Face Slapping Fun in the Amazon

Trip Start Dec 21, 2009
Trip End Jul 17, 2010

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

We packed our tent for one last time and took what pictures we could of the momentous occasion before our camera got soaked by the rain. Packing away a saturated muddy tent is one of those things that you can't really be too precious about. You start off trying to stay clean but you realise that you’re better of getting dirty, getting it done and washing your hands.

We drove to a rainforest lodge called Cabanas Shangrila in the town of Tena. The location of the lodge was pretty cool, perched on the side of a large hill, with rainforest on one side and the mighty Amazon on the other. The actual cabins themselves were far from a mythical Himalayan utopia. The flyscreens on the widows were a nice touch, but they’re not much use when the slats on the walls and floor are big enough to drive a bus through.

The thing to do in the rainforest is to go for jungle hikes. Nic and I hadn’t really been sludging through rainforests before but we threw on the Wellies (big rubber boots) and dove in feet first. We had plenty of fun with the group, climbing up waterfalls and splashing around in streams but we didn’t spot much wildlife at all. I guess when you’re a group tromping through a well worn path, the odds of coming across a Jaguar are pretty damn slim. I’ll leave the wildlife spotting to Attenborough and enjoy his handiwork on my flatscreen in high definition at home. Which would also eliminate one of my pet hates out of the whole rainforest equation. Bugs. I understand that they are important to the ecosystem, providing food for something slightly bigger and slightly less annoying right up the food chain, but damn are they annoying. I put my dislike of bugs down to the fact that they make me look silly every time they buzz close to my face, dart away quickly and force me to slap myself really hard in the cheek. They taunt me, laugh at me, fly closer to my face and force me to put all of my pent up frustration into the next slap, hitting myself harder than the last time. A few more rounds and I come off looking like a Three Stooges tribute show or Brad Pitt in Fight Club (without the sixpack). It’s at that point that I give up, burn a reminder in my brain to eat my malaria tablets and let the critters feast on my face. Bon appétit or should I say "buen provecho" you little buggers.

We made a trip to an animal sanctuary off the Amazon River where they try to rehabilitate animals that have been injured or have been discarded as pets after they got too unruly for their stupid "owners". They work with the locals to provide alternative sources of income so they don’t have to capture the exotic animals of the rainforest. In any case, we got to see some pretty rare animals, albeit in cages being rehabilitated (where possible) to go back into the wild. 

The highlight for me was to see an Ocelot. These cats are rare. They look like a small cat even when fully grown, which makes people think that they would make a great pet. Who doesn't want a jungle cat that doesn't really grow up. That’s until they move into adolescence when they start tearing up the house and marking their territory with urine that progressively smells worse the closer they get to adulthood. That was the case with the Ocelot that we saw here. Some idiot got three of them (yes three) as newborns and had them in his apartment. They started growing up, getting more aggressive and started to smell the place out. He left for a holiday and came back to find his apartment demolished and three jungle cats ready to rip him to shreds. Part of me is glad that he alerted the authorities and had them re-housed. The other part of me wishes that he went in there and gave the three cats a nice farewell meal. Behind a fence though, this is one beautiful animal. They walk right up to the fence and scratch themselves like your common household tabby. You have to stop yourself from reaching in and giving them a scratch on the neck. Just remind yourself that these guys scratch back and before you can say "Where's my finger gone....." you're on your way to hospital, trying to think about the insurance coverage you might or might not have bought. No thanks, I won’t make the mistake of getting one as a pet. One of their paws swiping my face would do far more damage than a thousand angry self inflicted bug slaps. 

Join us in our next blog as we have our last drive day ever on the truck and I find out that consuming 5 beers in an hour on a truck with no toilet is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done.
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