Peru Vacation – Amazon Day 2

Today I’ll continue with our second day in the Amazon Rainforest. Check out the first journal entry here.

Day 3: Thursday, May 26

We thought the last couple of wake-up calls were early – today, we got up at 4 a.m. for a 4:30 breakfast and 5 a.m. departure. We hiked down to the river, took a quick boat ride to another spot in the rainforest, hiked about 45 minutes to the Tres Chimbadas Oxbow Lake for the sunrise on a man-made catamaran.

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A couple of very strong locals from Infierno took turns paddling the boat for us. The first thing we saw was a black caiman (alligator) in the water. Our boat was able to glide up just a few feet away from it!

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We also saw a ton of birds – horned screamers, macaws, hoatzins, kingfisher, yellow and white herons, wren, red-caped cardinals, and much more.

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Although the lake is known for giant river otters, we were among the 40% that didn’t get to see them. At the turnaround point we fished for piranhas. Though they have very sharp teeth, they aren’t nearly as vicious as Hollywood makes them out to be. They are similar to sharks – they may bite you if you smell like blood – but otherwise humans are not prey to them. Several people caught yellow and white piranhas, which they threw back after taking a look.

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On our way back, it started to warm up as the sun climbed higher in the sky, so we didn’t see nearly as much wildlife.

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Garlic tree

Close to our lodge, we took the boat to the clay licks along the bank, where macaws come to lick and eat clay for the salt. We saw a few from a distance before heading back to the lodge for a quick snack of light sandwiches. It felt like lunchtime, but it was only 9:30! We took a 15-20 minute hike to the clay licks, where we hid out in a bird blind. We saw one macaw eating clay, and we got a better look and close-up cellphone shots with Robin’s telescope. He was great at holding phones up to the telescope to create a “zoom” photo.

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We also got lucky with a group of spider(?) monkeys that ran by us along the path!

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Our group got back to the lodge around 11, where we rested until lunchtime. Right before lunch we saw a group of pocket monkeys jumping in the trees and along the trellises at the lodge. Although I didn’t have my DSLR with me, we were able to get really close to video.

We had stuffed peppers, veggies, and potato cakes for lunch – delicious! We rested again (during the hottest part of the day) back at the room. It was nice to just lie in the hammock and listen to the amazing sounds. I decided I’d rather be blind than deaf in the Amazon. The birds, insects, howler monkeys, and other animals never stop talking and singing. Around 2 p.m., with an invitation from Robin, we ventured down to the back side of the lodge to witness a local game of soccer. They play hard, sweat a lot, and have FUN! A couple of guys in our group tried to play with them too. I imagine they were sore the next day!

At 3 we headed out for an ethnobotanical tour at Centro Ñape, which turned out to be a shaman showing us the plants he grows and uses for medicine. We were greeted by his friendly pet (wild) pig, who stunk to high heaven but was as friendly as a dog. We learned about quite a few different plants that helped treat symptoms of various diseases. We even chewed one leaf that made our tongues go numb and tried shots of 3 different concoctions known for healing. At first I was skeptical, but I do think there’s some truth to the medicinal purposes of plants. They even had several cabins for people to stay in and get treatment. Some locals visit the shaman, but people from all over the world also stay there.

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Back at the lodge, we had rice, coca (from coca leaves) chicken, veggies, and carrot soup for dinner. Although spotty at times, we actually had wi-fi there, so we could post photos and catch up with people back home.

After that was our night walk. We took the path down to the dock, and along the way we saw a lot of insects including a scorpion spider, wolf spider, and bullet ants, which we were told give a painful sting.

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At the dock we had a beautiful view of the night sky and had the opportunity to see constellations we don’t get to see in the northern hemisphere. Although the night walk was neat, we were a little disappointed with how little we saw. By the end of the long, tiring day, we were ready for hot showers and covered beds.

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Strange bug outside our room

We had to shoo away more bugs in our room than the previous night, but once I made it to sleep, I slept a little more soundly.