Piranhas, tarantulas, and fire ants, oh my! We saw all of these and much more as we explored the Amazon rainforest in our final stop in the country of Peru.
After 5 weeks exploring the high altitudes, ancient ruins and beaches of Peru, some time in the oxygen rich environment of the Amazon Rainforest was just what the doctor ordered!
From Lima we flew up to the Northeastern corner of Peru to the “Peruvian capital of the Amazon,” and largest city in the world not connected by outside roads, known as Iquitos, Peru.
From Iquitos, we were picked up by the driver from our lodge. We hopped in his car and drove about 1 1/2 hours to get to the river. We then climbed on a boat and spent another 1 1/2 hours cruising down a series of rivers to get to our lodge.
It was a beautiful boat ride and we were all excited when we were able to see where two tributaries came together to form the upper Amazon River.
After all that time traveling on plane, truck, and then boat, we were thrilled to finally arrive at the Treehouse Lodge located where the Yarapa and Cumaceba rivers combine.
We were helped off the boat onto a wooden walkway that lead back to the main building and treehouses. When we arrived they offered us cold washcloths and a delicious glass of camu camu juice (our favorite from then on). It was so refreshing after our long journey through the hot and humid Amazon rainforest!
The main building was a central area for everyone to gather for meals, get drinks after excursions, and relax during our free time. It had hammocks the boys loved to swing in, games (we especially loved making domino chains), areas to relax and tables for our meals. It was all-inclusive providing fun local drinks, delicious food, and a warm welcome back to our Amazonian “home” after each of our daily excursions.
There were only 10 treehouses on the resort and they were all incredible. We had two, one for the boys and one for Jeromy and me. They were beautiful, high up in the trees, and so much fun! It was impressive that they could run the lodge while living completely off the grid. They used solar for power and reclaimed their water. I think they had a generator too, but it was incredible.
Since there weren’t many people staying there, we had the pleasure of getting to know some new friends and comparing our travels throughout Peru. We met people from New York, Canada, Colorado, and even a couple from a neighboring town to La Center where we are from! I had even been in Yoga class with the wife before! I would say it’s a small world, but after traveling across most of it, I don’t really think that anymore.
While all of that was amazing, we came to the Amazon to see the plants and animals in the Rainforest and it didn’t take long for that to happen!
We had a terrific guide who took us on all our excursions, and a boat captain. We would go out two to three times a day exploring different facets of the forest. They did a great job of getting us up close and personal with a variety of jungle life!
The very first thing we all wanted to do was go fishing for piranhas! For poles we just used sticks with a string and a hook, and used chicken butt for bait. It was a blast! Luke was our master angler catching the first, largest, and most piranhas of any of us.
We brought the spoils of our fishing adventure back to the resort and the chef graciously cooked them up for us and we all tried a bite! Although they are a delicacy, we left the eyeballs alone this time. The piranhas were actually pretty good, but there wasn’t much meat on them at all.
Our excursion that night sent us out in search of caimans (like a smaller version of a crocodile). It was pitch black but fortunately our guide was experienced. We were amazed when he had the driver pull the boat up then hopped into the water and grabbed a caiman out of the water with his bare hands! He gave each of us a chance to hold it too!
The only bad think about going out at night were all the mosquitoes and bugs. The worst were the Night Wasps. If we left our flashlights on for too long they would be drawn to the light and their stings are incredibly painful. Thankfully we didn’t learn that from personal experience!
We weren’t the only people braving the Amazon. While we were there for only a week, many people call this jungle home. While there, we were able to go to a local village and meet some of the people there. The school was actually having a party the day we visited and all the children were dressed up in costumes. It was funny to see a 5-year-old child out in the Amazon dressed as Spiderman! Some things are universal across cultures I guess!
While the people were great, our favorite part of the village tour was meeting their pet sloth! Parker especially loved it as he always jokes that the sloth is his “spirit animal.” We all took a turn holding it except Jeromy who, I guess, was turned off by the fact that sloths are covered in hundreds of different algae, fungi, and other bacteria. While it is a bit off-putting to think of while holding the sloth, scientists are experimenting with the different things found in sloth fur to find cures for a variety of diseases and even cures for cancer!
Every excursion started with a boat ride, as we rode along, we would stop when we would see monkeys, birds, and other wildlife. There were a couple of monkeys that lived near the resort that were so used to humans they would come onto the boat when we drove up. We quickly learned that there was a “nice” one and a “naughty” one. The naughty one jumped on Luke’s head and pulled his hair, then tried to bite him, just to show who was boss I guess! From then on, when we would stop by to visit the monkeys we were careful to only let the “nice” monkey on the boat, although the “naughty” one did his best to sneak on as well!While riding along one day in the boat our guide quickly yelled, “Stop, go back!” The driver reversed the boat and our guide pointed out a huge tarantula sitting on a leaf. We were all appropriately impressed by this find and thought we would move on after our taking a picture of it. Our guide, however, had other plans. He stuck his hand out and carefully grabbed the tarantula then let it crawl along his arm as he explained to us some interesting facts about the species. One important fact, was that it actually wasn’t poisonous at all, and by the way, would any of us like to hold it? No one in the family was volunteering and I couldn’t let this opportunity pass me by without giving it a try. So I held my arm out for it to crawl onto. What I had forgotten though, was that I had covered myself in bug spray that morning to fend off mosquitos, ants, and other creepy things. So when the spider got to where he was about to slowly climb on my arm, it caught a whiff of my repellent and quickly jumped right at me to get away from it! I screamed so loud I’m sure the monkeys were wondering what new species was in the forest that day! It jumped right over my arm and landed on my foot then proceeded to crawl up my leg before the guide grabbed it back up again!
Despite my mishap with holding the tarantula, Tyler decided he wanted a turn too. The tarantula didn’t seem to mind him quite as much.
Did you know that there are two types of dolphins that live in the Amazon river, one pink and one gray? Well, we didn’t either until our guide took us out and showed them to us. On this excursion we had the opportunity to jump into the water and attempt to “swim” with them. While we were all a little nervous at first (remember these are the same waters we were fishing for piranhas in the day before), it turned out to be a great time. Our guide assured us that there weren’t many piranhas in this area because the dolphins would eat them, so we were perfectly safe (sounds questionable?). So that’s how we ended up jumping in and swimming in the Amazon river. The ground beneath us was a thick mud that we would sink into that felt really crazy under our feet.
Jeromy opted not to join us for fear of the infamous “peepee fish” that is rumored to swim up your urethra and stick barbs into you and latch on. We asked our guide about it, and he said that it was a myth as far as he knew, but Jeromy wasn’t taking any chances!
While most our excursions were on the boat, we did spend one afternoon trekking through the jungle itself and learning about the plant and wildlife there. It was muddy and hot and Tyler got stung by a stinging ant! While this wasn’t our favorite excursion, due to the previous mentioned conditions, it was still educational and something you just have to do while in the jungle!
After many amazing adventures in the Amazon, it was time for us to head out of the jungle and back to civilization. We got back on our boat, then a car ride and ended up back in Iquitos for the night before our flight left the next day. We didn’t know much about the town itself, but needed to get dinner and decided to go down to the waterfront to find a place to eat. There are versions of these vehicles (see below) all over the world. They are called Tuk Tuks, rickshaws, boda bodas, and more, and they are used by locals and tourists alike to get around cities for cheap. As this was our only way to get to dinner, we flagged down a couple and hopped on. As we sped through the streets of Iquitos, I realized that of all the adventures we had in the Amazon, this was definitely the most dangerous!
We had a pretty good dinner down by the river then received another harrowing ride back to our rooms for the night.
I will always have a special place in my heart for the time we spent in Peru. It is an extremely varied country from the highest navigable lake in the world in the south, to the depths of the Amazon rainforest in the north, we did our best in the 6 weeks we had in the country to see it all! While we didn’t get to see everything, we saw enough to know that we are looking forward to coming back someday to explore more of this beautiful country.
It was time to move on however, to a new adventure and enter into an entirely different ecosystem as we traveled next to the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador!