After the excitement, bright lights and Carnival atmosphere of Rio, our next stop was the tropic rain forest of the Amazon. After quite exhaustive research of tour/jungle safari companies in both Peru and Brazil, we had settled on a five day, four-night adventure with Otorongo Expeditions who had an office in Iquitos and a Lodge near the village of Oran on the Amazon River in Peru. They had a mention in the latest Lonely Planet book and the blogs including Trip Advisor had all been positive.
It is the wet season at the moment, so the Amazon Basin is flooded and during our stay, it rained every morning.
Iquitos airport to the river
The service received was very personal and we were quite lucky in that during our time at the Lodge, we were the only guests. We were picked up from the Iquitos Airport, taken to the office to meet our guides, Osmar and Rodrigo. From there, it was a frantic dash to the boat in the motorcar – a Honda CG125 with a rickshaw on the back. I mention that detail because there were literally hundreds of these vehicles on the road.
Part of the reason for choosing Otorongo Expeditions was that their Lodge was a little more than 110km from a major city and the vegetation was the primary rainforest, not replanted. The ride downstream with the guides, and the chef, Ricky took a little over two hours. The skipper was Anthony – the co-owner of Otorongo Expeditions and a likeable New Yorker to boot. He had started the business six years ago and was extremely passionate about the wildlife, the Amazon and the lifestyle he leads.
Accommodation and meals
The Lodge was a rustic set of buildings and garden area that could accommodate a maximum of 28 guests at once. The bedrooms all had their own ensuite bathrooms – albeit with cold water and 12v lighting. The meals each day were always varied – although as we learnt, rice was a staple food that must accompany every meal. For every meal, we had a different, natural and freshly prepared juice. This was something quite special. During the five days, our guides would always be pointing out plants or fruit during our activity time that was used by the locals for food or medicinal purposes. More on activity time soon. On the last day, we had both locally caught catfish and piraña at the same meal. The piraña, lightly grilled, tasted a little nutty in flavour and extremely tasty.
Each day, we had two or three planned activities, but because of the morning rain, generally didn’t start them until late morning or after lunch. The activities ranged from bush hikes, nighttime jungle walks, piraña fishing, canoeing, visiting a small village (120 people), visiting a large village (1200 people at Oran) and bird and animal spotting, through to watching the sunset over the Amazon. Each activity was in itself personalized and made us really appreciate the unique environment we were in. To be able to stand an arm’s length away from a tarantula, fish for our meals deep in the flooded forest, observe the variety of birds, butterflies, other animals and vegetation, being told their Spanish, English and Latin names, use and the ecological impact was so enlightening and rewarding. Our guides and host were professional, articulate, enthusiastic and their passion for their work was infectious.
Two moments I will never forget:
- Holding, caressing and calming a rainbow python snake – even before the guides had held it!
- After visiting a small village the day before, Sandra and I returned the next day to donate a soccer ball we had purchased in Oran. The local kids, in the village aged 4 – 10, were so happy to be able to receive this – I even showed them the basics of rugby – mostly using actions as my Spanish is still nada. The little village was truly basic: no electricity (they used kerosene lamps at night), no running water (except that in the river), no toilets (they used the bush). The upside was that there are no taxes, no stress, no bills, and free education and healthcare from the government.
When we finally returned to Iquitos on the fifth day, it was like returning to a former life – the serenity and simplicity of the Amazon has, to date, been the best part of our trip so far. Sandra went so far to have this to say.