Caught in a never-ending sea of Amazon jungle we drift deeper in. It all seems so familiar, but at the same time so new to me. With all the tales of lost ancient civilizations, uncontacted tribes and regions that man has never set foot in it begins to take hold of me, encapsulating my curiosity driving me ever closer to its mysterious heart. This is one of those places where explorers spend a lifetime career only to go mad from the jungle’s complexity and secrets. Heading deeper in the lure is set and I feel the same grasp the Amazon had on those explorers. Right here, right now aboard a traditional wooden canoe hundreds of miles from civilization we delve deep into the unknown. Welcome to the Peruvian Amazon.
The Peruvian Amazon Adventure Begins
Iquitos is the heart of the Peru Amazon, where much of what civilization now resides in, but just on the fringe of the city limits is the forever encroaching Amazon Jungle. For thousands of miles in every direction of Iquitos is the lungs of the world, a dark, uncharted and incredibly difficult part of nature to penetrate.
For those who want to delve deep into the heart of darkness without a malaria-ridden expedition, there is another option. Smart locals have sprung up eco-lodges in the small communities a few hundred kilometers upriver from Iquitos. Staying in these primitive lodges fully immerses you into the wilds of the Amazon and gives ample opportunity to explore the forests.
We left Iquitos in a small metal-framed boat speeding off into the unknown for about 3 – 4 hours before darting into the dense brush which at this time of year is completely flooded. Out of the darkness, our eco-lodge emerged. The Curassow Lodge is built in traditional native fashion only using local materials. There is no internet, no air conditioning and no worries here, it’s just you and the jungle baby.
Shamans and Ayahuasca in the Jungle
The Amazon is a deep and dark place willed with legends of Shamans who wield magical powers. Whether you believe in this or not, one thing is for sure the Shamans do develop a concoction of herbs. One of these herbs is the hallucinogenic DMT packed jungle vine known as Ayahuasca. Although I did not indulge in these tempting experience I was told by all that if you decide to make sure it’s with the care of a good native Shaman. Through years of using this as an ancestral way to connect with nature, they have harnessed its powers safely.
Nearby to our lodge, our guide brought us to a small village of about 200. In this village is said to be the residence of a very powerful native shaman.
Arriving to the shaman’s stilt house on the banks of the river we had to let our guide consult with him in the local dialect before any interactions could be made. It was agreed upon for a small fee ($50) dollars we could take witness to his mind-altering powers.
The Shaman showed us his special concoction of herbs and rubbed us down with it before blowing tobacco smoke around our head while whistling a haunting tune.
Although I personally don’t feel I attained any special powers, it was a great insight into the local folklore. The shaman also offered us an Ayahuasca ceremony, but we decided to save this for next time.
Amazon Jungle Life
The Amazon Jungle around Curassow Lodge is spectacular. During the early morning and evening, we laid around in the hammocks listening to the deafening sound of all those creepy crawlies lurking in the dense brush. About three times a day we would board our small wooden canoe and dig deeper into the Amazon in search of rare birds, crocodile, Tarantula the size of your face and for the ever impossible to find Jaguar.
We ventured deep into the Peru Amazon, all by boat as this time of the year up to 80 percent of the Amazon is flooded. With our small wooden canoe, we were able to access very deep into the jungle. In one remote area, we carved a path through thick green floating plants. Often giant caiman lizards would dart past the boat. In this area, villagers told us of a Jaguar that often comes to hunt and was recently seen!
Fishing for Piranha and Swimming with Amazon River Dolphins
One activity that I dearly enjoyed was fishing for Piranha. Using only a stick with a few feet of fishing line attached to a small hook wit chicken skin bait we would drop it into the murky waters and alas a Piranha would bite within only a few minutes. The key is to catch a gargantuan red belly one! Which is a lot hard to do as the hungry small ones more often bit the hook before the big ones get to it.
Nearby to the Piranha fishing spot is the same place to where it’s apparently a good “experience” to swim with Amazon River dolphins, yes, you heard me right, very close to the man-eating piranha fish is the swimming hole.
Now, I would like to tell you that the piranhas were scary, but they actually run from humans. The mischievous river dolphin, on the other hand, has no problem swimming towards you and bumping into your feet. There’s something particularly nerve-wracking about a big mammal lurking in the murky water below playing games with you, but there I was floating on the surface awaiting my death by dolphin fate.
This is the Amazon at its finest. Swaying in a hammock with no modernity’s nagging at you, just you and the Amazon, taking it all in. This eco-lodge strives to be the best not only in providing a unique experience, but in helping out the nearby villages by building schools and helping many of the families in need. The guides are hardened by this jungle and have an immense amount of jungle survival and species knowledge. I cannot express enough how much I enjoyed my time at this lodge. For those looking for adventure, Curassow is where it’s at!