Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Amazon Jungle with 'Jungle Experience' tours

sDay 1: Wed 20th June
Our trip into the jungle started early at six in the morning, a ride through Manaus at Taxi speed Mach II and then a three hour bus ride 200km east to Lindõia. On the trip along with us was Marie, from Sweden, Merche and Iñigo from the Basque country and two guides Francisco and Leo. From Lindõia we hopped in a small boat and set off up the Urubu river to find the base camp. Since there was no wind the surface of the river formed a mirror reflecting the tops of the submerged trees and the clear blue sky. We had not gone more than half an hour when the guides spotted a rare pink dolphin crossing the river in front of us and brought the outboard motor to a stop. We drifted in awed silence as the peculiar looking animal surfaced to breath only a few meters in front. Another bum-numbing half an hour or maybe more and we arrived at what was to be the main camp during our trip; a collection of open, palm thatched shelters on the side of the river.

From Amazon jungle


After setting up our hammocks and a brief tour around the camp we chilled out and got to know each other before lunch was served. Marie was at Hostel Manaus with us so we´d already spoken to her quite a bit, but it was great to be speaking Spanish again with Merche and Iñigo after so many months of Portuguese. Good practise for our impending trip into Venezuela also!

After lunch Francisco took Leah and I out on a small canoe to explore the canopies of the submerged forest. We crossed the open river and then pushed through the branches in to a darker world of trees, spider webs, shadows and peculiar bird calls. Once again everything was mirrored buy the dark waters of the river.

From Amazon jungle


After a while of pushing through the branches and brushing off the cobwebs from our faces it was time to try piranha fishing for our dinner. We each had a simple rod with a length of fishing line and a hook with a lump of chicken for bait. Fransisco splashed at the water violently to imitate the sound of an animal in distress and then we lowered our hooks and waited. It took only minutes for the first bites and with a sudden jerk of his rod Fransisco had his catch and pulled aboard our first piranha. After taking it from the hook he demonstrated with a leaf it´s seemingly automatic biting reflex, which was very effective at taking large chunks out of the foliage, and no doubt would have done the same to our limbs had they gotten too close. Soon enough I felt the nibbles pull at my line and tried the same aggressive snatch I had just observed, and was rewarded with my own thrashing piranha fish, albeit a fair amount smaller that that of our guide. I think Leah was a little alarmed by the whole process, gnashing teeth and all, so we swapped places and she moved to the front of the boat to take some photos. We caught a couple mor each, moving the boats position once or twice once the fish got wise to our tricks, and then headed back to the camp with our haul...

From Amazon jungle


After dinner of more chicken, rice, and, you guessed it, Piranha (bony but very tasty) we headed out into the starlit night for some alligator hunting. Once again it was perfectly still which meant that the stars and the moon were also reflected in the now black water, adding a surreal depth to the scenery. This time we were all in the boat, occasionally shining our torches into the black forest edge to see if there was anything to see, which there never was! Our guides led the boat back into the the submerged trees from the open river, which was still, dark and exciting! I have to admit that I though we were looking for some two meter beast that could tip the boat and gobble us all for it´s dinner, but it turned out that the alligator we caught was pretty small, just over a foot I'd say and very scared looking. Never the less it was quite exciting to hold onto it and feel it's leathery skin in my hands.

After we got back to the camp it was time to sample our first night in a hammock, which turned out to be a lot less comfortable than I had imagined. I didn´t sleep very well at all, but poor Leah I think spent the whole night waiting to be eaten by some terrible jungle beast as she was awake every time I opened my eyes to try and find a comfortable, warmer position!

Day 2: Thursday 21st June

I got up before sunrise and left with Fransisco to watch the sun come up over the trees. I think Leah had finally managed to drift off so there was no way she was getting up to come along! We headed out onto the still waters and drifted in the silence as gradually the sky changed colour through the blues and reds and the sun rose up over the dark line of the trees. We spent a little while exploring the canopies again, eating a few more cobwebs, and then headed back to camp for breakfast. In the time we'd been out a thick mist descended and it was eerie and still back at camp.

From Amazon jungle



From Amazon jungle


After breakfast Leah and I headed out with Fransisco on a three hour jungle walk. As we went we were shown various trees and their medicinal qualities, which we got to smell, taste or simply look at. There was a lot of noise of birds and crickets, and we got to see some monkeys in the distance shaking the trees. I think my super jungle camouflage white shirt may have given us away though, and Leah and I were certainly not stealthy as we crashed through the trees, so we didn't really see them up close. Not that I minded, being there in the Amazon Jungle was enough for me! The scariest thing was when Fransisco poked into a hole and tempted out the tarantula that was asleep inside - Leah had run off to a safe distance, but I stayed to take to necessary tourist snaps. I wouldn't want one of those in my bed. After a few hours, tired and sweaty we headed back to the camp for lunch.

From Amazon jungle


After saying there was no way were were going to do it, we decided to spend a night out in the jungle after all - no point coming all that way a not doing so really. I felt very safe and in good hands with Fransisco anyway, so was sure that there would be nothing to worry about. Only the Amazon Jungle after all. So after lunch and a bit of a rest we packed our hammocks, some water and insect repellent and headed out once again into the trees, this time with Marie as well. We were lead back along paths we had come along that morning and then after a while Fransisco broke off and began cutting a new trail through the undergrowth. This was slow going and tiring even for us, and we didn't have to swing the machete or carry more than a small bag each. We reached a point near some waters edge and Fransisco decided that building a small bridge across would be better than going around due to the change in water level, so he set about cutting down some smaller trees to use as planks. At that point in time I think Leah had become a little anxious about the whole staying out a night in the jungle thing so we had a long talk about whether to head back to the safety of the camp. It was the no going back point, so a good time to decide if going on was what we wanted. Thankfully we decided that we would go through with it and made our way across the water and once again onto dry land and eventually back onto ta clear path. Soon enough we were at our camp for the night; a couple of lean-to shelters in a clearing in the trees.

Fransisco set about fetching some firewood and then headed off to a nearby stream to prepare the food. I helped Marie get the fire going and Leah busied herself inspecting for anything dangerous that might have been lurking in the camp waiting for us to arrive. Thankfully nothing was. It was great to watch our guide prepare the camp using only his machete and the green resources around us - spoons, plates and a table were made and the chicken and sausage skewered and hung above the fire. The only concession was a pan to boil water and make rice. We ate like kings under the forest canopy, with only glimpses of the moon and stars above to reassure us that it wasn't about to rain.

Leah and I shared our hammock that night and spent much of it awake listening to the sounds of the jungle around us and holding tightly to each other in case anything was sniffing us out for a tasty midnight snack...once again, we didn't get much sleep! The most scary thing was probably a howler monkey doing just what it's name would suggest and sounding a lot like someone in terrible pain.

Day 3: 22nd June

After breakfast was skillfully whipped up by Fransisco once again, coffee, boiled eggs, pineapple and bananas, we broke camp and headed back the way we had come to the main camp. It was a fantastic experience and I am very very glad we decided to go ahead with it! Getting back to the camp was like returning to a five star hotel and swimming in the river like a sauna and hot tub combined it felt so good. City slickers.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing and learning how to make rings and handicraft stuff ,with only a short trip up river to the site of the new Jungle Experience base which is being built by the owner Antonio. It is a great location, slightly elevated and open to the river, creating a great view and spot to watch the sun go down, so that's what we did before heading back for dinner.

From Amazon jungle

That night we all slept well.

Day 4: 23rd June.

After waking up early there was time to pack, have breakfast and go for a swim off a boat out in the wider river before we gathered our things and headed back downstream the way we had come. I spent the time reflecting on what a wonderful experience it had been and enjoying the last views of the sunken forest.

3 comments:

bharmala said...

Hi,

I came across your blog, and your trip last year through the Amazon with Jungle Experience. From the sounds of it, it was an enjoyable experience. Would you mind sending me an e-mail letting me know what you thought about the tour company.

I'm leaving for Manaus in about a week, and would really appreciate a response.

Thanks in advance,

Bharmala

lee bazalgette said...

Hi,

We thought Jungle Experience were very good, and they were busy constructing an amazing new place while we were there that should be finished by now. It had fanastic views out across the river and the jungle!

highly recommended!

ian said...

our lodge is completed and you could visit our web site to see pictures of how it is looking now
www.antonio-jungletours.com

antonio.