal. We tried it in its various stages and the strong one was almost unbearable.
After that, we walked through an Amazon village that was where the filming of the Motorcycle Diaries took place. You couldnt see that any money had gone to the villagers though. Ive never seen such mangy dogs in my life. There was a disco though, which was just a wooden shack with "disco" written on it. Apparently it gets quite happening though. The sun was setting as we walked out back to our lodge and the kids were leaping off logs into the river as the sun was setting, it was such a pretty, wonderful scene. It was getting dark by this time so we headed back to the lodge where I chilled in the hammocks for a couple of hours. I love hammocks, mans greatest invention if you ask me. Its like being a giant baby, you just rock for a bit and bobs your uncle, you fall straight asleep. After another wonderful meal of fresh Amazon fish and local roots and beans we took a boat out in the dark to hear about some of the rivers legends and myths. The Amazon people have stories for every type of bird and mammal in the river, most of them sad, and most of them improbable. Our guide was from a village far into the jungle and knew them all. It was wonderful to sit in the dark on the water and listen to him tell the stories.
Well, by that time it was about 8.30pm and time to go to bed, since there was no electricity and everything was lit by kerosene lamp at night. So, basically, nothing to do. The rooms were pretty cool though, flushing toilet and shower (with river water, of course) and because there was no walls or ceilings (just screens) you could hear all the sounds of the jungle outside, I fell asleep to cicadas chirping and a million different animals buzzing and chirping and squeaking, brilliant. Although, I had an army of ants to contend with first, because I had a toblerone in my bag that the little b*****s had discovered, they had eaten almost the whole thing! They were leaf cutter ants too, and were marching in formation across the floor with bits of chocolate foil. At the time it made my skin crawl cos there were so many but funny once they had pissed off.
The next morning we were up bright and early and took a boat to the next lodge, about 60KM away. We stopped en route to see if we could see the Pink Amazon River dolphin. The guide was doubtful because he hadnt seen them for a while, but it was almost as if the animals were being paid to appear, because we saw plenty. They are the funniest creatures. They dont have a dorsal fin the way other dolphins do, but have a hump instead and have a much longer mouth and nose. They arent as playful which is why you dont see them, and only the males are completely pink. SO pink, like a cooked salmon. I couldnt get any decent shots because they were so fast but we saw a little pod of about 4 or 5. -There are lots of stories about these too, about how they come out of the river and wear hats to disguise their long noses and use their eyes to woo the women, who think they are men (never mind the facg that they are pink with a bloody great tail) and fall in love with them. The dolphins then grab thw women and drag them into the water where they impregnate them. Apparently thats why the amazon women only wash their clothes in the rivers when they are in groups, because they are frightened of seeing them and falling pregnant. Although, they use that argument the opposite way too, when they get pregnant and its not their husbands or they arent married, sometimes "the dolphn did it" is a credible excuse. Hmmmm.
After seeing the dolphins we continued to the second lodge, which was tiny and even more rustic than the first. Clayton and I were the only guests which was pretty cool. We put our welliues straight on and headed out into the primary forest for a sort of nature walk with our guide. It was mozquito central and the little f***ers wouldnt leave us alone. They were horrible, got through the DEET, our clothes, our boots, everything, it was so gross. We did, however see a lot of interesting stuff, from the Justice Tree, which is the punisment for miscreants and evil doers (its a very straight tree that the guilty party is tied to, and since fire ants live on it, thats where the justice comes in. Adulterers are tied to it naked) to a giant pink tarantula which was NOT happy about having its nest distrubed. It scuttled about ferociously for a bit, I wouldnt get close enough to it to have my photo taken, it creeped me right out.
Back to the lodge to tend to our bites, then after lunch the rest of the group departed and it was just Clayton and I and our guide. We went pirhana fishing! Thats an activity that requires patience and a lot of bait, because at this time of year the fish are quite small, and yet bloody sneaky, so they just nibble at the bait but wont go near the hook. It was realy frustrated because you would feel them tug but by te time you jerked the line out (bearing in mind it was a stick with a bit of line on, not a rod and reel) they had gone. I finally caught one but in my glory i waved it around so much that the fish flew off the hook and escaped me. The one that got away indeed..... I seemed to have hit on a little village of them because after that I caught several. I caught the most, hooray! It was pretty gross though because the fish were coming up with hair wrapped around them, human hair. I became convinced that the pond was actually a dumping ground for bodies, and thats why the fish always hung out there. Stands to reason, I mean a pirhana can strip a body clean if theres enough blood and enough of them. Anyway, we fried up the fish and haqd them with our supper, they are bony b*****s but it was oh so satisfying to eat what had been eating our bait all day long. We went to bed at 8pm because we had to be up for bird watching (my idea, sorry!) at 5.30am.
Bird watching wasnt very exciting, neither of us had binoculars and neither of us really care about birds, but it was cool to be in a dugout canoe that early on the river. Especially since I didnt have to paddle. Well, I did for about 5 minutes and that was plenty. We saw a bunch of birds whose name I have written down but I wont list here because apart from Jim, noone else is going to care.
Once we were back at the lodge it was time for breakfast and then another forest walk. That was a complete nightmare. It was like the mozzies had quadrupled and made it their mission to make life miserable for us. We saw exactly what we had seen the day before minus the tarantula and by the end of it all three of us were running towards to canoe and away from the Forest Of Mozzies. Urgh, it was f***ing horrible, they just get everywhere! That is why I shall never live in the Amazon.
Another restful afternoon in the hammock and then off to see the giant lillies called Victoria Regent, after Queen Victoria. These get up to 3 metres across and are so weird and wonderful. Sadly by this point we were joined by a family with three of the goffiest, moaniest kids ever. I didnt think I cared much for sprogs but I hadnt banked on Clayton, he loathes them, and made no secret about his desire to drown them. Mind you, after several hours in their company I wanted to drown them too. We were watching the sunset in a canoe over the Amazon and the kids would NOT stop whining. Bloody things. I had to sum up all my tuning out abilities to zone out and enjoy the scenery and not kill them. Luckily, the guide hated them too so after dinner the three of us snuck out in a dugout to see some spiders. Man, the Amazon in the dark is EERIE as anything. It was like something out of a horror movie - massive spiders resting on every tree, bats swooping around us, frogs croaking, tarantulas observing us from tree trunks, one easily as big as my fist. It was so utterly creepy and awe inspiring. So so so brilliant. We saw a beautiful owl butterfly, which basically has what looks exactly like an owls face on its wings, I guess its a defence mechanism from predators, but it was simply amazing to see. It was a full moon too which just added to the creepiness factor. We made it back alive and had another marvellous nights sleep listning to the jungle and the rain.
Today was our last day and we went to see some fish called Paiche, which is the largest freshwater river fish and is also prehistoric. Tastes bloody amazing too. Its such a funny looking creature, the face of a catfish, the tail of an eel and the body of a trout. Its a weird green orangy colour and rather agressive. We fed tem bits of fish and they went nuts. We also saw a bunch of caimens but they were quite small so not very impressive. After that, it was time for more delicious food, (all we have done since landing in Iquitos is eat, its great and im fat) and then we took the boat back to the city.
I cannot recommend visiting the Amazon to anyone enough. It was such a wdnerful trip and we saw so much, miles more than this essay I have written here. Our guide was wonderful, the accomodation and food was wonderful, obviously the scenery was wonderful, it was just hands down amazing. Im now wayhairier than any western woman who is not french should be, and Im covered in bites, mud and all my clothes reek. We are staying at a divey little place for 3 dollars a night that has only bunks and mattresses made of straw, and since we are here for 2 more days its unlikely that I shall get aquainted with a razor or deoderant for a while longer. f*** it, im enbracing my inner hippy.