It's a creekmore world

Peru Day 12 The Amazon – Lilypads, Tarantulas and Termites

We spend a lot of time in the boat.


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.

Gigantic Spider Webs - Lord of the Rings size!
On the one hand, it’s futile to even attempt to ‘see’ the Amazon. How could you? But on the other, there is a certain magic to being in the middle of this unique biodiverse region. Our remaining time is spent seeing just a few of the incredible things the Amazon offers – but it’s definitely slow going by slow river skiff and boot sloshing hike.  And what we see is a tiny, tiny fraction of the Amazon’s greatness.
Aren't these amazing?  They can grow to 12 feet across.
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.

THe underside of these amazing plants.
They also have teeth, or more like thorns on the underside.  There is a local myth that these are the hats of water people and there is a castle underneath the lily pad area.  Supposedly, according to our guide, these are used for some kind of cosmetic in Brazil and are disappearing.  We didn’t see any flowers, but maybe it’s for perfume?

The mid-day contrast is amazing.
The trip out to the lily pads brings us through some very cool areas on the side of the river.  There are fields of water plants and grasses that we have to cut through.  The motor gets clogged frequently and we have to pull it up and clear the vegetation from the rotor.  And by ‘we’ I mean the driver, Teddy, who takes good care of us.

The gigantic Ceiba tree, probably 100 years old.
The world tree and termites.

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.

A beautiful termite nest.
Termites scramble all over his arm, but are harmless. Lily is pretty creeped out anyway.  She hates bugs but has done very well with her fears. I think she’s even getting over it somewhat.

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

I love this little girl, so curious that she follows us in a skiff.
The boat stops at a tiny village not far from our lodge.  There is a village of a few thousand and this one of a few hundred within a mile or so.  Lots of kids greet us.  Inside a covered shared area are a half dozen families (no men) with bracelets and some stuff to buy.

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.

A small village and their crafts.  THe girls buy bracelets and we buy 3 ant-infested blowguns.

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.

This baby sloth was rescued from a whirlpool and released on the grounds of the lodge.  This is 10 feet from our room!
When we get back there are people clustered around a tree outside our room.  BABY SLOTH! one yells.  One of the other guides found the sloth in a whirlpool in the river, too weak to swim further and brought him onto land.  We saw some pictures of the guests holding the baby sloth.  We could only see him in the tree.  Cool!

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.

Crazy Juan

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.’

Loco Juan
On the first day he scratched emma pretty hard when she sat in his chair.  Some people get along with him.  Juan is picky.

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.

Crazy Juan, hopping, chases the staff.
One of the male staff calmly grabs him, and holding him like you would a rock or maybe a piece of trash, slowly takes him to the edge of the water and dunks him.  It’s out of earshot, but we can only imagine the noise that goes along with the splashing we can see.

If Juan could smoke, he would.
It’s a hilarious sight and everyone in the dining hall is watching Loco Juan the Toucan get ‘cooled-off’ for being hyper.   One of the guides laughs and explains that this is pretty normal.  Loco Juan needs to get calmed down once in a while.

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.

The girls play cards in the hammock at night.
We’re starting to get a little sick to our stomachs.  We have been relatively careful, but it’s been hard.  Usually we don’t eat any salads or fresh vegetables, and no tap water.  I’ve forgotten that the fruit juice, especially the delicious fresh lime-ade is often made with unserilized water.  That could be the source.  It could also be the Malaria pills we are taking, which can have side effects.

Herman catches this catfish at night by hand!
Lily is determined to go Alligator hunting in the dark, a complete reversal from the evening before.  But she won’t go on foot, which is the better way.  The girls and Trish, who isn’t feeling great, stay back and play games.  Lily and Emma learn Yathzee from another family and play a rousing game, almost winning.  Lily was very proud that she beat their youngest Landon, who was about 25.

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.

A hand-sized tarantula on a palm tree, just outside the dining hall.  It's waiting to eat you.
We walk through the inches-deep edge of the river forest, looking for  Cayman Alligators and find none.  But we see a catfish in shallow-water.  Herman picks it up with his hands, careful to avoid the spiny side fin that can slice your hand.

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!




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