Travels in Peru 2
We arrived in Iquitos in the evening and the heat and humidity hit us like a wet blanket. The streets were clogged with motorbikes and three wheeled moto-taxis celebrating Peru’s entry into the world cup. Everyone was tooting and cheering and it was almost impossible to cross the street. Iquitos is the largest city in the world not accessible by road and with all the young people celebrating it struck me as a real frontier town. Of course it is the gateway to the Peruvian Amazon and that was where we were headed.
The next day we caught a motorboat 140 km upstream to a lodge deep in the jungle. After a quick lunch we travelled further into the jungle and began a two-hour hike to look for monkeys. It was hot and steamy and even without walking the sweat dripped from our faces. The jungle was thick with mosquitoes and other insects and seemed foreign and inhospitable. Tales of anacondas, jaguars, tarantulas and piranhas combined with the heat to make us feel like we were in another world. We come from a different place, a major city in a developed country with all the amenities. Here we were plunged into a jungle that seemed potentially full of things that could harm us and it felt very strange.
I had to wonder – is the world a friendly place or one to be feared?
Being used to a large city I am used to feeling relatively safe from the natural world. When I go bush I am aware of snakes and biting insects but because I have been brought up with these the Australian bush mostly feels like home. And the big cities hold very few fears. But the amazon jungle felt so foreign that I wondered how I would survive if I had to live there. The heat and humidity I might get used to but the unknown of the jungle and the animals and plants that inhabit such a place made me really question whether this particular world was friendly or not. As we hiked through the forest I felt like we were walking in circles and had no idea of how to get back to our boat.
We visited a local village and discovered that the houses were all built on stilts because for some months of the year the whole place was flooded. People used boats to get around. I wondered how little children were kept safe from the water. We saw young boys cutting the grass with large machetes and I thought of all the possible machete injuries. Everything seemed more dangerous than the world I knew yet these people lived within the forest and depended upon it for their survival.
More walks into the jungle revealed details of which plants were used for which ailments or which trees were used to build houses or boats. The hot humid conditions were ideal for growing food. The rivers and streams meant plenty of water and fish, easy transport and play for children and adults. We boated on the river at night and walked into the jungle. Fireflies lit our way and the stars were brilliant in the darkness of the jungle. Tarantulas proved hard to find and not at all aggressive. We fished for piranhas and discovered they aren’t as terrifying as in the movies. Over just a few days the seemingly dangerous and inhospitable jungle proved to be friendlier than I had imagined. Sometimes our fears are just about the unknown rather than based on reality.
#Peru, #Amazon, #wilderness