03 September 2012

Amazing Amazon Forest - Mar 2012

The silence of the forest, the echo of the trees,
The whispers as the wind blows, just as you please!
I swirl around and around and look to the sky,
Through the tall branches, I see the clouds float by.
Can I be dreaming or am I just in a spin?
The peace that is before me, a chill upon my skin;
As I walk, the leaves rustle beneath my feet
Sending little notes of joy, a melody to beat.
I can only stop and stare and keep the memory mine,
The forest has it's mystery and I must keep in line;
I will sit beneath the tree and listen to the sound,
So many different messages are scattered all around.
The whistle of the wind rushing past my face,
Looking for the exit so it can leave this place;
The branches sway and the leaves begin to fall,
I can hear the birds now, sending me their call.
I must now follow and leave the forest too,
Day is nearly ended, the dark will spoil my view;
Tomorrow I can come again, enjoy the peace I seek,
The silence of the forest are whispers I can keep.
Eunice Powe
Was this a dream…or a dream finally coming true…
Was I actually going to wander in the most beautiful Amazon Rainforest with its abundance of flora and fauna that I had mugged about in the geography lessons?
The Meandering Amazon
The Meandering Amazon
My impatience increased as I peered out of the plane window to catch a view of the amazingly dense green rainforest with the ‘chai’ colored meandering river. We land at Puerto Maldonado, one of the smallest airports I have ever been to.
I think – and this is a thought that came to me several times during our stay in Peru – I may as well have been in India. The heat, still air, no air con and porters to help us with the luggage!!! While he lugs our luggage for a pittance, we fool around.
egg fried rice innovatively packed
Egg fried rice innovatively packed!
We, along with our luggage, cram into a small tempo traveler for a short journey to the head office where we leave the bulk of our luggage and carry only what is necessary with us. We are handed the cutest little baskets with some snacks for our dusty and bumpy drive to the Infierno River Port. It’s a case of hot, hotter and hottest…and soooo still. Even the moving vehicle doesn’t create any air!!!! We board our boat for a 3 and half hour trip upriver on the River Tambopata - one of the 29 tributaries of the River Amazon to take us to our resort Refugio Amazonas.
Black Caiman
Black Caiman
Finally…the Amazon River or rather one of its tributaries!!! The excitement…was I expecting an Anaconda or the Piranha??? In The Peru Amazon they believe and follow eco friendly tourism – and it starts with our innovatively packed egg fried rice lunch. One can sense that our guides are quite fascinated by our group of 23 women!!! It soon starts getting dark and Julian points out a Black Caiman and several Capybaras on the river banks. The capybaras look quite eikkie! By the time we reach its pitch dark and we have a short walk from the river bank up to the lodge. We stumble along… the night sounds of the forest don’t seem to make it any easier. A leaf looks like a tarantula, a cicada sounds like the hiss of a snake and one of us squelching along sounds like some carnivore!!!
The first view of Refugio Amazonas left me awestruck… the natural log type construction, the openness of the reception area and dining room, the dim lighting.

Refugio Amazonas
Refugio Amazonas
Walkways

Hangout
Hangout

Dining Area
Dining Area
I had my 1st taste of Peruvian food and its yummmmm. The curries were quite Indian like. Some also decided to try the Peruvian drink Pisco Sour which soon became a favorite in our group.
Walkways – the beauty of which I appreciated only in the morning since it was too dark and being an eco-lodge there was no electricity, just kerosene lamps and candles.
Our Room
Our Room
Our Room
One side open to the forest!
The rooms have one side opening out onto the surrounding rainforest…just a mosquito net between us and them!!! The rooms were separated from one another by light cane fencing, with drapes instead of doors so though they were private, not really soundproof. And since I am a light sleeper, I spent the night hearing my neighbor glugging water! Even the bathrooms didn’t have doors, only the drapes. We just aren’t used to darkness…and for a long time I could hear people dropping something, tripping and just cursing!
Our Guides
Our Guides
Honestly, it was a wonderful experience but I did miss a fan…it was so still and hot. The mosquito net was quite stifling and using a hand fan just didn’t generate enough air. Sleeping without the net was not an option given the buzzing mosquitoes. I was taken to a scene from a typical Somerset Maugham novel. When I had read him describing his afternoons in some colony, I always thought - what imagination. But now I know…he experienced it. I have now experienced the word STILL!
rainforest Trees
Rainforest Trees
The twittering of birds woke me up in the morning. I think I could have lain on the hammock just staring into the beautiful, deep green forest for hours. The same forest, that the previous night seemed so formidable now looked so calm. A cold shower with organic soap (not sure if that’s the right word) followed by a breakfast with some very interesting local fruit and we were ready for our walk. There were 2 options – a longer, supposedly tougher walk to the Tres Chimbadas Oxbow Lake, which I went for and a shorter, easier Brazil nut tour.
It’s a different story that a few from the shorter walk came back at the same time as us as they got lost and left behind somewhere!!!
We were advised to wear gum boats and I sure was glad - there were a lot of mucky, squelchy patches during our 4 hour walk since the leafy crowns of the 90 feet or taller trees prevent the sun’s rays from reaching the forest understory. It started easy enough but did get quite tiring as the day proceeded. The stillness and the heat can drain the energy!
The walk was very interesting as our guides pointed out the flora and fauna. Pedro showed us the shell of the local Brazil nut. One shell has several nuts inside it. Julian then broke one and we had a tasty treat.

Pedro Showing the Brazil Nut Shell
Pedro showing Brazil Nut Shell

The Brazil Nuts - Our treat
The Brazil Nuts - Our treat
Canopy Tower
Canopy Tower
20 minutes into the walk and we reached a 90ft high canopy tower in the heart of the rain forest– I looked up and wondered…will I be able to climb it? There were three main platforms, each giving us a different perspective of the forest. The lowest platform was at the same level as the upper understory. The next platform was at the same level as the canopy, and the highest platform actually lets you look down at the tops of hundreds of trees and get a spectacular view of the vast expanse of standing forest with the Tambopata River lazily winding through the dense forests. Perched at eye level with the crowns of massive, thousand year old trees, listening to the Exotic birds calling from deep within the jungle – indescribable experience. I could have just stood there for hours and watched the toucans and parrots and scanned the canopy for other birds but we had a long walk ahead and had to leave.
View from the top
View from the top
Erotic looking roots of some trees, hazaare type of insects, vibrant and beautiful bracket fungi, Dusky Titi Monkeys, Toucans , Parrots, Parakeets, Weaver birds, White fronted Nun Birds,...wattawalk!
Bracket Fungi
Bracket Fungi
Dusky Titi Monkey
Dusky Titi Monkey
Parakeet
Parakeet
Tres Chimbadas Oxbow Lake group
Tres Chimbadas Oxbow Lake group
Blue Swallows
Blue Swallows
Finally we reached our destination…the oxbow lake. A large flat platform like boat takes us around the lake in our search for the giant river otters. We aren’t so lucky. We do see some fish which Pedro insists was the Piranha. I have my doubts looking at the way they enjoyed Maria’s crackers. If Piranha, wouldn’t they have enjoyed one of us more? Nearer the edge was a branch sticking out of the lake with 2 blue swallows, which didn’t fly off as we got closer but just flitted around there playfully!
Alligator/
Alligator
As we approach the bank on our return, some people there told us to hush up and pointed to a small boat docked there. An alligator was basking in the sun inside the boat with a little butterfly chilling out on his snout!!!
Suddenly Julian stopped and who would have thought that he would actually show us a Tarantula!!! It sure did send shivers down my spine.
Mamma and Baby Turtles
Mamma and Baby Turtles
Tired, sweaty but very satisfied, we returned to the lodge - a refreshing shower, yummy lunch and a short nap before we were off again for our Ethnobotanical Tour. We needed to cross over the river and at the bank we saw the cutest sight ...mamma and baby turtle out for a tight rope/branch walk!!!
At the farm across the river we devour on the sugarcane, star fruit and fruits freshly plucked from the trees. We were really lucky to sight a beautiful variety of birds – Emerald Toucanet, Yellow Tufted Woodpecker, Blue Grey Palm Tanager, Tropical Kingbird, Forest Elaenia, Black fronted Nun Bird, Epaulet Oriole and a vibrant orange bird for whose name I can’t recognize my own handwriting on the piece of paper I wrote these names on :-(
After dinner some of us went for a night walk and what a mind-boggling variety of insects and spiders we saw – no wonder it is considered the No 1 Biodiversity Hotspot of the world. Next day we had to leave real early for our next destination. The beauty of dawn breaking over the Amazon that we experienced on our boat ride back makes me rate it as the No 1 place to watch a dawn.

3 comments:

Malini Kini said...

Beautifully written Manpreet. Re-lived every moment of our exotic eco-trip. Hope you have more articles coming!....

Unknown said...

You've put the Amazon experience across just perfectly!!
Meera

Manpreet said...

Thanks Malini and Meera!