Friday, March 11, 2016

Fear What? Getting to the Amazon Basin + Puerto Maldonado

On the train back from Machu Picchu, I'm speaking with a tour guide who asks me where else I want to visit in Peru. "The Amazon," I respond vigorously.
He looks at me, and having had developed rapport with me previously asks, "Are you crazy?"
I'm a little taken aback, but he is a Peruvian Tour Guide. "What don't I know?" I inquire.
"It's dangerous, yeah the snakes are dangerous, but the mosquitoes are worse."
"I know, malaria right."
"Yeah, of course malaria. Get bit, you might be dead three days later."
"Three days?"
"It's serious and they swarm," he informs me, "But it's not just malaria; yellow fever, dengue, uta. ..."
"What is uta?"
viewing the Amazon basin over the wing of my plane

"You don't know?" His face gets a look of disgust as he thinks about it. "The mosquito bites you and lays a larvae in your skin. Then the larvae eats it's way out. There are Indians with big holes in their face which had to be removed when the larvae ate through."
I'm suddenly reconsidering my trip to the jungle. He seems like a nice guy, I don't think he's being a dick, but now I'm concerned. Uta just doesn't sound all that much fun.
Maybe I'll just kick it in the Sacred Valley and do some work on my computer. Yeah, that's what I'll do ...
Wait a second, when will I ever be back in Peru? Going to the Amazon jungle has been a life-long
dream of mine. Besides, people go there, if uta was so common I'd have heard of it. Fuck it, I'll just bathe in repellent, and wear long sleeves sweatpants the entire time I'm in the jungle. Hard for the little buggers to bite through that. I'm going.
a small monument of jaguars near the center of Puerto Maldonado

Book a flight to Puerto Maldonado, a small city with a population of 75,000 which lies in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon basin. My flight arrives three hours late (this is Peru after all.)
I take a rickshaw into town, all the tour agencies offering Amazon excursions are clustered together by the main plaza. I walk into a few of them, before meeting the owner of Tambopato Tours who, speaking surprisingly excellent English, sells me a journey to the macaw clay-lick and a three night adventure in the jungle.

a view of the Madre de Dios river from the bridge in Puerto Maldonado- the river is the WIDEST I have ever seen
for contrast- those trees are all Tall

I leave the next morning in a 4x4 truck, we move down a paved road through agricultural fields for an hour before veering off onto a muddy, dirt road. Slipping and sliding, we slowly make our way through the jungle, until we get stuck, our tires screeching, unable to make our way through the mud. We exit the car, grab a heavy pick-axe and some wooden planks, and take several minutes digging our way out.
                                                digging our way out of the mud on an Amazon road

Finally free, we continue down the road, slowly of course, til we arrive at the Tombopato River, where I board a boat to taking me upstream to the reserve and lodge. I keep my eyes peeled on the riverbanks. hoping to spot the elusive jaguar. No luck there, but I am achieving my lifelong dream of setting foot into the Amazon jungle, mosquitoes and their stupid uta be damned. Never allow unjustified fears to derail your journey!

the tiny village of Philadelphia after a two hour ride to the Tombopata river


  1. Ugh. Thats a lot of work, but if your determined, nothing is impossible.

  2. Ugh. Thats a lot of work, but if your determined, nothing is impossible.


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