Blue Elephants in the Amazon Rainforest
Our guide entertained some in our group with stories of malaria, dengue fever, and flesh eating fish as we traveled down the Amazon river to our lodge in the rainforest. The constant droning of mototaxis in the city of Iquitos began to blissfully fade into the distance.
I never dreamed I would actually visit the Amazon Rainforest.
It was always an unattainable location in a fantastical story I would tell about blue elephants while making balloon animals as a clown. Now, here I was. Sitting on a boat zipping along the largest river in the world: the Amazon.
Because we visited the Amazon Rainforest in the rainy season, most of our three-day tour was spent on a boat floating through city streets. I felt like I was in the movie Waterworld. Martin liked to perch himself on the bow of the boat like a mascot on an old pirate ship. Our boat rides were peppered with rainbows, butterflies, and sunbeams. It sounds idyllic, and it was.
We visited an animal rescue center where a naughty monkey stole my sunscreen hoping it was food.
Another monkey gave me a hug. Martin found a sloth and others got up close and personal with an anaconda.
Coincidentally, friends we had met when volunteering at the hostel in Guatemala and whom we had visited in Arequipa were also visiting the Amazon! Martin and Junior enjoyed swimming while the rest of us kept our eyes peeled for the elusive and ugly pink dolphins.
During a visit to a remote village, I learned how to shoot a poisoned dart with a blow gun.
Freshly squeezed sugar cane juice was sweet, but not as sweet as candy. We also tried the 3-day fermented juice, which tasted like cider, and I wanted more.
Each night, the dining room of our jungle lodge glowed with lanterns creating long shadows masking the bugs biting my arms and neck. The sky was filled with insects chirping. The air was heavy and still. Any whisper of a breeze was welcome. During our downtime, I would ponder the meaning of life and search for authenticity in myself. This is what happens when I don’t have internet.
We spent our last morning fishing in the rain.
Jose put squares of raw meat on our hooks, and we dipped them into the murky water. The nibbles on my line felt faintly familiar. I grew up fishing and watching my dad love the sport, but I hadn’t actually fished in almost two decades. The local people believe the fish bite more when they hear splashing. After two hours of nothing, I decided to stir my stick in the water. Within minutes, a piranha was dangling from my hook!
Of course experiencing and seeing new things is part of what makes traveling so interesting. Yet, the Amazon Rainforest was able to connect with me in a deeper way. The fantastical Amazonian blue elephant story from my childhood, the hours spent fishing with my dad, the plethora of rainbows and the naughty monkey that reminded me of my brother, and the friends with whom we were sharing this experience – each of these things connected with my past as well as my present. The Amazon Rainforest was strange and familiar at the same time.