"A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”– Lao Tzu
Day 128 – The Amazon River (From Colombia to Brazil to Peru)
First thing in the morning, we met Miguel and jumped in a tuk-tuk (they truly are global) to cross the border into Brazil to start our jungle adventure. I think this is one of the few places in the world where three countries meet and there are virtually no border. The three towns are Leticia, Colombia, Tabatinga, Brazil and Santa Rosa, Peru, and you can walk freely between them. You only need your passport if you want to carry on further into a country. Crazy, eh? Anyway, our boat was leaving from Brazil, so off we went.
The Amazon (known here as the Solimones), looks pretty huge, it’s about 2km wide and this is supposedly a small part of it! Our shallow boat putted across it, and after about an hour downriver, we entered into a side channel to cross into Peru and the local house we would be staying at.
Wow, the first impression of local life was incredible. The whole family lives in a one room shack on stilts in the river! In the wet season, which is now, there is no land, everything for 250 miles is underwater. This year the river was the highest in 24 years, and the water came so high it covered the floor. The family was forced to build a second floor 3 feet higher, and move everything they had onto that. (They were the lucky ones – we saw tons of houses that had been abandoned to the rising water). There are no walls, only some tarp to keep the wind and sun out, they had gas cannisters to run a stove, and to keep their food fresh they used ice in a styrofoam cooler. But the biggest thing we were going to have to get used to were the toilet and bathing facilities. Basically, the river. To wash, you either jumped in or dumped water over your head on the ‘porch’, and the toilet was some floating logs, with a bit of tarp wrapped around for privacy! At least the ‘toilet’ was down-current from the house!
After our initial surpise and a bit of getting to know our host family Jose and Betty and some of their family, we went out on our first trip – looking for sloths! I was so excited, as I’ve seen sloths in Costa Rica and loved them. Here, we were promised some up close and personal time with them. Well, we definitely got that! We saw one in a tree, and it had a baby! I was thrilled and would have been happy with that, but here is where things started to get a bit uncomfortable. Apparently, they usually pluck the sloths off the trees to give tourists better pictures. Having volunteered with wildlife before, I don’t really love that, but when they went to grab the mother and baby, I was really not happy. Unfortunately, trying to explain this to non-native english speakers just didn’t work, so Jon and I just tried to protect the baby as much as possible as they pulled the sloth into the boat. Thankfully, they put it back pretty quickly, and the baby seemed fine. But though it was nice to pat a sloth, the way it was done kind of spoiled that part of the trip for me.
After the sloths, it was back to Jose and Betty’s for dinner, and to meet two of her neices (age 5 & 7), who had rowed over here in their little canoe. Apparently here kids start to paddle on their own at about 3! Mental.
It gets dark here at about 6, so after the food, it was back out to search for the nocturnal life in the rainforest – mainly tarantulas and caimans (a type of crocodile). Brushing past waterlogged trees, and tons of vegetation, we looked for trees with holes in them, and found spider after spider, all about the size of my hand. Urgh, arachnids are not my favourites! The caiman spotting took longer, as at this time of year they are hard to find. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, Miguel stuck his hand into some reeds and came out with
a juvenile! Next thing I know, I have a caiman in my hands! Now, I don’t mind reptiles, so I smiled for the camera. Jon on the other hand, not so relaxed!
And then it was back to the house! Only about 8pm, but when it gets dark in the jungle, it is dark. You could see thousands of stars! And between the early start and the clouds of mosquitos, it was time for bed!