Welcome to the Jungle

Trip Start Jul 05, 2006
Trip End Sep 18, 2007

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Monday, October 2, 2006

Met Dave and Elaine, friends from home, in their five star hotel in Lima and spent the most entertaining hour in the lobby watching all the passersby check themselves out in the reflective glass outside! Was priceless, one guy even came right up to the window and checked out his nose-hair, unaware of Elaine sitting directly under him!! Pretty much every single person that passed fixed their hair, but in every case it looked the very same way it had before!

The scene at the airport in Iquitos later that evening beggared belief! The rails were jammed with people trying to attract our attention as we came out and before we knew what was happening, there were ten or more guys crowded around Damian waving brochures for hostels and offering taxi rides into town, the rest of us could only watch in awe as he dealt with them, waving off the stragglers who approached us, before all of us were rescued by the police! Really felt overwhelmed by the whole thing. Headed into town and organised our tour for the next day and stumbled across the road for a bite to eat! Anybody heading that way, you wont go wrong at the Yellow Rose of Texas, the menu is extensive and the fish in particular, was fantastic. Watched the world go by in the main square afterwards, the families on motorbikes in particular, Daddy in front, small child in between him and Mammy, another child behind her and in some cases there was another child in front of the driver and possibly in the mother´s arms as well, some sight!

The trip to the jungle next day was interesting! Passed rows and rows of houses thrown together and separated by long, lumpy, crevassed mud roads stretching away in the distance. The guy in front of Dave sat beside his daughter and grandchild with a chicken under his arm! Every now and then the bus stoppped and a guy would jump out and drop off a drum of fuel on the side of the road and a person would be seen strolling towards the bus to pick it up, a wave acknowledging receipt of whatever it was!

Arrived in Nauta and got a rickshaw to the boat pick-up there, roads really muddy and slippery, really scary by the river as there was a steep drop off where they had to turn their bikes, would love to know how many have carreered over the edge over the years! The Rio Marañon was so very wide and brown as it swept along, an impressive sight. There were little boats with two and three people in them and they just looked miniscule out there. We hoppped into our own boat and after an hour or so we were at the point where the Rio Marañon and the Rio Ucayali converge, and these form the mouth of the Rio Amazonas! Was incredible to be sitting pretty in our little boat looking at the huge Amazon. It is on average 50m deep and, in parts of Brazil 100m and it really is unbelievably wide, truly humbling!

Two canoes were tied together to take us to our camp, one with a tiny, portable motor, the other without! The camp was the most sophisticated jungle camp Damo and i have experienced, we even had a bed and a shower, albeit river water but it had a spray head and everything! It was very well organised but unfortunately a lot of animals, anacondas in particular, were killed during its construction. We really didnt see many animals, apart from the pet tapir, coatis and wild pig that were around camp but the jungle itself was incredibly dense and our guide´s Dad was a shaman, a native witch doctor, so he was able to tell us what each plant was used for, which was fascinating. At one stage he cut off a branch from the cats claw tree and we held it up and drank the water that flowed freely from it! Anybody lost in the jungle uses this for water. It really is another world, and given the number of trees that were pointed out as being poisonous, you need to know your stuff! Later that evening we had some cats claw tea, the bark is simply boiled in water and then you drink it, excellent for the liver and cancer of all types apparently!

The most memorable part of our stay was our pirhana fishing exploits, as you do!! They are the most vicious looking things, with two menacing looking jaws full of jagged little teeth, but they are really not that big, only about 10cm long. All four of us struck the jackpot, and landed at least one each, in spite of their furious attempts for freedom. The little terrors can survive for 20mins out of the water and will play dead for a while before giving it all they´ve got again. Damo and i stayed on a day longer than Dave and Elaine and were fishing that evening when we saw first hand just how vicious these things are. I caught one and Hernan, our guide was looking after the not so nice bits as i danced about in excitement, i had already caught a few earlier so was doing very well. Hernan took his eye off the ball for a split second and the piranha managed to whip around and bite the tip of his finger. It transpired though, that he hadnt just nicked it, he had taken it clean off and all we could now see were the serrated teeth marks, they could be clearly seen on his finger!Damo and i commandeered the canoe back to camp and patched him up as best we could. I really think my heart was going quicker than Hernan´s, he was cool as a breeze with the odd little chuckle out of him, didnt knock a feather out of him! Luckily, he is alright, the bone wasnt reached and we have been in touch with the company since and he has recovered well. You really do need to know what you are at in these parts!

Headed back to Iquitos once more the following day and on to Cuzco via Lima to acclimatise before heading off on our Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu. A memorable few days in the jungle!!
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