Peruvian Amazonia

by Pamela Wade / 11 June, 2011
Giant ants and butterflies, blue lizards, tarantulas … welcome to Peruvian Amazonia.


The snake’s business end was inside a hole in the bank but enough of it was still sliding across the path, shiny black in the torchlight, to make me to wonder why I’d thought a few days in Peruvian Amazonia would be a good idea. I hadn’t even reached the jungle lodge where, I’d been told, my room had only three walls, with the fourth side open to enable what the brochure enthusiastically termed “interaction” with the environment.

Two striped flying insects had started interacting with me moments after I stepped onto the tarmac at Puerto Maldonado airport; something unseen had leapt out of the water and touched my hand as it rested on the gunwale of the longboat that had taken us three hours up the wide brown Tambopata River; I had just stepped over a tree root being used by a stream of giant ants; and now there was a snake. “Welcome to Refugio Amazonas,” said Luis, without irony.

Softly lit by paraffin lamps, a steep thatched roof soared into a sky where stars twinkled through gaps in the rainforest canopy. My room had jungle on three sides, one of them merely a railing between me, the dark trees and whatever was making the eerie screeches and howls. The mosquito net seemed hopelessly insubstantial, the single candle produced more shadow than light and there was a frog in the shower.

When Luis tapped on the floor outside the curtained doorway, I didn’t know whether to be more shocked by the hideous hour of 4.00am or that I’d actually slept. Stumbling down the path, we climbed into the longboat, which lurched alarmingly as the pilot worked it free of the mud. After an hour further up the Tambopata (one of the Amazon’s many tributaries) and a 40-minute walk into the jungle, we stood listening to the cry of the screaming piha birds and cicadas whining like chainsaws.

Dawn revealed the orange clay bank where we hoped birds would land to feed on minerals. A pair of scarlet macaws drifted over the water, and flocks of green and yellow parrots and parakeets clustered in the trees, hanging upside down and squabbling, but something was worrying them. Abruptly, in a cloud of colour, they scattered.



A sudden wind shook the treetops. We heard the rain before we felt it, and had time to pull ponchos over our backpacks before it worked through the canopy. Like a line of multi-coloured Quasimodos, we scuttled along the path, leaping in fright when a nearby tree crashed to the ground. The river was churning brown and white, much of it already inside the boat, and we gripped the sides as a gust tipped it sideways. We surfed down the river, thunder and lightning overhead, trees thrashing in the wind. “Welcome to the rainforest,” said Luis.

For the next two days we kept bird-time, watching from a high tower as dawn flooded the forest, tinting the pockets of mist gold and pink. Toucans, macaws, tanagers and parrots swept past, woodpeckers tapped invisibly and monkeys made the canopy ripple as they swung in the branches. The middle of the day was for napping and chasing butterflies so big I could hear their wings flap.

At evening roosting time we were out again, frantic not to miss anything: oropendolas, jays, flycatchers, troupials. We sat in a boat on a lake with three centi­metres of clearance between us and the piranhas and electric eels and saw a row of hoatzin birds on a branch, ungainly as chickens, with garish turquoise eyeshadow and Mohican manes.

It wasn’t all birds: capybara, the world’s biggest rodent, grazed along the riverbanks. We saw tamarinds and squirrels, agouti and blue lizards. There were 2cm-long bullet ants that sting as well as bite. “Twenty-four hours of pain,” said Luis.

And then there was the tarantula, tempted from its hole in a woodpile when Luis tickled it with a twig. It came out in a rush, sturdy legs waving, before it realised the trick and retreated.

We returned to the lodge. There were shrieks and hoots echoing through the trees. More monkeys, I wondered? “Guests,” said Luis.

Pamela Wade’s trip to Peru was hosted by Adventure World (www.adventureworld.co.nz). LAN Airlines flies from Auckland to Santiago daily, with connections to Lima (www.lan.com).

Latest

How to enhance your dining experience – with water
103174 2019-03-22 00:00:00Z Dining

How to enhance your dining experience – with water…

by Metro

A stunning dining experience isn’t just about food and wine. Water plays a big part too.

Read more
Facebook won't give up its insidious practices without a fight
103856 2019-03-22 00:00:00Z Tech

Facebook won't give up its insidious practices wit…

by Peter Griffin

Facebook came under fire for its response to the live-streaming of the Christchurch terror attack, but it's digital nudging that's also concerning.

Read more
In photos: The world unites in solidarity with Christchurch
103800 2019-03-21 15:36:46Z World

In photos: The world unites in solidarity with Chr…

by Lauren Buckeridge

Countries around the world have put on a show of solidarity for the victims of the Christchurch terror attack.

Read more
The tangled path to terrorism
103777 2019-03-21 09:59:55Z Psychology

The tangled path to terrorism

by Marc Wilson

The path that leads people to commit atrocities such as that in Christchurch is twisting and unpredictable, but the journey often begins in childhood.

Read more
If 'This is not New Zealand', let us show it
103768 2019-03-21 09:31:27Z Social issues

If 'This is not New Zealand', let us show it

by The Listener

The little signs among the banks of flowers said, “This is not New Zealand.” They meant, “We thought we were better than this.” We were wrong.

Read more
Extremism is not a mental illness
103785 2019-03-21 00:00:00Z Crime

Extremism is not a mental illness

by The Mental Health Foundation of NZ

Shooting people is not a symptom of a mental illness. White supremacy is not a mental illness.

Read more
PM announces ban on all military-style semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles
103805 2019-03-21 00:00:00Z Crime

PM announces ban on all military-style semi-automa…

by RNZ

Ms Ardern pledged the day after the terrorist massacre that "gun laws will change" and would be announced within 10 days of the attack.

Read more
No mention of right-wing extremist threats in 10 years of GCSB & SIS public docs
103770 2019-03-21 00:00:00Z Politics

No mention of right-wing extremist threats in 10 y…

by Jane Patterson

There is not one specific mention of the threat posed by white supremacists or right-wing nationalism in 10 years of security agency documents.

Read more