The Amazon is a slow-travel destination. You are inescapably at the mercy of its massive space and time, neither of which can be warped to your advantage when looking for wild animals. There are no museums of nicely curated stuff. The wildlife is not herded into a tiny reserve. They are spread out across an area which is roughly the size of the contiguous United States.
The Amazon is huge. The Creekmores are not.
Lily is for Lilypad
Lily pads with teeth? Only in the Amazon! Our littlest loves that her name is also a flower, but she didn’t know about Amazonian lilypads. These plants float in groups in the shallows and oxbows of amazon tributaries.
They can support a lot of weight if distributed properly, and there are pictures of babies being laid on the plant. Even crazier, there is a photo here of a woman standing on one of these lily pads using a plank to distribute the force.
From our Mayan adventure in Mexico a few years back, we know that they believed Ceiba trees to be holy, especially the world tree that connected the sky to the underworld. This might have been that tree.
Had we come in a dryer season, this would have been a hike on dryish land. Instead, as we do practically the whole trip, we penetrate the flooded jungle on a narrow boat. On the way Herman shows is the porcupine tree, with little spikes that have a poison.
And on the way back a beautiful termite nest, which are everywhere. But this one is especially ornimental. Herman cracks off a small hunk and smashes it into a powder.
The nest is constructed of a fibrous material. Herman rubs it on his arms, and explains that the oil in the nest is a decent mosquito repellent. But apparently it doens’t last for long.
Baby sloth rescue
Herman asks us to buy from each family. The only unusual thing there are some ornimental blow-guns, which we buy for $15 from one of them. The rest of our money we give to the kids to buy whatever they want.
Lily unknowingly buys a sloth-fur bracelet, which is illegal in Peru because the sloth is endangered. Oops. We leave it in the lodge. The blow-guns we buy are, it turns out, infested with red ants. At the lodge they have to use diesel fuel to get the ants to vacate. Everything in the Amazon, even buying trinkets, is a little more complicated.
Since we didn’t capture the exciting action on video, here is a Dora the Explorer cartoon that accurately re-enacts the baby sloth rescue.
The owner of the lodge, Anthony, is a big fan of birds and has several parrots, hawks and a toucan, named Juan. Loco Juan. That bird has more character than any of the human inhabitants of the lodge. He’s ornery, cranky and demanding – sort of like an old man yelling ‘Get Off My Lawn.’
As we sit at the lunch table, comparing notes from the other groups’ morning excursion, there is a loud squawk and Juan the toucan flies at the screen of the dining hall and scratches. He squawks more, and hops in a frenzy. Scratching the screen is a big no-no, since they are the main defense against mosquitoes.
Apparently Juan isn’t getting enough attention. Or maybe he’s getting too much attention and is overstimulated.
Late night danger
Dinner consists of catfish, which is normally something I pass on, but I’m hungry, it’s all they serve, and it’s better than I expected.
Herman and I went on alone and walked through the Amazonian jungle with headlamps and machetes. It’s creepy and fun. Within minutes I am spun around completely. Probably I’m within 200 yards of the camp, but I would be lost and wander to my death if Herman weren’t here.
And we see a ton of spiders. Spider eyes glow at night, and when the flashlight shines on the trees, I see hundreds of creepy eyes looking back at me. Herman finds a hairy, hand-sized tarantula. We play with it for a while. It moves slowly but powerfully.
What a cool night!