Cusco Travel Blog› entry 31 of 36 › view all entries
The Amazon Jungle and Cusco are completely different places, however, this blog site doesn't recognise Puerto Maldonaldo or Amazon as a valid location so Cusco will have to do.
So, this was to be the first destination of our 15-day GAP tour. We caught a plane from Lima airport to Puerto Maldonaldo, via Cusco. To get to Sandoval Lake Lodge, where we would be staying for two nights, we had to catch a minibus to the port, then a motorized boat down the wide brown river (not sure which river it was), then walk for half and hour on a rutted, dried-mud road through humid but pleasant jungle, then take a long, low canoe through murky canals and finally across the lake itself, to the lodge.
Sandoval Lake Lodge is a lovely place, a big wooden lodge with high thatched ceilings, flushing toilets and mosquito nets over the beds and electricty only during certain hours of the day. We had a quick rest before going on a night tour, which involved shining torches around us, desperately trying to spot something cool like a snake. We were introduced to the resident tarantula, who lives on a tree just outside the lodge. He was just as big and hairy as you'd expect but not too threatening.
The food at Sandoval was fantastic, considering their lack of electricity and remoteness. To satisfy some of you foodies out there, some of the things we had were: asparagus soup, catfish, rice pudding, beef steak, chicken in passionfruit sauce, semolina pudding and a variety of great fresh juices - passionfruit, white tomato, quinoa, starfruit, papaya etc. And all nicely presented.
So, back to the Amazon. I don't know what people think of when they think 'Amazon', and I wasn't sure what to expect myself. A few of us had been warned by our travel doctors to take malaria tablets as it's supposed to be a malaria-prone area, although our guides told us they hadn't heard of a malaria case in over 10 years.
At 5.30am the next morning, we hauled ourselves out of bed and got onto a big wooden catamaran and went for a cruise on the lake. This was a highlight of our Amazon adventure, I think, as our two guides pointed out some wonderful birds (hoatsin, macaws, parrots, terns, sparrows, toucans and a pretty-coloured water bird a bit like a kiwi). We also saw a caymen at a distance (for those of you who don't know, caymen are small alligator-like creatures. Actually, they're not small, they can grow up to 6m or something ridiculous, but we only saw baby ones.
After breakfast, we split up into smaller groups and went for a wander around the jungle, following trails and learning about different types of trees and plants. I don't think of myself as much of a tree/plant person but I found it fascinating. In this particular part of the Amazon, there are trees that: are sacred to the native jungle people, who use the fruit (cotton-like on the outside with oil in the middle); whose sap is used to close wounds and can cure ovarian cancer; whose bark, mixed with other herbs, can cause hallucinations where you can see your past, present and future or can 'see' where lost things or people are; that can walk - by planting new roots into the ground while its older roots die - these trees can move up to 50cm a year; can shed their skin to protect themselves from vines and other stranglers, and whose roots, if taken in a tea during menstruation, can be used as a contraceptive.
That afternoon, we got back onto the catamaran and went around the lake again. We spotted a few caymen lurking just below the surface, but the highlight was the monkeys (I can't remember which type they were, except that they weren't capuchin monkeys). Every dusk, the monkeys traipse through the trees to their sleeping trees (palm trees). They make so much noise and there are so many of them, they reminded me of lemmings. They would leap from tree to tree, often great distances and quite comically, making a huge ruckus - very amusing. We also saw some tiny little bats, shaped like webbed stars, clinging to a tree.
That was the end of our Amazon adventure, as we headed to Cusco the following day. It was quite an experience and I think it left everyone wanting more.