A knock on the door frame, “Beunos dias” – that voice was far too cheerful for such an unearthly hour! It was pitch black. I reached for the lighter to light the candle, missing such luxuries as a light switch & electricity!
Why were we awake at 4:00am? Well, the plan was breakfast 4:30am, leaving at 5:00am. First stop was an Oxbow lake – a lake formed by the main river flow forming another path & ‘cutting a corner’, the result being a lake in relative isolation from the main river. As the water level of the river rises & falls, the lake gets replenished with water. As the lake was separated from the main river, it had none of the terracotta colouring as there was no agitation to stir up the clay like river bed. Instead the water was still & a deep green/blue.
The reason we had come so early was to avoid the intense heat of the day. We were going to be spending some hours on the lake & the earlier we managed it, the more time we would be able to tolerate the heat. The chosen method of transport to the lake was motorised canoe again, once on the lake it was a paddle driven catamaran. It was very picturesque, with the surface of the water alive with insects jumping around on the surface & snakes swimming beneath the surface would pop their heads out to look for food then bob back beneath again.
In the trees all around were birds of all different types, nests hanging from branches right up high. We saw another cayman at the water’s edge too. It was very tranquil. As the paddle man took us gently further up the lake, we reached the invisible line we weren’t allowed to cross – beyond it was a nest of otters & we waited patiently for them to appear. We weren’t disappointed as they very soon arrived, heads bobbing above the water’s surface as they openly played. Zoom lenses on maximum, we strained to get good shots of them – the view through my binoculars was very clear, but I’ll have to wait until I download my images to see if the pictures came out as well.
From here we made our way back down the lake & stopped for a bit of fishing – pirhana fishing. Due to the damage that is being done to the fish through repeated tourist fishing, the Reserve now has a rule that fishing can only be done by the Reserve guides. So we watched as some raw meat was cut in to little cubes & a piece placed on the hook at the end of a line attached to a very primitive fishing rod – in fact it was a thin branch!
Next the bait was cast in to the water as dummies several times before being allowed to rest in the water. All the while the guide was pulling at the rod to see if he had a bite. The first time the hook came out of the water, the bait was gone but no fish. The second time, there it was – a Yellow Bellied Pirahna – wriggling about with its teeth firmly embedded in the bait! The guide very carefully removed the bait & the hook from the fish’s mouth & then held it for us all to see. It was amazing – the first time I’d ever seen a piranha close up & every bit as scary looking as I’d seen on the tv!
Very menacing looks, coupled with a line of very sharp looking teeth – resembling a very course wood saw! I didn’t get too near – neither did the guide with his fingers, he held the fish’s mouth open with the end of a twig! Next the guide illustrated just how sharp the pirahna’s teeth were by placing a jungle leaf in its mouth. The jaws came together in a snap & a perfect semi-circle of the leaf was cut away! It was just like a craft punch! Very cool.
The piranhas can survive for about 10 minutes out of water, so once we had all had a good look & got our photos, the guide threw it back into the water. It quickly disappeared from view, the only evidence being 3 little green semi-circles floating on the surface of the water – he obviously wasn’t a salad fan!
We returned to shore & made our way to the lodge again by canoe. The sun was well & truly up by the time we got back & the cold drinks we sat & drank in the main foyer were very welcome. We were to have about an hour to ourselves before heading off to our next excursion – to see the macaws feeding from the clay banks. My companions very kindly left me fast asleep with my mouth wide open as they each went off to chill, so when I awoke I was completely on my own! I guess the photos will emerge on Facebook shortly after we return home…!
The walk to the clay banks was about half an hour – which in this heat was a task in itself. How anyone has any energy to do anything here is beyond me. We waited in the sweltering bird watching hut for nearly an hours waiting for the macaws to come down from the trees to eat the clay, but I think the previous group must have unnerved them as they didn’t come & in the end we returned to the lodge for lunch. We would try again later, from the river, on the way to our final excursion of the day – a visit to the Shaman.
After lunch we had free time again until about 3:00pm. Once I’d finished the previous day’s blog there really was nothing else to do but doze – it was just too hot to do anything else at all. Even walking was an effort. This time I chose my nap location a bit better – the hammock in our room. I stripped down to my shorts, took off my shoes & socks, laid a towel inside the hammock to soak up the sweat (!), pushed myself off with my foot… & within minutes was gone. Out like a light. I gotta get me one of these! Not just the hammock, the whole room!
I woke up in time to meet the rest of the group & we headed down – most of us yawning! – to hop onto the motorised canoe again for our short trip up the river to the Shaman. As we travelled we came to the clay banks where we had waited earlier & there, clinging to the wall, were the macaws! What a picture of colour they were – feathers of bright red, yellow, blue… pecking away at the clay surface, squawking to eachother. Staying very quiet, we silently floated as near as we could & clicked away with our cameras – it was fascinating to see them.
Their diet is very rich, so the eat the clay to cancel out the acidity of the food they eat. Also, the clay gives them minerals that are missing from their diet otherwise. The third reason, would you believe, is social – macaws are very social birds (in the wild, with eachother) & so they use this time together to ‘chat & catch up’, in a bird way 🙂
Happy with our pictures, we continued our journey to the Shaman.
A shaman is the jungle’s equivalent to the local GP. Jungle people don’t have much money, plus the fact they live far far away from civil areas where GPs work. As such, the shaman uses natural plants to concoct potions to cure just about any ailment – so we found.
We moored the canoe & proceeded up the wooden steps. At the top we were greeted by a huge array of different trees & plants, of varying sizes, shapes, colours… it was a bit like a film set from something like Lord of the Rings. We followed a winding path round to where there was a canopy roofed hut & it was there we sat to wait. There was another group too – I think they were with GAP as well – so we all gathered in hut together & were given an introductory talk by the assistant shaman (translated by our guide) before being split in to 2 groups. Our group were given a tour of the gardens by the assistant shaman, the other group were led by the shaman himself.
If, like me, you visualise the shaman to be a dark skinned witch-like figure, dressed in a grass skirt, with various skin paintings all over him, a large carved mask baring huge fangs & carrying a large spear, you’d be disappointed. The man wearing jeans & a t-shirt was a bit of an anti-climax for me too. However, what he had to say was very interesting & by the end of the tour we’d seen plants that would cure everything from tummy ache to rheumatism – with the odd love potion, natural anaesthetic & ‘wake up, wake up’ potion (work out what this one is for yourself!) thrown in for good measure. We had great fun at the end tasting some samples of them.
We had the natural equivalent of Red Bull, followed by the cure for rheumatism, polished off with a good slug of ‘wake up, wake up’ – nothing seemed to have any effect, & quite thankfully for the guys in the case of the latter one!
As dusk drew in it was time to bid farewell to our host & we travelled back to the lodge for our last night there. I was looking forward to finishing dinner later as I had a massage booked for 8:50pm, after which I intended to just zonk out for the night. So upon returning I had a nice refreshing shower to cool down before walking to the dining area to eat.
I had learned earlier in the day that while the generator was on between 6:00pm & 9:00pm, there was a wireless internet signal available to use – I had no idea how on earth this would work in such a remote location, but it did & I was able to upload the blog updates & grab a couple of emails from home which was great 🙂
Over dinner conversations kept returning to the fact that no-one wanted to leave the lodge or the environment. Everyone loved the simplicity of the life here, the closeness to nature, the wonderful & colourful sounds & surroundings… but the facts were plain, it all ends tomorrow. This is the last time we’d be experiencing this – probably ever. So the mood was thoughtful – that was until Mike cracked a joke, I joined in & nudged John, who happened to be holding a very full spoon of hot soup at the time, just about to insert it into his mouth.
Needless to say, it went all down John’s front, down the front of his shorts & if the ‘wake up, wake up’ potion had been successful could have caused a very nasty injury! Although the reflective mood was shattered, it didn’t seem to matter & I apologetically handed John a bundle of napkins so he could sort himself out 😐 sorry John.
8:50pm came & in I went for my massage. Needless to say, within minutes I was fast asleep & only really came round when the masseuse poked me with her finger to say in very pigeon English that it was over & I should go now. My head had become so heavy that my face had become wedged in the oval cut out shape in the bench, so when she poked me I was wrenched out of my sleep so quickly that I about pulled my face off! When I looked in the mirror afterwards, my face looked like it had been pressed through one of those shapes you use for play dough 😐 & it was very red. Fortunately it went down after a while.
Well, lights off – or rather candles out – as we have our final night of sleep in the jungle. A relatively early start in the morning – 5:45am wake up call, bags packed & outside the rooms by 6:00am ready for the porters to collect & load on to the canoes, breakfast at 6:30am, ready to leave by 7:00am. Then we will be on our last full day 🙁
Here & now it feels like it’s gone so quickly, but I have that feeling inside like I did with Base Camp – time to go home now. I miss my family & I need them close to me again.
Signing off for now – countdown to the final blogs has begun… T minus 2.