Carry On Up the Amazon by David Waters

AmazonWe started our adventure in Peru in the care of KLM, flying from Tees-side to Amsterdam, then to Lima via Aruba. We met up with our tour group which consisted of 29 people including the group manager. The first day we spent exploring Lima and recovering from jet lag.

On Sunday we left our Lima hotel at 4am, the city was still buzzing with the overnight clubbers. The flight to Iquitos took us over the Andes and across the upper Amazon rain forest; the views from the plane were staggering. Iqiutos is about 1,800 miles up the Amazon River and can only be reached by river or air. The river must be still a mile wide in places even this far up.

Once landed, we transferred to an ancient fully air-conditioned and colourfully painted wooden bus i.e. no windows. This took us down to the dock to board the fast boat to our “hotel”. The other boats docked in the area were quite surprising in size. Plus there were a couple of members of the Peruvian Navy parked up. The trip took about hour and half to cover the 50kms away from civilisation.

The Eco Lodge, second stop of three for what is the local bus service, has no electricity or running water, just like home! Our accommodation consisted of long wooden huts, split into cubicles with doors closed by hooks. Inside were 2 beds completely enclosed in mozzie-nets. No glass in the windows and very basic curtains plus a wash bowl filled with murky looking Amazon water. There was no ceiling and you could hear everything your neighbours said over the partition walls, so no noisy hanky-panky!

The toilet block consisted of family sized shower rooms using Amazon water; to be truthful you could have got our whole group in. The showers were pure luxury compared to the long drop toilets; these consisted of a plank with a hole and a toilet seat on top. There was a urinal in the men’s and you could tell how deep the hole was from the sound of the trickle down to the bottom. A haven for the tarantulas we knew inhabited the jungle.

There was a bar-come-shop, but all the goods were covered in cobwebs and some droppings of unknown origin. Next was a large hut that was for eating in, and considering everything the food was very good. There was a veranda attached where a big drum summoned us all to our meals. The area also had big wooden comfy seats where we could plan our escapes from the Stalag, although we had to rule out tunnels as we were on decking above water. But on the whole the experience was one of the best ever, gave us all a chance to bond together as a group.

Lighting around the site was with those flame things you see on South Pacific movies. Otherwise you used a torch. However, using a torch to venture to the toilet overnight was not an option other than for the crazy!! There was no way Christine was going to sit on the loos anyway, just so glad there were none of the cases of the “runs” that appeared later in the holiday. Between the canteen and the bar was a covered walkway, along the way were big bunches of bananas (which we thought were a nice snack for us) but they were ripening fresh from the jungle to feed the wildlife. The lodge had a bay-striped tapir called Nancy, which would go for a walk near us. We also had vultures on the roofs near us, and brightly coloured Macaws and Toucans in the trees.

After a pleasant lunch we were introduced to a local tribe of Indians who gave us a blowpipe demo in village and we distributed some sweeties to the children. I know it is not good for the teeth but everywhere we went in Peru, hand over a couple sweeties and you had a friend for life. Christine held her hand out with the sweets for a young girl to choose one, she took the lot!! Totally gob smacked she was just about to say something when the young girl gave each of her family one. Also saw a dance demo from the local tribe, never seen such old looking dancers but it is income for the indigenous people. Then went for a walk in the jungle – saw tarantula holes, other people went back at night and had tarantulas taken out of their bedroom for them.

Peru is such a poor country that it is essential to have loads of pens, paper etc. to hand out to kids anywhere you go. The kids actually fight to get the stuff for school. It is both sad and enlightening to see life that you cannot imagine.

Next it was onto a 10/12 seat boat for a trip around the local water ways. First I saw a giant sloth, well actually I thought every body was hallucinating this until I saw it on someone’s digital display, it was so well camouflaged. Then into a small tributary where there were giant water lilies, at least 5 feet across. There was some wildlife but the forest itself is just awesome. WOW!!!

After dinner it was back into the boats for a night time trip on the Amazon. The guides had large torches to shine up into the trees trying to pick out anything that might be lurking there; you pick out the eyes shining. Not a lot to see as it was a full moon and most things are hiding. There were many fireflies, the sort you see on the movies plus a giant kingfisher. The guides switched off the motors, so try to imagine sitting in the middle of the Amazon, it is dark and silent. At first we were joking about the situation then gradually everyone stopped talking. I have to say it was one of those moments in life that nearly brought us all to tears – totally surreal.

When we set off again, trundling down the river back to base, when one of the local ferries (bus service) was coming along behind us with a huge spotlight on the front, and we were all reminded of the Marchioness disaster in London. At this point our boat had no lights and we had no life jackets. Say no more!

Back to base it was a couple of drinks and a shower. It was so hot and humid that even after a shower you are still soaked in sweat but it was an experience knowing the water was pumped straight out of the river. Still, after the days exertions it was nice to go to bed and, even though primitive, had a good sleep.

Next morning we were woken by “the sounds of the jungle”! Bit like something from a movie and as the sun was rising we got out of bed to go and enjoy the day break, along with the rest of the group it turned out. We all had the same feelings about the place, a bit like the Tenko experience!!

After breakfast it was back onto the boats, two for our group. Our first stop was to visit the local Rum Distillery. They do different flavours: ginger, molasses, 7 roots and plain rum. The rum is made from local sugar cane and the machinery is mule powered. We did have a tasting session but at 9am it quickly took an effect after several glasses. Did manage to get a sample home but like all holiday things it just did not taste the same.

Looked for pink river dolphins but never saw any, obviously should have drunk more rum. The other group saw a couple, we got to see them vanishing into the water on video camera. We did see a bright green iguana right on the top of a tree. An excellent morning roaming around the Amazon then it was back to the lodge for lunch.

That was the end of the adventure and a return to Iquitos for a quick look around town. The only building that was good enough to be photographed, we were told not to!! So back to Lima, God did our party smell, I felt sorry for the people on that flight.

We subsequently travelled to Cusco, Machu Pichu, across the Andes by train (awesome) and a flight over the Nazca Lines, but more of that another time.

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