The folks from the Tahuayo Lodge arrived at 11 to take me to the boat, which would ferry me up the Amazon River where we would take a tributary (the Tahuayo River) to the Tahuayo Lodge. The owner of the lodge, Paul Beaver, is an interesting character. He was one of the first people to bring tourism to the northern Amazon in Peru. He started out as a research assistant in the mid 80s and became so enthralled with the area that he began to bring people to the area on camping expeditions. Back in the 80s, the area was largely unexplored. In fact just getting to Iquitos was a challenge with shoddy airlines and sketchy guides offering to take the journey up the Amazon. In addition, there were many villages and tribes in the jungle who had not seen a caucasian so that also created problems. So you have to give to the guy for taking a chance.
Over the years, Paul became well known to the locals who he began to employ as guides and cooks for the campers he brought to the region. Eventually, he constructed what is now known as the Tahuayo Lodge. The lodge has 15 cabins and is built on high stilts (to combat the ebs and flows of the river) and is connected by walkways. The lodge is located is 140km from Iquitos so it was going to take about 3 to 4 hours to reach the lodge by boat. But the best part of the lodge …. It had exclusive access to the 2500-sq-km Tamshiyacu-Tahuayo reserve, which is an area of pristine jungle over 90 different species of mammal have bee recorded. This meant no river cruises or other tourists in the area. If you want to read more about Paul and how he started his tour business, I highly recommend his book Diary of an Amazon. Guide. Fascinating read.
Anyway, “Ronald” one of the guides from the lodge arrived just after 11 to pick me up. We stopped along the way at another hotel to pick up a family of four from California. The family turned out to be super cool – husband, wife and two daughters in their early 20s (Tim and Karen along with Sara and Julia). One daughter is a teacher in Chile and the other works for a non-profit in San Francisco called Kaboom – if you are a fans of Parks & Recreation you will know the company, which sets up playgrounds around the U.S., Canada and Mexico (yep it’s a real company.)
Anyway, once at the dock, the boat a little skiff, was loaded with supplies, including one parcel we all found very weird … foam “noodles” that kids use in pools, but the package was marked “fragile”. I later found out that they were going to use the noodles to make kids life jackets. No idea about the fragile part, but It gave us all a good laugh. After the supplies were loaded, we were fitted with life jackets, took up a our seats and off we set at about 12:15. The river leaving Iquitos was surprisingly smooth given the amount of boat traffic we passed. Remember that Iquitos is landlocked so everything in Iquitos has to be shipped in by boat or plane.
Once we passed out of the channel where Iquitos was built and moved into open water (a very brown, muddy water by the way) we passed very few settlements: the occasional rice field, a few boats filled with fisherman and a periodic dug out canoe with a loan fisherman were pretty much all we saw until our first stop at Tamshiyacu, about an hour from Iquitos. And wouldn’t you know it, as soon as we docked, the rain started. Pretty typical for the Amazon (it is a rainforest after all). The family and I climbed up a muddy makeshift staircase to the town, while our boat captain and Ronald grabbed some lunch. By the time we got up the hill and started to walk past some local food stalls, it was really raining so we turned around and walked back to the dock (and a very slippery climb down the muddy staircase).
We found our captain and Ronald having lunch with the locals inside a little shed that operated as a local convenience store. In the corner, we also found three guys who had apparently been drinking copious amounts of beer. One guy was already passed out, and the second guy was on his way. However, the third guy wanted to great the guests … it must have taken him a full minute to get out of his chair and weave over to us (we were within arms reach of him by the way). Once he was in front of us he introduced himself (no idea what he said), wanted to shake our hands, asked our names and then appeared to want to greet the ladies with a kiss (he seemed particularly interested in the two daughters.). Fortunately, we were saved by Ronald who said it was time to leave.
About a half hour after the rest stop, Ronald spotted river dolphins: two types pink and grey. The grey dolphin was tiny, but had the distinct dorsal fin, while the pink dolphins had large, long snouts. We sat and watched them come up for air and then back down for about 20 minutes. Great fun, but tough little buggers to catch on film. Neve did get a good pic, but I did get some nice shots of herons that were feeding on a sand bar.
After watching the dolphins, we continued down river and finally reached the Tayuhao River (a tributary off the Amazon). The trip down the Tayuhao was far more interesting since the river banks were so close to the boat. We saw fishermen everywhere, wild pigs on the side of the river embankment and lots of multi coloured birds.
We finally reached the lodge at around 3:30. We were given a tour around the grounds and I was introduced to the fellow who would be my guide for the next 6 days (Nixon). The family was going to stay with Ronald. After meeting Nixon, he took me to my cabin (lovely canopied bed with private bathroom) and then made plans to meet at 5 to discuss what I wanted to do and see over the next 6 days.
I took a quick nap (and listened to the sounds of birds and the jungle all around me) and before I knew it, it was 5:10. Yikes! I found Nixon, apologized for being late and then told him what I wanted to do and see. (Hikes through the forest to see sloth, monkeys, birds, and the poison dart frog, a night hike, a trip to the local village, canoe trip through the jungle, and zip lining through the tree canopy.). I was then fitted with special welli boots to wear in the jungle (so as not to contaminate the environment – same as Antarctica).
I took another nap before dinner (the heat and humidity can make you very tired – at least that is how I am justifying my naps), met up with the California family for a beer before dinner and then had the most amazing meal of Incredible fresh vegetables, beef, pizza, fresh fruits and beans.
After dinner Nixon suggested we go for a night hike so I went to put on the mosquito repellent and a long sleeved shirt, but just as I was putting on my boots, I heard a large rumble of thunder and boom … the heavens opened. Torrential does not begin to describe it. Sooooo no night hike. Instead it was off to an early bed, which was probably a good thing since I was getting up at 5:30 to go with Nixon on a boat ride to find birds.