Monday 13 May 2019

Peru and our first foray into South America - Part 2

Part 1 of the Peruvian adventure is here.

Back from Machu Picchu, it was back to Cuzco and onward to our next adventure, in the Amazon rainforest.

Imagine flying to an airport called Puerto Moldonado. It's nothing but a large, asbestos-roofed shack and the minute you step out of the building, you just know you are in the tropics. The air is warm and sticky. It is a sea of green all around. The bus you are asked to get on in painted with bright toucans, jaguars and caimans :) 

The bus took us to the Rio Madre de Dios, which flows across Peru and Bolivia and is a sub-tributary of the Amazon. This river looks pretty powerful and impressive so I immediately wondered what the mighty Amazon would look like!

The journey had just begun. We were on a motorboat for 2 hours, in the middle of the Madre de Dios with lush and impenetrable green on both banks. The odd fishing boat was the only sign of any human habitation. Later I discovered that the rainforest occupied 60% of Peruvian land area and held only 5% of its population (no surprise there).

Our lodge was a large one and stuffed to the gills with European guests. It didn't have phones, mobile signal (there was a radio set for emergencies) and electricity would be available from 5-10 pm every night. There was limited electricity at other times, powered by solar panels. Three square meals a day in the communal dining room were fresh, local and delicious. We thought we would relax in the lodge after our busy schedule in the Andes, but that was not to be. Between long and short hikes and caiman-spotting excursions, there was barely time to snatch a few moments here and there to lie on a hammock and read.

One of the hikes was exhausting, the air still and stultifying, thick with humidity so that in minutes we were soaked with perspiration, our sunscreen and insect repellent-coated skins taking on an additional sheen of sweat :) The sun beat down on us so that we would be relieved whenever we were able to move into a patch of shade. We didn't see as much wildlife as we expected to, although always there was the slightly menacing sense of something breathing and observing us from behind all the thick foliage. Maybe it was just my overactive imagination!

The Amazon jungle is massive, majestic and utterly fascinating. Full of things (flora and fauna) that can bite, sting, cut and kill, it is also full of things that can heal and restore, as our guide demonstrated to us time and again. 

I was so glad that we saw two very different sides of Peru on this vacation, from the sublime and lofty Andes to the splendid Amazon. There remains much more to explore in this beautiful country, and hopefully we go back some day. 

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