It’s a jungle out there!

This is a great story about our Amazon adventures, edited from a blog by my good friend, Melissa Goad, president/founder of Roaming Expat Retirement.

O-wim-o-weh o-wim-o-weh o-wim-weh. In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight….. 

Svetlana is humming that song again for what has to be the millionth time – I suspect Shruti is about push her out of the boat so the river monsters can make quick work of her. The four of us are on second day of a 4-day Amazon jungle adventure. Four strong-willed women from 4 different countries (Canada, India, Russia, and USA) that have traveled extensively together for a year. We have a bone-deep bond where filters are unnecessary thus allowing us to say anything to the others regardless of whether or not it will piss them off. How we got to this point in our relationships seems mysterious – one day it was just there. We fight, we laugh, we gripe, we giggle, we love each other. Right now a skirmish is about to erupt over that stupid song…..do I sing along with Svetlana or do I help Shruti push her out of the boat? O-wim-o-weh

The singing stops as the rains start. First a drizzle growing to a downpour in minutes. Our boat is long and narrow, sitting only a hand’s-width out of the water. As waves occasionally break over its bow, we erupt into nervous squeals. Silence ensues as the downpour becomes a white-out with the rain so heavy it stings our faces and obscures all but a few feet in front of the boat. We should be frightened but not us; we are excited – the unexpected and uncomfortable is what we came for.

An hour later we arrive to our camp site, soaked to the bone and exhilarated. This site is much more primitive than last nights and it represents the farthest from civilization that any one of us has been. Our huts are on stilts to keep out the predators that roam at night; upstairs we have only bed-size mosquito nets to protect us – no windows, no screens. I really hope we don’t end up with monkeys roaming about our room tonight. We have a toilet behind bamboo screen at the far end of the camp site. Bathing is done in the river sitting on a relatively flat rock near the shore. Yes, we have no running water, no electricity and nothing but jungle for many, many miles.

The jungle is fascinating. It is imposing and foreign. Things exist here that I haven’t encountered before –monkeys, prehistoric birds, sloths, water pigs, lemurs, every spider imaginable, and ants. I hate ants…..creepy little buggers that sneak-up and bite the crap out of you.

After settled into the swaying stilted cabins we’re off for a jungle walk. More like a “put-your-poncho-and-rubber-boots-on-trample-through-calf-deep-mud-for-an-hour type of walk. Where your boot will be pulled off no less than 4 times and you will fall at least once.” Hikes in the Amazon are either fantastic or miserable depending upon whether or not it is raining. It is the Amazon … there will be rain.

Flocks of brilliant colored macaws cruise overhead while a colony of spiders prowl its 4 cubic foot web below. Walking palms and cannibalistic fichus line our path. Do palms walk you ask? Why yes they do but slowly. The root system is above ground so when the tree doesn’t get enough light, it shoots roots in a new direction and pulls itself over. And cannibalistic? Yes that too. They wrap themselves around other trees and consume them. The most curious forms of evolution.

Evolution doesn’t hold itself to just the flora and fauna, the river evolves too. The rain give us a fast flowing river well-suited for a giant inner tube ride to our next camp. We splash and sing as we bounce over rapids. The rapids which unfortunately flipped Svetlana from her tube. Fortunately she was rescued and floated safely downstream in the boat. Unfortunately she was tasty pickings for swarms of mosquitoes hungry for a meal.

That night brought torrential downpours. The river continues to evolve and is now a raging torrent, ripping trees from her banks. Waves are at least 3 feet tall and our boat is rather small in context. With much trepidation, we load into the boat, double checking each other’s life jacket buckles. Two white-knuckled hours later we arrive at our dock and prepare for the next part of our adventure, a hair raising 10 hour drive back on a road that is rudimentary at best.

Only to turn around a few hours later due to a landslide that washed out the road. Well 5 landslides to be exact. Luckily, we found decent cabins to sleep in that had running water and electricity!! Never underestimate the pleasure of a cold shower. Bliss. The night finds us crowded under the mosquito nets in one of the cabins carrying on about things that women carry on about. We will be up in a few hours to make an attempt at the mountain road again. The jungle is trying to take back the road but we have faith. We were treated to incredible bird sightings, like this Cock on the Rock – national bird of Peru, on the way back along that twisty tiny road that clings to the side of the jungle mountains.

As we leave the Amazon basin behind us and climb into the Andes Mountains, we take with us an experience that has enriched us forever. Janet starts the humming as we leave the last of the jungle and we return to civilization with one final group rendition of “In the Jungle …”

… there are many moments to practice emotional resilience. When exposed to these extremely uncomfortable conditions, looking for the positives can be tough. However, the practice of gratitude and happiness will bring light to even the most overcast day. If you need some help to be happier, check out this cute Happy T-shirt … it’s FREE for you as a happy follower of NiceLife.ca.

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