This is the first post of two on our experience in the Amazon. Find part two here
We’d been to big cities and explored ancient ruins, so naturally next on our list was heading to the remote jungles of Peru. That’s the natural order of things, right? Anyways, we arrived in the small city of Puerto Maldonado after about a thirty five minute flight from Cusco. It’s amazing how much things can change in just half an hour. When we left Cusco it was about eleven degrees and quite dry, and we stepped off the plane in Puerto Maldonado into thirty-plus degrees and some noticeable humidity. We’d been expecting a pretty dramatic rise in temperature, but it was still a bit of a shock after spending most of the previous week wearing all of our warm layers.
Since we were the first of our six person group to arrive, Paul, our guide, had time to take us on a little tour of Puerto Maldonado. With all due respect to Puerto Maldonado it’s not exactly a hotbed of tourist activity, and most people treat it as a jumping off point to the jungle as we were doing, so we basically covered everything in half an hour or so. It was fun to see all of the moto-taxis zipping around, and visit the market, where we managed to find a flashlight among the stalls jam packed with every household item you could think of as well as the usual fruits and vegetables.
After a short drive to the Tambopata river, we boarded the boat that would take us to the lodge. All of the boats on the river were long and skinny with benches on each side, and even weight distribution was pretty key. Sudden movements were not a good idea, as I found out when I tried to jump quickly over to the other side of the boat to take a picture on one of our boat rides (oops). It was about an hour and a half down the river, and along the way we ate our lunch of vegetarian fried rice out of the large leaf it was wrapped in. It was filled with salty soy-meat, little pieces of squeaky cheese and various vegetables and even as an unabashed carnivore I thought it was pretty delicious! Eating out of the leaf just added another level of novelty – it was fun to pretend for a little bit that we were natives of the jungle, eating the way they might. That fantasy didn’t last long though. We stuck out like a sore thumb with our comparatively pale skin, although you couldn’t see much of it through our long pants and long sleeved shirts. I was pretty envious of the locals in their summer clothes as I sweated in my leggings and thick socks, but the warning of bug bites kept us pretty covered up for the first little bit.
We arrived in the lodge and got settled in our little bungalow. Inotawa lodge has no electricity, except for between the hours of six and nine PM when the dining room was lit up and plugs were available at the bar to charge any of our various electronic devices. Our bungalow, however, was completely power free, so we relied on candles, flashlights and our questionable night vision when it got dark. Though perhaps a little inconvenient when we wanted to read before our eight o’clock dinner, it was actually really nice to be off the grid for a little while. It’s so easy to stay connected on the road now, which I really appreciate, but I welcomed a few days of truly distraction free living. It forced us to truly slow down and just relax when we weren’t out on a jungle excursion, and I actually managed to read a book or two.
All of our meals were provided for us by a team of cooks at the lodge, and we were lucky enough to get some top notch food. It certainly wasn’t anything fancy, but there were a variety of options and everything really hit the spot after a long day of hiking and being outside. There would always be a meat option, either pork, beef, or chicken, and it was usually in the form of a slow cooked and very flavourful stew. There was always white rice, and I don’t know what they did to that rice, but MAN was it good. I want to know how they prepared that stuff, because it was definitely much better than what I make at home. I’m guessing there was lots of oil involved, but I’m going to claim blissful ignorance on that front. The meal wouldn’t be complete without the ever-present Peruvian second starch, which would come either in the form of potato, plantain, or some sort of sweet potato. The token salad was always super salty and practically inedible, but I tried to appreciate the fact that they at least offered it.
Getting up before six was the norm, but it really wasn’t all that hard since the darkness forced us to go to bed by nine anyways. Just after we arrived, we went on a creepy night walk, where we saw lots of cool bugs and a spider that was a little too big for Zevi’s liking. We went to sleep under our mosquito netting trying not to think too much about the creepy crawlies we’d just seen mere metres from our bungalow.