Muyuna (140km deep into the Amazon)

Trip Start Jul 09, 2007
Trip End Sep 10, 2007

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Flag of Peru  ,
Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Onto another flight with LAN airlines and another snack pack of mini muffins, bread sticks and mini chocolate bar.  I am beginning to tire of these little packs almost as much as the Qantas breakfasts I received every Monday morning, on the Sydney to Melbourne flight.
Our flight path took us over miles after mile of Amazon jungle.  The vastness of the place was immediately apparent with Iquitos a small dot from the planes vantage point.  Once on land we walked from the plane towards the small terminal, across the tarmac enjoying views of two abandoned planes.  One of which was propped up by a small hut, toward the rear end of the plane.  For a second time we were greeted by a guide with a sign but this time my name was also so on the list.  After a quick spelling correction ELI SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS ABETH and photo opp we bundled ourselves and belongings into a mini van and introduced ourselves to the other travelers.  Andy, Jo and Anya, were a Father, daughter and friend from Germany (originally Leeds).
Awoken at intermittent intervals through the night by a torrential down pours and impressive thunder storms, we were collected from our hotel at 10am.  Much to-ing and fro-ing to cash machines and places to purchase rubber boots delayed the official departure but we were soon back in the mini van and off to the port.  (Ben, the Quality Assurance man from Melbourne had also joined the group).
The port (if that is in fact what it was) consisted of an out flow pipe, scraggy kids, street vendors and a few mangy old boats.  One of which wore the name Muyana Lodge in flaking white paint.  Clambering onboard and settling in for what was to be a 3hr journey, we were pleasantly surprised by the little boats speed.  Stopping every so often to remove or secure the waterproof covering whenever the rains returned.  With one complete disembarkment when the river became too shallow for all passenger and our bags (6 passengers, 3 crew).  On this occasion we gingerly jumped from said boat into mud and scrambled up the embankment, through a rice field, amongst a crop of runner beans and past a small village, back to the river and returned to the boat.  It's worth noting at this point that our lodge was not located on the Amazon River itself but an artery that created a narrow stretch of water with good access to different wild life.  At this particular time of year water levels are low, hence the need to disembark.
When we arrived at our lodge and home for the next 5 nights, we were met by our guide Moises.  A man's man, who explained to Cam how things worked at the lodge and completely ignored yours truly.  In terms of the lodge itself, things were as we expected.  Furnished with the basics but not skimping on comfort.  Hammocks dotted about the communal areas and outside each individual cabin,.  The cabins themselves were raised on stilts to protect the lodge during the wet session.  The bedrooms were window less in the sense that there was no glass in them but were instead protected with fly screen.  A separate bathroom had sink, toilet and shower (cold water only.  In the absence of electricity, we were provided with two kerosene lanterns, in the evenings.
After an impressive late lunch, (the food heading down hill as the week progressed) we headed out for our first exploration of the jungle around our lodge.  To say there were a few mozies would be an understatement.  A small army accompanied us along the path as Cam and I smacked ourselves in the head, arms and legs.  Moises our guide used his machete to swat those around his own ears; with Ben (Mr QA) keeping a safe distance just in case Moises lost his grip.  During the walk we were also fortunate to spot a couple of species of monkeys.  The pigmy monkeys in particular being the size of a man's palm. 
After a rewarding beer for our first days efforts (local beer in Iquitos is the best we have had so far), we went to bed listening to the sounds of the very noisy jungle.
For Day 2 we had accepted Moise´s challenge of a long walk.  After Machu Piccu we felt we were up for anything.  Besides, we were promised uncharted jungle and possible monkey sightings.  Seven hours later, without a single monkey spotted, we returned to the lodge very warm, very tired and with a few additional mozie bites.  Of course, that's just the way of the jungle.  It had still been nice to explore the jungle and very amusing to watch Moises hack his way through the foliage, with Ben keeping a safe distance behind.... just in case something jumped out or the machete slipped from Mosies grip.
 Day 3´s highlight had to be the fishing.  My first official attempted at catching fish.  Cam and I were both successful and caught a number of piranhas and a small pike.  Moises kindly cleaned and gutted our catch and the cook served them up for our evening meal, along with pork, potatoes and of course rice.
Earlier in the day we had accompanied our German friends to meet the local Sharman (witch doctor would be the easiest explanation).  They had decided to try Agha Waski (no idea how to spell it) which is similar to San Pedro.  From my understanding both are names given to cactus which the native people of Peru use for medicinal and spiritual purposes.  These cactus are made into drinks through a very lengthy process which when drunk have a similar effect to a person as magic mushrooms although, due to their toxic nature also serve to purge the body of anything in the stomach. 
Before consuming the drink you must fast for a day.  After consuming the drink you are usually sick and as the drink passes through your system your body reacts by taking you to a higher state of consciousness.  The Sharman kindly talked us through this process and included an explanation that he would place a string of beads around a persons neck while he/she drank the potion to protect the person from bad spirits (read as, protect them from having a bad trip).  He would also chant and ask the participant to smoke from a pipe.  I think this was to occur between the throwing up and the hallucinations.  All of this would take place in a darkened room, in the middle of the night.  The aim being to find answer to any questions you had for yourself.  All very interesting and apparently very enlightening but I (the control freak) declined on the basis of not wanting to poison myself and Cam on the basis of not wanting to have to fast and miss out on his dinner. The others reported the next day that it had been an interesting experience with lots of pretty colours but not as mind altering as they had expected.
Day 4 we swam in the Amazon and saw pink dolphins both a very surreal experience.  The water is actually warm and the dolphins really are pink.  In the evening I was struck down with a mystery illness which saw me wrapped up in bed with 3 blankets and a wooly hat on despite the fact it was 27 degrees outside.  A very odd experience and hopefully unrelated to the Amazon River or the dolphins.
Day 5 a little jaded from the illness we set off to camp in the jungle.  Taking a boat and trekking for 2 hours we arrived at a beautiful lake.  Fishing for our supper (some more successful than others) we felt completely secluded from the outside world and very much in the depths of the jungle.  Monkeys, birds, fish and plants of kinds we had never seen, replaced by other species when the night fell.  Moises caught a Cayman (similar to a crocodile) during our night boat trip and we slept in our tent listening to the weird and wonderful sounds of the jungle outside, hoping a jaguar wouldn't visit us in the night.
Awaking early on our last night we hot footed back to the camp in time for a quick shower and a spot of lunch before taking the 3 hour boat trip back to Iquitos.
More to follow.....

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