Amazon Expedition

Note: Mike has requested that I include a Haiku to spice things up. I’ve decided to include many; in fact, all of my picture captions will be Haikus in this post. (I am not a poet.)

Since Iquitos is really a large city in the middle of the Amazon, we weren’t convinced that we were getting the true jungle experience by taking mere daytrips from our hotel; therefore, we signed up for a 3-day expedition.

Day 1

5:00 — We wake up and pack our gear in a haze of sleepiness.

5:45-7:30 — We attempt to sleep in a crowded car on the way to Nauta, which is a town on the way to our lodge.

7:30-10:00 — We eat a miserable breakfast and hop on a boat for a few hours. The boat is powered by what looks like a converted lawnmower motor; as such, the boat vibrates enough to loosen one’s fillings.

10:00-12:00 — After parking our gear in our “lodge” (no electricity, no running water — a true rustic Amazon lodge) we familiarize ourselves with the grounds. One of the permanent residents (a family takes care of the lodge and cooks for tourists) had caught an emerald boa the previous day, so he showcases it for us. Then we take a walk through the jungle with our guide, Adriano, and the one other tourist, Peter. We see some big trees, but no animals other than 5,000,062 mosquitos. We have to “watch out” for several different kinds of plants that host fire ants, cause skin rashes, and contain poisonous substances. It has recently finished raining, which means that we are wading through a foot of muddy water in rubber boots. Rubber boots are mandatory footwear in the jungle. I begin to wonder what I’ve gotten myself into as I search for any interesting animal through the haze of mosquitos in front of my eyes.

12:00-1:00 — Lunchtime. Rice and fried platanos are a staple, but the meat changes from chicken to fish and back throughout our trip.

1:00-4:00 — We take a canoe trip down the river and into the jungle. I like this a lot better than our earlier walk. There aren’t any mosquitos, and it’s pretty cool paddling amongst the huge trees. We see some pink dolphins swimming in the river and lots of birds. Some areas look like flooded jungle, others like tranquil ponds (complete with lily pads and marshy plants).

4:00-7:00 — We rest for a while before dinner. Adriano tells us a long, drawn-out story in pretty awful English. I’ll summarize it, since I couldn’t possibly capture the nuances of his speech:

About 5 years ago an 18 year-old boy decided to go hunting in the jungle for something other than fish to eat. He took with him a machete for clearing paths and for protection. Not that it did him any good in that regard. When he hadn’t returned after hours, his family began to worry. They waited, but it was getting dark and too late to search for him. The next day, the village formed a search party, and the group followed his tracks into the jungle. After some time, they found his machete lying useless on the ground next to a wide path winding further into the jungle. They followed the path a short distance and found an enormous anaconda with an even larger, human-sized lump in its belly. The men immediately shot the anaconda, killing it. They then carried it whole back to the village. Fearing the worst, they slit open the snake’s belly to reveal the boy, swallowed whole — head first. The bones in his body were crushed to a pulp, since anacondas squeeze their victims to death before dining on them. The boy’s face was rendered unrecognizable since it had been swallowed first and the snake’s stomach acid had already begun digesting it.

Adriano swears that this is a true story and that he saw images from the incident on TV. Gross. We ate dinner a short while later.

7:00-9:00 — We all hop into the canoe again after dark, this time with headlamps. We paddle into the jungle in search of caiman, which are like small alligators. We only find one very small specimen (about 6 inches long), but he’s a noisy little bugger. Caiman make squeaky noises, kind of like a rusty hinge. Adriano plucked it right out of the water and passed it along the canoe for each of us to hold. I declined. As we paddle back to camp we hear water falling in a stream into the river. We look up to catch a sloth taking a piss.

9:00 — We go to bed in our individual, mosquito-blocking tents.

Amazon boat ride
Run by lawnmower motor
Unsafe gas transfer

Amazon landscape
The river looks abandoned

Emerald boa
Fell out of a nearby tree
Local trapped the snake

Slithering freely
Snake with beautiful color
Tries for his escape

The snake is pissed off
His fangs are bared in fury
Don’t get too close by

Amazon hiking
Mosquitos swarm our faces
Rubber boots suck ass

Beautiful spider
Spins a doiley web of silk
And waits patiently

A tarantula
Lingers on a nearby tree
Hairy and ugly

River canoeing
Floating past small villages
On Amazon banks

A watery scene
Greets us as we paddle through
The tall jungle trees

Elegant heron
Poses on the river bank
In all his splendor

Day 2

8:00-9:00 — We wake up, eat breakfast, and observe the local wildlife. We watch the pygmy marmosets in a nearby tree. Most are not much bigger than my hand, and they are hard to spot because they’re fast. The pygmies are the smallest kind of monkey. We are amused by one monkey that tries desperately to escape the wrath of a hummingbird. The hummingbird chases it for a good 3 minutes as it scrambles higher and higher into the tree.

9:00-12:00 — We jump in the canoes again; this time we go in search of monkeys. Adriano knows just where to look, but we come across only one wooly monkey in the usual spot. He’s friendly though, and he hops into our canoe for some bananas and biscuits. When he’s full we set off toward a spot popular with the pink river dolphins. Peter takes a swim, but since the dolphins aren’t keen on getting too close, Mike and I decide not to get wet. Once Peter’s back in the boat we go look for more monkeys and find a whole bunch of them. They’re wooly monkeys too, and they’re more than happy to feast on bananas and bread. Their fur is really soft and their eyes are quite expressive.

12:00-1:00 — Lunchtime. We eat the usual.

1:00-4:00 — We go out in the canoes again, but this time we are going fishing. This is only the second time in my life I’ve been fishing. It’s a bit different than the other time, since this time I use a wood stick instead of a fancy fishing pole with a reel and everything. Mike and I aren’t terribly successful at first, but we each catch a fish in the end. Mine’s the biggest one: a catfish. Mike also catches a catfish. In fact, most of the fish are catfish, but Adriano catches 2 pirahnas too.

4:00-7:00 — We take it easy in the camp and then eat a typical dinner.

7:00-9:00 — A shaman visits the camp so that Peter has an excuse to try some trippy tribal ritual. It’s called an Ayahuasca ceremony, and it involves drinking a halucinogenic potion created from jungle plants. Supposedly you see visions which the shaman interprets to predict your future. It sounded a bit too spooky to me, so Mike and I just watch. The ceremony is really boring since it entails sitting still in the dark for a long period of time. The shaman chants, Peter throws up, we drowse. The end.

9:00 — We go to sleep.

Monkey approaches
Looking for banana treat
Mouth wide with hunger

Bananas taste good
So says the wooly monkey
Mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm

Mike has made a friend
He bribed the monkey with food
Bread is tasty too

One last monkey pic
So you can sense our delight
Monkeys are so cute

Red flower petals
Brighten our canoe journey
With their prettiness

Pretty purple plant
Attracts hovering insects
Looking for good food

A local spots Mike
With his camera aimed ashore
And laughs his ass off

A tiny paddle
Suits the little local child
Learning to canoe

Woman in canoe
Catches with a fishing net
Her tasty dinner

Jackie’s catfish catch
Is the biggest of the bunch
But still pathetic

Adriano shows us
The pirahna’s teeth at work
On another fish

I hold our catches
So Mike can take a photo
Of all our hard work

Destined for the grill
Our fish become a dinner
Despite their small size

A shaman visits
Performs a ceremony
Chants into the night

Peter starts tripping
Sees visions of his future
Barfs in a bucket

Day 3

8:00-9:00 — We wake up and eat breakfast.

9:00-11:00 — While Peter recovers from his trip, Mike, Adriano, and I take out the canoe for one last spin. We go deep into the watery jungle, sighting a large sloth, some toucans, and tree iguanas.

11:00-12:00 — We eat one last jungle meal, and then Mike and I watch a sugar cane juicing in progress.

12:00 — We begin the return journey to Iquitos, exhausted from our busy expedition.

A green iguana
Lazes on a high tree branch
Catching some sun rays

A vigilant bird
Watches from a perch above
As we float below

A sloth in a tree
Spotted by our guide’s sharp eyes
Moves at its leisure

Sugar cane jugo
Is sweet when fresh from the press
A local boy waits

Wandering rooster
Does not fit the jungle theme
But makes a nice pic

In case you didn’t catch it, I snuck in the answer to the last poll. The events we did witness are in bold. We never saw an anaconda in the jungle, much less one eating his lunch. I was a little disappointed, but after Adriano’s story I was a bit relieved as well.

Sorry for my terrible Haikus.

4 Responses to “Amazon Expedition”
  1. Kristen says:

    Holy Moly Wooly (monkey, right?)! I cannot believe everything that you guys are seeing/doing! I was cracking up the whole time reading your Haikus- ask Josh. I found them very amusing – good recommendation Mike! The pictures are amazing like always and the journey sounds unreal. And now, just days later, hiking in the snow – wow. Miss you guys, love you, keep up the awesome blogging/pictures. As you can tell, I’m a little behind on my blog promises, but am hoping to still get it up and running. 🙂

  2. Anonymous says:

    Love your writing. Love the pics. What amazing adventures & SO interesting. Love, ant kathy

  3. Anonymous says:

    What Kristen said — except I am not making any blogging promises!! DAD

  4. Anonymous says:

    You both look so happy with the animals!Can you promise me no tarantulas or huge snakes when we are there, please!:-) You should put together a book of photos & haikus when you return. You crtainly have enough material! Can’t wait to join you in your adventure! Love, Mom

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