Into the Jungle
19.06.2008 - 21.06.2008 32 °C
After our few days relaxing at the ranch it was time to head back into the sweaty wet jungle. This time we were staying in a lodge a good 2hr from town so as we waited for our boat transport we watched the locals unloading their cargo of goats. They were packed into a dug out canoe and all looked rightly petrified. We looked on horrified as they were picked up by their ears and thrown onto the back of a truck for their next adventure.
Our boats arrived, and I have to say I was relieved when it wasn't a dug out but a speedboat with comfy seat - sweet! The water was covered in floating lillies and we raced down the river through all the greenery. There were small huts on stilts by the riverside with families chilling in hammocks watching their children playing in the river, all complete with the essential, skinny and barking pet dog. We also saw some howler monkeys.
We arrived at the lodge just as the heavens opened jungle style. Lunch was eaten listening to the hammering rain and crashing thunder. Half way through lunch I was interrupted by something patting me on the shoulder softly. I turned round to be greeted by Rosetta, a semi wild monkey, I thought maybe she wanted spaghetti but turned down all food, she just wanted to sit and hold my hand.
When the rain had calmed a little we made a dash for the room. This lodge had a penchant for animals, apart from Rosetta the hand holding monkey, there was a macaw that was able to fly and insisted on being the centre of attention by copying human laughs and stealing food. There was a puma in a cage that at one time had strayed too close to the village and instead of killing it, the lodge persuaded locals to capture it. Ollie’s favorite was the semi-tame ocelot that they kept on a chain but moved around daily. It had an obsession with trying to claw feet – not good for those wearing flip-flops as it still had its razor-sharp claws intact. I knew exactly what Ollie had been doing the time he walked over to me with his big toe covered in blood – that’s what you get for tormenting an ocelot with a towel and thinking its chain is shorter than it really is.
Back at the room as we were getting ready to head out into the rain I was doing a quick inspection (as always) to see if anything nasty was lurking. I never expected to find anything but as I looked, something right in front of my face caught my eye; grey and furry. Crap. Tarantula. I thought they moved quite slowly but as Ollie excitedly ran over and blew on the thing it moved so quickly it looked like it had jumped, exactly like a scene from arachnophobia. At the same speed I had ran in the opposite direction, closed my eyes and stood on the bed while screaming at Ollie for disturbing it. He then starts laughing and asks me why I'm stood on the bed "I'm looking at the ceiling checking for more" I lyingly replied, my eyes still shut tight. Terry we called him, he was happy to sit in the corner of the room away from the beds, I was happy for him to stay there. I did on occasion threaten him with the bug spray if he moved.
We have by now spent a long time sat on boats going up and down water ways but only in the dugouts, so we were all happy to hop back onto the speedboats for the afternoon. 4 hours later we’d traveled through miles of river ways, ate the fruit of life, seen howler monkeys and drank rum and coke. Its no Los Llanos if you’re after wildlife but speeding down narrow Lilly filled waterways on the boat makes up for it.
That evening we sat on the dock to the lodge watching a lightening storm located in a single cloud on the horizon and keeping a beady eye on all the tarantulas on the ceiling inside hiding from the rain.
The next day we got up early to go down river for 2 hours for a jungle walk. It was pouring it down and we sat on the boat holding a huge piece of tarp over our heads to try and keep slightly dry. With the rain and the wind from the speedboat I was freezing and relieved to finally arrive at our destination. We were heading out for a walk in the jungle and as always it was time for me to make that painful decision. 80% DEET so no insect bites but get wet, or raincoat and insects inside it (wear both and the DEET melts the plastic and it sticks to your skin – nice!)
Gumboots on, gap in the rain, off we went following the guide with the machete (on TV if you see someone running through a jungle its sooo fake, greenery grows back overnight). Useful plants and trees were pointed out and the guide made us leaf umbrella when it started raining. Ollie was made a seed husk hat that made him look like a cheeky elf, but when it rained an orange liquid ran off it and stained his t-shirt. The jungle was really water logged and even with our gumboots it was too deep to walk across so we had to swing across streams and sinking mud by vines.
After the walk the locals showed us how to make fire naturally by rubbing sticks together. The young guide was really trying but failing on the wet, damp day. The old, experienced head of the family was laughing at him and got a fire started with the damp kinder in no time. Ollie tried it and all he made was a blister on his hand.
On the way back we stopped at a local village for the necessary tourist handicraft market. The village consisted of wooden shelters open on all sides and hammocks in the centre. Most of the hammocks had young children fast asleep in them as the women displayed their handicrafts to us, often with a baby nuzzling their breast. They use the local seeds as beads and the vine to crochet into baskets and hammocks. I didn’t see one man. The women were often carrying huge loads while watching the kids, doing their washing in the river and cooking. The guide said most men would be out fishing – which from what I’ve seen is using live bait on a wooden stick and leaving it while you sleep – hard life for the male of the species in these parts!!
The next morning we headed back out on the boats to do a little fishing ourselves; meat bait and free lines. We got a couple of small cat fish and some of the tiniest piranha we’ve seen but that was the highlight of our success.
I sat for an hour back at the lodge, holding rosettes hand as she rested her head on my hand and slept, wondering how I could get myself a pet monkey when I got home. Ollie is monkey boy yes, but it’s really not the same.
On the jungle excursions you only get room to pack a really small backpack and it’s so humid that as soon as you put clothes on they are damp. As we headed back to Cindy our truck we all smelt like we’d been at Glastonbury for a month. It was not pleasant driving after that, more vomit inducing.
I like the jungle, but I now realize I like the TV idealism of it. In there, everything is hard work, you're never clean and classed as food for far too many insects, despite plastic melting DEET. I even appreciate the cold water showers after being in the jungle, and that says a lot.