Humbling Experience

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”

-Gustave Flaubert

After hiking the Andes, we headed into the Amazon Rainforest, another excursion that we booked through Wayki Trek.  We flew, with Star Peru, from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado, which is where we were picked up by a guide from Wayki Trek in an open-air bus, along with four other young travelers.  We had a few minutes to shop around the market in Puerto Maldonado for any last minute items we might need, as we would be void of civilization during our time in the rainforest over the coming three days. Once everyone was finnished their shopping we boarded a long motorized canoe and took a nice long boat ride down the Madre de Dios, a long and winding river which runs through Peru and Bolivia.  The warm moist air blew through my hair as we whizzed past the green shores of the river and the beautiful birds of the rainforest kept speed with the boat as they flew overhead.

When we arrived at the EcoAmazonia Lodge we were shown to our open-air bungalow and told to change into long pants and long sleeves in preparation for our first hike.  Getting long pants and shirts on over our sweat-drenched bodies, in 35 degree weather, was near impossible and terribly uncomfortable but a necessity for hiking in the rainforest, where anything and everything (plants, insects and animals alike) poses a potential threat to humans.  Our first hike on our first day was a good introduction to our surroundings.  We learned about various flora and fauna found within the different levels of the rainforest, being taught to look for life way up high, above our heads, and also way down low, beneath our feet.  We made our way to a Caiman Cocha, a lagoon with a raised lookout where we sat and watched the small alligators pop in and out of the still water.  The sly and silent creatures were nearly impossible to spot at first, but after a few minutes of searching we saw dozens and they became more active when they noticed our presence.  Upon returning from our first hike, we enjoyed a cool down in the pool at the EcoAmazonia Lodge, followed by an authentic Peruvian dinner, which came wrapped up in banana leaves.  After our day of travel and hiking we were quick to head back to our bungalow, but not without a few nightcaps from the bar at the lodge, over conversation with other travelers.

On our second, and only full day, in the rainforest we began our morning hike following a delicious breakfast.  During this hike we learned about the trees of the rainforest and the purpose each of them serve as they towered over us.  We saw many interesting insects and a line of ants, thousands of feet long, marching one-by-one along the forest floor carrying leaves a hundred times their size.  Perhaps the most interesting thing we saw, yet terrifying for me, was a big, hairy, tarantula.  With a slight case of arachnophobia, I chose to look away and walk quickly past.  After lunch back at the lodge we hopped in a boat and headed to Monkey Island, which far surpassed all of our expectations.  During our short hike into the middle of the island, howler monkeys could be heard from afar while black spider monkeys were swinging from the branches above.  Once we reached the clearing we were met by various species of primates, all coming for a taste of the scrumptious bananas which we had brought for them.  It was a dream come true to be able to interact with my favorite animals in their natural habitat; to have them take bananas right out of our hands and sit on our shoulders.  During the afternoon we spent on Monkey Island we felt less like humans and more like animals living among animals in this world, connecting with and learning about each other.  As they stared into my eyes and pulled on my hair I realized that they were just as intrigued with me as I was with them, a truly humbling experience.

We made our way back to the lodge just as the sun was setting on the Madre de Dios.  After another night, similar to the last, dinner followed by drinks, we were in bed listening to the sounds of the forest that surrounded us and wishing we had more time to explore the vast and compelling part of the world that is the Amazon Rainforest.

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