Friday, July 11, 2008

You call this a vacation? Part 2: Jungle Fever!

At the end of the day, we hiked 25 minutes in total darkness to reach the locally indigenous-run lodge, an awesome complex of open air tropical wood rooms and salons in a somewhat Thai style. In the best British Raj tradition, we got a few drinks, dined on Peruvian dishes, fired up the kerosene lamps, and had a coooooold shower before heading out back on the river to search for caymans at night. Unfortunately, we didn't find any, but one of the group managed to step on some soldier ants and got a bunch of nice bites. While the outboard engines on the canoes we used for going up the river were pretty standard Hondas, the one on the lodge canoe was an amazing contraption of a 1950s rotary engine, 20 feet of galvanized steel pipe, a few pieces or rebar, and a bent nail to faster the screw. (sidenote: it occurred to me later that driving a canoe up a jungle river in almost complete darkness is not one of the safest activities). The next morning (5:30 or so), the guides kicked us out of bed, force-marched us 20 minutes through the dark jungle and up a 100 foot tower contraption to watch the sun rise over the Amazon. Definitely one of the top 5 sunrises of my life.By the way, sleeping on an open platform in the jungle provides great entertainment with the wildlife noises in the background, after darkness you can let them lull your to sleep as they gradually die down. Unfortunately, the night was a bit spoiled by the woman somewhere in another room coughing her lung out the entire night--I have no idea how (a) she didn't expluse all her lung tissue and die and (b) nobody got up a smothered her with a pillow.

All in all, the Amazon seems less dense and--at least at this time--colder than Belize, Thailand, or Africa. But it has the same amount of biting and stinging bugs. Thankfully, DEET and permethin are a wonderful combination to keep the bite count to dozens instead of hundreds. The rest of the day was spent hiking through the jungle with local guides who did a great job of pointing out uses or local plants, dyes, and other natural resources. We also fit in a short boat ride using a raft with a peculiar Peruvian "cayman tail" rudder of a type I've never seen, but that worked extremely well. In the evening we went for a soccer game/river swim after assurances that the stretch of river was reasonably clear of piranhas, caymans, and these nice little fish which creep up the urethra and then anchor themselves with bony hooks.Lunch and dinner were lavish affairs with pork, local fruit juices, and veggies from the highlands. Ironically, while all the food was great, the far and away best dish was a chickpea stew. They also provided the first exposure to coca tea, which tasted a lot better than the instant coffee that seems de rigueur in all large coffee exporting countries. Couldn't they just keep some of the decent stuff?

Jungle tip 1: If you bathe in a river where you can't see the bottom, throw in some dirt and see if anything reacts before going in.
Jungle tip 2: Don't roll up you pants past the point on your legs where you stopped slathering on DEET. Once group member got dozens of bites on a two inch ring around both legs.
Jungle tip 3: Even if the current doesn't seem that strong, check your bearings every 30 seconds or so.

The next morning we got up at the customary time to take an icy shower and then get back down the river, up the dirt road, and onto a plane to Cusco.


Cindy said...

Want to go!

About that woman with the cough--yeah, I had a companion like that on a trip I took to England. She refused to take any medicine so we kicked her out of the room and made her sleep in the hostel lobby.

Fuck. That.

Leigh Ann said...

"these nice little fish which creep up the urethra and then anchor themselves with bony hooks"


did you see any strange/cool animals?