Posada Amazonas, Peru

Sunrise in the Amazon

I woke up very early just as our guide Geraldine had reminded us at dinner last night. But what in the world is that sound so early this morning? It sounded like a coffee machine belching loudly in the kitchen. "It's a red howler monkey" Geraldine said later, showing me a picture of it on their field guide. I couldn't understand how this small hairy creature could amplify it's voice so much. Unfortunately, I couldn't see the monkey in the forest despite its not-so-hard-to-miss howling.

We're up at 5:30 a.m. in order to reach Tres Chimbadas oxbow lake early in the day or else the sun will roast us if we're late. It's about twenty minutes by boat further upstream and then a 30 minute walk along a forest trail. An oxbow lake is formed when a wide meander from a stream or a river is cut off to form a lake. What's interesting here, according to Geraldine, is that the area is a magnet for birds and animals.

Tres Chimbadas Oxbow Lake

We boarded a catamaran for 2 hours of slow sailing while on the look-out for birds and other forest inhabitants. With the help of our guides, we managed to spot birds I could only remember seeing in the zoo: hoatzins, anhingas, horned screamers, wattled jacanas, toucans, capped herons, macaws and some other species I could not recall. We also saw an anteater scamper up a tree near the lake. We failed to see the river otters though.

The Infamous Piranha

However, the guides caught a piranha, that infamous carnivorous fish, to the delight of everyone. We tried catching some more using the pieces of pork meat as bait but our inexperience at fishing proved futile as piranhas ended up feasting only on the pork meat. Which reminds us that this lake (and the surrounding rivers) is definitely not as inviting for a swim as it looks on the surface, unless somebody in our group wanted to become the piranha's breakfast for the day.

Muddy, sticky trail

Our next destination was the macaw clay lick. Wearing our boots, we trooped along the muddy trail, realizing the stickiness of earth on this part of the Amazon is one small sacrifice we have to pay in order to see its beautiful hidden parts. A squirrel monkey resting on a tree branch was one added bonus we soon encountered. However, it disappeared quickly as soon as our cameras started flashing.

Macaw Clay Lick

We knew we were near the clay lick as the unmistakable sound of macaws, parrots and parakeets filled the air. We were ushered into the observation hut and silently took our positions at the small openings in the wall where the birds can be observed fully without being disturbed. Fortunately, these birds breed between October and February and we just came at one of the best times as there were plenty of them feasting on the clay licks. I saw the birds up close as they socialize among themselves, giving a literal meaning to "birds of the same feather flock together". It was a very colorful sight and a noisy experience altogether! Just as we stepped out from the observation hut, we spotted a pair of rare blue and yellow feathered macaws, normally only seen in the upper reaches of the Tambopata river.

We took our lunch at the lodge, discussing with Steven, Ian, and Ruth what we've observed today. They're part of the group travelling with adventure outfitter GAP led by Tita, a petite Peruvian woman. They are looking forward to seeing more macaws in the next few days as they will be visiting the Tambopata Research Center, another lodge owned by Rainforest Expeditions located some five hours away by boat upstream. I could only wish I have a longer time in this humid paradise. There's plenty to see and I only have three days to do it.

Shaman of the jungle

Geraldine announced after lunch that we will be visiting an ethno-botanical center and meet a shaman who specializes in concocting medicines from various plants found in the forest. We took the longboat again and sailed downstream for 15 minutes. We met Jose the shaman, a 40-something man who looked like in his 50's and spoke to us in Spanish with Geraldine translating. We walk along his garden - actually the forest itself - and he wowed us with his knowledge in identifying numerous leaves and vines from which medicines for various ailments, from Parkinson's disease to Erectile Dysfunction, can be extracted. Most of his methods require some boiling of this and that and drinking parts of it. Indeed, we ended up taking a shot at one of his potions, a brownish fluid which is his herbal version of the energy drink Red Bull. It's a little sweet with a tinge of kick to it. Not really my type. I'll drink regular tea anytime, thank you.

The shaman's lecture ended just as the sun went down. I'm tired after a long day in the forest. I guess the shaman's Red Bull version didn't work for me or perhaps I didn't drink much. We took the longboat again for the ride back upstream. Dinner in the forest is waiting.

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