Green! If there is a lovelier color, I wouldn’t know what it would be. Peru was my first jungle experience and despite my irrational fear of snakes, I am so so glad that I was open to giving it a try.
Everything was new to me, and I had some inkling as to what it must be like to be a toddler – finding my feet and seeing everything fresh. Like a toddler, a lot of the time I was wide-eyed and open-mouthed – squealing with delight.
And… given that I was sleeping under a mosquito net, I was able to tick one more thing off my bucket list. I’m not sure what it is about sleeping under a mosquito net, but it is loaded with romance – perhaps I’ve seen too many movies in which someone is wasting away with Yellow Fever. A loved one is nearby with a cool hand. The camera pans to a clock. Time and tide wait for no man.
I’m glad that I didn’t wait to see the jungle at some future date. My clock ticks too.
Yes, the jungle is wet, muddy and steamy, but isn’t the point of travel to get see new things and experience life outside your comfort zone?
The humidity was so high that if you left clothing hanging out over night, it would be wet in the morning. I found sleeping in the next day’s clothes to be the only solution. As a huge fan of hot water, I wasn’t so keen on the cold water. I also, candle at-hand, had a new appreciation of Abe Lincoln’s desire to read law by candlelight.
But, not to niggle over the small stuff, I loved every moment of our trip and enthusiastically endorse Manu Expeditions, their facilities, and their employees.
With The Ramblers on the Amazon we saw poisonous tree frogs, and although we didn’t catch enough fish for dinner, we did land a number of piranha – nasty little fish which are edible, but at three or four inches in length called for a larger haul than we made.
What impressed me most – aside from the mosquito nets and the hammocks? Well I really liked the jaguar. We were in a boat, and there he was… a big cat… a really big cat… lying on the river bank dozing in the sun. We cut the motor and drifted by. We looked at him. He looked at us. He didn’t blink. He was so benign. Maybe not benign but certainly not threatened by our presence. He looked no more lethal than a plush tiger atop a little girl’s white organdy bed. How beautiful his markings: black circles around browned butter and solid black spots on honey. His face was solid honey – his cheeks Devon cream with black freckles.
And further down stream on the very same morning, a second jaguar! (This second sighting and an additional third sighting by another group that same day is truly impressive in that according to Kim Macquarrie, author of Peru’s Amazonian Eden, 1998, over a 22-year period, only five jaguars were sighted. In terms of the fur trade and illegal hunting, perhaps the tide has turned.)
Our second sighting jaguar was a live action figure. He walked the far bank oblivious to us because he was stalking a giant otter. The otter, maybe a five-foot specimen (with a serious under-bite that exposed serious canine teeth) was swimming upstream. The jaguar kept pace with the otter, and we held our collective breath. Would the jaguar jump in the river to make a kill?
Quietly swimming upstream, doing the breast stroke, periscoping up and down, exposing and then obscuring the unique, white patch (fingerprint) at his throat, the otter swam on oblivious. Or perhaps he was just confident. Just as the suspense was killing us, the otter dove and the jaguar disappeared into the jungle.
Seeing a tapir was another highlight. Clay-licks are a good place to see all manner of jungle animals. Because so many of jungle plants are poisonous, birds and other animals, go to the “licks” to eat the clay and thereby protect their stomachs from toxicity.
Our guide told us that no tapirs had been sighted in two months, so we would skip a scheduled night-time visit to the clay licks. So imagine our surprise when someone shouted from the main lodge that a tapir had ventured onto the compound. It was, we learned later, Vanessa.
Vanessa’s mother had been killed some… I think… eight years earlier and Vanessa had been rescued and hand-raised by the Manu staff. And there she was… standing at the kitchen door… waiting for a treat. She was stocky and stubby – I’d write that she was a “porker,” but she was so cute, “porker” seems too rude. Let’s just say she was a hand-full but truly endearing. I held out a piece of fruit, and with her prehensile snout, she delicately wrapped her lips about the fruit and took it from my hand. I wanted to bring her home. What a lover! The best part of this story is that after being hand-raised, Vanessa has gone on to live life in the wild. She has had five babies in five years and is well on her way to re-populating an endangered species.
What else? I could probably write about Peru for days, but in closing today’s blog, I’ll just say that the vegetation was unreal. The Strangler fig, for instance, wraps itself around a tree and true to its name it sucks the life out of the host.
Here on the right, you see the vine as sort of decorative over-lay, but in the next picture you can see the damage that the strangler can do. The vine sucks the life out of the host tree – hollowing it our until only the vine remains. Note the scale of the remaining vine.