When we arrived in Iquitos it was about 8pm and the pilot announced the temperature was 92° Fahrenheit. The thing is, it was the humidity that nearly melted us when the door opened, not the temperature. And then the mosquitos swarmed all over us while we waited for our luggage. Let’s make sure we get our money’s worth for that Malarone… Second thoughts began to enter our minds, is the amazon really worth this?
Then we got into our moto-taxi, a sort of mix between motorcycle and rickshaw, and rode through a night lit up by an army of crazed scooters and moto-taxis; a mobile christmas light parade. Our excitement to be here started to rise.
With 4 days in Iquitos, the best thing to do was book a 3 day trek into the jungle to see the most we could. This meant 3 days about 50 kilometers down the Amazon River with one night in lodge and the second night “camping.”
The lodge was located in the secondary jungle (higher ground with more farm life), with no electricity but good food and cold beers kept literally on ice.
The “camping” had us actually staying with a local family deep in the primary jungle (deep jungle currently flooded with water). This is the end of the rainy season so the river is swelled to flood-like proportions, those families not situated far enough from the riverbanks have to relocate in shanties outside of Iquitos.
This family was large, 10 adults and children living in one room, rising and resting following the patterns of the sun. They cooked, worked during the day at preparing food or building their son a new home and otherwise lived their life.
We had made it to the Amazon, the mysterious jungle where, according to the movies, everything here was trying to kill us. Our guide, a young Peruvian named Luis, did not exactly dissuade us of the danger since he carried a machete everywhere we went and reaffirmed the jungle’s man-eating tendencies. Public enemy number one is the bushmaster, the only snake that will literally follow you and hunt you down.
Less dangerous, check out these hissing beetles:
Our favorite jungle boogie man was the Chula Chaque, a mythical shapeshifter the locals believe will mislead you deeper into the jungle. The lesson seems to be, if someone gives you directions in the jungle, check his feet. The Chula Chaque has one foot bigger than the other.
Luckily we never came upon any poisonous snakes or mythical troublemakers but we did go fishing for piranhas and Eva actually caught two, swinging them at Jeremy as she brought them into our boat. Luis told us we had to be careful as many fishermen had lost fingers to the very sharp-toothed piranha, even after they have been caught.
He then showed us when he cut a chunk out of Eva’s hair with one decisive snap of the tiny thing’s barely breathing jaw! For all that, seems you can swim with the piranha because they scare away easy enough.
Every bush and tree seemed to be useful to the locals for food, building and medicine. The iron palm was a strong palm tree used for structural support in their homes while another palm had sharp needles that had been used in the past for blow darts and sewing. There were plants used for dyes, a spiky fruit with a custard-like texture on the inside and fresh sugarcane.
Some plants undoubtedly had purposes, but hated to be touched. Check it out:
The night had us foraging for bullfrogs the size of a small chickens, tarantulas that fight back and more mosquitos than you could imagine.
The flooded river didn’t keep us out of the Monkey Rescue, a group of huts with an assortment of wild animals running free.
As we boated in, the monkeys descended upon us like happy relatives looking for hugs and gift. They inspected everything in the boat, stole the piranha we caught.
Eva caught the eye of one Wooly Monkey in particular, who started off by licking both her arms, and finally eating part of her hat.
They had Spider Monkeys, Squirrel Monkeys, Capuchin Monkeys, Wooly Monkeys, a family of Coati, a curious bird we think was from the Toucan family and a very disenfranchised Sloth with a resemblance to ET. There were even two Anacondas and a Caiman, luckily the only animals in the cages.
Malaria 0, Team Rees 1. Seeing the Amazon Jungle in Perú was recommended to us over seeing it on the Brazil side. The flood changed the perspective we were given, but allowed us to boat deep into nature through small strings of water which are usually just walking paths.
Just as the Discovery Channel is telling us that new medicines and species are being discovered every day in the Jungle, Iquitos showed us how many acres and species are vanishing. The logging industry has virtually wiped out the big beautiful canopy trees we imagined, and stripped thousands of acres. We aren’t trying to give any inconvenient truths, but it’s true that we are lucky to see this unique world now, it’s changing everyday.
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