Archive for June, 2015

Jungle Adventures Part 1: Into the Rainforest
June 18, 2015

“We might not see any animals, but we will get mosquito bites”, Darwin, our jungle guide, assured us on our way into Manu National Park, 20 000 km2 of protected rainforest in Peru’s Amazon basin. He also assured us that we would see lots of feathers, “well, they will be flying.”

Darwin is his real name, he insisted, moments after picking me in  Cusco. Most people don’t believe it is, since it’s almost too perfect for a nature guide. Stumbling to the bus at 5am, I hadn’t even noticed.

We did see a lot of animals on our tour, mostly birds: woodpeckers, parrots, macaus, waxing, egrit, and many others whose names I’ve already forgotten. Driving through the cloud forest on the way to our jungle lodge, we saw different species of monkeys swinging through the trees. At an animal sanctuary, we saw a boa, a tapir (the South American elephant), and more monkeys. The monkeys at the sanctuary were so used to people that they’d run up visitors and cling to anyone fooolish enough to have a fury ponytail. There were also some absurdly large cucarachas in our lodge. Many species of spider (including turantulas) were also seen, but not by me. I skipped the jungle night walk on account of my perfectly rational fear of spiders the size of my head.

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This monkey unexpectedly (and uninvited) ran up my back, strangled me with his tail, and stuck his head between my legs as he quickly made his way back down.

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Ilon, with the adorable monkey who took up residence on her neck for 15 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Darwin is a dedicated conservationist who spends his spare time plantiIMG_1135ng palm trees to make homes for disaplaced birds. So hewas serious about protecting the animals. Our first night, he warned us not to fuck the animals. “When you see a monkey. don’t fuck it. Don’t fuck the birds,” he warned us, in his fairly good English. The least mature of thr group, I giggled and asked whether he meant for us not to fuck with the animals.

“That too.”

 

I went to Manu on a 4 day trip organized by Vilca Tours. Darwin used to work for a fancier tour operator but he says Vilca treats their staff much better. Along for the trip were Peruvian-born-american-immigrants Raquel and Ricardo, along with their very American teenage sons, Ryan and Bobby. At almost 18 Bobby had taken to growing facial hair to “make him look older.” Bobby filled our otherwise peaceful jungle walks with endless chatter about trendy iPhone apps, MTV, scorn for his ex-girlfriend, and schrill screams every time a branch so much as grazed his arm. Ryan was much quieter, and volunteered to use a machete on our Anaconda expedition, where we went hacking through the rainforest without a path. At one point Ryan sliced through a branch filled with killer jungle ants, about 50 of which fell onto his head and scurried down his shirt. Ryan panicked, as did Bobby, who immediately abandoned his brother, running 20 metres back. Luckily Olivia, an 18-year-old Brit with a fair bit of courage, was along for the hike. She helped Ryan pick all the bugs off while Bobby fiddled with his phone, hoping to post the whole thing to Instagram.

There was also Ilon, and cheerful Dutch medical student, and an unwed American couple, Joel and Emily, who only coincidentally happened to share the same last name.

Joel encoutered his own troubles on the Anaconda expedition when he stepped into some wet mud and sank until his waist. Darwin had to dig through the mud to bale him out. The day before Joel had tripped and fell and inot a spiky jungle tree, leaving him with eight thorns stuck in his palm.

Together, the nine of us made a rather merry, if eclectic, band of fools for Darwin to drag around the jungle. We ate extremely well, since we had brought along Frida, our very own jungle cook who was wonderful about making me vegetarian food. We also had to young helpers from the local Machiguenga tribe who helped us all get around the jungle.

One of our favourite activities was playing “jungle beach”, where we would sit on the sandy banks of the River Dios de Madre and sunbathe.

Olivia, Ilon and I enjoyed covering ourselves with jungle sand to exfoliate. Bobby enjoyed taking pictures to “make his ex-girlfriend jealous.”

In the coud forest, we saw a dozen cock-of-the-rock birds. Minutes later we found ourselves with a turd-on-the-bus after Bobby stepped in jungle scat on his way back into the bus.

It was a fabulous tour with wonderful animals, perhaps none more colourful that my jungle comrades.

In the end Darwin was wrong about the mosquito bites. I had very few. In fact, I escaped from the jungle without any injury. Ilon pointed to my luck when the boat landed back in civilization. Still marvelling at my good fortune, a jungle wasp immediately flew into my shirt and stung my armpit. Ranforest conquered.

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Bobby taking a selfie with a Tapir.

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Me, swinging on a jungle vine like I’m Tarzan.

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