After dreaming excitedly of the jungle, I woke before my alarm at 5:45. At 6:00, the planned wake up call came through and I prised myself out of bed to quickly shower and repack then head down for breakfast. The breakfast was a buffet style and included in the price of the tour (as it will be throughout the tour) – I had some granola, a banana, some bread rolls and a glass of orange juice.
At 7:00 we met in the foyer of the hotel to head back to Lima airport in a transfer van. The airport is about 70 minutes from the hotel, and during the van journey Harold gave us a brief guide to the history of Peru and spoke a lot about the troubles in the past, particularly when the van was driving through some rougher areas of Lima. Harold distributed our boarding passes – we are travelling with Avianca who are a Star Alliance airline, so my United miles work for this trip too! Harold had pre-selected seats for both flights, since we would fly first to Cusco and then stay on the same plane to Puerto Maldonado. Puerto Maldonado is the gateway to the amazon basin and very close to the Brazil border, which makes it a pretty busy city by Peruvian standards. When we landed at the airport we were the only plane on the tarmac, so it clearly isn’t that busy!
The first flight was uneventful, but late. Or rather, running on Peruvian timing. Once we landed in Cusco there were no gates free so we had to wait a while, and then wait whilst everyone deplaned, before we shifted to our second seats. For the second flight Harold had arranged window seats for us all, so that we could watch the views of the river from the window. Although we were visiting the Amazon basin, the river itself was the Tambopata river which is a tributary to the Amazon. From the plane, it is one of the typical views of the Amazon basin – oxbow lakes, meanders, and huge amounts of vegetation. The second flight was short – only 30 minutes – and landing in Puerto Maldonado we could feel the excitement building.
After collecting our bags, we headed out of the airport to meet our local guide, Ronald (Ronny) who would be looking after us in the jungle. We jumped onto a minibus and were taken to a small Gadventures office where we swapped out our big bags/suitcases for small duffle bags which we would take into the jungle (since the humidity is high and we don’t need all our clothes for the 2 nights in the jungle). The repacking took 20 minutes and we had a chance to go to a local shop to buy ponchos, snacks, etc – I bought an ice cream!
Once the bags were repacked, we got back onto the minibus for a 45 minute trip to the river. The road was basic to say the least, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend the trip to anyone who gets motion sickness… bumpy, but amazing and we began wildlife spotting as we drove along. At the port, we boarded the boat which would take us on a 2 1/2 hour journey into the amazon basin to the lodge. It’s worth mentioning that the service level of the staff here is incredible – we didnt even carry our bags down to the boat – the Gadventures staff did that for us!
Harold had warned us that we should have our eyes open as soon as we got onto the boat, and he wasn’t wrong – the wildlife spotting started almost immediately! We saw vultures, monkeys and a giant guinea pig creature called a Capybara. Every time the guides spotted something of interest they called the boat to a halt and we moved in close to take photos, and were given explanations of the habitat around the creatures too. We also saw a basking turtle on a piece of wood, which was fascinating.
During the journey we were served a packed lunch – mine was mushrooms, vegetables and rice, together with two of the worlds smallest bananas! Those bananas were so cute, and are available all the time in the lodge.
Shortly before arriving at the Tambopata Eco Lodge we saw a spectacular sunset, which felt very special with the river spread out infront of us. Once we arrived, we headed up the river bank to the lodge and straight into the bar where we were served welcome cocktails of fruit juice and then were given 45 minutes to freshen up in our rooms before a slide show presentation. The electricity is only on in the lodge from 5pm – 10pm, so this was also the chance to recharge our cameras for the nighttime activities.
The rooms are amazing in the lodge – I had half of the building to myself, and as you can see, it was a really special experience. There’s no electricity at all in the buildings, so we had to use headtorches and candles for everything – even setting up the mosquito nets, which seemed quite dangerous to me!
After a quick freshen up, we met in the bar and ordered a round of Passion Sours before heading into the slide show presentation. The barmaid wasn’t the fastest, so Harold had to bring the cocktails in for us after the slideshow started, but again – the service level was impeccable. Nothing was too much trouble, and there was no bitterness to us being late or an inconvenience by ordering drinks before an activity. The slideshow was educational and gave us an idea of what we could expect to see over the next few days, including Caiman which are probably the most impressive creature which lives around the lodge.
After the slide show, we headed to the dinner hall for dinner which was served buffet style. The lodge had been prepared for my vegetarian needs and Ronny saught me out to hand me a plate of vegetables as soon as I arrived. The food was amazing, and Ronny told us that almost all of it was grown within 10 minutes of the lodge. For dessert they served crepes, and on the table was purple corn juice (Chica Morada) which is a Peruvian speciality.
As soon as dinner was finished we prepared and headed out for the legendary “night walk”. This is a walk in the dark using head torches and cameras to spot some of the night residents in the rainforest. We only walked about 300 meters from the lodge, but we saw so many amazing creatures. Check out the photos for just a few examples – some were way too fast or far away to take decent photos of!
After the night walk, to steady our neves we settled down for another Passion Sour (it would be rude not to, after all… it’s helping the local economy!) and reminisced about our first day of adventuring.
Once the cocktails dried up (the electricity got shut off), we headed to our cabins for bed time – preparing for bed by candllight was special, and getting into bed listening to the sounds of the jungle was an experience I will never forget.
The breakfast meeting was set at 6am the next day since we had a packed day of activities planned, so I drifted off to sounds of the jungle in fear of my 5am alarm! (No wake up calls provided in the cabins – there were no phones!)