Porcupines can climb trees…can we talk about this please?

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Apologies to Robert K Harm, who has been annoying me nonstop about the fact that I let my updates slide. Well done Rob, you won:

A year ago today I was in a boat, watching monkeys chase each other through the tops of trees in the flooded Amazon Jungle in Peru. I went with a group of all girls to deliver medicine to a Jungle clinic, from pediatric vitamins to fresh needles and penicillin. Not a single one of us was a pre-med student. We were just curious, and wanted to help. When we weren’t delivering life-saving medication, we explored the jungle in boats piloted by local guides, chasing porcupines and sloths, drinking from water vines and eating jungle fruit. Music drifted over the rooftops of Lima, Peru when our adventure began, the stifling heat broken by tin drums and Spanish shouts. After leaving the Montana snow, the hundred degree heat sunk into my bones and was so welcome I was too grateful to complain about the constant drone of bugs and the 100% DEET spray coating my skin and clothes. It still wasn’t enough to keep the bugs at bay, but it was a small price to pay.

We went from Lima to Iquitos, and then took a boat up the Amazon to the Tahuayo Lodge, home to the Angels of the Amazon, a nonprofit organization that provides schooling to the village children and helped us organize our trip to distribute the medical supplies. We played games with the local children, though I’ll admit I was at a disadvantage since I don’t speak Spanish. That didn’t matter once they discovered I could Salsa though. My basic knowledge of Spanish dancing led me to the center of a roughly constructed dance floor and found me spun and instructed and laughed at by a group of men and women ranging in age from ten to eighty. We fished for Piranha, captured dart frogs, climbed into the tops of the trees, and generally gave the Amazon a run for its money. Before we left, we were honored by a visit from the local shaman (who was actually a woman). She preformed various ceremonies with us, banishing the evil forest spirits that might attempt to follow us home, and promising us sweet dreams for the rest of our jungle stay. Deep sleep and good health.

Other people staying in the Lodge stumbled upon the ceremony and proceeded to take flash pictures. Which brings me to this observation: Pictures are a great way to hold memories, but some things are meant to be experienced. Live them, don’t watch them through a camera lens. That little mechanical box doesn’t make you exempt from polite rules of society. Just because the ceremony isn’t for your religion, or isn’t something you understand doesn’t give you the right to snap pictures of it. Your concrete memories are not more important than someone else’s spiritual ones. Please remember that, whenever and wherever you travel.

Rant concluded.

We zip lined through the trees, over water infested with pink dolphins, piranha, boa constrictors, and water vipers. I swam in it too. Let’s not talk about my sense of self-preservation right now, you should know by this point that the adventure is always worth it, plus that would be a pretty cool story to come home with. Unfortunately (or fortunately if you talk to my mother), nothing aquatic visited my afternoon dip. One of the guides, Angel, did tell me this wonderful legend though: According to the local villages, the Pink Dolphin is to be feared. Their folk lore says that young girls are tempted to the water by the dolphins; they are then drowned by the sprites of the Jungle, and transformed into dolphins themselves. It made it all the more exciting when, in a tropical drizzle, we entered a clearing in the trees, where the water stood almost still, and a pink dolphin broke the water before us.

For anyone interested in the Lodge, or the Angels, you can find out more here:

http://www.facebook.com/angelsoftheamazon

http://www.perujungle.com/

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