June 10, 2004

Tarzan, King of Jungle!

After hiking the Inka trail Sarah and I decided that we had better go to the Jungle at least once on our trip. So we had a day of rest in Cusco before heading to Puerto Maldanado and then to the Ecoamazonia jungle lodge for a "4 day/3 night" jungle tour.

When we were in Bolivia we skipped going to the Jungle there because we wanted to move north as fast as possible. We regreted this once we got to Peru because the jungle tours in Bolivia are way cheaper and people that we met that had gone to the Jungle in Bolivia really liked it. So we sucked it up and booked a tour to one of the cheaer jungle areas in Peru just outside of Puerto Maldonado.

We decided to book through the same tour operator as we did the Inka trail with since we thought that we might be able to swing some kind of deal. We managed to get a little of what he claimed was the "normal" price but no huge savings. We also decided to fly to Puerto Maldonado from Cusco and then to Lima from Puerto Maldonado after our tour. We left Cusco early on the morning of June 5th for Puerto Maldonado. The flight lasted half an hour, much less time than we spent in the airport waiting for our flight. We got off the plane and were welcomed by the hot and muggy jungle air of Puerto Maldonado. Then it was a 20 minute ride in a flimsy and cheesy bus with a bunch of other Canadians, mostly from Calgary, to town from the airport. Then we did some souvinir shopping and walked around the central market of Puerto Maldonado. We headed out to the river for a boat ride to the lodge at 12:30. It was an hour ride downstream in a narrow river boat to the lodge.

Upon arrival we were greeted with some kind of pisco drink wraped in a leaf and shown to lunch. Lunch was something like Pallea (rice, chicken, rasins, veggies, olives and half a hard boiled egg) wrapped in some banana leaves. Then we had some time to rest in our very nice bungalows before going across the river to Monkey island. On monkey island there are some relatively tame monkeys that the lodge feeds and takes care of. We saw a bunch of different monkeys and had a good time. We saw an amazing sunset on the way back to the lodge and had a tasty dinner. Then we did some night time cayman watching with a big spot light that makes the cayman's eyes shine in the dark. As we were doing this the nearly full moon rose over the river and jungle in a spectacular fashion. After spotting a few small caymans on the river bank we headed back to the lodge and went to bed.

As we were doing the 4 day/3 night tour we didn't need to get up at 5 am like the other Canadians because we were doing something different than them the next day. We were going up river to a smaller river to do a brief jungle walk and then go do some Piranah fishing and then swimming in the same river! The jungle walk was pretty uneventful except for the medium sized snake I saw slithering into a hole under a tree. I yelled out snake to get our guide's attention and Sarah thought that I was just kidding around trying to freak her out, but I wasn't. Luckily she didn't look because she probably would have fainted :) It was a reddish brown snake with black lepord pattern on it. I only saw its back half as it was already pretty far into the hole. The guide said that it was probably a rat snake, I didn't get a scientific name for it as we did for everything else that we were shown on the tour.

The Piranah fishing was unsecessful, but the guides caught a few fish that they called Sardines. We did get a few bites and one of Sarah's bites took her hook clean off so I'd like to think it was a Piranah. Then we did (well me and the Spanish guys with us) some swiming which involved swinging off a vine like tarzan and jumping into the river. That was quite fun but the thought of Piranahs and other scary jungle fishy things made me get out of the water pretty quickly. Then it was back to the Lodge for some quality napping in our bungalow, after lunch that is.

The next day was the day that we had to get up early, 5 am. We were on the road, well river, at 6 am. The day involved a short trip down river and then a long walk through the jungle to a look out tree and then a brief trip on the 'lost lake' and a paddle down a small river to the main river. This was a pretty event filled day, lots of animal sightings and plant explinations by our guide. We had some natural jungle mango and saw a plant that is natural jungle viagra. Just boil it for 20 minutes and then put it in a jar and burry it for a week and bam! Our guide did some tarantula hunting by poking around in a hole in the ground with a short stick. A tarantula did come half way out briefly but not all the way out. We saw some wild monkeys and squirels and parrots. In the lake we saw some baby caymans and kind of saw the mommy cayman as well as a few turtles but no anacondas, kind of dissapointing. Then on our boat ride down the small river our guide got all excited and said he found an anaconda. Sure enough as he pushed some of the grasses out of the way there was an anaconda coiled up by the side of the river. It was only about 2.5 meters long but it was cool to see one in the wild. A little further down the river a cayman jumped in the water just ahead of us and freaked out the people near the bow. A little further down river again we saw the heads of 4 river otters but that is all we ever saw of them. Then as we were doing the 1 km walk between the small river and the main river I heard something in the bushes but I just thought it was the people behind me. Then I heard the people behind me getting excited and as I turned around I thought that there was a jaguar charging them. It turned out it was just a giant ant eater, long nose big body and bushy tail, running across the trail. Pretty unusual I think. Near the end of the trail our guide spotted an unusual frog and showed it to us. It looked like a leaf but that wasn't the unusual part. It can make itself look like a spider by extending its back legs, which our guide simulated by pulling on its legs. Then it was back to the lodge via the trusty peque-peque boat, so called after the sound of its engine which I think is a lawn mower or generator engine with attatched to a long prop shaft with some rebar. The throttle is a knob on the carb which is inconvenient so they change the speed by moving the prop in and out of the water, pretty clever those jungle dwellers :)

That was our last full day in the jungle, so only 2 full days at the lodge in our 4 day/ 3 night tour. Some clever marketing I think. We didn't know that the tour company could get us to our early flight so we planned on spending a night in Puerto Maldonado which we didn't really need to do. It is a strange town and we saw some kind of strange religious parade while walking around the town. It was an uneventful day and the next day Ecoamazonia tours gave us a lift to the airport where we caught our flight to Lima, which is where we are right now.

Posted by bforsyth at June 10, 2004 06:46 PM