I can never get used to eggs fried in oil instead of butter. But that’s the way most of the world fries eggs, so I eat mine knowing that my body will give out before lunch if I don’t. This is our last day in the Amazon and we are ready to go – but not before a half-day excursion and one last chance at Piranha fishing.
The other groups leave early. They had been here longer and were eager to get back to Iquitos. The family of four with older sons had been here 8 days, which is too much unless you are a specialist in the Amazon or bird-watcher. As a tourist, anything more than 5 nights is a long time to float in boats, take cold showers, eat the same food and deal with the rains.
Monkeys are elusive.
This morning we are headed to the local village where there is a family that has three monkeys as pets. We just found out about it yesterday from a group that was leaving. And dammit we are going to see monkeys in the Amazon even if they are pets!
When our eyes adjust there are two brown monkeys, each roaming around the room, tethered, but playfully hopping and climbing on the chairs and benches. Scurrying in the rafters is a tiny one that we learn is a Tamarin Monkey, one of the most adorable little monkeys on the planet, but he won’t come down.
The big one is named Macarena, and is a woolly monkey. She is about 18 inches tall feet tall and has a longer tail. She jumps on Trish, which makes her squeal with glee. Macarena’s brown fur is clean and soft, something Trish didn’t get an opportunity to question before Macarena jumped into her lap. She plays with the monkey, who loves the attention.
It makes me smile too.
The tale of the tail
Their eyes have not evolved as well – the see in black and white compared to most old world monkeys. (except the howler monkey has color) And they do not have an opposable thumb, considered a key evolutionary benchmark.
Trish is really happy. She loves monkeys – always has. I see big bright smiles and deep laughter. She looks alive and joyful, something I haven’t seen a lot of in the past year. And this monkey really takes to her – even burrowing into her breasts.
She does take a shit an inch from Trish’s boot, which Juanita cleans up quickly with a newspaper and dumps into a hole in the floor and is swept away instantly by the flooded amazon.
Monkey’s are really not very good pets in captivity. They are messy, require a lot of care and can be difficult when adults. Herman talks with them and tells us that this family really loves these monkeys, it’s not for tourists or anything like that.
Capuchin monkeys are the smartest monkeys in the Western hemisphere, exhibiting limited self-awareness and strong ability to learn. They are able to manipulate tools and pass on techniques to their offspring.
Emma is smitten with this one, who isn’t quite as active. Capucins don’t have the same prehensile tail that allows for the acrobatic movement. (Not that you’d ever catch one in a tree.) Emma spends a lot of time holding her and petting her. You can tell that she is touched by the experience.
We’ve already overstayed our welcome. Herman gently beckons us to leave. Juanita waves at us as we go.
Pirahna fishing Part Dos
Dammit! We want to catch goddamn Piranha. For the third time, we go hunt fish. This is more of a sign of our goal orientation than any real love of fishing. We really want to catch just one Pirahna. Emma wants the jaw, which can be used in jewlery. The lower jaw, with it’s connected teeth, is very strong and solid.
Our poles out, we shake the water again hoping for fish. Lily feels nibbles all the time, of course. And then I get a tug, a real one. Teddy, the driver behind me senses it and mutters something in spanish. He can tell I have a biting fish.
We toss it back in and try at another spot, but we just don’t have the knack for piranha fishing. Satisfied that we caught one fish at least, we head back for lunch.
It’s time for us to go. We pack our damp clothes – nothing really dries in the Amazon – gather up our gear and take showers to get all the sun tan lotion, insect repellent, monkey poo, bugs and amazon river sludge off our bodies for our return to civillization.
They are really on a tripAyahuasca. Ayahuasca is a form of DMT distilled from a vine that is all over the Amazon. When combined with other ingredients (some of which are also psycho-active) it delivers a psychadelic trip of a few hours in duration.
One of the sought-after effects (yes, really) of Ayahuasca is the vomiting it produces, which is though to be a purging and cleansing of the body. You are encouraged to eat simply before an Ayahuasca trip. Drug tourism, under the guidance of a local ‘shaman’ is increasingly common in the Amazon and also in the Peruvian desert where some cacti deliver similar results.
Adios and Hola
Our girls handle travel so well now. They have spent almost 150 days on the road in 15 different countries. They’ve developed that seasoned traveler ability to shift into a lower gear when things get boring. It’s like an off switch where your brain idles. Time passes…
There is hope that oil will return Iquitos to it’s former glory. In the mid to late nineteenth century, Iquitos was one of the centers of the rubber boom. The industrial revolution, and especially cars, increased demand for rubber, which had been used as far back as the Mayans who use it to make their ball-court ball.
But the boom ended as soon as it started when production in Asia overtook that of South America. Iquitos fell into disrepair. The Peruvian government is trying to keep Eastern cities healthy and put a university here as well as several environmental projects. Tourism is growing and oil may bring in some much needed cash.
At the dock, we re-enter the market that we left only 4 days ago, but it feels much longer. I am a little disoriented getting into a motor-cab and inhaling the exhaust. Iquitos almost seems like a South-East asia city with it’s motorbikes, outdoor food stands and humid heat.
At the Business office of the lodge, where Lily plays with their adorable little dog for a while before we head to the Iquitos airport for our flight to Lima.
Our plan is scheduled for 7pm, but is delayed till 10pm. At least we can power up some electronics and play a game or two. The Iquitos airport is open air, mostly, and the mosquitoes are pretty bad. We get into the hotel in Lima past midnight.
Goodnight Amazon! We’ll miss you.