A defining moment from a walk through the humid Amazon jungle: trudging along a muddy path below the towering canopy, our guide suddenly stops beside a tree.
We come to a jolting halt — what can Gilbert, a proud member of the Esa-Eju people, see that we can’t? Suddenly we focus, and there in its delicate web filament is a tarantula, like a hairy dinner plate. But then there’s something else on the edge of the monster’s burrow; a tiny frog, blinking a shining eye. More unlikely even than the romance between the Owl and the Pussycat, the Humming Frog and the Tarantula are age-old flatmates, as Mr Frog protects Ms Tarantula’s eggs and keeps the house safe. The jungle where we’re staying at the Posada Amazones eco lodge is full of unlikely contrasts like this.
The next morning at 3:30am our intrepid band sets off to Tres Chimbadas Lake to watch and film the sunrise. Dense darkness, eerie stillness surround our tiny wooden boat until, just as the sky lightens, a blood-curdling cry echoes from bank to bank. The return of King Kong? Relax. Our guide tells about another nest-dweller, this time the howler monkey, a little fellow blessed with a huge voice. Just as the great howling monkey chorus subsides, we see them swinging through the trees. And what’s on an overhanging branch? A perfect natural mosaic, a camouflage formation of dwarf bats. And the macaws – now that the sun is up there are hundreds of them swirling about, bright jewels in the air.
This was my first experience of South America, travelling with a small and very convivial Peregrine group to Peru, Argentina and Chile. It was also my first experience of group travel, about which I’d always been a bit wary. But there was no need; every day brought a new experience and a new challenge.
Our group spent two nights in the Madre de Dios region, in a traditional-style lodge operated by 170 families who speak the Tacana language; a venture begun jointly with Rainforest Expeditions. Occupying some 10,000 hectares, this is the only lodge inside the Tambopato National Park. One night after dinner our local guide explained just how important the establishment of the lodge and a neighbouring school has been for the preservation of age-old customs and language. I’d encourage any prospective traveller to visit this extraordinary part of Peru.
The natural beauty of the area has to be experienced to be understood. The walking is strenuous but manageable for anyone who is reasonably fit. OK, I admit to falling up some steps after alighting from the boat en route to our sunrise walk, but this was hardly a big deal (the river had been in flood and several steps had been washed away). We were warned about the need for applications of tropical-strength mosquito repellent, but the only time I caught sight of a mosquito was inside my bed net, and it was easily despatched. The lodge itself is quite beautiful and very comfortable, designed so that all rooms are spacious and with one side open to the sights and sounds of the jungle, and including a spacious dining room serving great local foods. Within a 30-minute walk there’s a wonderful viewing platform offering a drone’s eye view of the forest canopy.
Late night now. A short after-dinner walk from the lodge, and torchlight picks up a cluster of gleaming eyes. Here is a family of caimans snoozing in a muddy pool, the smallest of them a metre long. What do they make of us? Something to ponder just before sleep at Posada Amazones, lying in an airy room looking out on the wakeful jungle.
Greg is a Peregrine traveller who experienced our Rhythms of South America tour. Book your spot today.