We spent one more day in the same general area with Pablo as our guide, a pretty rough one where we hiked at least 13 or 14 kilometers and got good and soaked a couple of times. That evening we were all wiped out and blistered, and I took the photo below of Luis relaxing on the bow of the boat on the way back to Lagarto.
That evening I heard Luis and Jason talking about the plan for the next few days, and pretty quickly I realized it was a conversation I wanted to be a part of. The next region we wanted to explore was owned by natives who would have been hostile to the idea of us being there, which in my opinion meant we shouldn’t go there. I’m not scared of jaguars, poisonous snakes or any other jungle critter… except people. They scare me a lot, so the idea of knowingly going where a community of people don’t want us to go, and where, frankly, they could have hacked us to death with machetes and no one would have ever known what happened to us, was nuts. But Jason had a mission to accomplish, and eventually I was satisfied that by starting downriver from the community and hiking straight into the jungle for several kilometers before turning north, we were very unlikely to run into anybody, and hey, we had machetes too! Below are some peki pekis in Lagarto at sunrise.
It’s funny the things you don’t see coming. I knew hacking our way through the jungle would be kind of tough, but I like swinging a machete so I wasn’t worried about that. The hardest part, as it turned out, was the bugs. Hacking your way through the jungle with a machete is kind of slow, which is fine, except that the clouds of mosquitoes and biting flies don’t have a moving target to keep up with and can feast at their leisure. For three days we were a mobile coca-chewing banquet, slowly making our way through the forest. At times the going was easy, like when the trees were tall and the understory more open, at others it wasn’t. Below is a photo of a fallen tree we came across just a few minutes after leaving the boat, so we thought massive forests were dead ahead. As it turned out, the best forest was closest to the river.
The main goal of this part of the trip was to get to Terra Firma, which was a plateau of sorts that rose 300 feet or so abruptly from the jungle floor, where the forest was supposed to be better and more open. A few days later at Cicra, a research station upriver, we would learn that there was no terra firma in the direction we were heading, and we would have hiked to the foothills of the Andes before gaining any elevation.
But when you’re in it, you just know that it’s around the next corner, or in the next half kilometer, so we pressed on as the forest turned to palm swamp and bamboo thickets, and by the way, the bamboo in Peru has 2 inch thorns at the nodes.
Jason with his favorite thing, a huge tree.
We saw a lot of Tapir tracks, but never the animals themselves.
Moving through some fairly open understory.
The biggest snail i’ve ever seen.
Most of the monkeys we saw during the three days were capuchins.
It was hard to give up on the idea of Terra Firma, but when we arrived at a shallow creek about 7 kilometers from the river, we decided to turn back. I was ready to stop myself, and I think our guide wasn’t going another step. We had left the bag of coca leaves at our previous stop, and as soon as that became known his attitude took a nose dive and there was only one direction he wanted to go. A note about coca, it’s a pleasant leaf to chew, but really all it did for me was make my mouth go numb, which is interesting I suppose but I wasn’t about to get hooked.
Jason in the river we finally stopped at.
Luis in the terminal river.
We’d made it through most of the day without getting dumped on, but just before we got the boat that evening the skies opened up and we were soaked within a minute, and the below photo is of our boatman grabbing a wad of coca leaves in the pouring rain.
Jason and Luis doing a little route finding on our “map”, a single printed page from Google Earth.
The only nice dog around was there to greet us weary travelers when we got back to Lagarto.