Hot, tired and sweaty, Daniela and I flopped onto our hotel beds, turned the air con on, smiled and breathed a sigh of relief to be back from “Jungle Boot Camp”. This is the “affectionate” term we gave the three days we had just spent in the Peruvian Amazon jungle at an eco-lodge, where the wearing of gumboots was compulsory and we were “forced” to do all manner of drawn-out jungle activities from dawn til well after dark in the sticky, oppressive jungle heat. Not only that, we had paid for it. You do these crazy things when you are travelling.
We were in Iquitos, where our trip had kicked off – an oddly large city set within the Amazon jungle, connected to the outside world only by boat or air – no road comes to Iquitos. A thin, long boat transported us 140km upstream to where we were to have our Amazon jungle experience. A twitchers paradise, we spotted many familiar birds on the banks along the way – terns, herons, king fishers and cormorants. It was exciting to be going into the wilds of the Amazonas and not know what lay before us.
Arriving at our eco-lodge, we had a delicious lunch, were given half hour to rest, before we were whisked into the nearby jungle with our jungle guide Moises, to see what creatures we might find. It is not easy to spot animals at the best of times with 5 noisey, gumbooted gringos behind you, but in the heat of the day the jungle is pretty quiet as most animals are resting.
And who can blame them, the heat was incredible, the humidity high, and we were all dripping with sweat. Siesta sounded like a good idea, but first we had to complete our 3 hour jungle march. We were rewarded with distant views of monkeys high in trees, as well as close views of the tiny pygmy marmoset monkey, darting around a mahogany tree and sucking on the sap. They are so cute! I so wanted to stick one on my finger, but we weren’t in the zoo. Oh well. We also saw a very large tarantula, fortunately high up in a tree. Moises said it was a rosey-haired one. As opposed to a pink-toed one. A tarantula with pink toes? That I had to see…
And we did – that night…when Moises dragged us out on our night hike to look for creepy crawlies in the dark…we found 2 pink-toed tarantulas sitting on palm trees, and at close range (ie, I could have stroked one if I was foolish enough). I would almost go as far as to say that a tarantula with pink toes is kinda cute.
However there was nothing cute about the piranha we went fishing for in a side-river the following day. Moises met us 5.45am for our next activity on the agenda of Jungle Boot Camp. Catching piranha. Me being a vego, I just took photos of the others folly, dipping their bait in the water off their bamboo rods, and trying to flick the piranha out of the water before he’d taken all the bait.
The fun part was watching everyone try and get those vicious little gnashers off the hook. With a dozen caught, we were allowed to go back to the lodge, where the piranha were cooked up by the chef for lunch. Jungle Boot Camp was turning into Fear Factor! I was assured by the others that the prinaha actually tasted ok, they just weren’t very meaty.
The heat was still a big issue for us, it just seems to sap all your gringo energy. That and the fact that we had activities before and after breakfast, lunch and dinner. No wonder we were pooped. All I wanted to do was strip off my long sleeves, long pants and gum boots and throw myself into the nearest river, piranhas or not.
Finally we got our chance when Moises took us by boat back into the main flow of the Rio Amazonas. No free lunch though, first we had to do an hours worth of fresh-water dolphin spotting. I could handle that. The wide, quiet, and very murky waters of the Amazon river revealed a couple of pink dolphins with unusually short dorsal fins, and also a couple of smaller grey dolphins. Awesome!
Then, finally our moment had come. Moises assured us that the brown colour of the Amazon was just silt and minerals from the snowy Andes mountains, and that swimming would be fine – like we needed convincing to get in? Splash! we were in being swept along by the current, loving the refreshing feeling. A boat came along with a Peruvian film crew on board – they had spotted a pod of five pink-faced tourists in the Amazon river and came over to get a shot.
It was time to go back to the lodge for our final yummy lunch, before our longish journey back to Iquitos. As we ate, the next lot of new “jungle campers” arrived with fresh smiles and clean gumboots. We smirked to each other as we knew what lay before them. Lunch over, hot and tired, we gladly boarded the boat home, enjoying the cooling breeze of the boat. Back in Iquitos, “Jungle Boot Camp”, was officially over…mmmh cool drinks and fans! But we had just spent three very full days in the Amazon jungle – how fantastic is that!
By Julie Paterson Venus Adventures – Global Trips for Women
Their motto: “Life is uncertain – eat cake!”
Venus Adventures specializes in women-only holidays and short breaks to fascinating destinations: Morocco, Egypt, India, Ethiopia, Turkey, Mali, Jordan, Vietnam, New Zealand