I just got back from 18 days in Peru. Normally I wouldn't post trip recaps here unless they had some sort of writing or SF/Fantasy connection, but Peru was so cool - and I don't like facebook for these sorts of things and I have no intention of writing out my trip stuff over and over again - so I'm doing it here for the sake of convenience. I'll also have some tie in thoughts on how to use trips for writing inspiration at the end of the week.
This explanation goes with the photos in the slideshow at the bottom of this post. The soundtrack is from short videos I took while in the jungle. At the end of the week I'm also hoping to compile some of the video clips I took into one video (note, these were more for sounds and small events rather than the cool youtube trip videos you see that narrate everything, so don't expect anything too spectacular).
I left on September 1st and arrived in Puerto Maldonado on the 2nd (it was a painful flight plan that included 'sleeping' at the Lima airport). When I arrived in the jungle it was hot and humid, just as I'd pictured.
The company I went with for my stay was Posada Amazonas, of Rainforest Expeditions. It's co-owned by the Ese-Eja community of Infierno, and our guide was a member of that community. The lodge itself is situated on community land off the Tambopata river preserve, part of the Madre de Dios state.
The day my group arrived, we were picked up at the airport, brought to a lodge to minimise luggage, and then transported by boat to the lodge. On the boat, we were given an amazing seasoned rice dish wrapped in a bijao leaf.
The main lodge was made using local construction techniques, and had hammocks, a bar, dining room, bedrooms, etc. joined by wooden walkways. The bedrooms were walled on 3 sides using reeds and plaster (?). The bathroom also had some natural ventilation, with a plastic square around the shower. It was the dry season, so bugs weren't much of an issue, but the beds all had mosquito netting put down at night, just in case. There was one giant moth that kept falling into a vase placed on the bedside table and several smaller moths that sat on the flooring - daring us to squash them by accident.
The first night we went to a canopy tower 37 m high (120 feet) to observe birds and get a different view of the jungle. We saw some parrots flying and several other birds but no monkeys. The view itself was unbelievable. At one point in the far distance we could see flashes of lightning.
Food was served buffet style, and there was a good variety of dishes. There were even some fruits unique to the area, including the passion fruit like granadillo - a hard shell with a jelly like interior holding numerous black seeds.
The second day we went to see an oxbow lake - formed when the bows of the river get too close and the river starts a new path, bypassing that curve. There were a lot of different birds, a swampy section that was a vibrant green, monkeys, piranha's (we went fishing, caught a few and then threw them back in the water - holding a piranha is a crazy experience, you can feel it flexing its sides, trying to escape your hold). The lake even had giant river otters, which only 60% of the visitors are privileged to see.
In the afternoon we had an ethnobotanical tour, learning about indigenous plants and how the native peoples use them for healing. On the way there we passed a juvenile caiman sunning itself on the beach. Our guide made a shaman headdress and staff out of palm leaves before serving us 3 liquors made from the medicinal plants.
The next morning we tried to see parrots and macaws at the nearby clay lick but the weather was unseasonable cold and overcast that none were there (in fact it was so cold I had trouble sleeping with only the thin blankets the lodge carried - our guide said it never gets that cold in the jungle). After breakfast we went on a walking tour to visit a several hundred year old ceiba (or kapok) tree. On the way we encountered a termite nest (round blob of excrement & dirt in a tree), more monkeys, monkey-comb (our guide said the spiky rounded fruit was used by monkeys to comb their hair, but I'm not sure if he was telling the truth or just messing with us). Everything in the jungle has spikes on it, even bamboo and other trees. We passed more army ants before coming to the giant tree. Honestly my pictures don't do the tree justice, you just don't get the sense of scale. Near one of the roots our guide used a stick to coax out a tarantula.
On the walk back, our guide picked up some plant fuzz that looked like cotton, a giant spike from one of the trees, and a leaf and made a dart gun. He said the natives would use bamboo for the blow pipe, but the leaf did a good enough job.
That afternoon we went to a locally owned farm and saw some capybaras by the river side. Apparently they sit near the edge of the cliff in case a jaguar comes out of the jungle hunting them. They can then jump into the river to escape. The farm visit was cool - we saw some local trees, coca trees (the plant cocaine is made from, but which natives use to combat altitude sickness), cacao trees (for chocolate), different peppers, an more. We also got to try two kinds of mini bananas (yellow and white fleshed).
Night in the jungle is surprisingly peaceful. Mornings... now they can get loud. We were woken up by howler monkeys around 5 am. Our last day, we were able to see some parrots on the clay lick as we drove by on the boat. Then it was back to the airport, heading to Cusco.
Amazonian Basin from Jessica Strider on Vimeo.