Jungle Fever

Funny how easy it is to get up at 5am while on vacation. It's still dark out. The only noise is the sound of people slowly waking up. We took a boat out again to catch the sunrise at the open part of the river. Lord, the resident K-9 dog, hopped on the boat with us. Catching sunrises on the boat is his favorite activity, apparently. I don't remember the last time i saw a sunrise this beautiful. The water was quiet but full of life. We spotted black monkeys and their lil baby eating leaves, plenty of birds, and the gray and pink dolphins swimming about. Looks like it's going to be a hot, hot day.

And man a hot day it turns out to be. The usual stuff went on in the jungle trek: walking around, learning about plants for both poisonous and medicinal purposes, checking out small insects, etc. I'm a little surprise by how dry it was and how little animals and insects there were. This was nothing like costa rica or colombia. The plants were pretty big and wild tho. Did I mention it was hot as fuck. Oh my god.

More people arrived back at the lodge. It's looking a little bit more like a semi profitable business now. A bunch of sleazy Brazilian old men who constantly want me to take shots of cachaca + lime, an old Australian couple who do everything on their new ipad, a hot but not so friendly dutch couple, a quintessential LA couple (read: gear whores), and some other strays. A quick swim in the river washed out all the crap sweat from the jungle, ready just in time for fried piranhas lunch (tasted like pla slid). The sun is now too hot for anyone to do anything. And so we resorted to hammock time under the tree. Man I love me hammock time. Watching the river, a little breeze, napping away. We had great conversations with the Hungarians. Not much with anyone else. Later this afternoon it looks like another hike is on the schedule, this time with overnight in the lean-to contraption in the jungle.

3:00pm - rock n roll time. Mattheas doesn't really talk much for a guide. He is pensive, meticulous, skilled hunter, low in words, and also low on information. I'm still not sure where we are camping out and how long a hike. Turns out it's a boat ride. A long, eerie one through series of stretches of dark narrow waterways. Occasionally you can hear the howling of black monkeys echoing in the sky. They call them "howler monkeys" for the loud sound alright. Mere 3-4 monkeys can really turn the otherwise quiet hum of the forest into a grand concert. Eerie.

Campsite is... Wow. Um. Well. It's got some basic wood stump for sitting, a used fire pit space, a space half made for make-shift table, and one thatched roof structure. That's about it. At this point we are even deeper into river Juma. There is no longer signs of indigenous houses, river people, or any human for that matter. Just us. We learned how to hang our own hammocks - occasionally using the skills acquired in the hike this morning to make ropes, chop wood, etc.. I must say, using the giant machete to chop wood is surprisingly satisfying in a barbaric kind of way. This really is how I know i'm masculine. Other ladies opted to set up mozzie nettings and here I am chopping wood. Rox was equally macho. We're truly working the role of lesbian duo in the jungle. Not much else happens here at the camp. Mattheas grilled some ridiculously yum chicken, made rice, carved up spoons from nearby trees for the rice. We ate by the fire, chatted, and took off for snake hunting in the boat at night.

Lonely planet describes the Amazon experience as ambient. It really is the perfect word for it. The remoteness of this place, the primitive activities we do here, the lack of distraction .. something about this existence really gets into your head. Because not a fucking thing happens here, you start to think a lot about life's necessities .. what you own versus what you need. You think about your role in the society, the role of society in the world at large, and how that affects the environment. You think a lot about eco tourism and how much of it promotes environment awareness versus destroys it. I am in awe of Mattheas's ability to chop a slice of a tree bark and manifest a spoon in a few seconds. But if he has to do this for every doe-eyed tourist that comes through, how many trees would need to be killed for mere amusement? There is a limit in terms of the number of people who can come here. More than that we'll likely tip the balance of nature and end up destroying it. In some way I feel like I'm in a reversed zoo.

Like the night game drive in africa, I once again lean in favor of the night boating. The pitch black water reflects the night sky like a giant mirrored glass. You no longer know where the sky ends and the water begins. The vast expanse reminds you of how small and insignificant you are.. how small and insignificant our planet is .. a mote of dust suspended in sunbeam. Something about the sea of stars make me feel vulnerable. It reminds me of a beautiful childhood warmth buried deep in the cold unforgiving mess called growth. Slight fog covers just a few feet from the surface, enough to feel cool when the boat cuts through. Occasionally you will hear the howler monkey going at it, but apart from that and the silent hum of secedes, all you can hear is the engine from the boat and the movement of water it cuts through. Peaceful. Eerie. Never safe. No snakes to be found.

Back at the camp it's sleepy time. Except, well, we are in the fucking jungle. One would think the whole concept of sleeping under the stars by the river (granted it's amazon) would be uber romantic but reality hits home pretty hard with 40c temperature, 100% humidity, skin caked in what seems to be a permanent mixture of sweat, deet, and sunscreen. Not to mention bugs. Mmm. Bugs. Lots and lots of them.

10:30 pm - thank goodness for headphones and music. Best way to tune out that annoying mozzie hum.

12:00 am - still up. Shoulda picked a longer playlist. Whats that noise .. Sounds like wild boars. Sounds far. Wtf is that spotlight shining in my face? Oh.. The moon. Damn that's a big bright moon. Remind me again why I always pay to put myself in this situation every time.

2:55 am - dozed off for a bit. Turning inside a hammock isn't easy. Every time I turn I hear the dreadful sound of cotton tearing. Am I too heavy for the hammock? Or is that my pants.. What if I fall on the ground right now? I hope the giant hole in the mozzie net is still stuffed with toilet paper. Is it a bad idea to take my socks off? Can anything possibly be crawling under my hammock right now? Does my iPhone have enough battery? Omg if I turn it on to switch song the light will attract even more bugs. Omg.. Please don't have to pee.. Omg..

6:40 am - huh? Whoa. It's morning. Oh hi GIANT amazonian black ant crawling on my crotch. Were you sleeping with me here all night? Wow I feel like I haven't slept at all. I smell coffee. Mm. Let's hope no scorpion made a home in my boots.