OYOP: Puerto Maldonado & Amazon Rainforest
We have been in Peru now for about three weeks, and it is starting to feel like we are traveling rather than on vacation. We have met many other travelers along the way, are getting used to living out of a backpack, and spent Christmas Eve dinner at a hostel in Puerto Maldonado with complete strangers turned friends over dinner and a few bottles of wine, kindly provided by a German traveler we met living out of his car for 6 months in South America.
We spent the last five days in the Amazon rainforest. To get to our lodge from the entrance city of Puerto Maldonado, we took a half hour boat ride, walked for 3 kilometers through the mud, took a half hour canoe ride across Lake Sandoval, walked a few hundred more meters and arrived. It was well worth the trek.
There were few other people visiting the lodge, and in general, it felt like we were much more “in the wild” than other trips we’d taken before that focused on seeing wildlife. This made the visit very peaceful, and it also allowed us to focus more on seeing and hearing all of the jungle life around us.
We spent all of our days hiking and in the canoe on Lake Sandoval. We would get up a few hours before breakfast everyday for an early morning activity, like canoeing in the lake to see the family of giant river otters fish for their required 4 kilos each of food per day, or hiking to see the parrots and macaws at a “clay lick” getting nutrients from palm trees.
After breakfast at 8:00am, we would rest then go for a mid-morning hike. During these hikes, we would locate and eat Brazil nuts, find local species of frogs and spiders and birds, or just learn about all of the different flora and fauna in the area.
After lunch at 1:00pm, we would take siestas and rest before going out in the canoe to see the endless wildlife around the lake, watch a beautiful sunset from the canoe, then go around the lake searching for large and small Cayman, which are like smaller alligators.
I won’t be able to list all of the wildlife we saw, but some were four different species of monkeys- squirrel, howler, brown capuchin, and saddleback tamarins. These monkeys live in troops, and they were everywhere. I really enjoyed watching dozens of squirrel monkeys, jump from one palm tree to the next all in a line. We saw the capuchins grooming each other, and we saw several squirrel monkeys carrying babies on their backs.
We also saw a lot of birds. I was most excited by the colorful parrots and macaws, but we also saw many other interesting species, like the horned screamer, the hoatzin, and this large turkey-like bird that circled us frantically because we were unknowingly standing by its nest.
On our last day, we did a canopy walk and some zip lining. Then, we visited a local family from the Machiguenga tribe that live in the Amazon rainforest. We learned about some of their local customs, songs, and dances, then headed back on a boat with their family to Peurto Maldonado.
In Puerto Maldonado, it was Christmas Eve, and I was feeling a little homesick. It helped so much to be in the unexpected great company of other travelers and the lodge owners for some wine and delicious Thai food.
On Christmas morning, a baby howler monkey decided to hang around us (and literally hang on to us) and followed us around and played with us for a few hours before our flight. It was the perfect Christmas morning gift!
We have one more week in Peru, and I can’t wait to see what is in store next with who we will meet, what we will learn, and the unexpected experiences along the way.