Sunday, May 29, 2011

Adventuring Amazonia

I arrived in Lima with a combination of big city negativity and low expectations and was pleasantly surprised. Having decided that my first stop in Peru would be the Amazon I planned to stay in Lima for just as long as it would take to sort out my admin and get myself on a flight to Iquitos.

There was a cielo grease sky over Miraflores as I walked along the path that hugs the Lima coastline and despite the dreariness I was impressed with the pretty parks, colourful gardens and sheer cliffs that overlooked the bay. My delight continued as I found the supermarket, a proper one full of my hearts desires, along with a sushi restaurant and an array of Peruvian eye candy...Lima I likey!

From the moment we started to decent into Iquitos and I first saw the Amazon below me I was entranced. The sheer enormity and density of the jungle below was incredible and like an arterial artery the mighty river snaked its way through the landscape.

By the end of my first hour in the Amazon Basin I had eaten Monkey Brains*, sampled Ice-cream Bean and was in a boat heading 100km downstream, north, towards Colombia. The Amazon River was discovered and named in the 1500´s, prior to that it was referred to only as "Madre Rio" by the indigenous tribes of the area. Now, having seen it firsthand I can see why - it is one mother of a river, stretching up to 6km wide in parts and winding a colossal 6072km from its source at Mismi Mountain in Peru´s south through to the Atlantic ocean.

Our small power boat sped effortlessly across the river surface, the water had a milky Nescafe coffee glean and overhead billowing flat bottomed clouds hung over the jungle on either side as if they were sitting atop a glass ledge in the sky. I couldn’t take my eyes off the river and the jungle for the entire two and a half hour trip to the remote Amazonian lodge that would be my home for the next five days.

Upon arrival at the lodge I was greeted by the resident Toucan; a beautiful, entertaining and somewhat moody bird. After lunch I set off on my first jungle hike which saw me but heads, or more accurately butt butts with a couple of angry Amazonian ants, resulting in a few nice burning welts on my back.

Following an evening of seeking out colourful frogs and gigantic tarantulas I boarded a dugout canoe (yep a tree trunk carved into a canoe!) and paddled the Amazons creeks and subsidiaries. I drifted over the satin sheen of the calm water, watched the Kingfishers and kept my eyes peeled for the elusive Anaconda.

Later that day a speed boat carried me upstream and we anchored in the middle of the indomitable waterway. The sun melted into a horizon smeared with inky clouds as I watched the pink and grey dolphins peek their fins out of the water and playfully swim in the cool dusk of the evening.

I followed up my Amazonian sunset with a sunrise and then set off on a fishing expedition, with one catch in mind - Piranha. Although my efforts were fruitless my guide did manage to catch a Red Bellied Piranha and I got to check out the carnivorous chompers up close and personal.

The most mystifying element of the Amazon is the immensity of it all; the river, the jungle, the spiders. There are giant lillypads, huge trees and the most mammoth skies I have ever seen, the landscape is flat and the vista is simply stunning, just river, jungle and sky.

On my last afternoon downstream I watched the children of the local village crowd around a small ice-cream vendor, the man folk of the community watched the Champions League on satellite TV (who would have thought!), chickens and dogs roamed freely and the local women awaited boats to sell their artisanal tapioca and popcorn to the passing passengers.

I returned to Iquitos, leaving my comfortable but basic jungle digs only to arrive at the hostel from HELL (and there has been some crackers). After a night of no sleep I couldn´t bring myself to strip down and face the disgusting, fungi ridden shower, I think it would have been more hygienic to slather myself in hand sanitiser, so I packed up and headed for the nearest luxury hotel, I needed a room with windows, proper walls, running water (hot and cold) and a day poolside to recover from the ordeal of the past 24 hours. Five days in the Amazon with no electricity was nothing compared to 24 hours in the worst hostel thus far.

I loved the Amazon but I´m quite happy to leave the two bit city of Iquitos behind, I changed my flight and headed back to Lima, a 21 hour bus to Cusco and some of the worlds most famous ruins await me.

View of the bay from Miraflores, Lima

Fruit Loop!

This Praying Mantis caught a ride with me in a dugout canoe

Amazonian Sunset


Satin sheen smooth waters

The Amazon is the king of big

And sometimes small...

Pirhrana...clear of fingers

Portable Mr Whippy old school style

*Put away your looks of disgust, Monkey Brains is the nickname for the local fruit Macambo!

No comments:

Post a Comment