Iquitos and Puerto Maldonado are 2 gateway cities for entering the Amazon. Iquitos offers both Amazon River cruises and lodges, whereas Puerto Maldonado only offers jungle lodges. Due to geographical reason, I decided to go to Puerto Maldonado as Iquitos is north of Lima. It would've been perfect if I could fly to Puerto Maldonado from Cuzco and out to Arequipa. Unfortunately there is no direct flights from Puerto Maldonado to Arequipa so it takes up a lot of time and increase in cost. So I took a return flight from Cuzco to Puerto Maldonado.
Cuzco Airport is only about 5.5km from the historic centre of the city, S/10 (~USD 3 / ~AUD 4.30 / ~RM 12.30)
Amazon lodges are not cheap because they usually cover both accommodation, food and activities. I saw a recommendation on tripadviser on Green House Tambopata with good reviews and more affordable comparatively because of the location being closer to Puerto Maldonado city.
I also noticed the website has had a refreshed since I last visited the site. I had 4 days 3 nights and paid USD 293 (~AUD 413 / ~RM 1192). I had reservations about signing up a "package tour" but reasoned that no point I travelled to Amazon and just sleep in the lodge. Besides I would need a guide if I want to sight some animals. I did enjoy myself for most of the time, the rest of the time is more likely of my own social awkwardness and lack of Spanish language knowledge.
However, when I was there I realised that I could made reservation at the lodge myself and the lodge owner/manager could assist to organise some activities too. So if I am given a choice now with knowledge that I could do that, I would do that instead of signing up for the "package tour". Not because the "package tour" was poor but it is not my cup of tea.
I was put up at Green Diamond Amazon Lodge. The lodge owner, Jorge speaks perfect English. The guide I was assigned to, Jumpier speaks English too but not as good, still better than my Spanish. Haha.
|Took this photo from the verandah of the lodge I stayed in|
The company owner, Carlos (aka Charlie) and my assigned guide, Jumpier came to pick me from the airport. I was then brought to their office in the Puerto Maldonado city where I paid and they checked my boots size (in case it rains and I need one). Jumpier then sent me to Green Diamond Amazon Lodge on his motorcycle. I was travelling by myself so it is more sustainable and economical to transport me on motorcycle, if there are more people they will be transported by boat.
Once arrived at the lodge, lunch was served and then it was rest and relax time. The lodge that I stayed in was named "Perezoso" which means sloth. How very apt! The verandah was installed with a hammock where I lazed and read a bit.
There were no air con or fan. In fact there was no electricity in the lodges during daytime. Electricity starts running from 6 -10 pm (from memory). If you need to charge your electronics, you can leave them at the main lodge where everybody had their meals. There is electricity during daytime at the main lodge. There was also no hot water but as the weather was humid and hot, it was actually refreshing to have cold shower.
At night before dinner, I joined a few other people with their guides on the boat going up and down Madre de Dios River to search for caimans, capybaras, owls and bats. I saw a couple of caimans and while walking back to the dining lodge, we saw our first tarantula. I said first because we saw them pretty much everyday. In fact there was even an unofficial resident tarantula at the lodge, a seven legged one which was named Charlotte. I joined another party of 5 travellers (3 guys and 2 girls) from Spain for day 1 to half of day 3 as they did 3 days 2 nights. Each group were assigned one guide and their guide was Johnny. Johnny doesn't speak a lot of English but I felt he was a more experience guide comparatively. He was the one giving explanation when we had excursions.
|Hand for comparison... This is not Charlotte|
We started off with breakfast before a full day excursion for day 2. There were a lot of dishes with bananas and/or plantains, sort of to replace potatoes.
Day 2 was spent in Tambopata National Reserve. Tambopata National Reserve is a preserved land in Southeastern Peru of about 274k hectares and houses a huge varieties of butterflies, mammals, birds and faunas. One of the 3 rivers flow into Tambopata National Reserve is Madre de Dios river, so our transport to the reserve is via boat as the lodge is just by Madre de Dios river.
We did bird watching on one of these rowing boats but I didn't have to row. I also saw my first giant river otter and was fairly excited. After awhile, we took a break for lunch.
Lunch was a pre-packed juane. It is a traditional Peruvian food consisted of rice, meat and egg wrapped in banana leaf. It reminded me somewhat of briyani rice taste. I rather like this one.
After some resting time, we were brought to the bank of Lake Sandoval for some swimming activity which I sat out. I didn't bring a change of clothes and not keen on having to carry wet clothes in my bag generally. Then we did another round of bird watching and giant river otter search before returning on the same 3 km trail walk back to where we started.
After dinner Jorge prepared a camp fire for us and Johnny talked about the culture of natives in the area.
Day 3 we visited a native family to learn about their culture. We were shown how to start a fire with stick and something that looked like coconut husk , also how to roll a wool into thread which all of us failed terribly when we tried. We also took turns to try archery which I took too many tries to get a shot where the arrow didn't just fall flat on the ground.
We walked there from the lodge and on the way Johnny plucked a cacao fruit. I've not seen it in real life before but I could recognise this thanks to Malaysia's postage stamps series. Many years back Malaysia launched a series of plants series and one of them is cacao. Johnny very kindly opened the fruit for me to try, it reminded me of mangosteen.
Day 3 was adventure day. After breakfast we kayaked to where we did canopy walks. My poor guide kayaked with me, else I don't think would last very long. Many thanks to the kayaking session to Cathedral Cove it wasn't scary, also this being a river, it wasn't choppy.
I'm not scared of canopy walks but I am scare of falling sensation, so the activity right after canopy walks terrify me (I think still...) because this leads to ziplining. There were only 5 sets of equipment so I had to wait for the other group to finish first. So my poor guide had to do it with me too. While waiting I heard people shouting, "frena" which I had to ask to know that it meant "brake" because one has to pull down one of the rope to brake, else run the risk of ziplining yourself to a tree. If brake too soon, you'll be stuck halfway and will have to manually pull yourself to the tower. My take? I shouldn't be trusted to need to do anything when I am already scare.
I am really appreciative that Jumpier ziplined with me because I didn't realise that I needed to zipline twice, from 2 different towers. So I had to re-attach the harness to the second tower by myself if I was to do it alone. I am a little clueless to this. One of the guys in the group of 5 was an expert in ziplining so he was helping everybody to check their gears too. His advice to me was, "Don't think too much, just go." It was true though, there was no time to think as things happened very fast.
I also found out that the scariest bit wasn't the ziplining. There were 3 towers set in a triangle, so it was zipline from tower 1 to tower 2 and tower 3 back to tower 1. Between tower 2 and 3 though, we had to walk on a bridge the width of a wooden plank. Somewhat like the above canopy walk but much narrower, no safety net at the side but of course harnessed to a rope at the top. I find this was the scariest bit. I have no idea on this and thought I only had to zipline once. I've already ziplined from tower 1 to 2 and there was no other choice except to continue as there were no other way down. We were at the height above trees. Scary but beautiful.
The other group left after this, their flight was back to Lima. I had some free time after till night time when my guide brought me out to search for monkeys and spiders.
I had about half day on day 4 managed to do 2 activities as it started early. Jorge organised a boat for 2 of his guests to view macaw and parrot clay click and he extended the invite to me and my guide of course. The catch was one has to be really early, we had to be there by about 5am, the boat ride to get there took about an hour, so I was up at 4-ish in the morning.
A clay lick is a naturally forming wall of clay on a riverbank caused by erosion from the river. It is said that parrots consume clay to provide them with sodium supplement or to neutralise dietary toxin. At dawn, macaws and other parrots will flock to these clay licks to eat clay. Tambopato National Reserve protects the world's largest known parrot clay lick, it was a spectacular view when the macaws, parakeets and other parrots flock to these clay licks at dawn. I also had the opportunity of viewing them via a binocular, courtesy of my guide, he loaned them to me for a bit.
After breakfast, I had a little fishing activity. My guide initially planned that we go to the fishing place by kayak. My Spanish isn't great and almost all the time I have no clue what other people are talking about, a small fraction of time I could guess based on a few words that I understood. Somehow at that moment I could tell that my guide was having a discussion with Jorge on the best arrangement to bring to fishing. Before my guide informed me we were to kayak, I just blurted out I didn't want to kayak because I have other clean pants to change to. I only packed enough for 4 days 3 nights and left the rest at Hotel Frankenstein. He was as surprised as I was that I could understand. Haha.
So we took the boat and fished a little, didn't catch any though I could see the fishes swam around the bait which was some pieces of raw chicken meat.
Fishing was the last activity I had in Amazon, after that Jumpier sent to the airport. I did drop some tips at the lodge for the staffs and tipped Jumpier when he dropped me off. I hope I tipped enough as I never know what is the going rate.
Side note: Back to Spanish lesson.....