I imagined the Amazon to be a vast and mighty body of water… I imagined it to be several kilometres wide… but I imagined it to be so wide in Brazil just as it hits the Atlantic Ocean not close to its source in Peru.
I’m glad we came in the rainy season as I wouldn’t have been able to imagine the vastness and sheer amount of water flowing downriver, taking with it everything in its path: trees and bushes, and the brown soil that gives it its coffee-brown colour. I wouldn’t have been able to imagine how a river can overflow its banks rising up to 10 metres, flooding forests and villages and making whole islands disappear for half the year.
Rubber boots are your best friend here as are canoes, which are used to transport pretty much everything and are often so overloaded that the water splashes in with every wave and one of its passengers are always busy scooping it out again. Even little kids know how to navigate a canoe and ferry their younger siblings around fishing or gathering wood or fruit.
I imagined the Amazon full of meat-eating Piranhas (imagine me looking at our guides in shock as they washed their hands or feet/thongs in the river… later I did the same myself), and the forests full of dangerous snakes and other not so friendly animals. Instead, we found out that Piranhas only attack if they smell blood, and in fact, most species of Piranhas live off fruit which is found plentiful in the wet season as they drop from the trees straight into the water.
As Paul mentioned, we went on several night walks… the only danger there was being bitten by mosquitos (I’m now officially a collector of mosquito bites… even DEET can’t deter them). We saw snakes and spiders but all very peaceful (even the rainbow python the guys caught one night and held in a potato sack overnight to show us in the morning (and in Paul’s case hold it) quickly calmed as she realised we didn’t want to harm her. We saw sloths, iguanas and monkeys, bird and butterfly species too many to count, frogs and toads, pink and grey river dolphins, even a possum (geez was that one ugly, not comparable with our relatively cute ones back in Oz).
Back to civilisation
If you want to get away from it all and want to experience (almost untouched) wilderness… an ecosystem working as it should be… this is the place to go (as long as you don’t choose one of the more touristy lodges closer to Iquitos). As Paul said, it was like coming back to civilisation when we returned to Iquitos… but that night, I truly missed the jungle and its noises of frogs, cicadas, monkeys and birds.