How to make friends (by saying something inappropriate) – Peru Part 2

12 October 2010

It’s day two in Peru and I’m up early due to a combination of factors: Going to bed early the night before and the omnipresent jetlag. I pack up my things and go for breakfast. I’m joined by the Guadelupian duo and a Peruvian mother and son from Lima. They have just came back from a lodge on the Tambopata river and tell me it was a fantastic three days. This makes me even more excited than I am. With the help of Fabio, the man who helps run the hostel, I hail a mototaxi to the offices of Rainforest Expiditions, the company who organises the stays in the rainforest at one of their three lodges.

The Rainforest Expedition Office

I arrive early at the Rainforest Expedition offices and meet some of the other folks who are going to the same lodge as me, and guess what? They are South African. Two retired couples. I couldn’t believe in the space of 24 hours I’d met six South Africans on the other side of the world. One of the South Africans was really interested in Libya and kept asking about the country and what it was like etc. As we were chatting away about it, a black spider monkey decides to join us and demands all our attention by jumping from tree to tree and checking us out in a ‘look-at-me’ kind of way. Shortly after the monkey antics, the rest of the folks who are going into the forest arrive and we start preparing for our three day trip into the rainforest.

It's all monkey business from here on!

I meet my groups guide, Rodolfo. Considering that I have only spoken Spanish (albeit very bad Spanish) to the staff at the offices, they tell Rodolfo that I speak Spanish, and Rodolfo in turn only speaks Spanish to me (Though all the activities will be in English).

We’re off to the buses which will take us to the boats we will take to the lodge. They provide us some snacks on the bus which consist of plantain crisps, small sweet bananas and juice. Considering the amount of bananas which are forced onto us in our canteen in Libya, I thought I’d offer mine to the others on the bus, though my phrasing led a lot to b desired : “Does any one want my tiny banana?”. As I uttered those words I knew it would be the end of me but still did not stop the whole bus bursting into laughter. From that moment on, I was always asked how I felt about “my tiny banana”. It was one hell of an icebreaker though.

Just to quickly explain, groups of roughly ten people are assigned a guide, who stays with them throughout the stay in the rainforest, our guide was Rodolfo and our group consisted of three Ausies (Laura, Daniel and Claire), a Kiwi (Michael or Michelle as the guide mistakenly called him), two Swiss (Peter and Fabian), Armando (their Peruvian guide during their stay), and an American couple from California, whose names I can’t remember. This would be the group of people I’d be spending most of my time with as we were together most of the time during our stay in the Rainforest.

Lancha on Rio Tambopata

After, the 30 minute bus drive through sandy and muddy roads we arrive at Infiernos, from where we will take a 45 minute lancha ride on the Rio Tambopata, a tributary of a tributary of the Amazon river, to the Posada Amazonas Lodge. We arrive at the point where we enter the rainforest and walk through it for fifteen minutes and then… BANG! Out of nowhere the lodge appears, perfectly nestled into its surroundings. The reception lobby is a beautiful timber frame structure with thatched roofs and separated levels.

Posada Amazonas lobby

Here we were met the Willian, who was the on duty manager and he gave us an introduction on the lodge and its history. The interesting thing about this ECO-lodge (Yes, it really is eco-friendly, all my hippie friends) is that its jointly owned by the local Ese-Eja community of Infierno community who run it in conjucntion with Rainforest Expiditions, who almost act as a training and management entity for the local community.

We’re told that all product used to clean, including the shampoo and soap provided are bio degradable; Electicity (via generator) is only active from 5:30 pm to 9pm. It’s quite a refreshing experience and despite that sounding like a very basic holiday experience, I assure you, it is not.

After our introductions, we are lead to our room, where I am once again surprised. The rooms are stunning and really feel like a luxurious resort, except for a couple of things: There’s no electricity and there’s a wall missing! That’s right, one wall is completely left exposed to the rainforest. There’s also a private bathroom (nice change from bathroom sharing of hostels) and yes, only cold showers (tiny banana reference forces itself into brain!).

The wall-less bedroom

We meet fifteen minutes later for our first activity of the stay: a walk through the forest to the canopy tower. It towers 36 meters above ground and the views from the top are breathtaking. Though there is one problem: These tiny little bugs keep flying around my head while I’m up there and make me look like Pig Pen from Peanuts. I’m on a roll. First the tiny banana comment and now I’m a dirty cartoon character.

Pig Pen vs Tonito

We head back to the lodge where we have an hour and a half to chill out, which I use to have a shower and meet up with the others from the group and have a little ‘get-to-know-each-other’ chat. They are a good group of people, clearly up for a laugh, which is always fine by me! All of them (with the exception of the American couple) have already spent around 20 days together as par of a tour group, so there is already a good rapport between them and the banter is entertaining. Their guide, Armando (who has spent the whole 20 days with them), is a funny guy, who clearly enjoys being with this group as they all take the piss out of each other.

Chill-out time by the bar - Anyone for a tiny banana?

Dinner is ready and it is good. After dinner we sit around and chat for a little while, until once again the tiredness and jetlag gets to me and I head off to bed.

We have an early wake up the tomorrow so sleep seems like a good idea.

Just as a side note, as I’m writing this, the sounds of the jungle night is completely overwhelming but at the same time such a delight to be this close to nature again. I can’t even begin to describe what the noise sounds like, so I leave it to your imagination.

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