Friday, August 31, 2012

Peru/Brazil/Argentina Day 13: Videos: Arriving in the Amazon

On the way to the Otorongo Amazon Jungle Lodge, we started by zooming along the more open water section of the Amazon, and then slowed down as we meandered the small creeks towards the jungle lodge.

Jess with an awesome baby bird at the Amazonian Jungle Lodge

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Peru/Brazil/Argentina Day 13: Amazon Jungle Lodge arrival

May 15, 2012
Peru Day 13: Amazon Jungle Lodge arrival

We got up today about 6:30am, and sent a few emails from the somehow-they-are-doing-this WiFi in the Floating Hotel upon the Amazon. Pretty crazy stuff. I posted a couple photos online and hung out with the gato, this nice and random cool cat who was chillin' at the hostel too.

Waking up to this awesome view
The Amazon!!!!!
Chiewe using the WiFi (somehow, this exists)
My new buddy, taking 'er easy
Everyone else lounging around, taking the cat's good example
We then got a surprise breakfast, which was really great! You never know when a hostel is going to serve you breakfast around here, and this was really good and definitely unexpected. There was milk for gato too, and I snapped some hilarious photos of him eating breakfast with us at the table.

Frank telling the little boy to be good
This is my favourite photo of the entire trip
Breakfast time :)
Me and Gato
We got picked up by our tour company, Otorongo Expeditions, and they were super nice at the office. We paid and then took a taxi to the boat dock, where we boarded the boat on the way to the jungle lodge! Our tour guide for the Amazon trip, Oscar, was already pointing out interesting things and keen to teach us things. This is going to be awesome. :) Oscar used to be a translator for American doctors in Peru, and now he's been a tour guide for 9 years.

Boating along the Amazon was fascinating, it was really like a water highway (or maybe a water highway... in Newfoundland or remote Alberta), there were random "logging trucks" but on the water, a gas station (yep, on the water), and random people driving small boats along the way. We saw small houses and shacks, and a couple of larger towns. It was particularly fascinating to see the people fishing, often entire families on the same boat all helping out and fishing together. In a world of over-protective Californian parents back in the Bay Area, it's funny and very unexpected to see a very small child (say, 5 or 6) in a boat, totally unsupervised, fishing or just hanging out on his own, no parents in sight... maybe this is just my adopted Californian nervousness, I'm sure they do this all the time and are just fine :) This is already starkly different than life as I know it. I find thoughts quickly dancing to life as a native Peruvian, I wonder what it might be like to live in the remote Amazon, and how different it must be in many ways from my day-to-day life in San Francisco. Those are the memories you remember from a trip like this, the most eye-opening memories, and I took time to ponder and imagine as we whisked by small grass hut homes on pillars in the Amazon.

The imagination time quickly came to a stop when we arrived at the boat dock of one of their friends, who invited us into his home to look around and see the kind of farming he does. He called it a "floating farm!" Very cool. It is a rum/sugar cane farm, and we also saw some other interesting crops like finger bananas. They showed us their home which was very kind of them and fascinating, their kitchen, and how some of their equipment had been flooded by the recent 20-year record floods in Iquitos. That was sad to see, but they seemed like a happy family and were so welcoming and kind to us. Then came the "Aguardiente", a sort of home-made Peruvian moonshine. Actually, it was a kind of Peruvian cachaça, a fermented sugar cane alcohol. It was time for some taste testing.

We stopped at this place to try homemade Aguardiente (like Peruvian moonshine, sortof), it was awesome. We got silly, FAST
Fresh Papaya... with Molasses

The description of "Siete Raices" - Seven Roots. A crazy herbal liquor
Oscar, our guide, explaining some plants
The "Fire water" came in several different combinations: standard, with honey, and with ginger. We also tried something called "Siete raices", or "7 spices" which was sold as a herbal tonic/medicinal something-or-other and tasted kindof good but kindof insanely spice-infused and strange. Frank LOVED it though (called it! Since Frank was the one to tell me about Lapsang Souchong tea, the craziest of all the teas, I figured this would be his vibe, and it was). We tried them all, and bought a few to support the kind farmer (and to have something to do at the Amazon lodge over the next few evenings) :) He also made us some fresh Papaya (definitely the best Papaya I've ever had), and crackers with home-made molasses. It was all awesome. We got back to the boat and took off. Within a few minutes I was asleep.

It really is amazing to imagine life on the Amazon. This farmer makes sugar cane and sugar cane products, and then sells them in Iquitos or barters with other farmers. I woke up from my nap and the boat was still zooming along, and I got my zoom lens on to get a few photos of some people hanging out, waving, or fishing as we were boating by.

The "Selve"!!!!!!
Huts along the way on the Amazon
A family "driving to town"
You shall not pass
Sadly, some houses on the Amazon were damaged by the recent floods. People have left these homes and moved inland.
The largest town, this has a high school on it, and a gas station (far left)
Logging ship
Slow and steady
Cool feathers
A little boy on the Amazon, perhaps fishing
Awesome bird
Indiana (I mean, "Texas") Jones
We arrived at Otorongo and met Anthony, the guy from New York who owns the place. We met his wife back in Iquitos and she was so nice, and he was awesome too. It was great to be there and we dropped our stuff and instantly started enjoying the surroundings. We met a couple crazy Aussies from Perth, who do work with Zoos in Peru. Antony, one of the Aussies, talked very passionately about animal welfare, the problems with the black market in Peru, and had a lot of stories that were fascinating (and pretty crazy to hear). That was interesting to hear his first-hand experiences, he said this was his 40th time to the Amazon! Wow.

The food was amazing, especially the strange/amazing/only-in-the-Amazon fruit juices. The one today was a fruit called "Acucha", a Brazillian guava juice. It was yellow coloured, and totally amazing. Yes!!!!!!!!! So tasty. For lunch we had my old favourite, "Bro-mo Saltado!" ("Lomo Saltado", it's called, basically a Beef Stir-Fry, but Frank and I have been calling it "Bro-mo" Saltado instead, just 'cause). I love that stuff. We also had some fish they caught this morning. Then there was some excitement and commotion when we got an electric eel into the dining area and Anthony was trying to pick it up and take it back out to the water. Of course the Aussies are insane, so Antony (similar names here!) KISSED IT, what a crazy guy haha. As well as the kissing of electric eels, we had some vegetables, and coffee. There was a really nice couple from Boston who rocked.

After lunch we chilled in the Hammock room for a while, journaling and relaxing for a bit until the next big adventure. Swaying back and forth with the jungle sounds in the background was really chill.

And back we went out on the boat, with Oscar and our boat navigator/co-guide, Teddy. We were going hunting for animals. Not "hunting" of course, I mean "hunting for photographs" and with the hopes of catching some glimpses of cool Amazonian wildlife. And cool stuff we certainly found!! We saw a Pygmy marmoset (this tiny monkey thing that was moving so fast it was nearly impossible to photograph), Sloths, Cool birds, and.... PINK DOLPHINS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We had really hoped to see them and were so excited!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

After looking for cool wildlife for a while, we jumped into the water for a brief swim.

Yes, I know. You've read that the Amazon is insanely dangerous to swim in because there are piranhas (yes, there are) and gross tiny fish that could swim up your urethra (I know, sounds gross), but Oscar assured us that we were jumping into a "creek that feeds into the Amazon, not the Amazon itself", and that he always takes people here and everyone's been fine. So that was enough encouragement, and with such hot weather we were happy to cool off a bit in the water. And no one got weird bites or anything, or urethra fish or piranha bites, so that was ideal.

Crazy bird
He's smiling for us
Love this guy
Pink Dolphin!!!!!!!!!!!
More dolphins
Pink Dolphin sighting again!
A wild Sloth in the Amazon. Kristen Bell, if you're reading this, there are more photos coming, get ready to freak out :)
Lounging at the Amazon Lodge
Jess and this crazy baby bird
Sun setting on the Amazon
Lens flare!
Silhoutted trees
These little tiny monkeys "Pigmy Marmosets" were so hard to photograph, this is the best one I got
Jess at Sunset
Back we went for dinner and... wait for it... they had MARACUYA JUICE. Like freshly made... MARACUYA JUICE. ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is my favourite thing ever, and I had like 4 cups of it, haha!! For dinner was some various fish and catfish they caught that day, as well as Yucca (very good, a root that was potato-ish), rice in a sweet sauce. Some awesome food.

After a big dinner, we headed back to chill in the hammock room for a bit, and headed to bed soon after to go to sleep. This place is way less buggy than Iquitos, and it's pretty cool as well that they have built-in bug nets in the beds, as we know how handy those were last night in Iquitos! We fell asleep to the sounds of the Amazon.