We did not see Paddington Bear. Not that we really expected to, but we were, after all, traveling to the Amazon rainforest in far northern Peru, his original home. We had strawberry jam sandwiches, not marmalade, so perhaps that was our problem.
We started our visit in Iquitos, the world’s most remote city. No roads connect Iquitos to the outside world. To come here, you can only arrive by airplane or river boat. Deepest, Darkest, Peru, indeed.
We spent our week at a wildlife lodge about 2 1/2 hours by boat along the Amazon and one of its tributaries. Boy’s biggest concern on arrival was that he would have to go all week with NO INTERNET! He was loud in his complaints the first two days, though this lessened to grumbles by day 3.
The lodge, thatched like the local villages and placed to catch the breeze, was built on stilts. This was extremely useful, as we were visiting in the rainy season and the ground below the lodge was underwater, reaching 3 or more meters deep in some places. From our room, we could hear the fish splashing under our floor. Mosquito nets covered the beds and the screen windows allowed in breezes, most enjoyable from the hammocks.
Our most surprising discovery on arrival was how many trees and animals from North America were here. There were cardinals, kingfishers, squirrels, armadillos, and trees that would not be out of place in Mississippi or Florida. We expected the Amazon to look more exotic than it actually did. As we ventured further from the lodge, the trees and wildlife did change, but never reached my mental image of remote rainforest.
We took the opportunity to study science this week, aided by the fact that our lodge is attached to several universities and boasts a remote Amazon Research Center, another few hours along the river into the natural reserve. We spent a couple nights in the research center, though it was a bit more basic than the lodge, with dorm style rooms and shared bathrooms.
Most days we went out in a boat or on a hike with our guide. We observed monkeys, fish, poison frogs, river dolphin and birds, even taking advantage of a microscope in the lab area to checkout some of the many, many, many insects. One of Boy’s school projects was to choose an animal and write a research report on it. He chose the Yellow Rumped Cacique, a bird that makes hanging nests and happened to be in the tree right outside the room where we were doing our schoolwork. The field guides in the lodge library filled in the details he needed.
It wasn’t all work, however, as we got in some canoeing, swimming, and piranha fishing, too. Boy was our champion fisherman, catching twice as many piranha as any of the other guests.
It was still the jungle, so after a week of being hot, sticky, and covered in mosquito bites, we were happy to be heading back to the city for a hot shower. We also missed the washing machine. Clothes rinsed in river water and hung to dry come out neither clean, nor dry.
The local village and village school