After an uneventful night in Cusco, where we took it very easy due to altitude, we boarded the plane headed to Puerto Maldonado and our adventure in the Amazon Basin. The flight was surprisingly short (35 minutes) and we were into a completely different geographical area. The mountains were no longer visible and the countryside very lush. We had been warned that as it was the rainy season we could expect rain every day.
We were met at the airport by the tour company and spirited off to a local office where we were told to repack our bags for a four night stay. This was to avoid taking large suit cases into the lodge via boat...there being insufficient room. Luckily for us, we had already pared down to small backpacks since Lima and so we were able to wander a bit in the area, purchasing sun block and other essentials for our Amazon experience.
We boarded a bus which took us down an incredibly bumpy road which had suffered greatly in the rain which had fallen just the day before. In fact part of the road was washed out altogether, so we were taken via an alternate route to a boat which was waiting. We learned that we would have a full 2-3 hours on the boat going upstream before reaching our destination.
We were mesmerized by the passing landscape. The river was about 300 feet wide and the jungle stretched from each bank. We saw some wildlife on our way upstream, including a capybara (the largest rodent in the world); a red and green Macaw and many other birds.
The sun was incredibly strong and hot. The sweat broke out almost immediately...an experience we would have for the duration of our stay!
We stopped at a checkpoint to mark our entry to the Tambopata Reserve (named after the river). This is a protected area of the Amazon forest.
Finally, we arrived at the lodge. It was very rustic with bungalows which were basic, lit by candle light after sundown (electricity was available in the main lodge only between 5 and 10 PM). Hot water was provided thanks to solar panels. It was comfortable and the screened in sides (all around) gave cross ventilation at night. Each bed was equipped with a mosquito net.
Our first activity was a walk in the jungle to view night creatures. These were mostly insects, although we did see some small monkeys in the trees.
We fell into bed at about 10 PM...exhausted. We were ready to sleep soundly, when bats swooped in and took up residence in the gables (outside the screens thankfully). One would think that bats were quiet creatures, as they rely on sonar which cannot be heard by humans...but I can testify that they make a lot of noise...continuously...all night long!!! I started out thinking they were cute...ended up thinking they were a bit long winded really!!!
Our first day in the Amazon forest, in the rainy season, passed with not a single drop of rain and with a cloudless sky. It was so clear in fact that at one point (at 0430 in the morning) Paul was up thanks to the bats and he woke me to let me know that the Southern Cross was up...so we were both up bright and early enjoying that sight.