Hi guys! I am back again with another recap post on my time in Peru. This time I will be talking about my time spent in the Amazon Jungle! I had originally wanted to try and make it to Iquitos, which is in the middle of the jungle in the north of Peru, BUT it is only accessible by boat or plane. Option 1 takes time, option 2 takes money. So, Jessie and I decided to go to a closer jungle city, Puerto Maldonaldo (took us some time to actually remember the name and we ended up calling it Port McDonald). It is an overnight bus away from Cuzco and a little bit longer to Arequipa (more on this later). We had done a lot of research on what you actually do in the jungle here and ended up settling on a jungle lodge stay (we chose this one.). You can choose different itineraries based on time and interests and you sleep in a lodge in the middle of the jungle! Now don’t get me wrong, the thought of all the insects we’d potentially come across was freakin’ me out a bit, but knowing I would see them (aka jungle mindset mode) helped a lot.
Our jungle lodge itinerary went something like this:
Jungle Lodge Day 1:
- Arrive at Port McDonald – Supposed to arrive at 9am, but our bus was actually early (the driver drove like a bat out of hell)! We arrived closer to 6:45am. Side note: One of the first things we noticed upon arrival, was how many buses actually go straight to Arequipa. From our online research, it seemed that we would have to go to Cuzco first and then take another overnight bus or plane to Arequipa (our next destination). Since we did not want to take 2 overnight buses back to back, we had went ahead and bought one overnight bus to Cuzco and then a flight from Cuzco to Arequipa for after our jungle lodge stay. But now that we were seeing these signs in the terminal, we seriously started to contemplate taking an overnight bus straight to Arequipa instead. We would be losing our money for the prepaid overnight bus and flight, but we would save an entire day of travel. We decided to wait and see how we felt after the jungle lodge stay.
- A guy at the bus terminal was calling all tour agencies to let them know we arrived earlier, so our pickup came and took us on a mini-tour of the city before we headed to the agency office which didn’t open until 9 am. We actually felt like we had left Peru and were in another country. It was hot and humid, there were motorbikes and tuk tuks everywhere, and the city reminded us a bit of an Asian city.
- We finally make it to the office, met our contact, Christophe (or as Jessie kept calling him, Christobelle jaja), and were told that we needed to wait a little bit before heading to the lodge. We were waiting on our guide along with another group of tourists to arrive before heading to the lodge together. So while we waited, we showered and went to grab a bite for breakfast.
- Our jungle guide, Jossmel arrives (along with a British family) and we all head to the jungle lodge via 30 min car ride and then 2 hour boat ride. We ate lunch on the boat which consisted of a fried rice wrapped in banana leaves along with a few bananas. We also stopped to see any wildlife along the way to the lodge, which included some macaws, turtles, capybara (largest rodent in the world!), and even a cayman (like a small crocodile).
- We arrive at the lodge, have a welcome to the lodge intro and then are free to relax for the afternoon until our night excursion. I am actually feeling sick from what I think was a combination of a lack of sleep (damn overnight bus), the jungle heat, and malaria pill side effects so I tried to sleep most of the afternoon.
- Our first excursion involved walking some of the trails at night and seeing creepy crawlys (aaahhh). We had our headlamps, bug spray, and cameras ready. Jossmel gave us some safety tips and we were soon on our way. We saw a few different kind of spiders, ants, and even a snake! I didn’t freak out as much as I thought I would’ve when we came across a tarantula family!
Supposedly these army ants will eat you alive if you stand in their path!
- After our excursion, we had dinner with our guide, which was a basic chicken and rice type dish. Jossmel had told us earlier that we’d be trying things like tarantula soup, and being the gullible types that we are, we believed him.
Jungle Lodge Day 2:
- We were up early for breakfast and then started our day excursion which began with a hike to a nearby lake. One the way, Jossmel told us about the different kinds of plant life and we stopped to see any new animals, which included a few types of monkeys and macaws.
- Once we reached the lake, we hopped into a canoe and went on a search for 1 of 3 things. Cayman, otter, or anaconda. Of course, we were hoping to see an anaconda, but unfortunately were only able to see a baby cayman.
- After our lap around the lake, we had lunch (which was similar to the day before) and then we headed back to the lodge. On our way back, we stopped at a creek and Jessie tried her hand at fishing for piranhas. Well we also didn’t have much luck here. The piranhas were actually too small and kept eating the bait without getting hooked.
- After an afternoon of relaxing on a hammock and trying a couple of cocktails from the bar, we went out on our night excursion. This evening, we went on a cayman search along the river. We were with a few other tourists and we traveled downriver a bit, sat in silence with the lights off for a few minutes, and then the cayman search began. Our guide had a flashlight and was searching the shore quickly for any wildlife. He would signal to the driver when to head in the direction of the cayman. We actually saw quite a few and even saw a jaguar (well sorta! I had cayman on the brain and it looked like a big cayman to me until it ran uphill into the trees instead of downhill into the water).
- After our excursion, we enjoyed dinner and ended up talking with our guide afterwards about his past experiences. Before he became a guide, he was training to be a shaman, like his grandfather. In order to be a shaman, one has to take ayahuasca (a psychedelic jungle drug, DMT). He shared his experiences with it along with any scary wildlife encounters as a guide, and even some jungle myths (or legends). He had a dry sense of humor that we sometimes didn’t get (we thought we’d be eating tarantula soup, which was a joke), so for all I know he was pulling our legs with some of his stories. One of his stories spoke of a jungle spirit that will come and get you if you mock it. It will come to you in disguise as a friend and say something like “come with me”, you follow it and lose all sense of time. Your “friend” disappears and what felt like a couple of minutes actually was a few hours. You become lost in the middle of the deep jungle and he leaves you there scared and alone.
Jungle Lodge Day 3:
- This was the short day that started with breakfast followed by a morning ride back to the office. We explored the town a bit, ate lunch, and then had a 5pm overnight bus to catch to Arequipa. As I mentioned earlier, we were contemplating changing our travel plans and ultimately decided to eat the money for our prepaid bus to Cuzco and then flight to Arequipa. I was mad at myself since I should’ve known better. Backpacker rule #1, don’t plan too far ahead. You can almost always just buy transportation as you go (except for planes).
Speaking of overnight buses, this ended up being the worse bus ride of the trip so far (not as bad as this one!). We went with a small family run company which seemed fine at first, but ended up being a mistake. They were constantly cutting off the A/C so it was stifling hot, a guy was watching some video without headphones (that had some awkward sex scenes in it), and the two ladies behind us were talking loudly the majority of the night. To top it off, it was raining pretty heavily, which ended up causing a delay due to flooded roads and traffic. Overnight buses are fun.
Anyways, that’s it for this post!
Until next time,
P.S. Google Photos Album: