It wouldn’t be a very good Amazon exploration without plenty of jungle hikes, so don’t be surprised that we started off day three that way. Despite what the Discovery Channel makes it seem like, wildlife usually does it’s best to stay hidden to avoid being eaten (or more sadly poached), so you’ve got to have patience, perseverance, and some luck to see a lot of different creatures (or if following logic Disney… faith, trust, and pixie dust).
Today’s backdrop was a short boat ride away from our lodge, which was lovely because it meant enjoying a cool breeze. Spoiler alert: the jungle is hot & humid, and with the density of the forest you don’t get much wind to cool you while on land (and this is why being a landlubber is inferior to us amphibihumans… it’s a real genus, trust me). This time of year is the dry season (“only” light rain once or so a day) so the swamp area we traversed while searching for sloths was much more manageable. Reneé pointed out evidence of the slowpokes having been there recently, but apparently we were even slower and missed them.
While it can be disappointing to miss cool animals in their natural habitat, we still saw insane amounts of biodiversity. For example, the Cebu tree, inspiration for the tree of life in Avatar (or yggdrasil if you’re into Celtic mythology), has such expansive root systems that we used one such root as a natural bridge across a dry river bed… some 40 feet from the actual trunk (*we approximated this distance more accurately than most males do). Another of these massive trees was so large, the reverberation from banging on the root wall was used to send simple messages over a couple miles distance. This message system is how locals send “you up” texts 😂.
I wish I could blame something nearly as cool as those for the numerous times & ways the jungle tripped me. Upon getting made fun for yet another display of my gracelessness, I decided to playfully retaliate by swinging a giant leaf in Justin’s direction. In quite the immaculate stroke of bad luck, this leaf was concealing a swarm of beatles who were not pleased to be disturbed. Lesson learned: don’t mess with mother nature, cuz she a real bad bitch, got her own bugs, she don’t need no fig (or something like that).
Night three had some very fun surprises in store. First, we didn’t know coming into the excursion that we’d have the opportunity to pseudo-camp in the rainforest overnight. This kicked off mid-afternoon with another breezy boat ride across the river to a small, stilted-home village to gain access to the trail which would lead us to our jungle hut for the night.
The first surprise Renee bestowed upon us was our next activity: canoeing through the lagoon! We thought that we weren’t going to get to do this due to dry season drying up all of the inland rivers through the jungle. The water passage lead us to a short trail, ending with a wooden tower in & overlooking the rainforest canopy. The wildlife also entertained us with a full symphony of music until dusk when we headed back across the lagoon. Along the way, we were graced by a couple froggies and discovered a water dwelling version of fireflies.
Our dinner that night was quite simple – boiled potatoes & tasty chicken breasts – as was the spoon I ate them with (whoops on the packing). The food came with an interesting side of Renee telling stories about his upbringing in the Amazon, leaving his village at the ripe age of 14 to find work in Iquitos, his experience as a tour guide, as well as some good old fashioned tales of government corruption.
Shortly thereafter, we were drawn to our floor pads by the sounds of the forest with intentions of an early bedtime. I say intentions because emulating the different noises (like the WOOP frogs) kept us up giggling longer than expected, and woke us up before our already-early alarm (thanks to the WOOOWWW birds.) I’m sure it’s understood that these aren’t the actual names of these animals, but I was a terrible student and took no notes on the subject so that’s what you get 🙃
After breakfast back at the lodge we took to the breezy boat for our last excursion – visiting a group of natives. I won’t pretend like we weren’t a little leery going into it because uh, it felt a bit like appropriation. However, they kept it short with a few songs and dances, and went right into the blow darts. Not to brag, but I’m admittedly the least coordinated, but was the only one who hit the post with each of my three attempts 💁🏼♀️
From there, we had the rare privilege of visiting Renee’s home village and meeting some of his family & friends. The wildest part of this was seeing the house he built with his bare hands. Like literally… he sawed every plank of wood himself and was as proud as one who can do that should be. I can’t even build a good Lego structure. Having seen multiple villages where this was standard and feeling a sense of sympathy for living conditions that paled in comparison to even the poorest places in the US, it really put things into perspective.
And while we thought we’d capped out on the adventure, even the ride back to Iquitos brought us a few last treats, like spotting the goofy ass pink Amazonian dolphins and getting smacked by, not one, but two jumping fish who accidentally made it into our boat.
All I have to wrap up with is that this was a wild time from start to finish. I wouldn’t necessarily call this a singular draw to Peru, but if you’re already there and looking for additional adventures, the Amazons got you!!