8.19.2019

708. Peru Trip | Night Exploration + Fishing for Piranhas

Piranha teeth
One afternoon we went fishing for piranhas and other Amazonian fish. It was my first time ever fishing and it was quite fun. By complete luck, I managed to catch the largest fish! It was also the only one I managed to catch though lol. It was a Red Belly Piranha:

Amazon Fishing Piranha
fishing in the Amazon River
Piranha Fishing
cooked piranhas
We ate them for dinner. They have a ton of bones and barely any meat.

Amazon outfit leftbanked
One of my Amazon outfits. We had to always wear long sleeves and pants (due to the millions of mosquitos and other insects that bite) that were also light and airy (due to the extreme heat). Also the rubber boots are for walking in the forests since there's a lot of mud.

life in the Amazon
Amazon boat tour
The Amazon Rainforest
birds in the Amazon
I forgot what these birds were called. They were yellow and black and have long legs.

Amazon Rainforest
Amazon River
Amazon boat tour
Howler Monkey Amazon
I think this was a large howler monkey.

Sunset in the Amazon
I love the sunsets here.

red nocturnal bird Amazon
On some nights we went out for a walk in the jungle in search of nocturnal animals. Here's one of the birds we saw. It looks a bit fake here lol. My favourite nocturnal animal we saw was the capybara (the largest rodent in the world). They look really funny. Unfortunately I didn't manage to get a photo of it. We saw it while on the boat and for a very brief moment.

Amazon Nocturnal Bird
Bullfrog Amazon
A large bullfrog.

Bullet Ant
Bullet ant.

Owl Monkey
Owl monkey.

Amazon Frogs
Another frog.

Amazon Discovery Lodge
Playing scrabble (& other board games/cards) for the first time since I was a little kid.

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8.17.2019

707. Peru Trip | Welcome to the Amazon!

drone over Amazon Rainforest
Visiting the Amazon had always been on my bucket list. Thanks to the Planet Earth documentaries (my favourite!) I've always wanted to visit the more remote parts of the world and see wildlife in their natural habitats. Now I can finally cross off the Amazon! Although I wouldn't mind going back someday and exploring a different part of it..since the whole region is huge and we barely scraped the surface on our 5 nights there.

We managed to see a lot of different species of animals but it wasn't easy to take photos of them. For example most of the time the monkeys were really far up on trees and quite hidden. Same with the macaws. I understand now that wildlife photographers must have endless patience, since it takes awhile to spot them in the first place...much less be able to get a good shot.

During our time there we saw: monkeys (I think 7 different kinds?), caimans, dolphins, 2 snakes (including an Anaconda caught by the village people), blue morpho butterflies, 1 sloth, 1 capybara, macaws, parrots, piranhas, lizards, frogs, lots of different types of birds, & tons of insects. I may have forgotten some..
I would have wanted to see a jaguar (we saw paw prints of one), toucans, poison dart frogs, armadillos..but maybe next time!

Amazon
This was where our lodge was located. We stayed at the Amazon Discovery Lodge which is on the banks of the Yanayacu River. I will post a full review of our stay in a future post.

We had to drive 2/2.5 hours from Iquitos to a town called Nauta, then from Nauta take a speed boat about 2 hours to the lodge. It was quite remote and very peaceful there. Our lodge was the only one in the area with any Internet connection (though it was super slow and not really reliable at times) but otherwise it felt like we were totally disconnected from the rest of the world.

Amazon boat
Speeding down the Amazon River en route to our lodge!

life in the Amazon
houses in the Amazon
I was a little bit surprised to see homes along the banks of the rivers. I never actually thought of people living right in the Amazon. I guess it wasn't as remote here as some other parts of the jungle though. The people here just spend their days fishing and hunting. Or making crafts (if they are in the village) for tourists to buy.

Amazon Discovery Lodge
Here is our lodge! During our first days there we were the only guests, so it was just us and the staff. Afterwards we were joined by other travellers who came for 2 or 3 days. But it still wasn't a lot of people - always less than 10 guests at any given time. It was nice that it wasn't too crowded.

Each couple got their own private guide so that each tour was personalized. Our guide often let us choose which activities we wanted to do, go at which time, etc. I really liked that since the other tours we saw (from the 2 other lodges in the area) their boats always had a large group of people.

sunset in the Amazon
After arriving at the lodge, we got a few hours to rest. Then we went on our first activity - a boat ride to watch the sunset, look for caimans and watch the stars. I don't know if it's because it was our first activity of the Amazon but I think I enjoyed this the most. Or it was the most memorable.

Amazon sunset
baby Caiman Amazon
Then we went around to look for baby caimans. Here is one our guide caught for us (for photo purposes only). They are so cute! They don't really move at all when caught. To find them we sailed around shining a flashlight in the water for flashes of red, which are their eyes.

Amazon sunset
It was so nice and relaxing, gently sailing around as it got darker and darker with lots of animal sounds around you. That was one of my favourite parts about the Amazon. At any time of day, you'll always hear tons of different animal calls to truly feel like you are deep in the wilderness. My favourite sound was the howler monkey. Their calls are deep roars and sound like very strong winds. It is a pretty frightening sound to hear if you are alone in a forest though.

The moon was so beautiful (you can kind of see it in the photo above) and unique. Then when it got completely dark, we looked up to see an endless blanket of stars. We sat in silence for several minutes just taking it all in. Living in the city, I don't get any chances to see stars in complete darkness. It is an experience I've had probably less than five times in my life but this was the most memorable time so far.

Amazon Rainforest exploration
The next morning, we went on our first jungle walk!

Amazon snake
A few steps in, we see our first animal - a snake. Can you see where it is? It's super camouflaged.

snake in the Amazon
Zooming in..

trees in the Amazon
The trees were all really cool with crazy roots.

trees in the Amazon
termite nest Amazon
Termite nest

Amazon tree
The thickest tree trunk I've ever seen

poisonous mushrooms Amazon
Poisonous mushrooms

Amazon Jungle
Then we found non-poisonous mushrooms which the guides picked for our dinner that night. They were delicious and tasted like the freshest mushrooms I've ever eaten! They wrapped them up in a large leaf and tied it with another plant into this cute little package. The machete is for cutting away any obstacles (branches for example) during the walk as some parts didn't have an actual trail.

centipede
Amazon Rainforest
Amazon Jungle plants
Amazon jungle exploration
During our walks the guides always had to walk first in case there was any dangerous animals along the path.

Amazon
lizard salamander
Amazon Discovery Lodge despacito
Resting in our room between activities. On the first day it was super hot. There's no air conditioning at all there - only fans. Also the shower has no hot water - only cold. It took awhile to get used to and we mostly showered after coming back from a hot jungle walk or other activity.

We got pretty lucky with the weather since it rained overnight the second night and brought cooler weather for awhile. I never expected comfortable temperatures of the low 20s in the Amazon. Also I was expecting it to rain a lot but it literally didn't rain at all (except overnight one night) during our days there! It was always beautiful and sunny.

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8.15.2019

706. Peru Trip | First Taste of the Amazon: Exploring Iquitos!

Streets of Iquitos
While I absolutely loved visiting each city on our entire trip, I particularly liked Iquitos just a little bit more. It gave me the most culture shock which was surprising because I find it similar to Asia in some ways, where I've visited many times. Though I guess Asia doesn't feel as exotic for me since I am Asian..and this is an Amazonian city after all.

As soon as we left the airport I was immediately captivated by the chaotic scenes around me. Iquitos is the gateway city to visiting the Peruvian Amazon which might give you bit of an idea to how the atmosphere is there. The city is loud, dusty, fast-paced, super hot, full of moto-taxis and a bit surreal. We decided to stay 2 nights here to explore. We mainly wanted to visit Belen Market (a crazy place where you can find anything and everything for sale) and Monkey Island (a sanctuary for young monkeys you can play and interact with).

Amazon River
First view of the Amazon River from our plane.

Iquitos
We got a car/taxi to get to our hotel. I soon realized that actual cars are extremely rare here. Everyone gets around in those moto taxis which is the better option since the city is very hot, and riding around in those are very refreshing. Plus it is a lot more fun. But a car was the better option with our luggage.

Iquitos police
Even the cops get around using them hahah.

Iquitos police
Or like this. I found it pretty amusing. Like they are in a parade or something.

DoubleTree by Hilton Iquitos food
Then we arrived at our nice, air-conditioned hotel! We stayed at the DoubleTree by Hilton which is actually the only "luxury" hotel in the city. I really loved it and the food at the restaurant was very good. I became obsessed with the pasta and lemonade, and ordered it for every single meal.

monkey Iquitos
After lunch, our plan was to visit Monkey Island. We went to their office to get more information where I met this super cute monkey. We then decided to do the island the following day instead, which turned out to be a very good idea (the whole trip there was like 2 hours each way and quite an extreme journey). I will post more about that in a future post.

Mototaxi Ride Iquitos
So we hopped in one of these and headed to CREA, a rescue centre for manatees and other Amazonian wildlife. To be honest it was a big waste of time. Since we were going to the actual Amazon anyway, seeing the animals in their natural habitats would've been much more interesting. CREA was kind of like seeing them in a zoo, but it is a good organization since they are a sanctuary. I'm glad we went anyway because I very much enjoyed the mototaxi ride there and back, taking in all the chaotic street scenes.

CREA Iquitos caiman
Iquitos Peru
fresh coconut
Iquitos Amazon
Iquitos Amazon
Mototaxis Iquitos
Iquitos streets
On the way to Belen Market (which I will make another post on soon!)

Monkey Island Iquitos
At Monkey Island! I will make another post on this soon too.

Iquitos dock
DoubleTree Hilton Iquitos food
The same meal for dinner again (plus taquitos).

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