Thursday, March 25, 2010

Welcome to the Jungle

This weekend, while everyone else went to Bolivia to renew their visas, I went on a whirlwind trip to the jungle. I boarded a plane in Cuzco on Friday morning, and an hour later I was in Puerto Maldonado, a boom-and-bust town in the Amazon basin.

After another hour in a bus and about three hours in a boat, I arrived at the Explorer´s Inn, the only hotel in the Tambopata preserve. It was pretty rustic -- there was no electricity in my room, but I did have a mosquito net and a cold-water-only shower.

Despite those hardships (which don´t bother me much now, anyway), I had a fabulous time. On Friday evening, we hopped in the boat to search for caimans, a South American alligator. We saw many, including an entire family of caiman babies, nestled among the plants on the riverbank. I also saw a beautiful sunset that evening, and I discovered that the lodge is literally crawling with tarantulas as big as my head. Fortunately, they move slowly, and they don´t go into the guests´rooms. Much.

On Saturday, I got up insanely early for an 11-kilometer hike through the rainforest. We saw lots of insects and plants, including different kinds of palm trees, but not many animals. (I did see a few monkeys from a distance.) The hike was interesting for about five hours, but by the sixth hour I was pretty tired of slogging through ankle-deep mud. (Oh, that´s why you don´t go to the rainforest during rainy season.)
On Saturday afternoon, it was too hot to do anything except lie in bed and moan (even for our favorite Namibian hippo). There were only six guests at the lodge, so we reconvened at dinner, eating our meal at a communal table and sharing stories about our travels in Peru. It was quite cozy.

The next day, I hopped back on the boat and headed for the airport. It was a relief to be back home in Pisac, but it was lonely, too; the rest of the group didn´t arrive until early Monday morning from Bolivia.

Except for the week when Michael came to visit, it was the first time that Henry, Christine, Sara and I had spent 24 hours apart since early January. It was like losing a limb -- so of course I´m dreading our longer-term separation when I return home this Sunday.

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