"Finding Nirvana is like Locating Silence" Jack Kerouac- Dharma Bums
Our tour guide, Pepe, picked us from the Puerto Maldonado Airport and took us to over to a small SUV. He introduced himself and started giving us the rundown of how things would work. As we started pulling out of the parking lot he turns around in his seat says "Oh and you are the only two going this week so you will have the entire place to yourself". There would be two boatmen, Pepe, and a couple of resort staff to cook and clean all for just Jenni and I. This is the moment when you start debating if this is something to be concerned about or totally amazing. Despite the fact that the wildlife center is located 5 1/2 hours by boat on the Bolivian side of the Peru-Bolivia border we went with the latter.
The Wildlife Center consists of 10 cabana style rooms. Each has it's own propane heated water for the bathroom (ours ran out halfway through the first shower). There is no electricity in the rooms only a single solar powered light and a candle for the bathroom.
This is the main lodge, where we would meet Pepe to eat 3 meals a day. There is also a bar area where you can grab a cold beer or shot of hot pisco.
Hammock Hut - Right on the river and best place to catch a breeze.
It's amazing how safe a piece netting makes you feel, but that bed was definitely the safest place in the entire forest. Every time we came back to the room we would do a perimeter sweep to see what new friends had joined us. We entertained frogs, giant red wasps, foot long crickets, and spiders ranging from the size of quarter to the palm of your hand.
Dinner was at 7:30pm every night, and after we ate and they would shut down the generator. It would get completely dark. Not quiet, just dark. There is so much activity going in the Jungle it's debatable if the heat or the noise made it harder to sleep.
Conversations in the pitch black went something like this:
Jenni: "What was that?"
Denny: "Monkeyyyy" (Said in a Pepe-esque accent)
J: "Should we lock the doors then?"
D: "hahah why"
J: "You know cause they're smart"
D:"Wouldn't matter I think they are locksmith monkeys"
Nothing like following a guy with a machete into the rainforest to search for the animal who made the sound you described to him as "the wind from a horror movie".
We never did find the Howler Monkeys responsible for giving us the chills, but learned that only the Alpha in each group actually howls. Each one last 30+ seconds at a time.
Brazil Nuts which sell for about 12 soles ($3.50) a kilo (35 1/4 Ounces). In the states about half that costs $16+. I'm not a huge fan, but everything tastes better when you machete it right from the source.
This is a "Walking Palm". I made Pepe explain this root system to me twice because I thought there might have been some translation confusion. The roots of this palm will actually detach and grow outward and then reattach to the ground allowing it to move up to 20 cm a year. The reason, as it was explained, was that everything is fighting for light in the jungle and so it will slowly move toward openings in the canopy.
Not far from the lodge is a lake that is home to a family of Giant River Otters. This endangered species gets up to 6 feet long. Pepe told us crazy stories about them teaming up to eat Anacondas and Caimans. These are definitely not the adorable otters you see at your local zoo, but the kind I picture escaping from a lab. Excited to see them? We were too. Unfortunately, we canoed (Pepe paddled while we sat) for an hour or so and never saw them....
Despite the abscence of terrifyingly large otters the scenery wasn't too shabby...
When we couldn't find any otters, Pepe decided we should go fishing for Piranhas. I am clearly very excited about this.
Despite the most advanced fishing equipment available -String tied to a stick with a chunk of raw chicken on the end - we were also unsuccessful on this outing.
There were too many pictures to post all on one page so we broke up the wildlife stuff on two separate pages: