At home in the jungle

Trip Start Aug 11, 2009
Trip End Sep 30, 2010

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Where I stayed
El Platanal

Flag of Peru  ,
Tuesday, October 20, 2009

It is a 45 minute flight into the jungle to Puerto Maldonado, sure beats an 18 hour bus ride.
Puerto Maldonado has two industries - 1) logging with profits going to big companies, often foreign owned and 2) tourism of the sort where you are whisked away from the airport and off to jungle treks and boat rides by 'eco' lodges built from destroyed primary forest owned by, you guessed it, foreign companies.
We instead opted for more of a home stay option and so are feeling rather self righteous, not that we deserve it - our budget has run out for a fancy jungle lodge, a fact we are now rather grateful for.
We were picked up from the airport by the gentle Peruvian Milan, his lovely German wife Ulla and their two small and very entertaining children. It is about half an hour down river by boat to their property - 60Ha of mostly primary jungle. Our home for the five days was a wooden cottage with grass roof, lighting is by kerosene lamp and our outdoor shower is a drum of water and a jug.
Milan is extremely knowledgeable about the plants and their medicinal uses, he also knows where to find all the scariest looking insects for photos. After dark on our first evening he took us tarantula spotting and from then on everything that happens to brush against us in the night is surely a hairy tarantula...
During daylight, we also saw wild pigs, wild birds like turkeys, tapir footprints, two different kinds of snake, an otter, a family of at least 30 monkeys leaping through the banana palms and a lot of insects, which are kindly displaying normal insect behavior at last and biting Bevan instead of me.
In the river we saw an otter and a lot of sunbathing turtles, after sunset in the light of the moon (and torch) we also saw Caimans, like a small crocodile, resting on the bank.
Conveniently the nearby Taricaya nature reserve rehabilitates sick and injured wildlife, so we get to see a lot of the local animals up close. The most entertaining are the monkeys - the black hairy spider monkeys queue up to poke gangly arms through the wire and scratch Milan's head and the little capuchin monkeys snatch greedily at an offered Chili only to pull faces at us after sniffing and tasting it. I was very tempted to try and smuggle out a black panther kitten, who looks just like a sleek, elegant black cat (like Merlin after a hefty diet maybe?). There is also a jungle canopy walk which showed us the view from above the treetops, amongst hovering blue butterflies.

We have also been amazed at how many delicious foods and even drinks can be made from plantain banana and yucca. Though I think I've now had enough yucca (like a very dry textured potato) for a little while.

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