This adventure nearly didn't happen. The alarm clock on Galapagos time (which was an hour behind), meant that at 8am I was still in my hostel despite my plane leaving at 8.35am. The hostel manager didn't think this was a problem - was he mad!!!!! I raced to get my bags and he grabbed me a cab. The cab driver drove like a maniac. I closed my eyes trying to bear in mind this was for my benefit and started to pray. Somehow I managed to get to the check in by 8.30 and they let me on. I was absolutely gobsmacked. The double whammy was when trying to calm down, I heard a 'Hello Jackie'. I couldn't believe it David and his sister, Rebecca was on the same Amazon trip as me. Happy days. The plane was really nice and it was a really short journey. To get to our lodge, a mini bus picked us up and transferred us to a motorised kayak - bags and all!!! Bigger than the normal kayak. This then took us 2 hours into the Amazon along the river taking winding water ways. All I could think is if they were kidnapping us you wouldn't need to be blindfolded as you wouldn't stand a chance of remembering your way out. When we got to the lodge it was built on a raised boardwalk into the jungle. There was no way out on foot and getting back by water would be hard - I felt trapped and a little bit suffocated. The lodge itself was nice. A large dining area, a chill out zone and several sleeping huts. I shared with David and Rebecca. Poor David - it was like having 2 sisters in stereo! It was really good fun. The rest of the group were really nice and it really made the trip for me.
The trip was only 3 days but it was really action packed. We had literally only been there for 10 minutes before our first excursion started - Piranha fishing. This involves placing raw meat on a hook attached to fishing wire attached to a stick. You can then feel the fish nibbling the meat at which point you need to haul them in quite quickly. I found this impossible and seemed to be merely feeding them. Lenny and David were more successful. They are quite small but their teeth are vicious. As our guide tried to unhook one (so he could put it back) it actually bit his finger. It was a really deep cut and there was so much blood. It was just running down his arm. Nothing like seeing nature in action. After this we felt like we had seen enough Piranhas, so we went snake hunting!!!! Saw a few tree snakes. Then onto the lake for a swim. This was beautiful as the sun was setting. The sunsets here are out of this world. They are a mixture of deep oranges, reds and pinks. Then back to the lodge for tea but no rest - not for the wicked. No it was now time for the night walk. We donned our welly bobs and waterproof ponchos and head into the darkness of the jungle to look for creepy crawlies especially poisonous ones. If you think this sounds like a mad idea, I would totally agree with you. We did see lots - spiders, snakes, moths, frogs. For me personally though it was like a walking nightmare. The deeper in we got, the darker and more oppressive it became. I felt like the jungle was closing in on me and that I wouldn't be able to find my way out. On the way back I was right at the back and I was verging on a panic attack. I didn't want to see any more horrid little creatures that could kill me if they bit me, I wanted to get out. It was a relief to finally see the lights of the camp and know it was over.
The next day we went on the boats to explore more of the Amazon. It is really beautiful and so lush. The vegetation is teeming with wildlife apparently. There were often cries of look at that bird or monkey. Personally I could rarely see anything - it was in the distance or behind branches. Everyone else was so enthusiastic and really wanted you to share the moment that often I would say I had seen it so we could more on. That doesn't mean I didn't see anything but not as much as everyone else. We were able to see a group of monkeys playing, toucans, caymen (alligators), pink dolphins and part of an Anaconda curled up in a tree. To be honest it could have been a bit of tyre but given we were in the Amazon more likely to be an Anaconda.
We visited the local Shaman - medicine man. He basically gets high on a local hallucinogenic plant and is then able to heal people who come to him with ailments. I wonder why the NHS haven't thought of this approach. He was really interesting and he cleansed Sean's spirit as a demonstration of his skills. It didn't take long. If he had chosen me we could have been there for some time.
We also visited a local community. A lady showed us how to make a bread substitute from yams. She started from going into her garden and digging up the yams right through to the bit where we got to try it! It was absolutely fascinating as she grated it (using a sheet of metal with holes scored in), extracted the liquid from it by squeezing it using braided palm leaves, sieving and then cooking it on a hot plate.
The main way of getting about was by boat but one day we had a 6 hour walk through the jungle. It rained a lot whilst we were here - so I am really glad they provided us with welly bobs and poncho. As the rain became torrential, it was like an exciting adventure to be protected from the rain by our gear as we plodded on into the jungle regardless. In fact it reminded me of being in England and many childhood days out where despite the weather you would have a good time!!! The jungle is a different place during the day and I really enjoyed this excursion. Most of the way was through the undergrowth but the last part was through the marsh. This involves wading through mud that if you are lucky doesn't go over the top of your wellington boot. The faster you went, the less you sank and thereby reduced the risk of losing your boot but at the same time this increased the risk of slipping. You will be pleased to know I survived which out any mud on my face - mind the pun.
One of my favourite parts of this Amazon adventure was when we went to find the hidden lake. We had to transfer from a motorised kayak to a manual kayak. That means we actually had to do something and row. It was madness. We seemed to go in every direction but the one Lenny wanted us to. We had to row though really narrow water ways, lift up fallen trees to scramble under to pass (kayak included), hit low hanging branches and hoping nothing would fall on us. Madness but the best fun and totally worth it as the waterway eventually opened up into the most stunning lake with absolutely no one else there.
Overall I am really glad I have been to visit the Amazon. However, it really was not my cup of tea as you have probably gathered from reading in between the lines and I don't think I will ever feel the urge to go into another jungle ever again.
To top the journey off, our place got cancelled due to adverse weather conditions. Me, Sean and Heather ended up having to stay in Lago Agrio (not the nicest town on this planet). Luckily for me they were great people and I had one of the best nights of the trip.