lThis is the second of a three-part series on Peru. The facts I provide are from the book pictured above, Fodor’s Travel: Essential Peru or from the knowledgeable guides on my Go Ahead Tour.
Any trip to Peru must include a visit to the Amazon. How often do we get to experience a rainforest?
Jesuit missionaries arrived in the Amazon area in the 1500s. Francisco de Orellana, a Spanish conquistador, is thought to be the first non-native man to see the Amazon. He was, of course, searching for El Dorado, the city of gold. He dubbed the area, the Amazonas, because he was attacked by female warriors along the banks of the river.
I didn’t see any Amazon women on this trip. I’m pretty sure, at 5’10”, I was the Amazon spotted on the banks of the river.
We flew into Iquitos, Peru from Lima. After weaving through the ‘moto taxis’ in town, we boarded a boat for the ride to our lodge. We travelled to the Ceiba Tops Lodge owned by Explorama Tours. I was pleasantly surprised by our beautiful surroundings. We were welcomed by the friendly staff and the on-sight tapir. The lodge included an inviting swimming pool and comfy beds for weary travelers.
Our first night at the lodge, we took a hike around the place. After I came to terms with the over-sized swarming mosquitos (thank goodness for DEET), I relaxed and enjoyed the walk. We saw giant lily pads and many exotic flowers. There were frogs, an owl, and even a bat. Across a pond, we saw a caiman. I’ll come clean, even after the guide pointed him out, I never really saw the caiman, so that ‘we’ doesn’t exactly mean ‘me’ but others will vouch a caiman was there! I really did see the frogs, an owl and a bat.
The next morning started with a glorious sunrise. As we took the boat to our canopy walk, the sky provided an ever-changing canvas of brilliant colors. Every minute I was compelled to take another picture. The shot above would be a better picture if I were able to include the smells and sounds of the Amazon. I feel certain there’ll be a way to do this in the next fifty years. If I’m not dead, I’ll insert in the post.
After a few miles on the Amazon, we veered off into one of the branches off the main river. We were enveloped in countless shades of green. At one point, a troupe of spider monkeys decided to cross the river in front of us. Our guide stopped the boat so we could enjoy the circus-like show. One monkey after another jumped from one large branch hanging over the river to another branch, completing the road to the other side of the river. The younger monkeys were a bit hesitant to jump until they felt the limb shaking from other monkeys scurrying behind them. The panic of being trampled would overcome them and they’d muster the courage to make the jump.
I’m happy to report no monkeys missed the jump and ended up in the water.
I wanted to jump to my feet and clap but then I’d have ended up in the water.
In a matter of minutes, they exited behind the curtain of verdant jungle growth.
The first stop of the day was the lodge where the canopy walk was located. After a short hike, we climbed to our first platform. The view from above the trees was breathtaking. We encountered a whole new perspective of the forest. Sadly, I’m not comfortable with heights and, I have to say, after the fourteen platforms connected with narrow suspension bridges, I was glad to get back on terra firma. Those without my affliction enjoyed hanging over the sides of the bridges and taking lovely pictures. I, on the other hand, held on with both hands and considered it a win that I didn’t pass out from fear and topple to my death.
Our next adventure was one of my favorites. During a trip to Ecuador, I developed an interest in natural medicines, so naturally, I was excited a Peruvian shaman was to talk to us about medicinal remedies from the rainforest. On this day, he talked of the herbs and other plants he uses in his practice. The shaman then invited us to come forward if we wanted a cleansing (the spirit kind, not the bath kind). It was a great experience.
To see remote tribes in the rainforest, you must travel deep into the jungle. What most tourist see are ribereños or river people. The ribereños stay close to the water and continue to live much as their ancestors did. They’ve adopted some Western practices, but they live a simple life. We visited a Yagua Indian village where the friendly people presented elements of their traditional lives. The people invited us to dance with them in the main meeting structure and we watched a demonstration on using a blow gun.
On the last day of the Amazon leg of our tour, we were scheduled to view pink dolphins and to fish for piranhas. The group had a great time, except for the poor soul who was ill and had to stay at the lodge. Yes, it was me, back at the lodge, but I heard great stories from the others. No fingers or toes were lost to the piranhas.
On the boat trip back to Iquitos, I thought about the few days I spent in the rainforest. Once again, I was taken with the people. Their easy-going manner was palpable. Even the animals were laid back. Check out the sloth above. He’s smiling.
Experiencing a new country is more than scenic views and unfamiliar foods. The experience can offer fresh insights if you open yourself up and let the magic happen. You might discover new things about yourself. I know I did.