ACTIVITY & ADVENTURE PERU

Puerto Maldonado & The Peruvian Amazon

Teal Boat

Travelling around Peru, what strikes you is the sheer unbounded variety that this country has to offer.  Peru has it all. From its Western edge, the country rises out of the Pacific with golden, wave-battered beaches.

Huanchaco Beach

Going East you quickly meet huge dunes of sand that usher in hundreds of miles of unbroken desert. The desert in turn starts to give way to more fertile lands on the foothills of the country’s ruffled seam, The Andes. The jagged peaks of the Andes themselves can only be described in Biblical terms. Giant sword tips pointing skywards, reaching so high they eclipse the clouds.

Jake Handstand Huacachina

Travelling yet further East, to the other side of the Andean mountains, you reach rain-soaked cloud forests. The cloud forest slowly descends until it leads you to the humid Amazon that dominates Peru’s Eastern rain forest borders.

Cloud Forrest, Peru

Having sampled Peru’s beaches, desert sands and mountain ranges, we realised we couldn’t leave without going to see the mighty Amazon. From Lima, there were two ways for us to get there, 1) A 22 hour non-stop bus journey that would be largely spent navigating hundreds of stomach churning hairpin bends, or, 2) A nice simple two and a half hour flight from Lima. After having experienced Peruvian mountain driving once already on our way to Huaraz and our stomachs and nerves likely to never recover we opted for the second option.

Cordillera Blanca

Arriving in Puerto Maldonado, the tropical gateway city to the Amazon, we stepped off the plane only to be metaphorically punched in the face by the Incan sun god himself. 42oc degree heat and 90%+ humidity… Turns out the Amazon is hotter than the sun! I had barely enough time to think “we should have read up on Amazon temperatures first”, and “why am I warning black jeans” before I had looked like I’d been for a swim.

lyndsay on Bus Puerto Maldanado

A small town of only 45,000 people, the newly laid roads (it was only 4 years ago that concrete roads were introduced to Puerto Maldonado) are decorated with yellow helmets from the hundreds of taxi bikes which efficiently shoot women, men and small children alike across the town.

Panning For Gold

Like much of the Amazon, Puerto Maldonado has felt the effects of foreign greed. Today the people of Puerto Maldonado are unable to eat the fish from their own waterways due to mercury poisoning from relentless gold panning. Puerto Maldonado’s economy is built primarily on eco-tourism and agriculture, leveraging their bountiful Brazil Nut, Caco and Mango crop.

Cacao Fruit no skin

There are a number of eco-lodges scattered down the river banks each with differing levels of sustainability and luxury. We had pre-booked a stay at Eco-Amazonia, situated about an hour and a half downstream in the depths of the Amazon. Upon arrival to the airport, we were picked up in a windowless bus and driven across the city to a makeshift dock. There we boarded a narrow boat with an outboard motor and driven an hour and a half downstream to start our Amazonian adventure.

Jake boarding boat

Arriving at the lodge and jumping off the boat we were amazed by the scale and quality of the lodge buildings. A huge, airy wooden dining room and communal area complete with pool table, hammock garden and table tennis table dominated a huge clearing in the forest. An adjacent wooden building housed an appealing river-water swimming pool, and double room-sized sleeping lodges complete with private bathrooms, running water, and even electricity available in the evenings (6pm-10pm) were dotted around the site. The first thing that hits you is the orchestra of birds, singing the most obscure songs. Their song plays 24 hours a day, with the added accompaniment of grasshoppers, frogs and howler monkeys as the night draws in.

Jungle Lodge

The food on offer was incredible. All traditional Amazonian cuisine. Each morning we were served up a huge buffet of home-grown fruit and pancakes. Mangos, papayas, watermelons, pineapples, you name it. For lunch and dinner, hot meals were served with fresh fruit juice. A traditional chicken, rice and vegetable dish cooked and served in a giant plant leaf was the highlight.

Camen strip

Over the course of our 3 night, 4 days stay in the Amazon we were joined by a guide Elmer. Originally from Cusco, Elmer had spent the past fifteen years conducting treks through the Amazon. Every day started with a 5 am wake up call (if we hadn’t already been awoken by the howls of the monkeys). After breakfast, we would embark on our daily dose of adventure alongside 4 others which made our group.  Every day we marched in single file to the edge of Eco-Amazonia’s gardens neatly lined behind Elmer and his rather an intimidating Machette which he wielded at the unruly jungle ahead of us. The sounds, the smells, the humidity, the colours, the scale of the jungle is unimaginable. Every footstep you take further into the jungle the more unworldly the surroundings become. Every plant, flower, insect, butterfly or bird is more bold and brighter than anything ever seen before.

Orange Flower

Suzie

Iron Tree

Banana Leaf

 As we passed the days exploring, Elmer told tales of the communities that have lived in the jungle for centuries and continue to do so. He showed us how people use the different tree’s to communicate with others across the forest, using nothing more than a stick and the trunk of the telephone tree.  Nature was also used to maintain order within Jungle communities. Elmer showed us one tree called the jungle justice tree. The tree has a symbiotic relationship with fire ants. The tree provides sugary sap for the ants to eat and a home within the trunk, and in return the ants ensure no other plants grow around the tree. Pre-organised society, the jungle tribes used this tree to administer harsh punishments to law breakers. Lawbreakers were tied to the tree, the tree whacked with a stick which brought out the ants, and the ants would bite the victim, slowly and painfully killing the person. Not a nice way to go.

Monkey Face on arms spread

The Amazon is abundantly full of life. Everywhere you look something is growing, living in harmony and understanding with it’s surroundings. There is a sense that everything has an order and a place and that we as humans are nothing more than privileged guests. We were fortunate enough to catch glimpses of mammoth blue butterflies, trails of leaf cutter ants which marched for what looked like miles throughout the forest.  Macaws and Toucans sawed overhead lighting the powder blue sky with flashes of vivid colour.  Howler and Spider Monkeys swang from tree to tree, carrying their young as they saught out the abundant fruits of the forest. 

Macaw Profile

Spider

If you’re not a fan of the creepy and the crawly then this perhaps isn’t the most comfortable of environments to be exploring. Tarantulas are everywhere! They are in every hole, every piece of wood, every hand rail, every nook and cranny, and they are massive. 

Jake eating Beatle Lava

You’ll also find grubs and terminates everywhere. Luckily, though, these are not dangerous and in fact very edible. The grubs aren’t that tasty if I’m honest, but the termites taste like crunchy paprika. Delicious.

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