If you missed it, our first stop in Peru was Cusco (Adventure in the Andes 😉). Our second major adventure was visiting the Amazon rainforest (one of the new 7 wonders of the natural world!). After completing his Peace Corps service, my late great-uncle Peter Jenson built Explorama Lodge in the mid-1960s. Located 50 miles down the Amazon River from Iquitos, his company has since expanded to also include 4 other accommodations and one of the world’s longest canopy walkways. 😲 Tommy and I spent an amazing 3 days there (+1 in Iquitos) exploring the river and rainforest.
Day 1 – Boat Rides
Our first day included two boat rides – one during the day and one at night, so that we could see a variety of plants and animals. We were lucky enough to spot a sloth hanging in a tree, as well as plenty of colorful birds! There were also quite a few strange river plants and giant ant nests. On the night boat ride a huge bug landed on my leg and all sensibility of keeping the boat stable went out of my mind as I leaped up to brush it off. Our guide nonchalantly flicked it aside to the bottom of the boat and assured me it was perfectly harmless – the wasps were the bugs I should be afraid of!
Day 2: Canopy Walkway, Shaman, Stargazing
Our second day brought an excursion to Explorama’s canopy walkway, a presentation by a traditional medicine man, an afternoon canoe ride, and an evening stargazing boat ride. The whole day was so beautiful – and informative! We learned that scientists are still discovering different species of insects through observation on the canopy walkway – one of our guide’s friends had even discovered a type of “flying ant” within the past couple years! We saw some monkeys, parrots, more massive ant nests, and weird rainforest plants.
After our walkway tour, a shaman showed us a variety of plants that are still used for medicinal purposes by communities along the Amazon River. Some of the weirdest ones were a leaf that smelled super strongly of garlic when crushed and some udder-like bulbs. There is a medical clinic along the river (a story in and of itself, well-worth reading about!) which treats local patients – however, due to time/transportation constraints or local people’s traditional beliefs, rainforest plants are also still commonly used to treat a wide variety of health problems. The medicine man ended his presentation by performing a type of emotional cleansing/resetting ceremony on those interested (funnily enough, none of the men wanted to give it a try!) and showing us an anaconda that he had recently caught. It was being kept briefly for a scientist to study and was going to be released back into the wild later.
After our busy morning, Tommy and I went out alone for a canoe ride. We learned that kayaking is definitely easier than canoeing, and that we still have room for communication improvement as a couple. 😂
Although I don’t have any photos from our night boat ride, stargazing in the center of the river was one of my favorite moments in Peru. Without any interference from city lights, the sky was absolutely illuminated by stars and the Milky Way. It was interesting to see different constellations such as the 7 Sisters, but mostly it was just breathtaking to sit back and enjoy the quiet night and beautiful heavens.
Day 3 – Piranhas & Pink Dolphins!
On our final day at Explorama, we enjoyed catching piranhas and looking for pink dolphins. Fishing for piranhas was Tommy’s favorite part of the Amazon. It is different from Minnesotan fishing in that the rod is a simple pole made of flexible wood and string, with bloody meat as bait – and instead of quietly sitting there for ages waiting for a bite, you viciously splash the tip of your pole in the water to trick the piranhas into thinking it is dying prey! We caught both vegetarian and meat-eating piranhas and Explorama’s chef cooked them up for lunch. They were delicious! We did spot a brief glimpse of a jumping pink dolphin on our boat ride, but they were feeling pretty shy. 😉
Day 4 – Museums
After our incredible stay at Explorama, we had a little bit of time to kill in Iquitos. We ate our fill of ceviche and ducked into a few little museums to get out of the heat. One museum described different indigenous people of the Amazon rainforest and showcased some of their traditional garments, while the other was a converted historical boat that detailed the history of foreign explorers and industries in Amazon. Both museums were small but interesting, and gave us a better understanding of local culture.
Iquitos was our last stop in Peru, after which we headed to Chile to teach and explore some more! If you missed the full details of where we’ve been while teaching and traveling with VIPKID, check out our summary here. Keep an eye out for our next post (on an undetermined location!), which will be up within the next 10 days. Lots of love to friends and family at home! 💕
(Below – a few extra photos that didn’t quite fit in the rest of the post!)