Whilst in Iquitos, as I said, I stayed in two places – one basic hostel that coincidentally was actually next door to Maniti Expedition offices I realised when I was called to the desk for a visitor! In Iquitos, the middle of nowhere – who could it be? It was the young man from there coming to bring me to the office for my trip!
I stored my large backpack there, was given a run down of what to plan and expect by Asuco, who I got to know well enough and had fun with during both trips. He was the one who turned out to be our guide, along with Tom & Sue from California, on my first five day trip in April 2016.
My second trip in for four days was because on this trip I had wanted to be ‘somewhere very different’ for my April birthday and decided I loved it so much, and had always wanted to go to the Amazon from about 12 years old seeing it in an encyclopeadia (I can still see that tiny pictures of a jungle in my mind) – so I went back in next day on my birthday!
I celebrated that day with two girls from the UK, Becca and Ruth, about 20 years old, and the manager, Rene and the young boat driver, Hector, with a couple of bottles of local rum bought on the days trip back out to the monkey island!
I loved the port from where I had taken my first trip with Maniti to the heart of the Amazon to camp and explore the area. The two guides I had were Asuco (to me he was like Tarzan) and Rene, his friend but rival it seems, plus the various others who each take a group from 1-5 people on the various locations and experiences.
I had booked mine from the tour content, unable to read the word Ayahuasca (ay-a-waska) and understand it for what it was, and never got to see the Shaman or have that experience (I now think, luckily!) but I did get to learn about it. We did pass his house but he was ‘ill’ (I think high might be more like it now …)
It is apparently a regular experience of drug highs but medicinal – supporting anxiety and depression, relaxation and healthy bodily cleansing I understand. Asuco told me about it and his regular experiences and also using poisonous frog venom for improving health and vitality!
(I had had a bad experience of altitude sickness up at Cusco/Puno and felt I escaped with my life, literally, so coming down to sea level was a relief but unsure I could have managed the ayahuasca experience I had unwittingly booked for too! Sue had had it, and one young man on our campsite did it whilst I was there, so had first hand accounts too. Sounded a little heavy for me at that point of my trip so glad it wasn’t to be.
However, my trip was also supposed to visit an early morning bird site of the jungle but as that day dawned it poured so hard there were unlikely to be birds able to fly and I just accepted it (another part of travelling is luck). Instead I sat watching the rain from my veranda with the camp dog (not bitch, but he did have children …) who was then shooed off instead of enjoying each others peaceful companionship. Because they don’t like animals or they only have their uses, the don’t get the relationship some of us have/want with animals, as they are not really ‘domesticated’ are they?
Asuco told me of all the birds we saw on our daily trips and I looked them up in the camp book in the evening before and after dinner.
The routine was up at dawn – light coming through the netting at the top of the lodge, rough hewn wooden floor and ‘half walls’ with a thatch ceiling of palms – under my mosquito netted bed he Asuco set up for me on arrival.
He had also checked my mossie spray as I unpacked and he was setting up the net (100% deet he wasn’t happy with, and now I can understand why but I went there, even travelling at all, quite naively).
We had breakfast in the large lodge, where all meals were, bread, fruit or some meat, lunch was there around 1-3 om dependent on trip times and returns, with all groups meeting up. There was a lot of of food, a couple of options, and dinner at around 6.30 pm for 2 hours with electricity and wifi then lights out and no connections all day. That suited me fine. And the food again I later realised was probably their dinner from leftovers, never mind the dogs I tried to once feed from it. At one point, the meat was again unknown but a rumour we were eating caiman! Excitement or trepidation, unsure and unfamiliar we each chose what to believe but we all ate it.</p>
One dinner for me was also the two piranha I had caught on our fishing trip, with a simple bamboo rod and string with hook – my first ever fishing try and I got two plus a silver fish more familiar (but can’t remember what) which I shared with my table and Asuco, our guide. He also encouraged me =, along with Tom and Sue, to swim the first time (of three!) in the river almost straight after we had been piranha fishing too (which Asuco had chuckled at when he was telling us and I pointed that out)!
There were so many other experiences on this trip, both similar yet ‘same, same but different’ too (a regular Thai saying I like!).
I got to see wild monkeys like the spider and woolly monkeys here, one jumped on my shoulder and got a free, safe trip over the flooded marsh on my second trip – a selfie with a monkey! Held a toucan and a sloth (twice) and two experiences of have an anaconda around my neck – one wilder than the other but could feel their strength and intention of both to wrap themselves around me! I saw various fish at a farm and got bullied by a parrot or two (not as friendly, it seems, as we think).
I got to experience what an Amazonian tribe would be like, from local people, bought their jewellery and had fun, showing the young girl her picture on my iPad but unsure she ‘got it’.
I spent the night in the jungle, camping, with only netting and a mosquito net between me and the wild jungle, on a slightly raised platform; only Asuco – asleep with his machete underneath him, unable to wake him or find the knife, when I had to go out into the wild to relieve myself in the middle of night! I heard shufflings, and grunts, noises through the night when I woke on and off, covered only in light cotton sheets left there by the camp, on thin mats. But it was beautiful, exciting, a little unnerving too!
I sat with a tarantula above my head 250 feel above the jungle canopy at Palo Alto, watching the sun set, with my wellies off swinging over the edge, laughing and chatting, then silently drifted home through the flooded jungle trees on the Amazon, in a small canoe. With Asuco rowing carefully and only a small torch at times when he checked the way ahead (how?!) and a stunning bright full moon through the dark branches above us – beautiful scattered luminescent dragon fly larvae all around like fairy lights too! It was beautiful! What an experience …