|Amidst growing dismay of our dwindling holiday – and our time with our group which we have come to really enjoy we begin another fascinating day. After breakfast, we borrow wellies again and trudge down to the motor launches. We find the river water level is substantially lower than yesterday. This also has an unfortunate side effect. I means the motor launches sit lower in the water meaning we have to climb down more stairs to get to them.
That by itself wouldn’t be a problem normally but when the stairs in question are covered with a thick gooey layer of fresh river mud, one feels half a second away from losing all balance and landing in the water or somewhere hard and unyielding.
Anyway we all clamber aboard and chug up the river to a spot from where we set off to find an oxbow lake. These are formed where the river changes course and as land begins to seal off the old course a lake is formed by the trapped water (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxbow_lake).
I am told that we will need to take our life vests with us as there will be another boat ride at the lake itself. Ever the pragmatist, I decide to keep my life vest on leading to much merriment amongst the group. Jokes around my being the only one who would survive a tsunami are duly cracked.
What I find most remarkable about the walk that follows are the enormous trees. The rainforest is a thick mass of vegetation and the flora compete for sunlight which means some trees reach 50 metres or so in height (half a hundred metre race) and some that we come across have enormous girth. Wild figs seem particularly large and some are even parasitic grown around a host tree stifling it and eventually killing it. The hollow space left by the dead tree was often used as a living space for native human inhabitants of the forest.
We see very few animals. A group of monkeys on distant tree tops and some macaws flying
over our heads are the highlights but the best bit was the tarantula. We are split into two groups and our group under the able guidance of Elvis happens to pass a fist sized hole in the ground. He informs us this is a tarantula nest almost with the same air as I would inform someone of a friend’s house in passing. He then proceeds to gently lower a stick into the hole to lure the tarantula out. He tries for almost 15 minutes but the tarantula (possibly with little ones) is uncharitable towards us even considering the distances we have all travelled to be there. We move on.
We arrive at the lake and climb aboard a catamaran shaped boat. Michael and Mikkel enthusiastically take up the oars in the “back paws” of the vessel and elvis mans the main oar. We move gently across the surface of the lake and Wilma tells us about Oxbow lakes and Macaws that live around the lake. We see a tree trunk partly submerged in the water that is now home to a little colony of bats who are just “hanging out” on its rotting surface. As we reach the end of the lake and turn around, I take up the oars from Michael and the resulting increase in velocity of our boat is attributed to a tailwind. Tailwind indeed!!
The day is turning out to be a good one without being oppressively hot. We moor our boat at the edge of the lake and take up the return trail all together this time. Then we come across another tarantula hole. Elvis tries again to draw out the inhabitant of the said hole and we eagerly await with our cameras at the ready. The good news is that the spider decides to emerge but no sooner has it done so than 10 flashbulbs go off at once at which point the creature beats an understandably hasty retreat. I have a great picture of that moment – it doesn’t show the spider but it does show the expressions on our faces as we try and take its picture and I swear you wouldn’t see such unbridled photo-lust on the most rabid paparazzo.
We stop to take more pictures of enormous trees some of which are also a few hundred years old. Perhaps they were saplings when the Incas still ruled Peru. We ask Wilma and Elvis to take group pictures with each of our cameras. The effect is the two of them standing covered with cameras looking like street camera salesmen. Wilma has trouble getting Michael and Brenda’s camera to work and Michael tries to run to her and tell her to adjust something and as he’s halfway there she manages to take the picture with
Michael arms flailing. In the picture he apparently bears an eerie resemblance to a mythical elf who is often supposed to appear in pictures with an axe in his hand (not sure I remember the axe bit for certain).
We then take our motor launch back to the lodge where we see more fauna – a pet bird called something fancy that I can’t remember and others spot snakes and a turtle who seems intent on heading someplace with a serious expression on his face.
We have lunch and then have a choice of heading off to see a local farm or walking in the forest surrounding the lodge itself. We take the latter. Michael and Heine (or was it someone else decide to visit the farm).
The walk is uneventful and we return to the lodge for some R&R till dinner time. We then set off on probably the most exciting bit of the rainforest trip. Cayman spotting by night. Our motor launches are armed wit searchlights which the guides use expertly to locate Caymans resting on river banks in the pitch dark. When we get close to a place where we think there might be some, the engine is cut to reduce noise and we glide almost noiselessly on the river not seeing much and it does feel quite thrilling. Brenda later confesses she finds the experience somewhat scary and imagines Caymans bursting out from the water and grabbing her. We see about 4 or 5 different spots with Caymans. These are not large probably growing to about 4-5 feet in length perhaps a little longer. The darkness is punctuated of course by our flashing cameras.
That done we head back and call it a day. My holiday is almost over I can feel the sadness growing in the back of my mind.