In route to the Amazonia Lodge we stopped by a coca plantation. It was interesting seeing the growing, harvesting, and drying process first hand.
We arrive at Atalaya, and originally I was under the impression was would be using native canoes to get down the river. Instead we use these natively build boats. Our boat was 45 feet long and around 5 feet wide, and equipt with a Johnson outboard motor (two, actuall, one was up front to be used as a spare). The pilot sits at the very back steering the boat and spotter sits on bow with a pole to measure depth, push the boat in shallow waters, and direct the pilot on where the deep water is. The spotter got a lot of work this year. One of our guides, Hugo (part owner and founder of Caiman Manu), has been running tours for 25 years and the rivers were lower than he has ever seen themThe rivers were very shallow, and full of debris, we would regularly see piles of fully grown trees in driftwood heaps more the 25 feet high. It seems like we were getting stuck every thrity minutes, and scraping bottom every 5. Luckily this was the Rio Alto Madre De Dios, which is fed by the mountains and has clear fast moving waters, so no caiman, anacondas, piranah, or other dangers. But there are a lot of birds and interesting fish. It's worth noting that a lot of freshwater aquarium fish originate from the Amazon Basin. The weird thing is, when you sit in the river really still, these so called friendly aquarium fish come up and bite you. It doesn't hurt, it's just weird.
We then continued to the amazingly beautiful Amazonia Lodge. This was a former tea plantation with lots of fruit tree (and lots of fruit laid out) so there is an abundance of birds there.
It was here that at least three of us became ensnared in Montazuma's cruel grasp. Every 45 minutes I was on my way to the restroom, getting no sleep all night.
This morning I had a tea made from the bark of a local tree to help fight my diarhea. It tasted good, but made me puke like a mo-fo. While the diarhea did take about 4 days to fully clear up, this stuff flushed my system and it was from that pointmanagable, so I could hold it for hours on end.
Due to the lack of sleep and upset stomach, I laid off the camera for most of the day.
It's hot and amazingly humid. Worse that Texas. Florida, Thailand, or any other hot and humid place I've been. And the bugs are down right vicious. I used to say that Alaskan mosquitoes were the worst ever. Those are fucking wimps compared to what they have down here. From this point on we have to sleep with mosquito netting as the bugs laugh at deet and jungle juice.
Still going through an Olestra Nightmare.
We eventually arrive at Boca Manu site. I was still not feeling well so I went to bed early. In the bathroom my sandaled feet were greated to the bleasure of mice running over them in the dark. Then once in bed, I left a candle on so my sister could find her way to her bed, and the sounds of bug slamming into the screens and the mice, rats, oposums, and lizards crawling all over our huts was unnerving.
In the morning we found one of the moths. The thing literally had a 6 inch wing span. Bigger than some birds.
We finally stop going do the Rio Alto Madre De Dios and start going up the Rio Manu. This river originates from some swamps, and is very silty. No clarity to the water at all. It is also a lot warmer, though still fairly shallow, fast moving, and laden with logs. The first thing I noticed was there are now birds on the water in this river. They stand on the edges or sit on the logs, but none are swimming/floating. This is because we're entered the domain of the caiman. To be in the water is to be lunch.
We stop at the park station. I have never seen so many butterflies in my life. The beaches are covered with them. They lick the salt from the beach, from the turtle's tears, and from you if you sit really still. You step on to a beach and they all take off making this brightly color cloud of blues, reds, and golds. Truely spectacular.
We start seeing lots of turtles, a few white caiman, and an occasional black caiman.
Tonight we stay at the Cocha Salvador Lodge.
Once I get situatated, our guide takes us on a night hike showing us tarantuala nests in the palm trees. He uses a twig to simulate a bug and enticed the spiders out of their nests. It was all cool till I feel something tapping at my boot. Look down and I have a colorful 12 inch long snake pinned under the arch of my boot and trying to bite my boot. It's a young coral snake. If I have been wearing my sandals, I would be dead right now, as there is no anti-venom for this snake. Have I ever mentioned how much I love my boots?
Then off to bed. This site has tents on platforms, so the critters are not as loud when they bash into it, and we get a much better sleep.
We started out with a hike to an oxbow lake to see the giant otters. In route we came acros some wooly monkeys. These are some very aggressive monkeys. The first try to throw fruit at you. Then try to break limbs off trees and let them drop on you. If you are still there, the try to pee on you. If that hasn't cause you to leave, they throw their feces at you. And finally, as a last resort the stick their finger down their throat and try to puke on you. The alpha male shook this vine at us, so I grabbed it and shook back. He titally spazed, run up in to the tree and went straight to the pee stage of the game. We left at that point, slightly moister than we started.
The highlight today was going to an oxbow lake and seeing the giant otter. These cuties are 6 feet long and live in a family packs, hunting as a group. The eat around 5kg of fish a day. They have been known to kill and eat anacondas and 5 meter long black caiman. They are the top of the foot chain around these parts.
The other highlight was stopping to look at some other monkeys, and then looking down and seeing the ground boiling with army ants (these things are huge! Over an inch in length, and a bite to match).
We left about sunset and had to go back to the lodge, via boat, at night. Using a spot light we could see caiman all over the place. In route the prop his a rock and broke, and we drifted on to a sandbar. I helped pull the engine up, and while we were swapping the prop someone moved, shifting the balance of the boat and I fell in. I got right back into the boat, and about 30 seconds later we see a 3 meter black caiman swim by, checking to see if there was a meal in the making.
We finally got back to camp and got some sleep.
That's todays installment.