The greatst thing about being in the jungle is undoubtedly the wildlife spotting. This is especially great when you´re not doing something where you fear for your life. I enjoyed the boat trips the best where we explored the river in a small motorboat (40 HP engine) with a motorista and a guide.
Getting into the boats is a little tricky, because you must step very carefully from a precarious jetty. These jettys have a long runway because the river rises so much during the wet season, so you step into the boat from a ramp wherever the water meets the jetty.
At Jacamar Lodge, the jetty is now a little shorter. On my 3rd day in the jungle my motorista Jose and my guide Nataly and I were going to head upstream into a reserve which has no inhabitants. This is the last remaining habitat for the endangered Red Uakari monkey, and I was hopeful we might catch a glimpse of some playing in trees. As I went to step onto the boat however, I fell through the jetty after stepping precicely on a piece of rotten wood. As I was hitting the water, all I could think of were anacondas. I did a contorted barrell roll into the boat, and thankfully only got one leg saturated. We never saw the monkeys.
This day wasn´t all unlucky though, as I was able to watch a rosato delfin (pink dolphin) frolicking in front of the lodge for about an hour. The picture here is a baby pink dolphin, and although I didn´t take this pic I thought you might like to see that I´m not pulling everyone´s leg, pink dolphins really do exist.
We saw so many great animals. In the mammal category, we saw a 3-toed sloth, a group of titi monkeys, 5 pygmy marmosets (smallest monkey in the Amazon) and 15 squirrel monkeys. Bird life was prolific, there there´s too many to list here. We´d see 20 – 50 different species each time we hit the water. My favourites were the yellow ridged toucan, blue and gold macaws, the variety of woodpeckers and parrots.
The most awful thing that happened to me was also at Jacamar Lodge, where I was lost in the jungle for 5 hours with Jose and Nataly. We headed into the forest for a ´short hike´which seems amusing now. I´d become a bit fearful of being on the longer hikes because my malaria medication was in my lost luggage with my long-sleeved shirts. I was totally unprepared for the walls of mosquitos in my state, so I only went on the shorter hikes of 1 hour.
We had been exploring for about 1 hour when Jose and Nataly started conferencing in Spanish. This conferencing became more heated, and then they started looking around confused. We usually hiked on well hewn trails, and they couldn´t find the trail.
We were in a weird area where the humous was mostly dry leaf matter rather than the usual sloppy wet decaying humous we see in our rainforest. This leaf little was also about a foot deep, so it was a strange and difficult walk because I was always wondering what creatures lay under my gumboots as I trod through. You couldn´t see roots or vines either, so negotiating this part was a little tough. The trees were all very small and scattered, probably due to the lack of sunlight hitting the soil under all the leaf matter.
We turned around and retraced our steps, but couldn´t then find the trail we came from. Jose kept darting off into the depths of the jungle trying to locate the path while Nataly and I stood around and got eaten by mosquitos. They´re bearable while you´re walking, but everytime you stop they pounce, so to speak. I was constantly reapplying my insect repellent and it painfully burnt my skin.
After about 3 hours my water run out, and attempts to find the jungle water supply, agua lianos (water vine) didn´t work so well because they were all dry. At one point Nataly told me to sit on a big log and rest, and after checking it thoroughly for snakes, I took a seat. She ducked into the forest as well seeking the trail, and I started to cry softly to myself. I was so scared I wasn´t going to get out of this jungle, and equally frightened I´d have malaria and/or dengue fever. The mosquitos were really interested in my tears and increasingly interested in my eyeballs because they were wet, and so I had to toughen up really fast and not cry anymore. I certainly did not want any mosquitos biting my eyeballs! This was also cool because Nataly and Jose never got to see that I was upset.
We crossed a creek 3 times in the same place trying to find our way. The creek crossings are all frightening because the logs are mossy, wet and very slippery. On the first attempt of the creek, I fell in and my gumboot was submerged in a foot of mud. It took all three of us to pull me out of the mud, because it really grips your boots badly.
At 4 hours in Jose´s jungle ducking got a bit out of hand and we couldn´t find him. We didn´t respond to our calling, and we banged a machete on a buttress root to make a really loud noise but he didn´t bang back. Nataly and I decided to press on without him. Noise doesn´t travel very far in the jungle interior with so many trees and leaves to block the sound. Jose found us about 15 mins later, but he hadn´t found the trail.
I was so buggered. We´d been walking for ages in hot humid conditions with no water, and I was started to get quite dizzy. It was harder to negotiate roots, and my feet were so heavy that I kept tripping. I didn´t fall over, thank goodness, because there are big ass spines all over the forest floor. You also can´t reach out to steady yourself because there´s a good chance you´ll reach for a porcupine tree which are all over the forest much like our wait-a-while´s are.
Our primatologist Michael saved the day. Hís first research project is to mark 100 hectares behind the lodge in a grid format so they can study the primates living in each 100 sq. metre grid. He had cut just 1 km of trail, and we found one of these new trails. I was so relieved.
It took another 30 minutes to reach the lodge. I had big blisters over my big toes. I drank 2 litres of water, and took a very long cold shower. No hot water in the jungle.
And… I didn´t hike for the remainder of the trip. It didn´t matter though, the wildlife viewing on the water was much better!