In mid-May, my dad and I went to the Amazon for the last part of our Peru trip. Since this was the final place we visited before heading home, this will also be my last blog post about Peru! I mean… unless you guys request any specific Peru posts or I go there again. 😉
We booked our trip with Amazonia Expeditions (AE), a tour group that hosts trips in the Western Amazon. AE has two locations you can stay in the Western Amazon: the Tahuayo Reserve and the Amazon Research Center (ARC). My dad and I stayed at both while we were there.
Both the Tahuayo Reserve and the ARC boast intimate, remote lodges in the middle of the Amazon. From Iquitos (the place where your airplane lands), it takes about three to four hours by boat to arrive at the lodge. At the beginning, the lodge felt like a big transition from the fancy hotels we stayed at in Lima and Machu Picchu. However, I’m not much of an outdoorsy person to begin with, so it’s not AE’s fault at all. After a day or two, my perception changed immensely, and I began to love the open feeling of the lodge.
Our Amazon guides were Llacko and Manuel. Llacko has helped with documentaries about the Amazon, and is extremely knowledgeable about all the plants, flowers and animals in the Amazon. Manuel is from Chino, one of the closest villages to the Tahuayo Reserve, and learned English by himself (and is pretty darn good at it). A lot of our excursions included tiny canoes, so at times, Llacko was my dad’s guide and Manuel was mine.
Manuel deserves a gold medal for dealing with me. I am not a spider fan, and the spiders are HUGE in the Amazon. They would magically find their way into our canoe, and I’d let out this disgusting, guttural sound from my mouth and try to avoid its path. As I’m freaking out, Manuel (STILL CANOEING), would use his other hand to grab the fishing spear he kept in our canoe and swipe them into the water. Sorry spiders, it had to be done. So just imagine me freaking out every five minutes, and him calmly smacking them away. Gold medal.
Llacko and Manuel definitely kept us busy. With our time there, my dad and I:
–Held a teenage sloth. You’d think I’d be Kristen Bell happy, but I was terrified. LOOK AT THEIR CLAWS.
–Caught multiple barracudas. I think my dad is still bitter that I caught one before him… especially when he taught me how to fish. We got to eat them after, and Manuel gave me the jaw of the barracuda I caught. It’s in my room.
–Saw multiple monkeys. My favorites include the pygmy marmosets and the owl monkeys.
–Saw a tarantula. I spotted it first because my spider fear was on high alert. My dad tried to make it crawl on his arm (ACK) but tarantulas don’t like the smell of insect repellent, so it refused to climb on.
–Saw a Hoatzin bird. This is the mascot of AE tours. They’re funny birds; you know they are near when you hear a sound similar to a forced human exhale. If I were to type it out, it’d look like, “HEHH.” You’re welcome.
–Had a necklace made. The women of Chino village will make you a necklace with seeds if you pay them (We got two bracelets and two necklaces made for <$15) It was fun to see how they went about making the necklaces, and you get a small look at family life in the village.
–Zip lined through the Amazon. The platform you zip line off of gives you a view of the Amazon above the treetops. This view makes it more exciting when you zip past all the colorful birds on the top branches.
–Swam in the Amazon. I hopped in the water, swam around, got my picture taken… then remembered what was swimming in the water with me. I climbed back in pretty quickly.
–Caught a baby caiman. I’m constantly shocked at how Llacko and Manuel could spot things in the Amazon. We found the baby caiman at night with a flashlight pointed at the water… I can’t find my glasses in the dark, let alone a BABY caiman in the whole Amazon! I did not hold it, as reptiles with sharp teeth terrify me.
And that’s only half of it! My dad and I stayed for 5 nights, and were able to fit lots of activities in.
My favorite part of the trip was meeting people from all over the world, and getting to know them at the lodge. Tahuayo and the ARC are community-oriented, so you eat together in a main kitchen. Through this, my dad and I met so many amazing families, couples and travelers. I found myself looking forward to when I’d run into *insert person here* to talk about what they did that day. I hope I can run into them in the future.
In the end, my comfort zone was definitely tested with this trip. Without the help of Llacko and Manuel, I probably wouldn’t have caught a barracuda, held a sloth, or gone in the proximity of a tarantula. I’m glad that I was able to experience a trip that helped me grow as a person and let me meet so many amazing people at the same time. I would definitely go again, but give me some time to recover… Testing your comfort zone can be exhausting.
PS: One of the guides at Amazonia, Diego, has a blog on WordPress! Go to http://diegosjunglebook.wordpress.com/ to hear his experiences straight from the Amazon. One of his posts talks about how he got electrocuted by an eel! ACK!