Amazon Jungle Tour: Part I
The Amazon jungle is something I have been fascinated with ever since childhood. I loved learning about all the larger than life plants, their dangers and uses, the poison arrow dart frogs, the adorable sloths, everything. I got to do a big project for school on it once and I still remember it to this day! So visiting the jungle in real life was an experience I was so looking forward to. Unfortunately, it went far from according to plan.
Just a disclaimer, this is all 100% true. When we returned back to the States and tried explaining what had happened to our family and friends, there was a lot of confusion and disbelief, but I promise this is an accurate account of our 48 hours in the jungle. We selected a tour agency that had excellent reviews on Trip Advisor. Seriously, everyone loved them from families with kids to couples. These jungle excursions can be really pricy and they had some of the most reasonable prices so I was excited to have found them. Over the months they were always extremely responsive, answering any and all my questions in a very timely manner. In fact, when they learned I was vegetarian they even asked if this meant I also didn’t eat eggs! Finding a company that was that detail oriented and careful in wanting to make sure they had things set up perfectly for their guests really impressed me and I felt great about spending the almost $500 for Pablo and I to spend 3 days with them touring the jungle.
Iquitos is the launching point for the jungle tours, but it still is quite a ways away. The company arranged for vans to drive us to the port area about 1.5-2 hours away. From there it was around another 3 hours down the river to get into the depths of the jungle. The boats move very very slowly so this was a long and boring trip sitting on it for 3 hours floating on the water. There’s not a whole lot to see for most of the way as you have to go pretty far before the jungle starts. But we did see some pink dolphins far out in the distance doing a couple jumps at one point! Not close enough for a photo though.
We were traveling out to the jungle lodge to spend 2 nights/3 days there. There was another family traveling out with us at the same time as well but these guys were staying for 10 days! They were scientists from Israel who studied plants and their medicinal uses and it was a family of 6 including parents, aunts and kids our age. They were so so excited to be doing this, they were even going to camp in the middle of the jungle for a few nights so they could have more time there seeing things. I had decided to pass on that option since the idea of sleeping in hammock and getting eaten alive by mosquitoes all night did not appeal to me. We opted to stay at the lodge for our sleeping instead.
Needless to say they were very enthusiastic about this trip and ready for hard core roughing it. I, on the other hand, was excited, but after paying so much money had high expectations of the whole experience. Pablo and I were set to have our own guide and boat to navigate around and the other family would have their own guide and boat as well. We chatted with them during our hours on the river as we made our way towards the lodge to meet our guides.
Shortly after we finally arrived things began going downhill. Our “lodge” was filthy- I mean really filthy. I admit I’m a bit of a clean freak and I was prepared to be in a bit of a an adventurous location in the jungle but there were dead bugs everywhere. Our room was completed screened in with mosquito netting to keep the bugs out and the mosquito netting on the ceiling was full of dead bugs everywhere. I was really really not happy about it but we were 5 hours from civilization so there was not much to do at that point. At least our primitive bathroom looked clean enough.
We were told we were going to each lunch and then head out with our guide, Raul, to look for some animals. We ended up waiting over an hour as lunch was prepared which was frustrating to me as we wasted time but it’s definitely not uncommon in Latin American cultures for things to fall behind schedule. We sat around in hammocks while we waited, pouring sweat from the humidity and heat (no fans or a/c in the jungle!).
Soon we realized something was up. Our tour organizer who had brought us out was in a big argument with the lodge owner, Raul, who was supposed to be our guide. Apparently Raul had been stealing customers from the company and pocketing the profits for himself. This resulted in overbooking at the lodge and some of the Israeli family members were now sharing rooms rather than having the ones they reserved. It was a major mess as the tour company was furious and no one knew what to do. There’s hardly any cell reception but someone borrowed a phone and was able to contact the company office back in Iquitos. They had about 5 minutes before the phone battery died and determined that this was not ok and we would not be staying at the lodge. The tour organizer told us to finish our food and pack up. He apologized but explained that this is not the way business can be run and Raul needed to learn. I was totally happy to hear we were moving to a more “luxurious” location and eager to leave all the dead bugs behind. Little did we know our adventures had only just begun.