After a wonderful day in Lima, I flew to Iquitos to start my Amazon adventure. First stop was the Manatee Rescue Center, where biologists and volunteers care for endangered Amazon manatees that have suffered injuries. It was at once a heartbreaking and heartwarming experience. I wanted to cry when I saw the injured animals there, but my heart grew full when I saw how nurturing the volunteers were with these majestic creatures. I even got to feed a few!
Next, I was off on a super high-speed boat ride to my home for the next four days – the Ceiba Tops Lodge. The place is hidden in the jungle, and is absolutely breathtaking. There are trees, plants, birds, and animals everywhere! The rooms are simply equipped, but large and clean. It’s amazing to wake up in the morning and open your door right into the jungle. You never know what kind of animals you’ll find waiting for you. For instance, I met Cynthia the tapir the first day I was there. Ain’t she a looker?
Generally speaking, my schedule was pretty consistent: Breakfast, boat ride, morning hike or excursion, lunch, afternoon hike or excursion, boat ride, happy hour, dinner, evening hike or show. My days were pretty packed, but it made for some good sleeping! The Ceiba Tops Lodge has tons of different hiking paths, however, I wasn’t able to enjoy but one or two because I’d always come back filthy, exhausted, and hungry. I chatted with some folks who had been there for a week already, and they raved about the trails and all the amazing wildlife near the lodge.
Now, I don’t want to sound like a whiner, but I’m going to whine just a little. Mosquitos are EVIL here. I got bitten three times walking to my room on the first day. Those buggers even got me through my clothes. Oh, it was on now! I sprayed myself stupid with tons of natural repellent. I even wore citronella wrist bands – absolute shit. One smart ass mosquito even bit me right next to the wrist band. Really? The kicker was when a litter turd bit me twice on my eyelid while I was reading. I actually cackled when I smooshed that one. I’d learned my lesson though and started putting insect repellent in my face moisturizer. And I’m happy to report that oil of lemon eucalyptus actually works!
On my second day in the Amazon, we visited a Yagua Village. It was absolutely fascinating. The Yagua people are a fairly shy, and I felt a little weird poking around their village like it was a zoo or museum exhibit. However, after fifteen minutes or so, I was comfortable enough to join them in a dance. After some cardiac event inducing dancing (my partner was a sweet but energetic young fella), I was in for a real treat. I got to try a full-sized, hunting blowgun. I was a dead shot!
Since I had a little bit of free time, I decided to do some shopping. The Yagua have incredible craft-making skills, and their carvings and jewelry were beautiful and intricate. I wound up getting a mini blowgun with a piranha jaw attached. Not sure when I’ll ever use it, but better safe than sorry.
One of my favorite experiences was going on the Canopy Walkway. It was a very long and narrow walkway, but there was netting on both sides of the planks, so I wasn’t too wigged out. Talk about a view! It’s stunning being up where the birds like to hang out. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to the canopy until later in the morning, so the birds and animals were not very active. However, there was a gentle breeze to keep me cool, and the vibe was so peaceful, I could have meditated up there.
Of course I meditate the best when I’m medicated. Now what’s a trip without a little bit of moonshine? Turns out there are tons of moonshine distilleries in the Amazon. I got to visit a tiny distillery out in the middle of nowhere run by a lovely family. They grow sugar cane on their property, and still use old school machinery. I had to try my hand at making some hooch. The owner was kind enough to let me help out. However, the job I really wanted was taste tester. Lucky for me, the owner happily let me take the lead on that job. I’m such a self-starter! Let’s just say it’s a good thing I wasn’t driving. A little moonshine goes a very long way in the hot Amazon.
Look who was waiting for me back at one of the lodges. It’s Charlie the capybara. He made the cutest squeaks. I tried to give him a kiss a few times, but he wasn’t having any.
On my last day at Ceiba Tops Lodge, I got to play with monkeys on Monkey Island! It’s a private reserve for all sorts of primates. The inhabitants roam free on the island, and one spider monkey even escorted me from the boat to the main house. The only primates held in cages were ones that were still in transition or injured. I completely lost my mind. I wanted to hold them and squeeze them and call them George. I think my favorite furry friend was this super cute sloth named Margarita. I got to hold her for a bit. She’s got an incredible grip and hung on to me when her caretaker tried to pry her out of my arms. I miss my Margarita!
So far, my Amazon trip has been unbelievable. I’ll be talking about the cruise part of my journey next!