After suffering through the night with the hippies, the morning of my Amazon adventure had arrived. My guide showed up around 8am. His name was Jaida (or some variation of that). Unfortunately for him the only way I could remember his name was to think of Will Smith's Wife, Jada Pinckett Smith
He spoke English very well. We had about 20 minutes before we had to catch a ride to Nalta, where we would pick up a boat, so we walked down to the riverfront for a bit
The Amazon was huge. It reminded me of a lake back home in Michigan. Because it was the rainy season the river was about 12 ft above the dry season levels, making it even more impressive. It is said that during certain times of the year, the river can stretch as far as 6 miles across at its widest. It looked like the game Frogger. There were islands of fallen trees and bushes floating along in all directions. Near the shore the current might flow downstream, while in the center of the river it was actually going up stream. It was a challenge for boats to manuever the river, having to duck and weave into various currents to make any headway.
My guide told me that he hailed form the town of Nalta, where he had a wife and 3 year old daughter. He really had no desire to move to Iquitos or any other city due to the noise and overall hustle and bustle. He went to school for 3 years to learn English and hone his skills on local culture, plants and animals. He had much more to share, but all in due time.
We headed back to headquarters and boarded a Tuk-Tuk for the first leg of the journey
Here is a map of our journey
Before reaching Nalta we had to switch to a car for the 2 hour trip
Once in Nalta (also spelled Nauta, as it was formerly known), my guide was off to buy supplies and left me alone to check out the market
Here is my first look at crocodile on the BBQ, I guess the skinning happens later. For some reason they call them Alligator, Crocodile, or Caimen. Truth be told, they are Caimen, a breed of Crocodile. There are no Alligators here, mostly focused in Southeast of United States.
Jaida returned to the boat
and we were off for another 2 hour ride to the village of Libertad in the edge of the reserve Pacaya Samiria. Below is a map of the reserve with our lodging in the right side designated by a red circle.
Here is shot as we pulled up to my home for the next 4 days
It was a little better than what I expected. Basically 4 or 5 huts raised about 15 feet off the ground to account for the rainy season, with planks of wood connecting them. In consisted of a couple single bedrooms, bathroom and kitchen area. Along with a resident Sloth
I was to be the only one there for the duration as a couple of lodgers were leaving on the boat I came in on. These guys were here filming a movie. They were a few 20-somethings doing some low-budget story about a guy searching for a leopard. I was happy to see them go as the actor considered himself a minor rung down from Harrison Ford and demanded peace and quiet between shoots to prepare.
I took a trip to the bathroom and after being attacked by lizards and spiders I vowed never to go in there unless necessary (read empty Gatorade bottle became primary method) and would under no circumstances drop my pants. I went back into my room, peered through the curtain at the bathroom, sizing my foe up, and when he was not looking I downed a bottle of Immodium.
After lunch Jaida and I went out in the canoe with a lawnmower motor and propeller strapped to the back. Here is a shot of my guide struggling with the motor. This became a common theme.
Ever since we got near base camp there were dolphins surrounding us at all times. The Amazon is home to 2 species, the Pink and Silver. The Silver dolphin is very similar to your traditional saltwater version, but the Pink is quite unique. It is pretty much impossible to catch good shots of dolphins with my camera due to its delay and the fact that the dolphins would not swim in a straight line for me, making the timing difficult. Here is the best I got. It is the nose of a Pink sticking out of the water. I also attached a stock photo below it so you can get a better understanding of its shape.
Jaida would hit his paddle on the canoe and blow on his forearm making a farting noise in order to attract the dolphins to jump near our boat for playtime. He mentioned that many of the locals are scared of the dolphins because they believe the dolphins are responsible for stealing little girls near the shore while they are washing clothes. I looked back and chuckled. After seeing Jaida’s lack of sarcasm or humor I realized he was serious and decided that I might be able to learn some survival skills from these locals but I probably not give them the responsibility to manage my 401K.
The village of Libertad, on the edge of the park is a group of approximately 15 huts and 50 people. You will see a few people during the day traveling by canoe to fish, head to a local “grocery store” or trying to gather dry wood for their fire. Other tour groups and lodges also exist in the area of Libertad and neighboring villages, so once a day there are light-colored tourists dressed in Jungle fatigues getting carted up and down the river. Although, due it being the rainy season, tourists were sparse.
We continued through some of the channels of the park that are normally walking paths
This is where I decided to title my blog, “Driving Mrs Daisy down the Amazon”, due to the fact that there was nowhere to walk, and I was shuttled around like invalid all day. I would climb in the canoe with all my rain gear, scarfs and boots, grab a seat cushion and sit and wait for the animals to be provided. My guide was in flip-flops and shorts standing in the back working the motor. I would yell out, “Jaida!, Jaida!, there is a spider up here.” “Jaida!, go over there, I want to go over there Jaida”
The river was alive with sounds, but outside of the birds it was very difficult to see any animals. I became apparent that this was the ultimate test of survival. With hundreds of thousands of species in this tight area, it was imperative that you were good at your job. If you just sat out on a log all day, like lazy rivers back home, you would get eaten in seconds. Jaida explained how each species depended on another, creating a true web of diversity and codependence.
Soon we did spot this sloth chillin’ in a tree
I should say that Jaida spotted it, as I found nothing. He would see something while steering the boat at 20 mph, and whip around to point at something 30 ft up from water level. I always marveled at a sloths wirey, multi-colored coat, but it was not until I saw him up there that I realized how perfectly he blended into the bark of the tree. His defense mechanism was not moving and appearing tree-like to passing hawks. Although, if you were to whisltle like a certain type of hawk, the sloth would pick his head up and scan the horizon back and worth. I continued with the whistling for 10 minutes until the sloth appeared to be watching a tennis match in a highly neurotic state of mind.
Up next was a river rat. He is barely seen in the two pictures below. In the first, he is sitting in a hole in the tree. I zoomed in for the second. It is called a bartender rat because he waits in his hole for prey (customers) to come and pay him a visit. I thought that was pretty funny. I had to give the locals credit, maybe they did have a decent sense of humor after all.
The below picture is a howler monkey
According to my guide these are rarely seen in the wild as they are quite skittish. I was familiar with these from my time in Nicaragua as they had scared the crap out of me. Before I knew what animal made the sound, I was terrified I was being tracked by a large cat. Here is a link to a video of the sound:
We continued on through the jungle canopy and I was able to get some nice shots before sunset
After the motor crapped out, and we paddled back in the dark, Jaida cooked us dinner of an open fire.
Basically all meals were some sort of meat over a bed of rice, with fries, tomatoes and heart of palm. All quite tasty.
After dinner I listened as the sounds of the jungle changed from birds to bugs. I settled under my mosquito net, intending to pass out early, but it was not to be.