The Jungle Adventure

Trip Start Jun 06, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Peru  ,
Monday, August 6, 2007

            Did you ever miss the bus when you were a kid?  Can you recall the terrible feeling, sprinting after the big yellow travelling Twinkie stuffed with your classmates knowing there is no way it is going to stop for you.  You give chase, though it is frivolous; you have to show a concerted effort with your upset parent standing by watching, pissed off that he/she is going to have to drive you to school.  Well, during my three day journey on the Amazon River to the jungle town of Iquitos, those feelings returned to enter my adult body.  Confused, panicked, embarrassed, but in the end relieved, here is my story...
             We were half a day from Iquitos when we stopped in the port pueblo of Nauta.  My new Peruvian friends, Nilia and Wally (an older married couple), and I thought, according to some anonymous information, that we had about an hour to pass at the port.  With that, we stepped off for awhile to check out the little town and make some phone calls.  I went to check my email and try to arrange a jungle tour for the next couple days.
             I was sitting at an internet adobe waiting for the incredibly slow connection (I'm not complaining) to force open the Gmail webpage.  There was a jungle woman smiling, waving, and whistling at me, trying to get my attention and making me feel terribly uncomfortable.  Having enough diseases to fend off in the jungle I ignored her and struck up conversation with a friendlier looking woman sitting next to me.  After 20 minutes of waiting for the internet to work I saw Wally and Nilia heading in the direction of the boat.  We still had at least half an hour so I figured I could disregard their beckoning wave and see if Gmail would show up.  Ten minutes later, still nothing.  Nothing but that spinning globe in the upper right hand corner teasing me to stay longer by pretending to do something.
              I noticed some commotion in the corner of my eye.  It was a big crazy man running like he had his head cut off.  Then I realized it was Wally, my friend!  Bus as soon as I saw him he disappeared and yelled, "Tomás!!  Corre!!!!!!! (RUN!!!!!!!!!!!!)."  Figuring it was urgent I flipped a sol to the vender and looked for Wally.  I had to squint to see him for he was running a block down the road towards the dock.  I sprinted after him in my sandals with my bulging pockets swinging in the opposite direction of my legs.  That awkward sensation, just like a backpack swinging crazily on a schoolchild's back, triggered a memory, and after a tempest of nervous activity I realized just what was happening.  I was about to miss the bus!
     Just as it occurred to me I ran into a sea of people.  I remembered that the bus never waits, that the kids had to get to school on time so I barged through quickly, scaled the small ridge, and was about to dock the boat.  I looked at the boat.  It looked weird.  Then I realized, "Tomás, that's not your boat."
             Indeed, my boat, The Eduardo, had already left port.  Everyone was leaning on the railing of the deck, watching the, "miss the boat" drama unfold.  Some yelling, some laughing, and Wally´s poor wife, Nilia, jumping up and down flailing her arms like chicken wings.  And on top of that, they were all getting smaller.  The boat was cruising away.  I had to think fast.  I looked to my right.  Wally was still with me!  And he wanted to get to the boat as much as I did.  I saw him climbing in a little skiff with a motor.  I ran down and leapt in as well.  The moment my feet hit wood we were off to catch the ship.  We cruised up to the side, the dark water bubbling between the two boats and a ray of light from the ship's mast lighting our way to safety.  Wally stepped over and on the ship.  Just as I was about to casually do the same, the boats started moving slightly away.  I grabbed The Eduardo with my hands, straddled the boats, and with a lunge rolled over to safety on the deck. 
             Everyone was smiling as the silly gringo (me) entered the ship.  The captain was one of the first to approach me.  He asked, "¿Que pasó?"  And the only thing I could say was, "Desculpame (excuse me)" over and over again. 
             I'm indebted to my friend Wally for risking his way to get me back on the ship.  It was more than any friend from my school bus riding days ever did for me.  I don't know how I get by sometimes...  I really don't.  I continue to trust.  I trust good people like Wally, praying and caring friends and family like you, and God.  And I find the next day with all my things, my body in one piece, and another story to tell.
La Selva

              Peru truly has it all.  I have now surfed the Pacific, climbed the Andes, and explored the Amazon jungle of this marvellous country.  The jungle excursion was brief but rich.  I cruised on the Amazon River, ate fresh fish for every meal, swam with pink river dolphins, handled tarantulas, conversed with a jungle shaman, and had monkeys climbing on my back.  Oh, not everything was perfect.  I couldn´t forget the thirsty, Malaria-filled mosquitoes for every hair follicle of my exposed arms and shins.  I haven't fallen over dead yet, so I think my pills worked.
A Swim in the Amazon
              I´m always a little timid upon entering a new body of water.  With currents, chiggers, and who knows what else lurking within it's depths it is probably good to be cautious.  However, I had to throw caution to the river when I was presented an opportunity to take a swim with the pink and blue freshwater river dolphins (yes, they really are pink!) of the Amazon River. 
             To take the plunge is easier written than done.  First of all, the locals won't take the plunge even if you paid them.  They have a tremendous fear of the enchanting power of the dolphins told in the myths and legends of the jungle.  Also, the water is pure brown, and nothing can be seen below the surface.  Lastly, the Amazon is the largest (though not the longest) river in the world with more water flowing in it at any given moment.  It's huge!  And the greater the cage the greater the beast.  Fisherman have captured catfish that weigh over 200 pounds, imagine trying to bring that ugly thing in.  The largest fish in the Amazon, the Pirarucu, is over 15 feet long and can weigh over 400 pounds!  And for any of you with doubts, size doesn't always matter.  Cattle eating piranhas also hunt the waters weighing only a pound or two.  
             But, it was now or never so I disrobed and back-flipped off the front into the river.  It was so cool and refreshing.  A haven from sun, heat, and mosquitoes.  All was perfect.  Until... the river sardines showed up.
             Curiosity.  So many animals, insects, and people are curious in and about the jungle.  The sardines of the river were my first living example of that.  Like a fly to a fluorescent light they charged forward full speed ahead in total disregard of their own bodies just to have a pick at mine.  It freaked me out!  At first I denied the petrifying possibility that not everything in the river was afraid of my flailing arms and feet.  At the same time I couldn't understand how I could kick or prick myself in those untouchable spots of my back.  I checked for the string of my shorts.  It wasn't that either.  Then something flew out of the water right in front of my face.  I screamed, and breathlessly asked my guide, Lobo (the Spanish word for "wolf"), what was happening.  In his authoritative jungle guide accent he responded, "It's the sardines.  They're curious."  Then he laughed crazily and jumped in the water as well.  His presence didn't stop the curious sardines from picking at me, but at least I knew that they wouldn't pick me to nothing.  After a few more aggressive head butts and another thrilling sight of a dolphin I climbed back in the boat. 
Curious George: Anything for a Banana
              The monkeys I encountered in the selva (jungle) had a striking resemblance to Curious George.  The Peruvians, however, have another name for these monkeys.  They call them, Chorros, or in English, pick-pockets.  They've been known to run away with food, sunglasses, and cameras from the baffled tourist.  You might be thinking, "Wow Tomás, they'd have to get pretty close to do that."  Well, they did get close. 
              Just as Curious George descended from his tree to examine The Man in the Yellow Hat's hat, these curious Chorros approached the little fishing boat with great shrieks, falling freely from limb to limb to the ground and ran to the front of the boat.  Lobo had put a banana in my hand and returned to the back of the boat.  The fastest and most curious monkey stopped at the front of the boat and checked out the banana in my hand.  He looked me straight in the eye.  I had no idea what he was thinking.  He crept closer, now staring at the banana.  Then with one great leap he jumped right on my chest, wrapping his tail around my neck and simultaneously grabbing the banana from my hand.  I don't remember that happening in the book!
             I have a new appreciation for the designation of our arms and legs as limbs and the accuracy with which we also call the extremities of trees, limbs.  I became a Jungle Gym.  Or a Jungle Tom...  What an exhilarating feeling!  To have wild monkeys, so cute, curious, and soft, climbing all over you.  Maybe something like the kids you used to baby-sit, except lighter, cuter, with soft hair everywhere, and they went away as soon as you wanted them to.  Or at least when the bananas were gone.
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tabijim on

Making friends

You couldn't get the surfer girls to notice you, so now you are making friends with jungle critters!
Is that monkey's name Curious Georgette?

Great pics. The air must be very clear, the colors are vivid. Your svelte body looks worn by the travels. Hurry back and eat something on a stick.

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