Fishing for Pirhanas

Trip Start May 04, 2007
Trip End May 25, 2007

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Where I stayed
Libertador Tambopata Lodge

Flag of Peru  , Madre de Dios,
Sunday, May 13, 2007

The lodge is very eco-friendly. No electricity. Kitchen appliances and the fridge in the bar are powered by propane. Thatch-roofed bungalows with running water are warmed by solar power. There is no air conditioning! The only lighting indoors is from candles and outdoors from oil lanterns that are lit by staff at dusk. It makes for a very rustic and romantic atmosphere. 
After dark, we went on a night walk in the jungle with our Amazon guide, Juan Carlos. He helped us spot all kinds of creepy crawlies, including many types of spiders, ants, and frogs. Chatting with him in the bar afterwards, we found out he is only 26, youngest of four. His sister has a restauarant in Puerto Moldonado, and one of his brothers sells satellite dishes, a burgeoning business in the area. It just so happens he recently sold one to the lodge, just in time for the World Cup Soccer tournament last year! I forgot to ask him how the tv is powered - generator perhaps?! 

Yesterday morning we were off for a daytime jungle walk and exploring an oxbow lake by rowboat. Even though it's the dry season, and thus didn't rain at all while we were there, some of the paths were so muddy it was hard not to leave the over-sized rubber boots (or "wellies" according to Yvette) behind when trying to lift my feet as I walked through the ooze. I doubt some of the paths ever dry out, as the canopy above blocks out the sunlight. Didn't see a ton of wildlife other than birds, but the scale of the forest is impressive. Before returning in the rowboat, our guide gave us each a turn at piranha fishing. He put some bait on a simple wooden stick with some fishing twine and a hook attached (no fancy reel or anything), and we passed it around. You could totally feel the little monsters tugging at the bait, but they were way too quick for any of us to pull one out of the water, so I never got to see what they look like up close. Maybe that's a good thing!
I learned a lot about the fragility of the ecosystem, which is made up of tons of species very dependent on others. For example, butterflies need the salt from the tears of turtles and caimans in order to kickstart their reproductive functions. Leaf cutter ants inhabiting a tree keep it clean of all vines and parasites in return for free rent. Brazil Nut Tree pods can only be broken by one type of rodent with sharp enough teeth. They bury the nuts they can't eat right away, then forget where they hid them, so the seeds thus have a chance to grow into new trees. And it goes on.  

At 39 degrees and super humid, it was actually cooler to walk than stand still, as you could at least create a breeze for yourself as you moved. I washed my hair at 11 am yesterday, and it was still damp this morning. All I had energy for in the afternoon was napping in the hammock.    
Before dinner was another night-time exploration, this time in the boat looking for nocturnal caimans along the riverbanks. We saw 6 or 7 of them altogether, the guide using a huge light to spot their glowing eyes in the dark.

It was surreal falling asleep to the noises of the jungle. It was really quite loud, what with the various frogs, crickets, and who knows what else chirping away. It sounded exactly like one of those new age cd's they sometimes play in spas. 

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