Puerto Maldonado: Amazon Jungle

Flying from Lima to Cusco and Cusco to Puerto Maldonado took about 5 hours. Puerto Maldonado is about 55 miles west of the Bolivian border with around 75,000 people but has had a recent influx of Venezuelan refugees.

Once at the airport, I took a bus for about two hours into Inferno, where I boarded a boat for a cruise up the Amazon for about two hours while stopping occasionally and spotting Cayman and various other wildlife.

I did not know until later in the trip, but I would learn that Inferno meant hell, and for a long time, they had a horrible problem with disease and a particular fly that would lay eggs in you and cause massive infection and death. Luckily I only suffered Mosquito bites.
I arrived at NAPE an Eco-conscious Amazon lodge. I was greeted by Shirley, the manager, my guide Ederson, and numerous other people from the Lodge. Each member explained their role and what we would be doing, the rules, and things to be mindful of in the amazon. For instance, minimal electricity, no hot water, no putting toilet paper in the toilet but in the garbage can next to the toilet (that takes some time to get used to), no phone, no WiFi, no Internet, no TV, and all the other modern gadgets we rely on for communication and entertainment. I was thankful its one of the reason I came to Peru was to unplug and listen to my mind and nature. I was given keys to my hut and proceeded down the path to check it out, unpack, and relax before lunch. The hut was unique, crafted from beautiful wood resourced from trees that had fallen in the jungle. It had three walls and a small bathroom, a nice bed with mosquito net, open porch with a roof, and a hammock,

After relaxing, taking a refreshing cold shower, and unpacking some gear, I headed back to the main Lodge to meet the crew for lunch and go over the day’s plan. The food was always delicious and fresh. For lunch, it was a very nice selection of chicken or local catfish, vegetables, rice, pasta, quinoa, potatoes (by the way, there are over 1000 types of potatoes in Peru), various fresh juices, teas, beer, passion fruit pisco, coffee, and water,
Ederson took us a short walk around the ground, talked about the history and culture in the Amazon and some of the local flora and fauna. He was extremely knowledgeable in all aspects of the Amazon and many other things. He introduced us to the local Shaman whom I would get to spend time with the following day. They were great men, and I respect them both very much.

I Had some free time before dinner, so I relaxed in the hammock and listened to the jungle while digesting my trip to that point. I came to some realizations about life, happiness and felt blessed to me there.

We met for dinner before we headed to the observation tower in the middle of the Amazon. The observation tower was about an hour hike and stood about 100 ft high. I felt it was safe and proceeded to the top. It was quite a trip up the steps as the tower swayed and wobbled considerably. Once at the top, you could see for miles nothing but amazon jungle as far as the eye could see. We watched the sunset and saw Macaws, parakeets, many other birds, and wildlife.

I headed back to the hut to prepare for the night Trek through the Amazon. Loaded up my backpack, put on Long sleeves shirt with a hood, pants, mosquito repellent, handkerchief, buff, headlamp, hat, and went to meet Ederson and the crew. We Headed out into the jungle, headlamp blazing. Ederson was extraordinarily aware and knew exactly what to look for as we begin spotting nocturnal animals in the dense jungle. We spotted tarantulas, orb weaver spiders, various rodents, bats, and amphibians. The sheer sounds and intensity of the Amazon jungle are overwhelming for someone who has never spent time there. We walked for a few hours until it was time to head back to camp; as you walked down the trail, you could see thousands of eyes as Ederson explained they were mostly all spiders and stopped and used a stick to coax a tarantula out of its den.
When we got back to the Lodge we decided to have some drinks before bed, although we had to be up at 5:00 AM to head out onto the Amazon? Shirley made me my first passion, fruit pisco, which I must say was the best, and we talked for a while as she explained about the Lodge, the problem with plastic in Peru, and about her hometown Puerto Maldonado.

The next morning I got up and headed to breakfast before trekking through the jungle, getting on a boat, and running out onto the Tambopata River. As we motored out, we spotted black Cayman, white Cayman, turtles, Capybara and went to watch Parakeets and Macaws feed on the salt clay. We headed down the river for about an hour before docking and jumping to Tres Chimbadas lake to see wildlife. We trekked through the Amazon for about an hour passing local villages until we reached the lake. We boarded a pontoon boat with no motor because they are not allowed due to a protected family of otters on the lake and other wildlife. We spent about 3 hours on the lake spotting a variety of birds and other wildlife. We also got an opportunity to fish for Piranha, which is challenging. I did not catch any, but Ederson did. We headed back to shore as the sun began to approach full intensity.

Once back at the Lodge, I walked to my hut and got ready to meet Ederson. After meeting Ederson, we headed out into the jungle for education on plant medicine and an opportunity to spend time with the local Shaman. We spent time walking through the jungle, looking at different plants and learning about their healing properties, how they are prepared, and what they are used for. We headed back to the Shamans hut, where we did various plant medicine rituals and had an opportunity to experience these jungle medicines’ healing properties and meditate.

After dinner and I prepared for the boat ride up the amazon at night. After hiking through the jungle and getting to our boat, we headed out. With Ederson on the bow handling the spotlight and another guide in back steering the outboard motor, we took off. The skill and instinct they dealt with the boat within pitch black were incredible. We spotted various Cayman and other wildlife, which was terrific. But the thing that touched me the most was the sky. I have never in my life seen stars like on the amazon at night; it was breathtaking; you could see the milky way, and it seemed like a million stars with darkness behind them I have never experienced.

The Amazon Jungle was an adventure I will never forget and one of my trip highlights. I plan on going back very soon. I met a lot of amazing people with a vast knowledge of the Amazon.

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