Category Archives: Travel Blog

Peru Travel Blog: 7th October 2011: Homeward Bound

Today is my last day in Peru.  As usual I woke up early, but this time I returned to bed after having some breakfast.

I don’t get picked up to go to the airport until 1630 and while I could have used that time to have a full day tour of the city I have instead opted to lounge around watching TV and then exploring the immediate vicinity of the hotel for a few hours.  There is a shopping mall that I am going to take a walk to that looks pretty good.

All over the news is the upcoming World Cup Qualifying football match between Peru and Paraguay.  Remember when the FA cup coverage would start in the morning and run all day?  It’s like that, but it starts even earlier – I woke up at 0530 and they already had reporters outside the ground.  I think it would almost be nice if I stayed an extra night to watch it!  [Incidentally, Peru won 3-0.]

After a lazy morning of watching TV and packing my bag I headed out onto the vibrant city streets of Lima to make my way to the Lacormar shopping mall which is right by the coast.  I’m not sure where the time went – it took me barely 15 minutes to reach the mall and there were hardly so many shops that I would have thought I would have spent so long looking round them, but evidently I did.  I had a coffee when I got there and did a bit of people watching.  Then wandered round the shops.  I was tempted to get another football shirt, but having already picked up a Cienciano (Cusco) Football Club shirt, it didn’t feel right buying a shirt of their rivals.  But, it did make me decide to get a Peru national football shirt when I find one (the airport shops).

I bought a book that originally I thought I would read on the way home.  Death In the Andes by Mario Vargas Llosa; written by a Peruvian and set in Peru it sounded like it would be a good read.  I was going to get the Lost City of the Inca’s by Hiram Bingham (the guy who rediscovered Machu Picchu), but I wasn’t sure I would enjoy it as much as a novel and it seemed quite expensive.  I watched surfers trying to get a decent wave whilst I had some lunch at one of the restaurants with great views of the coast and also had one eye on the live Uruguay V Bolivia football match.  Before I knew it, it was time for me to head back to the hotel.  It was a nice relaxing day.

It took ages to get to the airport.  I’m starting to think that Lima traffic is always bad, but once there it was a very quick walk to check in and through to the departure lounge where I had plenty of time to kill.  I bought myself a Peru football shirt, a few gifts and some Pisco and Pisco sour mix to share with guests.  Feel really happy to be going home, but can’t even think where to begin describing it to people.

It was planes, trains and automobiles once again as I got my flight back to the UK, a train to Nottingham and my girlfriend picking me up from the station in her car.

I did get stopped at customs and my bag x-rayed.  I guess coming into the UK from Peru via Amsterdam may look a little suspicious!  But that didn’t really slow me down.

I had a great time: a once in a lifetime experience, but I was so glad to be home with my girlfriend and the cats.  I finally got my long soak in a hot bath too.

I hope anyone reading this blog has enjoyed it as much as I have enjoyed experiencing it and writing about it.  Who knows where my travel plans will take me next…?

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Peru Travel Blog: A taste of…Empanada de Carne‏

It looks like a Cornish pasty and from what I can tell it is the same principle: minced meat with vegetables in a pastry parcel.

Weirdly what I thought was a flour dusting over it is actually icing sugar.  Obviously, this gives it a very sweet taste, but it actually works well with the pastry and the reasonably spicy meat, tomato and bean filling.

I then discovered that there are slices of boiled egg in it too which pretty much ruins it for me.  It’s a bit like on Masterchef where a contestant just has to learn when to stop adding things until it becomes too much.

It’s an interesting enough snack though!

Peru Travel Blog: 6th October 2011: Long Day’s Journey Into Night‏

Well, that was my last night in the jungle and I slept very well.  I was half expecting to find something bigger than yesterday’s frog in the bathroom, but only had a small lizard waiting for me.

My boat leaves at 08:30 and my flight to Lima, via Cusco, is around 1300, so I don’t expect to reach my hotel in Lima until 1800 at the earliest.  It’s going to be a long old journey, but the prospect of a boutique hotel in Lima is something I am very much looking forward to and it’s not like the journey will be boring: it will give me a final chance to see the rainforest and Cusco.

I had opted to leave some of my wet clothes (the lodge happily accept donations of clothes) and I very carefully packed my still sodden boots.  My plan was to walk down to the boat in my flip-flops and change into my trainers on the boat.  It was a bit strange checking out: although I had only been there a few days it felt like a lot longer and it still felt as though there was more to see and do there.  So, I had mixed emotions.

A large organised group of birdwatchers were also leaving on the same boat as me, although it would turn out they would be on a different flight.  The birdwatchers were very much still in bird watching mode.  Where I had dressed for my journey, they had dressed for the boat ride as though it was another excursion.  This was so that they could make the most of their time there and continue to bird watch on the boat ride.  They were an interesting group and they looked like they were having a lot of fun.  Bird watching doesn’t really hold any attraction for me other than looking at a few birds in the wild as I have done on this trip.  Having all the equipment and making notes doesn’t appeal to me.  I do admire their passion for it though.  The world would be a pretty boring place if we were all passionate about the same thing: I support Norwich City Football Club and I am passionate about that, in fact I spend a lot of money going to see them.  It seems like a similar thing with the bird watchers.  I think it’s great that like minded people that share a common interest are able to get together in this way.

Half way down the river the boat conked out which delayed us by half an hour while the driver and Yuri tried to fix it.  They managed to fix it in the end by using a MacGyver-like piece of ingenuity and a small length of wire.

The return bus journey was as jolting as it had been on the way out, but due to the storm the dust levels had dropped a bit and the mud levels had risen.  It also gave me time to reflect on what I have done on this trip and particularly the time spent in the jungle and I felt proud and invigorated by the experience.

Now sat in the departure lounge of Puerto Maldonado Airport.  The airport is tiny: it has departure gates 1 and 2.  My flight will take me back to Cusco where I will wait on the plane for refuelling and other passengers to disembark/board before flying on to Lima.

I’d love it if my boutique hotel in Lima has a bathtub.  I guess as long as it has hot water I will be happy.  The cold showers at the lodge seem to work ok for about a minute after you get out, then the heat and humidity causes you to sweat.  A long hot soak would be great.

Lima is as hectic as it was last time I was there and my greeter from my first day is there to meet me and we chat about my experiences as we make our way through the traffic of Lima.  Last time I was here I stayed at the hotel opposite the airport.  This time I would be staying closer to the coast.  I think we were probably travelling in the car for an hour or so – the traffic is horrendous.  Around the airport Lima seems very industrial and driving through what look like large factories soon make way for residential areas, shops, restaurants, etc.  Like any big city in the world, some of the areas look quite nice and others look a bit intimidating.  Lima has a bad reputation for crimes against tourists, mostly muggings so I knew I would have to be wary of that (as I would be in any other place).  I have little option other than to stand out as a tourist though, I just have to be sensible with the amount of money that I carry and where I walk.  Once we reached the beach area it was already dark and I could make out the waves in the ocean looked pretty big.  Right on cue a pair of surfers who had finished for the day walked past.  It looked like there were a few “gentleman’s clubs” in this beach area and it looked a bit dodgy, but that maybe because it wasn’t particularly well lit.

We turned away from the beach and entered a seemingly residential area where my hotel was tucked away on a side street.  It looked nice enough from the outside and I was looking forward to seeing what the boutique hotel had in store.  My understanding of “boutique” must be different to the tour company – perhaps boutique in Peru means small.  I’m not being fussy though.  It is clean and nice enough.  The room is filled by the bed and the bathroom is a bit pokey (no bathtub), but the water is nice and hot and it will suit me for the 1 night I stay here.

I had been given a good tip on a restaurant nearby so, after a very long hot shower, I headed out into the warm night air of Lima.  The place was bustling with traffic and people, but I managed to find the restaurant ok.  No one there spoke English, so it was very poor Spanish and mimes from me that got me through.  I stopped in at the supermarket on the way back to the hotel and got a couple of beers. The travelling caught up with me and I felt very tired once I had eaten, so I went back to the hotel and fell asleep watching TV.

My last full night in Peru and I spend it watching TV and drinking beer…typical eh?

Peru Travel Blog: A taste of…Inca Kola

This is the fizzy pop that is supposedly more popular in Peru than Coca-Cola or Pepsi.

For a start the disconcerting is how it looks: it doesn’t look like cola.  It’s bright yellow (almost luminous).

Secondly, it doesn’t taste like Cola: It’s very sweet and quite sickly.  I think that, basically, it is Ice Cream Soda, but it tastes much sweeter than that even.

Mine was ice cold and drank in the departure lounge at Puerto Maldonado where a cold sugary drink helped boost my energy and cool me down a little, so it tasted great.  I’d imagine in other circumstances it might be a bit too much and I won’t be in a rush to have another one.

I also get the feeling if you drank a lot of it all your teeth would fall out…so maybe it is more similar to cola than I thought!

Peru Travel Blog: 5th October 2011: The Not-So Perfect Storm‏

Another early start this morning.  This time, when entering the bathroom I noticed something larger moving out of the corner of my eye.  A frog (about the size if my fist) seemed surprised that I was getting up so early and clambered clumsily along the bamboo wall.  It was no bother to me, as I was in a rush to get out and meet our group.  Today we are not having breakfast until later, so we can make our way to the rainforest canopy tower and see the sun rise over the top of the rainforest.

The canopy observation tower is basically some scaffolding that stands about 30 metres high which is just about high enough to see over the rainforest canopy.  You realise just how vast and dense the rainforest is when you can see for miles.  It was a beautiful sight, as was watching the sun (already rising rapidly by the time we got to the top) rise majestically on the horizon.

The point of being up there, as well as the view and the sun rise, was to do some further bird and animal spotting.  At first the only thing any of us were spotting were wasps.  Hundreds of them swarming around the tower from top to bottom.  So much so, I assumed a nest was up there, but Yuri informed us that the wasps (and other flying insects) that were up there were there for the salt.  Sweaty tourist hands went up and down the tower everyday leaving some much needed salt deposits for the insects.  And, of course, if the source of the salt is up there then why not go straight to the source?  And so it became a bit of an endurance test to see if you could allow the insects to fly around and possibly land on you.  Natural instinct is to swerve and avoid them or even swat at them, but the last thing anyone wants as a souvenir is a massive wasp sting.  We all showed tremendous restraint and came away unscathed, although feeling very grubby and itchy.

I am pretty useless as spotting birds or animals, but I thought I had an absolute cracker in my sights.  The previous day Yuri had shown us an owl that disguises itself as a broken branch of a tree during the day.  It does it so well that it took a high powered view through a telescope for us to believe that it was a bird and not the tree.  Well, I had one in my sights and I convinced the American couple I had spotted it too.  I asked Yuri for the final verdict and he said “Yes!” I celebrated my find until Yuri finished his sentence with “it is a tree”.  Oh well, maybe we’ll have better luck elsewhere and we certainly did!

We saw Toucans, parrots and macaws and then someone spotted a huge bird on the wing.  Yuri was very excited and confirmed it was a Harpy Eagle.  We trained our sights on it and I have to say it’s the biggest bird I have seen in flight – it was huge!  Yuri said that a young one still occasionally visited it’s old nest and he thought it might be that one, but he said it is so rare to see one, the last time one was seen around here was in May.  We had been very lucky and it certainly beat my tree branch!

Down from the canopy and heading back along the trail we saw a group of Dusky Titi Monkeys, also making their way down having slept high in the trees.  That’s the great thing about being here is that a short walk along a trail (or a trip to the bathroom) can be interrupted by an impromptu wildlife show.

Back for breakfast and some relaxation time in my hammock.  We are going to a mammal clay lick at 10am where we hope to see wild pigs, deer and possibly a Jaguar or Puma (highly unlikely but not unheard of).

The mammal clay lick didn’t turn out as we had hoped in that no mammals came to it at all.  We did see birds in the trees surrounding the hide though and, as it is nature and a very big rainforest you have to accept that you won’t always see what you would hope rather than feel short changed.

On the way we did see a raccoon like animal that was quite rare, so that was fortunate.  Yuri then lured another tarantula out to meet us, this time it was at head height from a hole in a tree above the trail which was nice!  Yuri also advised us, if we ever got lost to eat ants and bugs and wait by a tree – great advice, I hope he wasn’t trying to tell us something.  I suggested that I would eat all the fungi I could find and “trip” my way out and Yuri pointed out I would probably die.  Speaking of getting lost and dying: we went off trail for a few yards whilst Yuri showed us something and when we turned to face the trail (a reasonably well worn path) we could not see it.  Of course, Yuri knew where it was, but had we stumbled off the trail and tried to find our way back and gone wrong, we would be entering a whole world of pain.  And this was in broad daylight!

Yuri also showed us a plant that could be used as an antidote to a bite from a Fer de Lance snake, after which I promptly stepped in a hole filled with leaves (a great snake hideout) and we all thought we were going to have to use that plant on me straight away!

After lunch we had an excursion that hadn’t really floated any of our boats.  We were going to visit a farm across the river.  It was interesting enough though and I even engaged Yuri in a conversation about crop rotation (and they said that what you learn in GCSE Geography has nothing to do with real life…it only took me almost 20 years to get to use it).  But, as we spoke thunder began to rattle around us and sure enough the heavens soon opened.  This was a proper tropical downpour.  It was like someone had turned on a tap.  We sheltered in one of the farm houses and waited for it to pass.  As the water started to build up around us, we realised that waiting it out was not such a good idea, especially as it was also getting dark, so we made a break for the boat.  A very muddy and slippery path led us back to the boat and as we reached the riverbank I fell onto the mud where the boat was moored.  I opted for a one-knee drop and two flat hands in the mud, looking as though I was leaving my imprint outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.  Once all aboard we went back across and already swelling river and made the arduous trek back to the lodge against a current of rainwater coming the other way.  In some places the water was deep enough to go over the tops of boots and by the time I reached the lodge I was soaked through to the skin despite having my raincoat on.

I took of my coat and boots and headed into the shelter of the lodge and to my room to get changed.  Dried off and ready to head back to the bar I donned one of my ponchos and got to the bar area nice and dry.  I caught up with writing my blog, had some dinner and sat with the American couple chatting and drinking.  It would be the last time I see them as they are getting an earlier boat out than me in the morning – such a nice couple.  We bid each other a very fond farewell.  Hard to believe this is my last night in the jungle.

Peru Travel Blog: 4th October 2011: Apoc – Clay Licks Now!

“Everyone gets everything he wants. I wanted a mission, and for my sins, they gave me one. Brought it up to me like room service. It was a real choice mission, and when it was over, I never wanted another.”

Yesterday, whilst going up river on the boat I often thought of Apocalypse Now, especially after night fell and we passed by the lightning bursts.  I was half expecting to reach a stage with a helicopter full of playmates.  I think I dreamt about the opening sequence too last night, I think that was down to the light show I was treated to as I fell asleep…maybe I’ve been away too long already!

My alarm woke me at 04:30.  The dawn’s early light enabled me to have a quick look around in case something had decided to sleep on the other bed or generally hang around my room.  Nothing.  Great.

I’d slept soundly, only waking a couple of times: once to get inside the covers because the night had got cooler; and once because something was flapping around in the rafters.  I couldn’t see what it was and it’s not like there was anything I could do about it anyway, so I ignored it and went back to sleep.  My neighbours, the American couple later confirmed it was a bat.

I had a quick check whilst still inside the mosquito net and was happy to report no mosquitoes breached the perimeter and I had no bites.  I tugged at the corner to relieve myself of the net and..ahem…well, go and relieve myself.  Whilst in the bathroom I noticed 2 glowing eyes staring at me from the floor of the shower.  When I say glowing, I mean proper luminous yellowy green really, really glowing brightly.  I fumbled for my torch and shone in the direction expecting a snake or worse (a monkey).  It was some sort of beetle.  The glowing “eyes” were dots on its back that.  Although nothing too bad, it was still a bit freaky and nothing like any other beetle I had seen before.  It was about 2-3 inches long and black apart from the glowing dots.  I figured I’d let it have the shower and I would go for breakfast and hope that it had gone by the time I returned.

Another great breakfast!  I am loving the food over here (although some might say I would like the food anywhere!).  Eggs, pancakes, fresh fruit and lovely bread is a fantastic way to start the day.

Our first excursion into the rainforest is to a clay lick.  Not sure what that is?  Me, neither.  A Clay lick is an exposed embankment of earth that is predominantly clay which retains moisture from the humid rainforest atmosphere.  They are used by birds, insects and mammals to help them digest the food that they eat and provide minerals that they are unable to source elsewhere.  The clay lick we are going to today is one often used by parrots and macaws.  These birds, in the constant fight for survival in the rainforest, often eat unripe fruit which makes for tricky digestion.  The clay helps them with this – I don’t know how, I’m not a scientist.

To get there we went up river for about 20-30 mins and then hiked for an hour or so, following a very damp and boggy trail, through the rainforest to reach a couple of hides close to the clay lick.  Although I say “close” you will need binoculars – I didn’t have any, but luckily enough guide lent me his – had we been in a larger group I could have been out of luck.  The guide also had a super powered telescope that he set up so we could each get the perfect view if anything were to happen.

Although warm and humid, it was turning into a grey morning with light drizzle; not ideal for the birds to want to go to the clay lick.  We saw plenty of birds flying around and in the trees though – another tip I would have is bring a pen and paper out with you to write down what you see, I lost track after a while.  We were very patient and as the time passed the day brightened and the macaws started grouping in trees nearer the clay lick and making a bit more noise, so it looked like we could be on for some action!

We saw about 20 macaws patiently taking it in turns to go to the clay lick and get their fill.  Looking through the telescope was brilliant.  Seeing birds that I had only really seen as pets in their natural habitat acting naturally, i.e. not riding a tricycle, was awesome.  Parakeets and parrots also got in on the clay and elsewhere we saw a Toucan and an Amazonian King Fisher.  I’ve never tried bird watching, or even been inclined to, but this was fascinating stuff plus the enthusiasm of the others rubbed off on me.  Once it looked like all the birds had used the lick for the day, we headed back along the trail.

The morning had flown by and we headed back to the lodge to get some lunch, have some rest before our afternoon excursion.  The great thing about walking the trail with the guides is that they often stop and point out things and explain them to you: frogs, toads (it’s their mating season), insects, plants, fungi – there’s so much to see and so much variety that it’s a bit overwhelming.

I think my camera has busted – think it’s the heat and humidity – can’t be too disheartened as there is only a couple of days to go and at least it didn’t break on the trek.  I do wish I had brought a spare though (I did actually consider it).

The afternoon’s excursion was a bit closer to the lodge: we followed a trail through the jungle to an oxbow lake – an oxbow lake is when a U-bend in a river becomes cut off, forming a U-bend lake.  Potentially we may see some Cayman or Otters (we saw neither, but that’s nature for you).  We took a small boat out onto the lake and fed the piranhas in there.  Luckily they are as happy eating bread as they are meat and although we discussed the fact that they generally only go for dead and rotting carcasses none of us opted to stick our fingers in there.

We crossed the lake to another trail where we looked at a parasite plant that had taken over, destroyed and replaced a hug tree and also a tree that walks.  Get this: the walking tree can grow roots out from midway up and at 45 degree angles to then plant and allow the roots behind to die, thus moving along the forest floor.  This enables it to move to a place where it might get more sunlight.  Of course, it takes a while, but it walks nonetheless – nature and the quest for survival is fascinating.

By the time we started heading back it was dusk and, as we know, night falls pretty quickly out here, so it was quickly on with the headlamps for the trek.  Along the trail Yuri spotted a tarantula and coaxed it out of its nest.  It was pretty big and surprisingly fast.  Not so fast that Yuri wasn’t able to pick it up for us to get a closer look.  Yuri was a more than capable guide and I trusted him explicitly, so I had no concerns about him picking it up.  I’m not scared of spiders either and, as I understand it, although a tarantula can give you a nasty bite, they’re not poisonous enough to affect you any more than a bee sting would – that’s not to say I’d be happy for it to happen though!

The worrying bit was when Yuri put it back down by the nest and instead of it going back in it raised itself up and started charging at each of us as though it wanted to take us all on!  Given how fast and aggressive it was: that had me worried.  Yuri spotted that the spider was in some distress and an almost blind fury and he managed to coax it back to the nest where he realised why it had reacted the way it had.  The tarantula was a female and had several young tarantulas in the nest.  No wonder she got so mad!

We saw a few more tarantulas along the trail back and it got the point where I just assumed any hole in or by a tree had a tarantula in it.

Almost as soon as we got back it was time to go back out again.  This time it was down to the river to go Cayman spotting.  We had much more success and saw several small Cayman.  The bigger Cayman were most likely in the water and knew better than to hang around a boat load of tourists.

It had been a long day and soon after dinner I retired back to my room to write by candle light and admire and absorb the magnificence nature that surrounded me.  My mindset has changed already and although I certainly respect the rainforest, I have chosen not to fear or speculate as to what might be just outside (or inside) my room.

Peru Travel Blog: 3rd October 2011: Welcome to the Jungle

Fucking Hell! This is some serious shit I have got myself into!

 I left my hotel in Cusco around 11:30 and was at the airport with plenty of time to catch my flight to Puerto Maldonado.  There were so few people on the flight that the people on the gate actually walked around the departure lounge asking who was on it and the guy manning the desk gave me the nod when the plane was ready.  There were a few people on the plane already, as this is part of a longer route (from Lima, I think).  The flight is barely half an hour, but almost as soon as we got over the mountain range that surrounds Cusco, I was able to see the myriad of rivers winding their way through dense rainforest.

I'm doing fine on cloud 9Little fluffy cloudsRiver of dreams

 

Stepping off the plane I felt the heat and the humidity hit me immediately; a massive change from the cool, thin air of recent days.  My guide, Yuri, met me at the airport: this guy was born and raised in and around the jungle, so I’m in good hands…which are huge, by the way, he’s a big guy and his handshake felt like it was going to render me unconscious.  We had a short drive to the Admin office of the tour company – I say office, but it was more like an open pavilion where I had to wait with others that were also making the trip up river to stay at the same lodge.  Some were going to only stay one night at the lodge: a group that were going paddle boarding on some rapids and a guy who is a professional photographer who would be going further up river too to work.  There was also a middle-aged American couple and a group of, at a guess, early twenty-something, friends that were also American.  The staff at the office piled our stuff onto the roof of the bus and as we climbed on board we were given snacks of bananas & sugar covered Brazil nuts.  And then we were on our way out of Puerto Maldonado to a town call Infierno which roughly translates as “Hell Hole” where we would pick up our boat.

The road, if you can call it that, was rough and dusty – a red dust that soon coated all of us.  Driving to e place called Hell in a rickety bus going over all sorts of bumps and holes put me in mind of the excellent William Friedkin film Sorcerer (based on The Wages of Fear).  I was very glad we didn’t have any “sweating” Nitro Glycerine in the back of the bus with us!

Our bones well and truly rattled, we arrived at the small dock and took our places on the boat.  The boat was a long narrow boat that sat low in the water and had an outboard motor with a very long propeller shaft.  It looked like it could capsize easily…especially if a huge Cayman tried to climb aboard and eat us.  Perhaps my imagination was running away with me.  On the boat we were given some lunch and we slowly made our way up river for the next 3 and a half hours.  It was all new to us, so the scenery was great and we even got to see a capybara by the shore.  The sun was beating down on us and I was very glad that not only had I put on sunscreen, but that I had also put on plenty of insect repellent.  As the trip went on the sun began to sink and the guides said that we would not reach the lodge before dark: cue frantic scrabbling to get our headlamps and torches.  It was a clear night though and the moon was almost full giving us and, more importantly, the driver a clear view of the river.  Bats flew alongside us and acrobatically dived and swooped to catch the many insects around.  We also saw lots of flashing lights rising out of the rainforest which I assumed to either be logging areas or refineries only to be told that they are small pockets of thunderstorms such is the ecosystem there they can have a full thunderstorm specific to perhaps a kilometre square in amongst the hot and humid weather.

What’s up dock?

 

Once at the dock of the lodge we disembarked and had to walk up many steps and follow a jungle path for around 15 minutes before we reached the main building.  It was an impressive sight when we reached it and it was all lit up (gas lamps only, as there is very little electricity here).  There is a main area of the lodge with a bar, lounge and the dining area and off of that run raised footpaths that lead to the rooms.  It looked like a Bond villains hideout.  Once designated a room, I eagerly went to see it.

First thing I noticed was the door: there isn’t one – it’s curtains.  Not a big deal, it’s hardly likely anyone will wish to come into my room.  Secondly, the room is lovely – I get 2 beds (each with mosquito nets), a hammock, table and chairs and an en-suite bathroom which has cold water only.  Oh yeah…there’s also a wall missing!  I’ve got 3 walls and then a sort of balcony that faces straight out to the jungle.  No patio door, no shutters; Yuri took great delight in telling me that the room is open to the jungle 24/7.  I think he took more delight in my reaction to that than telling me: it went along the lines of “Oh god, that is going to scare the shit out of me!”

Oh yeah, a couple more things: if you have any food you have to lock it in your safe, so it won’t attract animals.  And each room as a whistle hanging on a hook and you are supposed to blow it, in Yuri’s words “in case something big comes into the room that you can’t handle”.

The room is only lit by candle light, so as you can imagine a flickering light has a tendency to make every shadow move.  So I already started to feel like there were many other things living in there with me.  Thankfully, it was now dinner time, so I didn’t have to think about it much more.

As usual on this trip the food was great and I was allocated a table and a group for the entire stay: Yuri would be my guide for the duration and the middle-aged American couple from the boat would also be with us.  The same process was done for other groups (many bird watchers) and I saw how lucky we were that just the 3 of us had one guide where we saw other groups that had 12 people for one guide.  We immediately chatted and got on well, so that was good too and I made sure I had a couple of large beers  to “help me sleep”.

Returning to my room I had 2 candles burning and my headlamp on.  Although light sort of makes me feel safer, it also attracts insects.  You know that an insect is large when instead of it buzzing past your ear, you actually hear wings flapping!  The housekeeping staff set up you mosquito net for you, so all you have to do is lift one corner, crawl in and make sure you replace the corner securely.  Typically, the housekeeping staff had decided that the bed nearest the jungle was the one for me and only set that mosquito net up!

I laid inside the mosquito net sweating.  It’s still pretty humid at night.  With my torch on and a candle (at a safe distance from the net).  I wrote in my journal for a while before deciding enough was enough and blowing out the candle and switching off the torch – keeping my torch under the net with me though, just in case.

With the light my eyes were drawn to the “balcony” or rather the jungle beyond.  The sound coming from the jungle is pretty loud.  It sounds like frogs and crickets to me, although lord knows what might be making those sounds.  It’s quite a relaxing sound actually and, now the light is off, nothing seems to be attracted to the room or the net – nothing that I can see or hear anyway.  So, I felt like I could finally fall asleep…and then…

…the heavens opened, thunder rumbled overhead and lightning illuminated the jungle giving me the best view from my room I had since arriving.  It was raining so hard, I wondered if the roof might leak – instead, I started to feel a fine mist of water drift into the room and over me.  The rain must have been hitting the floor with such force that the splashback was drifting in.  I worried that I may have to switch to the other bed and set up my own mosquito net.  Thankfully, that subsided, but the storm still raged around us.  I half expected each flash of lightning illuminating the jungle to reveal some huge creature with big teeth and claws getting closer and closer, like a slowly thumbed horror filled flickbook.

As it was, I drifted to sleep listening to the storm and I slept very well.

 And that’s why they call it a rainforest…