I was in two minds as to whether I did an Amazon tour in Iquitos or not. I’d been doing some research before I arrived and everything I saw was hundreds of dollars a month and I’d done one before in Manaus in 2016, and honestly I didn’t have the best time. It’s not really the place to talk about that here as it was a different time and a different journey but the guide was a bit of an arse and we didn’t see many animals. I also find the jungle harder to take photos.
The hostel I stayed at, Flying Dog, offers tours via at Chullachaqui Eco Lodge and they were not only good value at 200 soles per day but had really good reviews online. I was introduced to the owner of the company when I first arrived and was hesitant to take the first tour offered and his sales pitch was quite good. He wanted me to take 3 nights 4 days and to leave the next day but my back pain meant I couldn’t think properly so I decided to leave the decision until the next day.
I ran into him again the next morning and said I’d leave the following day for 2 nights 3 days, I felt that otherwise it was too long and I needed to get back in time for the boat up the Amazon. Also if I really hated it then I wouldn’t be stuck in the jungle for so long and I could always ask to stay longer if I wanted. So I signed my life away and prepared to be eaten by mosquitos. To find out what I did for the rest of the day you can read the Iquitos post.
I awoke on the Friday and we didn’t need to be ready until 10am so I brought some final supplies and took my time getting ready. Just before 10am I met the Israelí Roman and I can’t remember his wife’s name, although to be fair 50% of names in any situation is high for me. I discovered that were on their honeymoon so it was another one I’d be crashing. I was getting good at this!
At 10am on the dot, things weirdly seem to happen on time, if not early in Iquitos, and it’s weird, we were whisked off on tic tics to the dock and led down to a speed boat which left pretty much as soon as we were on board. And soon we were speeding up the Amazon. The second time I’ve seen the river and the fastest I’ve sped along it. I didn’t take any photos as there is it much you can see other than water and jungle and at the speed we were going whilst bounding across the water i decided that blurry tress and river was not something I needed to add to my collection.
We travelled up the river, which already at this stage is huge. I looked at a map and every single piece of water I’ve seen since I arrived in Bolivia will end up in the Amazon river at some point. The basan is huge and it pretty much takes all the water from Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and northern Brazil. At this stage it must have been at least 100 metres wide, if not more. I don’t know how deep it is as the land is pretty flat, I check and I was only 78 metres above sea level, but considering it still has thousands of kilometres to go before it reaches the Atlantic Ocean it’s pretty impressive.
We made one stop along the journey and I jumped out to use the bathroom, which seemed to lead directly to the river. Meanwhile our guide had fallen asleep, I have no idea how considering how loud and bumpy the journey was. After two hours we docked on the side of the Amazon and were told that due to the water being low, I don’t know how it’s low as the river was huge, we would have to walk. We waited in the boiling sun whist the boat was unpacked. I don’t think I’ve ever been hotter and we were later told it was 40 degrees, and add to that the humidity.
We were told to follow the path which very soon ended at a small stream with a 2 metre drop. There was a log across the stream but I followed the Israelis around as we all didn’t think this was the path we wanted. It was. Very soon we the guys ahead were sinking into the mud and I tried to follow and avoid those patches where I could as we found a better places to cross the river. The next thing I knew I was knee deep in the mud. Pulling my legs out was t working and all I was succeeding in doing was losing my shoes. I fell forward and decided not to panic as I wasn’t sinking. Taking both my backpacks off and Kyong forward I realised I could easily free myself by bending my knee and raising my ankles. I was okay but now covered in mud, which luckily quickly dried in the heat and turned to dust. Our guide Raul caught up with us and showed us a route that we should have taken. Soon we were hiking along the edge of the jungle and reached a point where the river widened. From there is was a short boat trip up to the lodge.
We arrived and waited in the heat for a while as our bedding was being brought later and I realised that everything needed to be brought up here by boat. We soon met a Swedish guy who had been staying here for a few days by himself. He was lovely and had been travelling since May, volunteering in Valparaiso, which is one of my favourite places in Chile. We had lunch which consisted of fish, rice, salad and fruit and then made friends with a spider.
After we checked into our rooms. Tonight I’d be sharing with the Swedish guy and then we went to the hammock room to relax. I read desperate to finish the books I’d been reading for 3 months.
We went out our first jungle trek at 3pm and was told that we would be looking for sloths. It was just myself and The Israeli couple as the Swedish guy decided to relax. We jumped in the boat and used it literally to just cross the steam in the photos above. And then started walking into the jungle. Now here is the weird thing, the jungle doesn’t feel that much different to correct in England. Yes the plants are different, it’s stupidly hot and there are different sounds but the floor is covered with leaves and there are lots of trees.
I’ve tried to make trees look interesting and here are my best efforts.
Because the three of us were crashing through the jungle I expect most animals ran a mile and other than the ever present mosquitos and the odd butterfly there wasn’t much too see. The sky became really overcast and after an hour of walking and seeing nothing I started to think I’d booked myself on a bullshit jungle tour where they would take us down a trodden path and we would see nothing. Again I was wrong.
One reason that there were not many creatures on the ground is because this area now flood each year killing everything on the ground. This is new and started 5 years ago meaning the local village has largely had to relocate. Again global warming is really really evident and I fear for the world with the potential new Brazilian president who doesn’t care about the environment and people like Trump as this is just the beginning. Anyways I’ll save my preaching for another time. It wasn’t long before Raul spotted and iguana and with the help of his amazing binoculars, Nikon ones which I need to get, I saw it. I think it’s in one of the three pictures below but I can’t be sure. Mostly likely the top one. Maybe use binoculars?
We kept walking and then very soon afterwards we saw a sloth. Turns out animals in the jungle are like busses. You don’t see one for ages and then they all come at once. Despite the last being really close to the ground, we could almost touch her, she was surprising hard to photograph. I suppose it’s the camouflage. It was working.
Very soon after we stopped at a huge tree and then were told we were being watched. There was a little monkey in the tree. Bonus points if you can spot him.
And then we saw another Iguana, you might need the binoculars but it’s defo in this photo.
It started getting dark so we headed back to the lodge and I it looked beautiful in the dusk.
Next up was dinner, which was chicken and rice and became the recurring theme during my time here. And then we went out to spot tarantulas in the dark. Luckily for my my torch had depleted in my bag so I went with just my phone light. Perfect for stomping around the jungle in the dark. We actually spotted a tarantula in the room with the hammocks. It had been living there for 6 years and once they find a nest they stay there for life. If you leave them alone they won’t hurt you.
We put on our boots and since the frog incident I always really check before I put mine on. We walked about 20 metres and found out first spider.
Then our second
And then the third which has to be the biggest spider I’ve seen in my entire life. It must have been as big as both of my hands and I didn’t lean in for an ultra closeup.
We hadn’t even finished crossing the clearing before we saw a snake that had been killed a couple of days before. Apparently this one is killed by locals if they spot it because of you don’t get the antidote within a few hours it starts to give you brain damage. Some ants seemed to be enjoying a meal.
It was time to enter the jungle and we were in there for around two hours. The noise wasn’t defining but the jungle seemed to be more alive at night. This side doesn’t flood so there are more creatures to see.
A giant invisible frog that Roman nearly killed as its camouflage is so good he didn’t see it right next to his foot.
And more bugs including some fireflies
The night hike finished around 9pm and we were told that we would be woken at 5am for bird watching. With this prospect on the cards and I was exhausted after the long day I went straight to bed.
We were awoken to an Amazon chorus in the morning and bleary eyed I crawled out of bed, dressed and headed to the boat. A lot of fog had appeared over night so it was cool and almost cold when the boat was moving at full speed. Despite this we saw a lot of wild life and Raul knew a lot about the birds. We took a 2 hour trip down the stream, sadly my photos didn’t really come out well but here is an example of the experience.
After the boat we headed back from breakfast and a rest before a hike on this side of the river. But before it was time to say goodbye to our Swedish friend. Then we set out into the jungle on this side of the river and now it was hot. As I mentioned before this side doesn’t flood so much so there was much more to see on the Amazon floor. Raul in particular was trying to find us a snake but happily for me we didn’t see one. He also talked us through the plants and instructs on this three hour excursion.
We returned to the lodgings and had lunch and were joined two girls who had met in Lima, one was from Peru and the other France who had been living in Lima. We crossed the river again for another jungle trek to visit the water lilles and this time were treated to a lot of monkeys on the way. Again being high up in the trees they are hard to photograph but here are my efforts.
After around 2 hours we reached the lilipads. These are famous from the region and named after Queen Victoria by a British guy. Raul seemed proud of that although one assumes they must have had a name before the British showed up. Maybe not? Anyways they grow up to 3 metres in rainy season and can hold up to 45kg in weight.
We returned to the lodge stopping off in Rauls village, which is now hardly a village as many people have left. It was now getting really dark and I forgot I had my phone on me to illuminate so we had a fast trek through the increasingly dark jungle to get back. The sun sets early here.
I went to bed exhausted and covered in bites. The mosquitos had started biting me through my base layer so I took a different tactic to clothing the next day. I also think one got inside my mosquito net at night so I was covered in bites. Thankfully this wasn’t a malaria zone but I discovered I would be entering one next week so it was good information. After all the bites I was glad to be leavening. I really hate the bites.
In the morning I was told we were going pirañas fishing, so it was a good 2 hours to get there. We started off in the boat and I got to see a few more birds.
Then we hiked through the jungle until the lake, spotting a few more monkeys on the way but I didn’t stop to photo. At the lake nothing was biting and those that did were tiny, better for bare than anything else. I wasn’t really bothered about this fishing so decided to photograph the insects buzzing around.
Then it was time to head back through the jungle and after a long walk back in some of the hottest conditions I arrived at the lodge for the last time. Waiting for the return boat a new group of people arrived so the lodge was going to be busy. But it’s probably better for the walks to have smaller groups.
The return journey was nearly the same except the girls helped me with my bags as they had packed light and there was a storm on the way back so I got to experience getting wet, although the crew did a good job of keeping us dry and the water was welcome as it was cool. Soon I arrived in Iquitos and it was harder than you would think to get something to eat. I was getting the boat the next day so I got supplies, had a burger at a restaurant and went to bed after another long day.