6/30, day 52:
Yesterday we arrived in Puerto Maldonado. We've been staying in Ollantaytambo with a friend for a week, hiking around and visiting ruins as well as checking out the town.
We decided we wanted to go visit the rainforest for a few days, so we were able to leave most of our stuff with our friend in Ollanta as we headed to Puerto Maldonado. The hostel we stayed at in Puerto Maldonado offered discounted tours for backpackers, and so we decided to do a three day, two-night jungle tour.
Today we started our jungle tour, and we are headed into the southern selva. First, it's an hour by car on a highway, and then an hour on a dirt road to the river. We got to sit in the back of the truck on the dirt road and enjoy the warm air and views of the jungle.
After the dirt road, we took a boat up the river to the lodge. On the river, we saw some locals mining coal, and our guide told us that they do this illegally. Once a month police come and destroy their equipment, but the locals just rebuild it and continue to mine.
Following a nice lunch, Ben and I went on some hiking trails around the lodge. We got to see a few monkeys climbing the trees, and listen to the different sounds of bugs and birds.
Next, we went kayaking down the river, trying to spot cayman. We saw a couple of along the riverbank, as well as a few macaws flying overhead. On our way back, they pulled me in the kayak behind the boat, which was wet but pretty fun.
Before we got back to the lodge, we were lucky enough to see a jaguar sitting on a log alongside the riverbank. Jaguar sightings are pretty rare, and we were pretty happy to be able to see on our first day.
After a break, we went on a night walk through some trails in the jungle. We saw bullet ants, a stick bug, chicken tarantulas, big moths, a variety of different spiders, and many other exotic types of insects.
Besides the stick bug and tarantulas, the coolest thing we saw was a gold silk spider; as the name suggests, the spider's web was gold in color and looked pretty impressive under our lights in the dark.
7/1, day 53:
After an excellent breakfast in the morning, we headed through the jungle for an hour and a half walk to an animal clay lick. Along the way, we saw red howler monkeys, tamarins, and a wild turkey.
Unfortunately, there were no animals at the clay lick, but we did see some tapir tracks. We continued to walk and learned about the different types of plants. We saw a 400-year-old tree, a walking palm tree, another howler monkey, a crested toad, and a poisonous frog.
Next, once it got dark out, we headed to the boat to go look for caymans. After about 45 minutes we found one we could get close to, and one of the guides reached in the water and grabbed it. It was only about 6 months old, so it wasn't that big yet.
Apparently, caymans can grow up to 5 or 6 meters, and live from about 60 to 70 years old. The boat ride back the camp was beautiful, the sky was clear, and the number of stars was breathtaking.
7/3, day 54:
This morning we got up early and headed to the boat at 5:30. After a foggy boat ride, we arrived at the macaw clay lick. This is the activity I had been looking forward to the entire trip because every day hundreds of colorful parrots flock to the clay lick to eat essential minerals and salt from the clay.
Thirty minutes later, hundreds of green, blue, black, yellow, and red parrots began circling above the clay. After one decided to get the first taste, the rest of the birds followed.
After the parrots were done eating, they all took off and we sat down for breakfast. Now it was time to wait and hopefully see the macaws come next to eat the clay.
We waited for a couple of hours after breakfast for the macaws, but sadly they never came down to the clay lick. We saw about 5 perched in a tree nearby and 8 flying and circling overhead, but they all flew away without going down to the clay. It was a little disappointing, but at least we got to see some macaws, and the hundreds of parrots were pretty cool as well.
On the way back to the camp, we got to see some more monkeys. A family of four red howler monkeys was resting in a tree near the lodge, and one had a small baby with it. We were able to get a pretty clear view with the telescope.
After looking at the monkeys, Ben and I took a nice swim in the creek near the lodge that flows into the river. It was nice to get into the cold water, because the sun in the Amazon is scorching, and the air is very humid.
After one last fantastic lunch (all the meals the chef made were delicious, probably the best food we've had since being here) we sadly left the lodge to return back to Puerto Maldonado.
Our tour of the rainforest was by far the best 230 dollars I've ever spent, and definitely the highlight of the trip for me. The food was terrific, the views were spectacular, the rooms were beautiful, and it was a lot of fun.
If you ever find yourself in Peru, I implore you to check out Puerto Maldonado and stay in the Tambopata backpackers hostel. The tours they run are fantastic and relatively very cheap.
I think our three-day tour was so cheap because the lodge was only built in March 2015, and so it is a new spot. The quality and quantity of activities, food, and accommodation surpassed our expectations and seemed like it should have been more expensive than it was.