Puerto Maldonado (March 31, 2008)

We had to get up at 4:00 that morning (I know, yet again another early rise). But as they say, the early bird gets the worms. Speaking of birds, this is why we had to get up early that morning. Ever heard of Macaws clay licks? Well, neither had we. Macaws and Parrots in the Amazon rain forest come in flocks to the clay river banks to lick the clay early every morning. The clay appears to detoxify the nasty poisons in their diets of seeds of rain forest trees and vines. It is pretty cool, except you have to make your way there for 6 in the morning.

So we jump back into the pick up truck at 4:30 am and back onto the very rugged path to get out of our lodge territory. We then drove along the road up to someone’s house on the river bank and got into a boat. After some driving on the river, we stopped along the clay cliffs and waited for the Macaws to come and lick. I have to admit that we were all a bit sleepy… So we waited for a bit and they slowly arrived. It was pretty neat. Freddy was telling us that some days a few hundreds come and it is very impressive, and other days they don’t seem to show up at that particular spot. So we had an average day, saw a bunch of them but not hundreds.

We then drove down the river and zoomed by the town of Puerto Maldonado where a girl was waiting for us with warm lunches for the afternoon. We then stopped in the middle of the river to have breakfast on the boat: coffee, tea, great lemon cake, buns, butter, jam…it was great. We then made our way to the Tambopata Reserve and the entrance to Sandoval Lake. There is a 5km trail to get to the lake. Because it was the end of the raining season, they got us some rubber boots. I think before we saw the path we thought it would not really be needed. Well, did we ever need them! A good part of the path was pure and deep mud. I can tell you that in the humid heat of the jungle, dredging through mud for 5km is quite the workout.

Despite the difficulty, it was a pretty cool walk. The trees and the vegetation was impressive. We finally made it to the banks of the lake and it was really beautiful. We got into a canoe and started going around the lake. The lake has a few giant otters (up to six feet long) but unfortunately we did not see any. We did see some beautiful birds as we paddled along the banks of the lake.   At one point we got off the boat to walk up to a lookout where we had a nice view of the lake. After rowing a bit more, we stopped again and Freddy told us we were going to have lunch. We were walking down the path when Freddy told us we were having lunch right there. We looked around and there was this huge amazing tree with roots zooming around everywhere. It was really cool. So we climbed up some root and set up camp. Our lunch was chicken and rice cooked in a banana leaf. It was really delicious. Quite a cool experience! After lunch we went back to the canoe and continued our way around the lake. After a while, we saw a caiman, a type of South American alligator, just peering out of the water. Freddy spotted him which was impressive as the caiman only had his eyes out of the water. Freddy then says let’s paddle towards him. Kevin and Roger seemed pretty into it, meanwhile I was wondering whether it was a good idea… Turns out, he seemed more scared than us and just swam away. We however get pretty close to him. The forest around the lake was really cool as the trees on the edge seemed to be growing right out of the water. We saw more birds and turtles. We slowly paddle our way back to the path. We were so excited to be back to the mud… Again, the walk was challenging but cool. We saw some leaf cutter ants crossing the path with their load. We also come upon some lizards. At one point we saw an anteater which was really cool.  He was up in the tree, using his snout to eat ants and mites.  Even though we felt sorry for ourselves having to walk through the mud, guys pulling carts full of bottle and food kept going past us to bring them to a lodge by the lake. It seems like the most difficult job ever! These guys were just dripping sweat.
We finally made it back to the shore and we were quite happy to see our boat. We jumped in exhausted from the walk and the heat.  I think we were all very much looking forward to getting back to the lodge to relax and maybe wash the layer of sweat and mud off ourselves. Of course, just as we were about to head back, the boat motor doesn’t  start.  And we were way down river from where we picked the boat up.  So we waited in the hot sun hoping that the driver and Freddy managed to fix it.  After about 40 min. they got it working and off were were.   We made our back up river then took the ride back to the lodge. We then had a well deserved rest in the long chairs on the deck of the lodge.  After supper we played some games. While we were playing, Marjorie went to the bungalow to go to the washroom and came face to face with a huge spider on the door of the bathroom. It was quite the traumatic experience.  She had to open the door to get out but it took her a while to gather the courage to move towards the door (of course, the other option was staying in the bathroom with the spider…). So she opened the door as the spider jumped towards her. She jumped out, closed the door and bolted to the dining room to get Roger. Roger came back to the room to dispose of the spider. He was making fun of Marj for being so freaked out until he actually saw the things and it took him 5 minutes to actually kill it!

After a long day, we headed to bed around 11:00 pm.

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