Welcome to the Amazon: Watch Your Step!
· 13 min. read
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Our second day in the Amazon Rainforest was our only “full” day there. It was also our busiest. While yesterday’s highlights were all about getting to Iquitos and experiencing La Isla de Los Monos, today was about seeing the plethora of flora and fauna the Amazon has to offer.
The day started with a delicious breakfast cooked by the folks at The Dolphin Lodge. It was here that Allen and Luis of Amazon Wonder Expeditions told us what the plan was for the day. The previous day, they told us not to wear bug repellent or sunscreen as we would have to wash it off before spending time with the monkeys. This time, though, since we’ll be venturing deep into the rainforest, we were told to apply plenty of both.
After breakfast, we headed back down the path to the water and got on our boat. About thirty minutes later, we docked and walked into a small fishing village.
I have spent hours on Google Maps trying to figure out the name of this village, but all the buildings list their mailing address as being in Iquitos. This village wasn’t anywhere near Iquitos, so I am not sure of its name. However, it was home to the Amazon Paradise Lodge, one of the most popular lodges on the Amazon. If you’re planning a trip to the Amazon, you’re going to find a lot of pictures and reviews for the Amazon Paradise Lodge, so you’ll know you’re in the same village that I was.
From this village, we walked down a single paved road into the jungle. We eventually got to Lupuna Lodge and the Yanayacu River. After a few minutes, we got our small boat ready and got onto the water.
In case you were wondering, the word “yanayacu” isn’t Spanish. Instead, it’s Kichwa, one of the original native languages. It means “Black River”, as the river is dark black due to all the sediment and minerals in it.
I felt perfectly fine on Allen and Luis’ first boat, but the little boat we took on the Yanayacu River gave me waves of aquaphobia. This boat was bigger than the small, paddle canoe I took in Xochimilco, but I still hung onto it for dear life. I had good reason to be cautious around the water though. By the time the day was over, Allen lost both his phone and his shoes to the black abyss.
When I was praying not to fall into the onyx waters of the Yanayacu, I saw a variety of different birds in the trees, and otters playing in the water. One of the strangest things we saw was the hanging nests of (I believe) the olive oropendola. Unlike bird nests in Canada, which are often small and either on rooftops or in trees, these nests dangled far from the Amazon canopy, looking like slingshots pointing towards the sky.
We docked our tiny boat and began our nature walk through the jungle. We had to wear rubber boots here, as the path was muddy and unmaintained, but some of the sights we saw were beyond comprehension. We saw trees with above-ground roots, so tall and thick, that they made a labyrinth around us. We saw vines crossing up and across trees, and flowers blooming from them. We saw leaf cutter ants marching with their green prizes over their heads, and trees with thorns growing out of them.
In the end, we also found a makeshift swing set attached to a behemoth tree. I chose not to swing from it (I was too scared) but instead I talked to Luis about the tree we were swinging from. As we were talking, I could hear little chittering sounds within it. Upon further inspection, we saw that there was a cauldron of curious bats sleeping within the hollowed-out trunk.
Once we were done swinging, we walked back through the jungle and went to our tiny boat. We then took it back to land (thankfully) and walked back, down the road, through the village, and back to our main boat. We then went back to the Dolphin Lodge to rest, wash up and have lunch.
During lunch, Allen told us a surprising truth about piranhas: they aren’t what Hollywood makes them out to be. In movies, if you fall into piranha-infested waters, you will instantly be turned into mincemeat. In reality, you will probably be fine unless you are bleeding. Yes, they can bite, but you are also a hundred times bigger than they are. For all they know, you could be trying to bite them too.
Which in our case, we were.
We took our boat down the Amazon River to a floating fishing hut. Here they had food, and drinks and were playing Sin Ti by Internacional Yurimaguas. Allen and Luis got us our fishing rods ? which were just sticks with fishing line attached ? and some raw chicken. This would be our bait.
I am not a good fisherman, so I chose to take pictures instead. After about a half hour of fishing and not much to show for it, everybody got back on the boat to try some different spots. I chose to stay at the fishing hut and fly my drone around the area, including some pictures of the group fishing from their boat.
Unfortunately, they only caught a few fish, and no piranhas, so we cut our losses and headed out onto the water again.
After a while, we docked our boat, changed into our bathing suits, and jumped into the Amazon River. The river’s current was pretty strong, so we stayed near the boat. The riverbed was also a little slippery and muddy, so we didn’t venture too far away. Instead, we found a natural cliff in the river and sat in the water.
Unfortunately, Anna either stepped on something or was bitten by something, as only moments after we got settled, she screamed and scrambled out of the water. She got back on the boat and her foot was covered in blood. After getting her cleaned up, we determined there was just a small cut on her foot. What caused it, we weren’t able to figure it out.
But, because Anna was on the boat and had her phone out, she was able to capture what happened next. As we sat in the river at sunset, the moon was just starting to make her way across the sky. Then, as we were transfixed on the sparkling crimson water, a silent pod of dolphins swam by.
This is a moment that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I do not think there will be a moment greater than that. It was something out of a storybook, something ethereal. It’s a moment that is so perfect that it’s hard to comprehend ? thankfully, Anna was able to capture it all on film, even though she got hurt in the process.
(She would be okay later that night.)
After our aquatic friends carried on our way, we got out of the water, dried off, and headed back to The Dolphin Lodge.
We had one more surprise waiting for us when we got back. Once we were done with supper, Allen told us we would be going on a night nature walk. During this, we would learn the reason the power goes out at 9 pm.
As we started our walk into the darkness, with Allen leading us, it didn’t take us longer than five minutes before we stopped and Allen pointed to something in the grass. As he flickered his light across a curled leaf, we crouched down and saw the eight eyes of a tarantula peering back at us.
This spider didn’t move, but the next one we saw did. A few minutes after our first arachnid encounter, Allen stopped again, picked up a small leaf, and shook it in front of a hole in the ground. Out popped another spider, this one black and yellow. Allen said it was a tarantula but I have never seen a black and yellow tarantula before. I did some Googling when I got home, and although Allen would know local spiders better than me, I think it was actually a Brazilian wandering spider. This means while it was not a tarantula, it was still very venomous.
As we walked further and further into the jungle, Allen stopped again and flashed his light up a tree. There we saw scores of the largest ants I have ever seen. A comparable size would be the length of half a dragonfly. These were bullet ants, named because getting bit by them is like getting shot with a bullet. I’m not sure if they are venomous or just painful, but either way, I didn’t want to find out.
On our way, we saw a myriad of other insects too, like stick bugs, praying mantises, more spiders, and slugs that were climbing trees. All of these lovely critters were within a short radius around The Dolphin Lodge.
I wore a bug net during that walk, which covered my face and neck. I also applied another layer of bug spray. The spray didn’t do anything, as the mosquitoes still covered my arms and legs with bites. A month later, one bite on my leg has turned into a scar ? an unforgettable kiss from my new friends at the Amazon.
After our walk, we went to bed. As you can imagine, I did not sleep well that night. When I was awake, I imagined things crawling on me, and when I slept, I dreamed of insects coming for me. Thankfully, it was a short sleep anyway, as the next day would be another early morning and another unforgettable adventure.
Check out Part 3: Welcome to the Amazon: Meeting The Locals!
PS: For a price breakdown of my month-long trip to Peru with Remote Year, please visit How (And Why) I Spent A Month in Peru.
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