Today, I Am Tarzan

89 Days a Wanderer: The Bonus Round

November 17, 2018

We were up bright an early for a nature walk. Jaime is big into jungle medicine and he had us try all different kinds of edible things (he always ate or drank them first, so we knew it was safe). Riika was suffering from a cold, and he procured a cure for that. Then he and Mom baptized me with coconut water, which is supposedly good for rashes. I don’t know how well it worked, since the antihistamine had done most of the work, but I didn’t protest. I was still too wobbly to do much more than trail along behind the others. I hadn’t eaten dinner the night before and I still felt sick, though not debilitatingly so.


After breakfast, during which I managed only tea and a bit of bread, we headed to the Black River (Yana Yaku) for some bird watching. It was ho-hum because I don’t really get excited over birds, but Riikka loved it. I did get excited over the great river otter, though. Jaime led us into the rainforest for a hike, and we stuck close to him. You could hear a heck of a lot farther than you could see through the dense foliage, and the last thing any of us wanted was to be lost in a place where everything is deadly.


We were glad for our boots as we slogged through the mud. Jaime showed us how to make natural insect repellent. He cut open a small section of a termite nest, placed his hand in it until they crawled all over his skin, then crushed them up and rubbed their bodies all over his face and neck. Then it was our turn. He promised they wouldn’t bite, and even though I’d lathered myself in Deet, I was brave enough to give it a try. It was not pleasant, but it wasn’t horrible. The worst part was my brain conjuring up images of one surviving and running into my ear or up my nose, but all was well. Not everyone in the group, which had expanded by two plus another guide, was willing to give it a try.

Further in, we learned how to use the jungle telephone. Jaime introduced us to the Pachamama tree, the biggest of its kind in the area, and then smacked one of the buttresses hard with a small log. The resulting echo was rather loud, and I believed Jaime when he said it could be heard for up to several kilometers. Our hike ended with the Tarzan Tree–my favorite spot. Even without the vine, the tree would’ve been great fun to climb. With it, I got to leap out over the others, swinging off a tree root a good ten feet above the ground. Riikka was the only other one brave enough to try.


Pachamama (left) and Tarzan Tree (right)


We tromped back to the boat and returned to the “town” that connected us to the Amazon River, stopping for birds and sloths as we puttered along the river. The traipse across the village back to the Amazon was short, and then we boarded the boat back to the lodge for a late lunch. The benches in both boats were just wide to fit my head and torso, so I turned sideways, straddled the seat, laid flat on my back, and managed to nap.

 A monkey riding on a dog.

The village school.

A house, complete with watch-pig.

I felt a little less dead after lunch, and we spent the afternoon piranha fishing. It was much more exciting than regular fishing because they were constantly biting, but frustrating because they were nearly impossible to hook–they just kept stealing the meat we used as bait. We were too close for comfort to where Riikka and I’d swum the day before, but I got to do some more dolphin watching. The piranhas had wicked little teeth, but the fish itself was much tinier than I’d have guessed. I caught the first one, which was pure luck, never to be repeated.

After the bait was gone, I took out a marfil seed (very stone-like) that Jaime had given me on that morning’s hike and continued whittling it into a crescent moon shape. Jaime joined me on the bow of the boat and we talked (in Spanish) while the sun went down.

I was able to eat dinner, but like lunch, I stuck with safer foods (the fish we’d caught, rice, and tea–no spices, no exotics). Then Jaime took the four of us for our night walk. We saw many different plants and animals, and every last one of them was dangerous (except the sleeping butterflies). There was the possibility of vipers and we passed by killer bees’ nests and tarantulas in their dens (tunnels in the ground). The insects were horrible, but we’d all done our best to cover every inch of skin, and I’d slathered myself in yet another layer of Deet. Thank goodness I packed two bottles of the stuff.

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