Cuzco to the Amazon Basin, Puerto Maldonado – Peru
Hurrah its time to leave the grotty Hostel Pacana and the ants in our room. We’re leaving cuszo and heading to the Amazon Basin. We leave the hostel at 9.30 for our flight to Puerto Maldonado at 11.30. At Cuzco airport the security staff ask us all to open our backpacks so that they can have a root around. That’s fine except it took me 10 minutes to get it closed and put the padlock on the first place and now I have to do it while trying to rush through a queue. It is our hold baggage so I don’t know what the problem is but it is obviously a long standing rule because everyone else seems to be expecting it.
We arrive at Puerto Maldonado after a short and bump flight, and its very hot and humid. We meet our guides at the airport, they’re Marianna and Jaime, we drive to their office, and then things (once again) begin to get very disorganized. All of our transport is running late, you would think that would mean that there is time for the next method of transport to catch up- but no it gets worse.
When we arrive at the office we have to unpack our bags and repack them for jungle mode as we’re not allowed to take everything on the river boat. Because we have just got off a flight, its actually quite a difficult task as all of the liquids we need to survive the jungle (mozzie spray being up there!) is packed in our hold baggage. So converting to jungle mode takes a little while and by the time I’m finished I end up with 3 small bags instead of 1 big one, I’m not sure its an improvement.
We re-board the coach for a tour around Puerto Maldonado, and I’m pleased to say the first stop is at an ice-creamery, yum! Our guides buy us the ice-creams and we get to taste some weird flavors made from jungle produce but enjoyable none-the-less, they also give us some delicious salted plantain crisps, I can’t recommend those enough. After our ice creams we get back on the coach and drive around the town, which is a bit weird and then we stop at the market and look at the food (needless to say our tour guide was interested in the food more than us!).
We then drive for a while to reach the boarding point for our riverboat that should take us to our lodge. At the moment I really feel as if we’ve had a completely wasted day, we are supposed to be heading to the jungle and spending time there, but all we seem to be doing is passing the time while our transport makes it way to us. Its another badly organized day, not that our tour guide seems to care.
When we arrive at the boarding point (can’t call it a port as its just a jetty) with a toilet block next door we are told that the other group’s boat will be ready shortly but we have to wait for ours, as if we haven’t had enough bad luck. Yawn! So we wait and eat our snacks and then our boat finally arrives and the sun is setting.
We have about 15 minutes on the boat before its too dark to see anything and too dark to take any photos. The boat driver is managing well in the dusky light but it isn’t long before it goes pitch back and the boat seems to be taking steeper and steeper tangents as rocks, debris and sandbanks draw up very quickly in front of the boat in the dark. Then the boat hits a sandbank, its not funny anymore, we can’t see how fast the river is moving, its pitch black, I’m tired, I’m fed up and my senses are on hyper alert. I’m becoming very worried and anxious that Ms Albatrose is far from a natural swimmer. I know we have lift jackets, but who wants to get swept away by the amazon? Not me, I don’t have any Bear Grylls skillz and that’s why I’m on a group holiday, to stay safe and at the moment I do not feel safe at all. The tour guides get out torches to highlight the dangerous areas of the river, but the range is so small that they have to keep moving them which means the driver cant see all that is in front of him at one time, this is ridiculous. After what seems like forever the boat finally slows down and comes to a stop, my heart is beating out of my chest. Its been one of the most stressful couple of hours of my life. Since when were holidays supposed to be life threatening? On the bank where we moor we spot a little baby caiman which both cheers me up and alarms me. I’m left wondering where are its parents? And would daddy caiman have thought I was tasty if I’d have ended up capsized in the river a few minutes earlier?
Anyway. It’s another 20 minute walk through the jungle to get to the lodge and its pitch black and VERY NOISY. The insects are going crazy and our guide stops us to point out a tarantula nest.
Lovely. Senses on high alert again then. I did come to the jungle to see this stuff and it is fascinating but I didn’t expect to be confronted with it before I’m fully kitted out in my insect repellent clothing and suitable footwear. And I’m not the only one who is not in the right attire, fighting against the slippery mud, Nicole stubs her toe on a sharp rock, which is not a good idea in the jungle. Its pouring with blood so we all scrabble round to help clean her up and stop the bleeding. Only a few more minutes of walking and we finally arrive at the lodge.