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Getting There - Aneel's Travelogue

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Welcome to the Jungle Iquitos, Loreto, Peru, Tuesday, 29 March 2005 5:18pm

After an early shopping trip for rubber boots and long-sleeved shirts (I couldn't find any that were appropriate), we got on a boat and headed up the Amazon.

The trip upriver was fairly uneventful. It rained lightly most of the way. The pilots stopped at a floating restaurant for lunch. The food was probably not safe for the passengers, so we hung around for a bit, just looking around. We got to Muyuna Lodge after about three hours.

The lodge has a slightly summer camp feel. A bunch of little cabins (Well, actually, they're fairly large. Our triple could easily fit five beds) and a big dining hall/common area. There are hammocks hung all over, but they're a chancy proposition because of the mosquitos. Everything is on stilts because of the change in the height of the river, and (supposedly) because of pit vipers that come out at night.

We met our guide after lunch. He's a burly guy named Usiel. He's about Jenny's height, but looks like he's around my weight, mostly muscle.

He took us out for a boat ride along a tributary that he called Yanayacu. Yanayacu may be a generic term (It means "black water", in contrast to the Amazon's coffee-with-cream color), and the river may be called Yarapa, officially. The maps at the lodge didn't agree on the fine details.

At this time of year, the water level is rising (it rises many meters over the high-water season, which peaks in May) and the Amazon is flooding a larger and larger area. As a result, there's no noticeable downstream flow. The water is very still. It's the color of the Amazon too, rather than properly black.

The morning rain had gone away, so we had a gorgeous, clear day. We saw a variety of animals: lots of birds: egrets, kingfishers, parakeets in flocks, parrots, a nocturnal bird called a potoo (which looks remarkably like a branch when asleep); some mosquito-eating bats that were hanging on a tree trunk; a troupe or two of common spider monkeys; and about a half dozen three-toed sloths.

This is the first place where I think the lens that I decided against getting to bring with me would have made a difference. Between the motion of the boat and the distance, I'm sure many of my pictures are quite blurry. Just the kind of conditions a fast, vibration reduction lens would have helped with. Too bad that thing is so bulky.

Even if the pictures don't come out, the camera makes a fine telescope. We didn't bring binoculars, so Usiel lent us a pair. They tend to give me a bit of a headache, which the camera does not, and it's good to have another magnifier anyway.

Usiel seems not to need one. His eyes are amazing. I thought it might be his experience (he's been a guide for 17years) telling him what to look for, but he also sees details that it's hard to make out even with the telescope.

We went for another boat ride in the evening. The sides of the river sparkle with fireflies and the water hyacinths host glow worms as well. We saw less wildlife than during the day, but still quite a lot: zebra fish, fishing bats, a tree frog, and several small caimans.

Comments

gina (Anonymously) Sunday, 03 April 2005 11:45pm

Wow, so you're in the headwaters of the Amazon! That's someplace I'd definitely like to visit. Well, except for the bugs. A tarantula would set me screaming like a little girl. I think three-toed sloths, however, would be a highlight of the trip. I love bizarre-looking animals.

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aneel Monday, 04 April 2005 8:19pm

They say that the Amazon actually starts in Arequipa (where we were a few weeks ago), but this is the place where it starts getting really big.

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