Craig Writes, 18/03/2013. When we arrive at Monkey Island the rising waters of the river have flooded it to knee height so it's off with the shoes and roll up the shorts. This is a sanctuary island to help restock the numbers of some endangered species and as a refuge to monkeys recovered from the black market.
We met and played with Spider monkeys, Howlers monkeys and Woolly monkeys and the most bizarre looking thing called a Red Faced Bald Uakari. Looks straight out of a Star Trek episode. We got to feed them and had them jumping all over us. I was wearing one as a hat for a while.
|This guy just cracked me up|
|By all means throw something up, but I'm not comin' down|
|This one ended up in my back pack|
We got to hold the most adorable little Saki. Put your grandfathers face on a tiny kitten and add a really long fluffy feather duster for a tail and you've got a Saki. Cutest monkey you'll ever see.
|....with a nice chianti and some fava beans, hey Clarice|
|Alas poor Jack Fruit, I knew him well|
|Cute and cuter|
|Geez, you'd give this guy your last breath, wouldn't you?|
The curator at the sanctuary then bought out an eight week old Woolly monkey that looked like a tiny little gorilla. Every one wanted to hold her. She was so affectionate, so adorable, showering us with love and poo in equal amounts. Callum held her first and for his troubles received the most "love", then, unaware at this stage of the special gift being deposited handed her to me where more "love" was deposited down the front of my shirt. All of a sudden everyone else became less interested in holding onto gorgeous miss monkey pants.
|Beware the cute clinging monkey|
After scraping the affections of our little friend off our shirts and giving them a good old fashioned Amazon wash we headed back to the boat for a great wind in the hair, cool ya down and blow your cares away ride back to the lodge. It's lunch in a while and then off to a local village to get fitted for a customized blow pipe.
The Yagua's are an indigenous tribe who have lived in the area for many centuries. We were greeted by their chief who gave us a firm handshake and a toothless grin. The tribe is small, only about 30 people. A smattering of young men, bare breasted women with suckling kids on their hips, another around their ankles and the rest made up of elders.
|The communal hut|
|Passing on the skills|
|Some gratuitous nudity disguised as ...something else|
They were in their traditional grass skirts but I was a bit surprised when Orlando said this was just for us. When we go they will put on normally clothing. Kind of burst the bubble a bit. Still, they were full blood tribes people which is rare and we did learn how a blow pipe and a dug out are actually made. We also got to blow a few darts from the chiefs own blow gun.
|Damn these are long. If your dart didn't hit it you could just whack it with the end of your blow pipe|
|And the only one to actually hit the target.. nice blowing baby|
There was a traditional dance in the enormous communal thatched hut but it seemed a little contrived and was lacking a bit of enthusiasm. I tried to inject my own energy to get the thing grooving when they got some of us to join in but they didn't come along with me.
|You cant say no when a topless chick asks you to dance|
19/03/13 Up at 5.30am this morning, last morning on the Amazon, to catch the morning chorus as life on the river starts to wake. We grabbed a coffee and went and sat in the hammock house. A beautiful thatched roof open aired hut.
|A stunning Amazon morning|
A sliver of jungle separating it from the fast moving waters of the Amazon.
Even as we walked down from the lodge with steaming cups in hand the eruptive sound of countless cicadas was astounding. Imagine the roar of a 100,000 soccer fans erupting and not stopping. A family of eight Saddle Back Tamarind's came to play, jumping from tree to tree like tiny long tailed circus performers. Tupak came to visit, sniffing out some local vegetation to eat whilst waiting for the breakfast scraps. 6.10am. Almost on cue, the chirping of the cicadas stopped. The jungle appeared quiet until your ears started to suddenly pick up the myriad of sounds the dominance of their chatter had overshadowed. The odd little Wood Creeper with it's long beak and flipping tail feathers that folded in and gave it the impression of having an actual tail. It had a beautiful song. Oro Pengula, a beautiful chestnut coloured bird with a bright yellow tipped tail, another glorious singer and the Lineated Wood Pecker with it's dazzling red Mohican head crest. They all came out to say hello. Then life on the river starts. A young fella in a small dug out comes paddling quietly along the shore followed by two others in a larger one. It's not long before the zinging of the outboards kick in as some off the early morning tourists head out for the long journey up the river to ExplorNapo lodge for the canopy walk. It was glorious to sit there and see the mood of the jungle change as the sun rises and the nocturnal and daytimers change shifts.
Our last boat trip out on the river this morning. We met Orlando at the Meeting House and headed off to see a natural lake which formed last year when the river rose. The water lilies here are spectacular. They're well over a metre wide and can grow double that size.
|Giant Water Lillies|
The local guides have reinforced the sandbank and added overflow pipes to maintain the lake in an effort to keep the turtles and caymans, the Amazon equivalent of a crocodile, in the lake. If not for the reinforcing, when the river rises they will all flow into the river where poachers and locals are likely to hunt them. A guard house has been built to watch over them and is constantly turning hunters way. The conservation spirit is alive and well here but they face an almighty battle.
Back in the boat and it was a general trip around in and out of various tributaries looking for that something special. It didn't take long. The sharp eyes of our guide and driver spotting the invisible. Way way up perched 50 metres on top of some branches catching a few rays was a full grown Iguana, easily 6-7 feet long. The branches barely look strong enough to hold a small Woolly Monkey, yet there this massive thing sits, still as a statue.
|How the hell... this is easy 50 metres of the ground|
Further down in the small cleft of another inlet, once again high up in the canopy was another Three Toed Sloth. But, not the small stationary juvenile we saw the other day clinging like a termite mound to the side of a tree, this full grown fella, easily four feet tall was hanging up side down by his toes fifty metres from the ground scratching himself, rubbing his head and swinging gently from one side to another. An absolute classic.
|Check out the claws on this guy|
How could it get better.
|Last day on The Amazon|
Well, let me tell you how. The driver apparently knows of an inland lake that even Orlando our native guide hasn't been too. It is only accessible at certain times of the year when the river rises. Today is our lucky day. We take a sharp right off one of the main tributaries, low hanging branches and sharp leaved river weed poking over the side forcing us back inside the boat. Even then Callum still got a scrape to the side of the head. We force our way through a thicket of tall weeds finally bursting out onto an enormous grassy green field of water lettuce. It's bigger than a football field, a living breathing carpet of water hyacinth with their pretty purple and white flowers scattered among the thick succulent leaves of the Water Lettuce. Pull them from the water and a foot of stringy hair like roots twist in the breeze.
|I'm not going to complain about the leaves in my pool any more|
|The Jesus Bird, how come he has no followers and a prime real estate portfolio?|
Small Jesus Birds with their long spindly legs run races across the surface in search of grasshoppers and small frogs. Swallows, Swifts and Egrets swoop and dive in a constant bombardment feasting on the rich and abundant life of this inland lake. Snail Hawks circle above looking for the snails that rise to the surface now the water is warmer. If it gets any better we'll never know. This is our last stop as we slowly motor out of our hidden lake to rejoin the Amazon for our final open boat ride back to the lodge.
|Heading back from our last Amazon adventure|
We leave the lodge with a tinge of sadness, I didn't get to see a Toucan or catch a piranha and I shall miss Tupac Tapir, but really....the things we've see.