Through books and movies I'd learned of the mystical Amazon filled with deadly creatures, malaria, and indigenous people who have very little contact with the world. The Amazon that I encountered was very different. First of all, malaria pills weren't necessary. Deadly creatures? Well there are poisonous snakes and spiders, but I'm not certain that anyone has been bitten in any of the camps. Indigenous people, yes, but many have plenty of contact with the outside world as scientists and tourists along with private hotels invade the area.
I chose to go to the Amazon in Peru. From Cusco I took an overnight bus. Now the buses in S. America are very luxurious and the full sleepers are great. The seats were comfortable and almost fully reclined. After a light supper and a movie, the lights were turned low and I had eight hours to get some sleep before we arrived in Puerto Maldonado. But who knew that I had gotten onto the bus from "Harry Potter." The bus sped forward, rocking back and forth around sharp mountain passes only to stop short, flinging me forward as we came to a speed bump. Then we were off again at a break-neck speed.
Upon arrival I was a bit tired and really wishing I'd spent the extra money on a plane ticket. But soon I was on the Amazon River. The boat sped along the calm, muddy waters. I was there in the rainy season, but the skies were clear and bright blue. On either side of the river was thick jungle and Scarlett macaws sat in nests high in the trees and flew over us.
At the small research camp I'd chosen far away from the tourist center of Puerto Maldonado, my room was built with logs, lit with candles, and had running water but no electricity. The dining hall had one generator where electronics could be plugged in for a few hours each night.
My guide handed me large rubber boots and with a machete in his hand we began our walk into the jungle. Green surrounded me. The moisture from the forest dripped from the plant leaves. Howler monkeys jumped from branch to branch and giant butterflies flew from one plant to the next. Vultures stared down at me. Ants made incredible condos under the ground. The leaf-eaters carried their food on their backs deep into the hive. There they chewed the leaves into a paste, spit it back out, and created a garden for mushrooms to grow. This is the food they live upon.
Everywhere there was life. When darkness came we walked the jungle with only a flashlight. This is when frogs and spiders come out. Huge crickets with razor sharp hind legs made noise and always I could hear the buzz of the cicadas.
One night we took the boat downstream. On every bank were crocodiles. Tiny young ones would come to the boat and we tried to catch them, but without any luck. Then we saw a large one. He stared at us for a moment, then bored he went under the water not to reappear.
There's plenty of downtime in the Amazon, when the day is too hot to do anything but relax. I swung in a hammock, drinking tea, my belly full of delicious food and I thought, I've gotten everything out of this adventure that I desired, but what I really want is to see a Scarlett Macaw up close. We'd gone that morning to the salt lick and watched hundreds of birds in the trees. Not unlike typical couples some of the birds were cozy with their mates and other's slightly ticked off. But though there were many green parrots, the macaws had eluded us that day.
Soon after this I walked to my room and to my surprise a visitor walked through my door. A bright Scarlett Macaw had decided to visit. He waltzed around, pulled the sheet off my bed and made a nest underneath the wooden frame. He decided he rather liked my space and that it was time for me to leave. The next thing I knew this Macaw was moving me out of my own room.
Turns out, he's made the camp his home and though he's free to leave and rather wild he's lived in the camp for many years and is used to people so it took a human resident with a big broom to get him to give me my abode back.
The Amazon is being cut down at an alarming rate. It's without a doubt one the most precious gifts to humans from nature. Within the jungle lies cures to incurable diseases. The oxygen it creates is important to this world being over-filled with smog. If we keep harming our planet for instant gratification we won't have anything for the future.