Amazon Jungle Trip – Day 1

Sunday 20th September 2015

I met Rachel and Katie who were sisters living in Vancouver at the hostel in the morning. We got picked up at 5.45am and off we went. We picked up 4 Germans on the way. Stefan from Turingen area, his friend Jana who had spent lots of time in Geneva and spoke fluent French and who was now living in Berlin, they were both into computer science and Jana told me she was to start a new job as a data scientist. This is a new type of job which is still in shaping and exploring, I remember looking into what it was about when working at Wotif in Australia, so it was super interesting to talk a bit with her about it. We also picked up Nick and his girlfriend Miriam, both German too. Nick had just done a 3-month internship in Marketing and Communication in Arequipa, his girlfriend hanging around discovering the city and learning Spanish during that time. Here were were, the seven of us off to the jungle. The minivan dropped us at the entrance of a small city called Nauta. Here is the minivan in which we just travelled to there.

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From there we jumped in several tuk-tuks who took us to the city centre, as the city centre was closed to cars.

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On the way to the city centre, there were lots of trees pruned into animal shapes like this one into a monkey shape.

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The tuk-tuks dropped us next to the city centre. We had to stop for a while because there was a ceremony on the main square. Apparently, every Sunday it was going on. Our group on the left, the thing was going on on the right, with lots of city employees observing the scene.

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We finally decided to go behind them and take another street instead. We got to the main market which was buzzying.

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Two guys who were about to be our guides, Yair and Franck, dropped us into a small brekky place. From there we could observe the life going on on the streets.

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After breakfast, we did some last minute shopping. I still had the Kopikex insect repellent soap from Colombia but it wasn`t really practical so I bought a new one as a spray. I also got a long-sleeve shirt which was synthetic and thick that would not let the mosquitoes bite through as my 2 merino long-sleeves were made for hiking and quite thin so not really appropriate to prevent mosquito bites. We all also got each a poncho for 3 soles. A goretex raincoat would be too hot for that humid hot weather, and I would have been wet from sweat even more than the rain falling outside! You know what I really liked the most? The fact of not carrying with me extra-weight of items I was about to need only right now. That`s the thing with the way most of us still travel. We tend to think of buying all clothes and everything we need for our trip at home before to leave. But in reality, we could also buy on the fly when we really happen to need something, that way we would carry what we need, less weight, and if we got it for cheap, we could then also give it away once we don`t need it anymore. I find I am still not really good at that, still so much to learn to get there to an ultra-light bag. My biggest mistake so far was to bring with me a pot and a stove that I will actually really need only when I reach Patagonia. If it was to do again, I would not have taken this extra 1.4 to 2 kilos with me which take space at the bottom of the bag. I would just buy them when I reach Santiago de Chile. Learning to leave with almost nothing, buy on the way, get rid of things we don`t need anymore, that`s a huge learning curve for some like me. Learning to not have a “static” bag but a bag that constantly evolves. So that day, at least, I was glad to buy just before I needed them some items and not have carried them all the way to there!!

We walked to the small pier right after. This picture reminds me of Myanmar, where I saw the same type of pier setup!

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And off we were on one of these small boats. It was going to be about 2-3 hours ride to the Delfin Lodge next to the Yarapa river, at the entrance of the Pacaria-Samiria National Reserve. On the left, Rachel, then Jana and Stefan. On the right, first atie, then Nick and Miriam. In the yellow shirt in the middle, Franck who was going to be our guide most of the time.

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Here is the map of the area where we were heading to. From Iquitos we had driven to Nauta and from Nauta we were on a boat to the Delfin Lodge, at the beginning of the Reserve. From there we would see the village called Liberta but also go deeper in the jungle on the Rio Yarapa, which is a bit outside of the reserve, the blue line to the right under the Delfin Lodge name.

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During our 2-3 hour ride, we saw grey dolphins and pink dolphins swimming, quite far away though and swimming so fast that I didn`t manage to get a single shot! But I got some videos that once again, once I have time and figure out the video uploading thing or youtube thingy i will share here. For now, here is the picture of the river. Just imagine there are a dozen of dolphins right below it. 🙂

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We saw this very luxury boat which apparently is one of a kind only that people have to book one or two years in advance and costs something like 3,000 to 4,000 US dollars for a week or 10-day cruise. Nuts.

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We got to the Delfin lodge entrance.

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Here was the place where we were about to spend 2 nights.

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I quite liked how those boots were drying up on sticks!

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We put our bags in our respective rooms and tried out some rubber boots so each of us would have a solid pair. We put on the boots and joined Franck and Yair for our first jungle walk, a short half-hour walk before to have lunch. Rubber boots and machete, that`s what you need if you go the jungle. Although only the guides really used the machetes, we didn`t cary any.

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Off we went to the jungle, after having put on tons of insect repellent!

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I absolutely regretted deeply not taking with me my recorder for that walk. I had the camera but was not keen on filming every single explanation as it uses lots of memory card and battery and I was a bit limited on that. That walk to me remains one of the best walk we did where the introduction about the local trees and how their sap and bark was used as natural medicine. I really wished I had been able to record all those explanations!

Here is the bark of one of the tree, the yellow can be used on mosquito bites after the bite to make it less itchy.

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This is the kayatanga tree, hopefully I remember the name right?, that fire ants are really found of. You better not bump into this tree by mistake. Franck said that a fireant bite lasts about 25 minutes, and if we wanted to try? Well, yes, we were nuts enough for most of us to want to volontarily put a fire ant on our end and wait for it to bite us, to see what it feels like. Nick was the first to do that, I also did it. It lasted longer than 25 minutes, maybe 2 hours? The bite was like a tingle of nettle when your body touches a nettle, but it was causing a really throbbing pain though, a bit of a burn. There are also fireants in Australia, and I am not that keen on being bitten by them, but at least now I can recognise how it feels when you are bitten by one!

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Then we took some termites on our hands and killed them by rubbing our hands one against the other. Termites are natural insect repellents! I had seen lots of termite mounts in Australia but not really termites themselves actually. It is so interesting how their body is shaped but also how triangular their head is, and how skinny their legs are, so less visible than the ants` legs.

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Franck gave us a demo of what to do if you are lost in the jungle. Well you grab a stick, you find a tree similar to this one, and you bang the stick against the tree. The sound is really loud and can travel 1 to 2 kilometers. When someone hears it, he will do the same to let you know he heard you and come to rescue you. You keep banging it, he gets closer and keeps banging it against other trees to let you know he is coming closer, or just doesn`t bang and come for you, and you are saved. Easy, right?

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Can`t remember the name of this tree again, but the bark is infused in hot water and given to drink to pregnant women every day once or maybe twice a day who knows two weeks before they are about to give birth, until they give birth. This drink helps create more fluid in the body of the woman so that when the baby comes out, he slides out through way more easily! Smart hey! What incredible things you can find in the jungle!

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After that, we had lunch. Jeeze, another beetroot salad. Yuk yuk yuk. Lucky i could grab a bit of the carrots which had not touched the beetroot.

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Main meal was pretty simple. Chicken, rice, beans. We were disappointed to not eat the fish from the Amazon river. Wouldn`t you expect to eat that when you are right next to that river? In general, the food proved to be not that great during that trip. I guess that on top of that I had really been spoilt the past few weeks with the food in the Galapagos and the food on the Santa Cruz trek, so that made me even more picky and disappointed…

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They had captured a caiman and were keeping him under the building on a rope. I was shocked to discover that. Ok, it is nice to see a caiman, but I would rather not see any or see it in their natural element, free. Doing that kind of thing is totally forbidden now in the Galapagos, and if they were keeping a lava iguana on a rope, they would get fined!!! It was very interesting during that jungle trip to see the contrast in the level of education people had about protecting their Amazon wildlife instead of capturing it or eating it, but also how much rules were in place by the goverment or local reserve. So much to do there to improve that situation!!

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Close-up on the caiman`s head.

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After an hour chilling out, we were off into the boat again to go spot some more pink and grey dolphins but also swim with them. Franck told us that he would be the guide for Jana, Stefan, Miriam and Nick and Yair would be the guide for Kate, Rachel and me. So the 4 Germans jumped into the boat with Franck.

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We jumped into another boat with Yair. Off we went on the river.

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Juanitette enjoying the boat ride

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Looking for dolphins. Yair told us the legend of a woman called Rosita who had been made pregnant by a dolphin and her born baby died because he loved water too much and drowned. He had a way of speaking we didn`t like. But besides that he kept making heavy jokes saying we should be scared of dolphins, they would come for us, beware. Now, we may be three girls on a boat, but usually if come to the jungle, you are not really the type of girl that gets frightened by a cat or even a spider. Katie and Rachel proved to be like me, eager to see snakes and spiders, and not afraid indeed. They had just spent 9 days on a trek to Macchu Picchu. They were living in Vancouver, very outdoory girls, keen on camping, jungle, hiking, and all the outdoor stuff you can do. We got along really well. And the three of us already didn`t really like how Yair told stories and interacted.  But hey…let`s wait a bit, right.

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We parked both boats on the shore, a bit after the village called Liberta. We changed in swimming suits and got swimming. Rachel, Katie and I decided to swim across to the other side of the river and back. I loved that they were keen swimmers and in case you get a cramp or something happens, better be three girls crossing than doing it alone. The entry in the water was very weird because it is muddy and you put your foot and suddenly, your leg almost until below the knee is…deep in the mud! Quite a strange experience, uncomfortable and surprising at the beginning. As soon as there was enough water, we preferred swimming than walking further. So the three of us swam across and it was a truly magical swim because there were indeed grey dolphins and pink dolphins swimming by, getting close, lingering around, passing and coming back. I had never been swimming like this with dolphins nearby! I wished again that I had a go-pro attached to my wrist that I could trigger to film them! But we just enjoyed the moment. It was a contrast also with all the snorkles in the Galapagos because there was literally almost no dolphins in the Galapagos, while here there were only the dolphins in the water. The sun was setting, the sea was becoming so pretty, taking a nice texture and colour. We were happy! 🙂

Once I got out of the water, I took this shot of the Germans getting out of their swim to remember that golden light falling onto the water! You can see that the other riverbank to which we swam is not that far. We didn`t swim until the end actually, as the dolphins were now back on the other side, we started swimming back to the other side earlier. The other thing was that we were swimming in fresh water and the water density was way heavier. We were not floating at all without the salt, and it made swimming a bit harder than in the sea!

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Sunset time, seen from the riverbank from which we were about to go back

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Beautiful sunset, seen from the boat. I like to think of this shape as the shape of the mouth of the god caiman, a giant caiman which is waiting to swallow the boats, as he is in anger that the humans made prisoner on a rope one of his caiman.

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The boat is going to get swallowed by the caiman!

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We came back, had showers and dinner and around 9pm we went for a night walk. Jana, Stefan, Nick and Miriam went with Franck, and Katie, Rachel and me went with Yair. We really felt he was a crap guide. He was not finding anything, he was not explaining things well, he was not understanding questions either, he kept saying you girls are going to be scared, well not actually. Our frustration was building up that evening to be given such a crappy guide. What was wrong with that guide? How could he even be a guide?

Katie was really good at spotting spiders. She spotted that one. Yair said that it was called a green tarantula. It doesn`t look like a tarantula, but alright if you say so…

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We saw a tarantula and Yair said: Do you girls want to try to catch it? Are you afraid? We said that we didn`t know how to catch it, so he goes first. Now, tarantulas look super impressive right? But in reality, they are the cuttest animal ever. But at that moment, we were just curious to see how you “catch” a tarantula.

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Yair put his hand around it.

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And then the tarantula went away. Well, wrong technique. Let me tell you how you “catch” a tarantula, that we learned the night after. You put your arm gently next to it, and you put some light on her butt to help her decide to go walk on your arm. That`s how you get a tarantula to walk on a part of your body so you can observe it from closer. So which kind of guide is guiding in the Amazon forest and doesn`t even know that? Cause if there is one thing you are sure to see when you go to the Amazon forest, it is the tarantula! We saw maybe 4 or 5 that first evening, same the next day. Anyway…

Another spider that Katie spotted! Yair calls it “a spider of the ground” and apparently it is very poisonous. ARE…YOU…AFRAID??? 😀

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Oh cool, a small version of the insect we used to see during several nights in the toilets at casa elemento and that we named the big lobster bug!!! Well, still not sure about its real name though. Mmmm.

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A dragonfly, asleep

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Back at the Delfin lodge, we saw this tiny frog, so cute

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We also saw this other frog on the floor. So cute frogs here. So much nicer than the invasive non-native cane toad that we constantly see in Australia!!!

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Front view

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After that, I tried to take some night shots with the gorilla pod and remote controller, but I was missing my night shooting photographer buddy, it was way less fun and besides, the Milky Way was not even visible, the sky was naaaa, ok. Just took that shot, uninspired, I stopped, lol.

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And here we were, in the Jungle. At night, we could hear something walk quickly on top of the roof. Could that be monkeys? But mostly we could hear the sounds of the jungle, the crickets, the frogs, and whatever else, some night birds. I loooove those sounds, I love falling asleep there. It reminded me the same atmosphere when I was at Taman Negara rainforest in Malaysia with my friend Aude!