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  • Writer's pictureSpiced Cranachan

Welcome to the Jungle

The Peruvian Amazon.

I'm no stranger to the outdoors and spend much of my time in the wilderness, be it photography in the Scottish countryside, hiking in the Guatemalan highlands or camping in the Australian outback.

However, nothing could have prepared me for the dense jungle I found in Payorote, and as my wooden boat paddled down the the Ucayali river, my inner thoughts took a sudden shift and I swear I could hear the opening guitar of the Guns n Roses song serenade me as I entered the Amazon.

I can't deny that it was beautiful. The Peruvian Amazon is almost forgotten, nestled as it is between the Andes as the borders to Colombia and Brazil. It plays host to its fair share of tourists, but it is relatively ignored compared to other areas of the South American jungle.

As a result, most of what can be reached from Nauta is almost untouched. Trees of countless variety wait patiently by the riverside; a wall of green that holds back the wilds within. And all around there is sound: the constant hum of insects, the call of birds from above or the rumble of a motor from a passing canoe.

Much of my visit was spent in stunned silence. It seems almost impossible that a place can be so still and peaceful, and yet also be brimming with life.

But still, it is a rainforest and this does not mean luxury. Each day held the same ritual full-body douse in deet, followed by the 3 layers of soggy clothing and waterproof trousers in a fruitless attempt to keep out the relentless mosquitoes.

The humidity could reach up to 95% some days and the temperature often exceeded 30°C - I felt almost baked alive in my clothes. And as the heat chased away my appetite my energy took a dip too, and my diet was mainly water for the week-long excursion.

While I'm no stranger to insects big and small, and I was well aware I had walked into their territory, I confess I had not expected the sheer size and volume of creepy crawlies that scuttled about. I lay in bed each night beneath my mosquito net and listened to the cacophony of screaming bugs outside my door and briefly considered screaming with them.

But there was also so much beauty to be found.

My guide had grown up in the rainforest, in nearby Puerto Miguel, and was adept at spotting animals from our boat.

With his help I saw all manner of animals. He would perch at the very tip of the canoe, slicing a path through the jungle with a machete since the risen waters had all but erased any previous routes. He would suddenly halt the boat and point out a family of squirrel monkeys hiding in the treetops or flying toucans passing overhead. On one occasion we even caught sight of the elusive pink dolphins of the Amazon.

I discussed with him my fondness for fishing and he found a spot away from the hordes of mosquitoes for us to test our skills against the fish of the jungle. I caught my piranha, cooked him and we ate him for dinner that night.

And there were truly beautiful moments of unusual calm and quiet.

Mesa, my guide, took the boat to the main river one evening at sunset. There in the middle of the waters, not a sound could be heard.

For once, the insects were silent and not even the birds dared to shatter the calm with their call.

We quietly drifted downriver with the current. I took off my mosquito net as we had finally gotten away from the little nuisances, and breathed for what seemed like the first time all week. I don't think I've ever experienced a calm like that.

It's a pointless endeavour, to try and sugarcoat the Amazon. While beautiful and wild, it is still a jungle. Most things will bite or sting and life there is a constant battle against humidity, the sun and the sudden downpours.

But if you can survive all of that, it is worth it. You will never be closer to nature and there are few place left in the world as raw and wild as this.


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