After getting a boat ride from a farmer, I hopped a cab for the bumpy, muddy 20km ride into Puerto Maldonado. In the cab was the driver and cook in the front, my guide, me, an Italian backpacker, and an American nonprofit founder/medicinal plant shaman, plus in the trunk, a mother, her four kids, two giant backpacks, and two packs and the spare tie were on the roof of the car. Typical.
I arrived at the Tambopatu Hostel, and was very unsettled. My jungle experience had been ruined, was awful, and maybe I should just fly to Lima. Maybe.
A bunch of friendly backpackers welcomed me, and the owner and jungle guide was there. He told me about a trip leaving the following day, an overnight that would allow me to make my flight back to Lima. Sold! Plus he seemed friendly, came recommended, and not just by the guidebook, but by other travelers I had met, including the Shaman.
The next morning, after a very good for-a-hostel breakfast, we walked down to the ferry – all 11 backpackers and 2 guides – with giant rubber boots. We all struggled with our bags which were weighed down with heavy clothes and rainjackets, which we didn’t need, and giant 2.5 liter bottles of water, which we did need. We got on a boat for about 45 minutes, applying sunscreen, enjoying the breeze, spraying on bug spray. We were already getting bit up.
After we arrived, we put on our rubber boots and began hiking in the sweltering rubber through a very muddy trail. Quickly, we saw monkeys, birds, fire ants leaf cutter ants, and lots of other insects, trees, plants, and wildlife. After around an hour, we got into a canoe and went across the lake.
We hiked a few minutes and then found our cabins. Mine was a private room in a hut I shared with two Chilean girls. A mosquito net over the bed, wooden floors, thatched roofs. It was rustic.
We had enough time for a short swim before lunch and I was a little nervous – this is where they found caiman and pirannahs, but our guide convinced us it was okay. He went in first to show us, and after one or two steps, we saw it wasn’t. He stepped on a fresh water stingray.
He went up to the lodge, where they burned a termite’s nest – the smoke healed disinfect and heal the wound. Someone also gave him an antibiotic. We were sweating, but no one else was hurt.
After lunch, I sat in the shade and wrote a letter. After getting bitten up by ants, I headed down to the water. It was cooler and I continued writing in the shade, but finally, after others urged me, headed in for a quick swim. I splashed a lot while I entered and exited, but was still scared.
Our afternoon hike was focused on medicinal plants. We ate native fruits, brazil nuts. Our guide pointed out all sorts of wildlife, and we were sweaty and dirty but so enthused.
After a short break, we hopped in canoes for a sunset ride. We saw monkeys – so many monkeys, hanging in the trees, so cute! We saw lots of birds, including the infamous “stinky bird” (that sounds like it has asthma). After the sun set, our guide caught two caimans and passed them around the boat.
We had dinner, and then, went on a short hike to look at various tarantula.
Then bed – around 9am. No electricity means an early night.
I woke up at 5am, due to a bat swooping around my room. Freaky. I crawled out, keeping as close to the ground as possible. We headed back to the canoe for another ride – more monkeys, more birds, just a beautiful day. We climbed high high high, many spiral staircases up, to see an incredible view.
Then breakfast, chatting.
And then – a hike with just the son of the property owner. We did not talk, but sweated, pushed, and quickly completely a tough hike. Everyone else was on a boat ride, but I was off to catch my flight.