Tuesday, March 01, 2011

The Amazon Jungle, Day 2

Francisco woke us early for a sunrise paddle to look for dolphins. It was a gorgeous morning even though we never did see dolphins. The water was a little choppy which made it harder to spot their fins cresting the water. Their fins don’t come out as much as saltwater dolphins like the Atlantic Bottlenose. These are freshwater species called Pink Dolphins or Grey Dolphins. You can probably guess their color.

After a delicious breakfast of fresh pineapple and sweet bread we went out for another paddle with the UK couple. They have a great sense of humor and loved to tease Francisco about all sorts of things and he dished it right back. It was fun.

After lunch we had a nice siesta then packed our bags and Julie, Francisco and I headed out for an overnight hike in the jungle. Another guide drove us down the river to our starting point. We hopped out of the boat with our backpacks and he sped away. The only way back to the lodge was to walk. There didn’t appear to be a trail, but Francisco was confident in where we were going. Eventually you could see a faint trail, but I was glad to be with him. We would have been in a heap of trouble without a guide. It’s not like going hiking in a U.S. National Park or somewhere with nice marked signs or trail cairns along the way. This seemed to be more remote than most places in the lower 48. We carried our hammocks, food, and a soot covered cooking pot. Francisco carried a machete and we soon saw how adept he was with using it as he cleared large leaves out of our way and chopped at vines. Later I was carrying it and realized it’s not as easy as it looks.

As we hiked he taught us about many of the plants we passed. We saw the trees that make Vick’s Vapor Rub and Tiger Balm, quinine for tonic water, the natural malaria prophylactic, the medicine for rheumatism, and many more. It’s amazing what’s growing in there. I imagine there are many benefits from the plants that no one knows about yet.

As we passed a small hole in the ground Francisco stopped us and picked a palm tree frond. With his machete he shaved it off except for a few little fronds on the end. He stuck the frond in the hole and wiggled. In a moment a huge tarantula crawled out!

Francisco holding the tarantula

He expertly picked it up from the back so he didn’t get bitten, like picking up a lobster. He said a drop of the poison would kill you and held up the spider so we could see the poison dripping out. Perhaps I shouldn't admit this, I didn’t realize they were actually poisonous. I just thought they were big, hairy, and ugly. I guess since people have them as pets I had gotten the wrong impression. Now I know better!

We arrived to our campsite in the late afternoon. We gathered firewood, set up our hammocks, and Francisco cooked us an enormous meal of rice, potatoes, sausage, and veggies. I think he forgot it was just us three. He cooked enough for at least six people!

Our dinner cooking over the fire

We used large leaves for plates and Francisco cut spoons out of wood with his machete. He’s amazingly adept at using that thing.

Dinner with our machete-cut spoons and leaf plates

I was a little nervous about sleeping well in a hammock, but it was surprisingly comfortable. I just missed having a pillow.

Julie in her hammock

Francisco forgot the ropes to tie up his hammock so he used his machete to strip some bark from a tree and used that as rope. It was quite impressive. I think he was a little nervous about it's strength, but it didn't break in the middle of the night. He was very happy about that!

There were candles set up around our camp. They added a nice touch.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

any tarantula's venom is not strong enough to kill a human, let alone paralyze anyone. but the bite will be painful. the only chance of dying or being seriously ill from its venom is if you are allergic to it. your guide person is very misleading :) he of all persons should know better about his fauna than to give tarantulas a bad reputation.