Monday, August 18, 2014

Don't Go Out at Night Alone!

Amazon big
The mighty Amazon River drives eastward through Peru, then through Brazil and out to the Atlantic Ocean four thousand miles in the distance. It is the longest river in the Western Hemisphere, and second only to the Nile in length in the entire world. But length is not the only measure of the vastness of this river. It is a river so large that to fathom the amount of water flowing those long miles is nearly incomprehensible. Every hour of every day water flows and flows to the tune of 7,381,000 cubic feet per second. One fifth of the world's total fresh water flows in the Amazon. The river is so wide, average between 1 and 6 miles in width in the dry season, it broadens to nearly 30 miles for long stretches during the wet season.

 The facts tend to boggle the noggin.

Monkey see...
The Amazon is a combination of many different tributaries and researchers are still arguing to this day whether the actual beginning might actually be near Cuzco to the south-east of Lima. Of course, one scientist arguing his theory versus another is the way of science throughout time. One theory generally trumps another until no one agrees with anyone. Meanwhile, there is no denying this a big place. With twenty percent of the planet's fresh water and (think of the plants in the rainforest here a minute) twenty percent of the world's oxygen being produced. This is the heart and lungs of the world.

And here sits the relatively unassuming jungle village turned big city of Iquitos. This incredible location, recently mentioned in a prior blogpost, sits directly on the Amazon, Nanay, Rio Negro, Ucayal, and Itaya rivers and just a few miles west where they all become the Amazon together. The jungle village of nearly a half a million people is at the confluence of one of the mightiest rivers in the world and certainly the one with the most water flow.

Now, in this river environment are more species of swimming, climbing, flying, crawling, and creeping 'thingies' then anywhere else on the planet. Hold on to your scientific shorts with these figures (and don't forget new species are being found all the time): 30 million species of insects (one tree had 700 different species of beetles), 2200 species of fish, 700 species of mammals, 750 species of reptiles, 1830 species of birds, 55,000 species of plants and in reality nearly 2/3 of the entire planet's species reside in or along the Amazon.

By the time our fellow adventurers read this blog, these numbers will have surely increased!

Now, this makes the Amazon also a very dangerous place to reside, or dare we say, to travel.

Enough of the background.

Rustic and Charming
The traveling trio of Beyer, Bakas and Beyer decided to stay off the beaten path, well into the jungle itself while visiting Iquitos and chose a place a hour and a half up river - over fifty miles away from civilization. The Amazon King Lodge was a pleasant grouping of buildings on the river's edge but very rustic. Water ran some of the time in our mosquito screened room around the hammocks and electricity was on for perhaps two hours a day provided by a small but efficient generator. The lodge was built to hold about 60 tourists but on this outing it was only us, our guide, Sergio, and a skeleton crew to hold down the fort/lodge.

They had the essentials on hand, to be sure.

Breakfast was served, lunch was served, and dinner was served with the local products the jungle provides: fish, rice, fruit and other delights.

Actually, the lodge was rather charming and reminiscent of Hollywood films playing out in the hinterlands of the rainforest: rustic, primitive, hot, humid, and isolated.

Dr. Moreau and Mini-me?

It was rumored Dr. Moreau was to be said doing experiments in the jungle just next door. We didn't visit though.

We were advised over and over to make sure Sergio our guide went with us when we traveled on the river or in the jungle. This became apparent when our buddy Paul decided to venture out in the darkening evening to photograph some interesting things he had seen but no sooner had Paul's foot left the first step of the landing (all buildings are about four feet off the ground due to the flood season) and onto the stairs when Sergio stopped him with a firm grip and said:
Night in the Amazon

"Don't go out at night without me! It is very dangerous."

It should be noted that Sergio had a flashlight, rubber knee high boots and a machete at this time. He had grown up in the jungle and told us many anecdotal stories of why growing up one must be extremely cautious while walking the jungle at night. Even the daytime is dangerous.

"I have witnessed people getting bit by a snake without ever seeing the creature and be dead within minutes. Very dangerous."

Paul, a misguided guide
Paul nodded and retraced his steps back to the relative comfort of the mosquito nets.

A few hours later while sweating in our hammocks, we understood what Sergio had meant. The cacophony of the jungle came alive with ear banging fullness. Swinging less than a few feet from each other in the open large sleeping room it was hard to hear each other speaking without raising our voices.

ROUS - Rodent of Unusual Size
Things were moving, flying, crawling and being eaten not many yards from where we wanted to find some slumber. The slumber was hard as 'things' would occasionally drop onto the pitched thatched roof and roll off onto the jungle floor with a thud.

It was then that we knew - only a thin little mosquito net was between us and the rest of what ever was happening in the rainforest. It was frightening to think of what was happening out there as the noises continued. Strange sounds we couldn't completely identify. A sound like barking came from a capybara, an extremely large rodent which can grow to a length of four and half feet and weigh well over a hundred pounds. But the scariest sound of all in the jungle was silence. When the barking, and the shrieking, and even the chirping of insects seemed suspended -- and you knew a predator was near.

This is daytime - imagine it at night.
 Flashlight and machete anyone?
Night in the true jungle is an exhilarating and terrifying experience which we would highly recommend to any explorer or researcher.

Remember one thing though - don't go out alone in the jungle at night without a guide. You may be eaten.

Are we there yet?


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