Our last day in the jungle had finally arrived. Sad! We had time for one more early excursion and then it would be time to finish packing, eat a quick bite and make the 3 hour boat ride back to Iquitos.
And what did we choose for our last excursion?
Why, swimming in the Amazon, of course!! :D
Okay, okay, it was actually the Tahuayo river, not the actual Amazon, but close enough. We boarded a motorboat, went about 15 minutes up the river and dropped anchor. That was then our "swimming pool." Wheee!
I'm sure many of you are wondering whether that was safe, as the Amazon is known for some pretty icky creatures that hang out in the water. When we asked about piranhas, our guide said "Sure, they're there, but don't worry. They don't like tourists!" Hmmm.... The boys were also very nervous about the Candiru fish (aka, "penis fish" featured on Grey's Anatomy). This led MoP to wear special swim trunks under his board shorts and for Jim to actually use masking tape to close off the legs of his shorts. When the guides found out what he was doing and why, they laughed hysterically and then informed the boys that the fish is only found in the Amazon river, not in its tributaries. Another possible crisis averted!
I had already been very clear that I was not going in first. So, the boys made poor T-dogg jump in. And then proceeded to just stand there and watch to see if anything happened to her before them joined her. Men!
MoP and Jim soon followed and then I slowly made my way down the ladder and into the water.
As strange as it was to be swimming in brown jungle water, it was also really peaceful and relaxing. The water was cool, but not cold and the current slowly moved us down the river without us having to think about it. After treading water for a bit, we each grabbed lifevests and sat on them so we could just float around. Aaaah!
Towards the end of our time there, our guide motioned to us to look behind us, and there we saw more cresting river dolphins. We guessed they probably swam right underneath us without us every knowing they were there. So cool!
Our time in the river went by far too quickly, and before we knew it, we were headed back to the lodge. Before lunch, the four of us thanked Anselmo for his time and expertise and tipped him to show our gratitude. A short while later, he came back to the boys and thanked them profusely for the gratuity and said how he would not only be able to help his family with the money, but that he was sharing it with the other guides and that everyone was grateful. It was nice to see that such a small sum of extra cash had such a large impact. We guess that the guides themselves (who actually do all the work) see very little of the money that the lodge receives from each guest, so any extra tips really help. We also had time to sneak in one last group pic.
Once we were back at the office in Iquitos, we had about an hour to kill before the van would take us to the airport. While some of the group ventured out to the market again, I wasn't feeling great, so Jim and I stayed in and chatted with the other guests that opted to hang out in the air-conditioned office with us.
The flight to Lima was uneventful (always a good thing) and we were back to the Sheraton around 8pm. For dinner, we met up with a friend of MoP. He had met and married a woman from Peru and they happened to be visiting that week. They met us in the Miraflores section of Lima, a much more touristy and well-kept area of the city, for dinner, drinks and conversation. They are such a sweet couple and I was instantly drawn to how nice and welcoming they were to all of us. We left the ordering to them, which lead to a parade of tasty dishes that we ate family-style. Sadly, no pictures as we were all exhausted and it took what little energy we had left to eat and make conversation.
I think we were all bummed that we hadn't planned to spend more time in Lima, as we were off again the next morning for the mountains. It's definitely a place that I'd like to visit again, though this time with more than 2 short nights to experience the city.
A few final thoughts about the Amazon:
The Tahuayo lodge was a great place to stay; our guide was wonderful, the staff bent over backwards to make the experience enjoyable and our fellow travelers were an interesting and friendly bunch. Even though the majority of the staff only speak spanish, they go above and beyond to try and communicate with the guests. Using my rusty spanish, which at times was more "spanglish" ilicited a smile and a warm, appreciative response. Obviously, it isn't for someone who doesn't like getting dirty or is totally skeeved out about bugs and wildlife, but otherwise, it is an amazing place to visit. Since the lodge is so removed from civilization and there is no internet, television or phone for distraction, you're really able to unwind and relax in a way that is near impossible even at upscale luxury resorts. The excursions were all fantastic, but even just reading in the hammock room or playing cards in the dining hall was memorable and gave the whole trip a laid back feel.
I can't believe how much I learned while I was there. There were times when it almost didn't feel real and during a few of the canoe rides it felt like we were on the jungle cruise at Disneyland, it was that perfect and pristine. The Amazon is a place that I didn't think I'd ever visit, but am so glad I had the opportunity to experience it. There isn't anything about our trip that I'd change and I'd highly recommend the Tahuayo lodge, if you're considering a trip there yourself.