What we found in the Amazon
It took a three hour boat ride down the Rurrenabaque river to get to Serere Eco Lodge
The boat stopped at the bottom of a small cliff, which we had to scale to get up onto the bank, before a small walk through the thick, dense jungle lead us to our huts.
From our huts, it was a five minute walk to get to the open aired, wooden lodge. The lodge was built right next to a river, where on most days, prehistoric sized cayman would emerged from the water, hang out on the bank for awhile, then disappear back into the murky water.
At night, we paddled down the rivers' still surface in a wooden canoe, shining our torches around to see more than two dozen pairs of cayman eyes glittering back at us.
A crazy tapir lived at the lodge. The rain was coming down hard when I saw it for the first time, a creature that looked like it was made of spare parts trotting past the window.
Its’ body was shaped like a small rhinoceros and it had the tiny, flickering ears of a hippo. Its’ trunk, which was about half the size of an elephants, was sniffing through the air with a dogs animation as it was running along.
One day we were in our huts when we heard a scraping at the door. Exchanging glances, Ha-day edged her way over to peek out the window, before cracking open the front door.
A reddish brown ball of fur bowled inside, scampered up the mosquito netting that hung over the beds, dove through the air then landed on the wooden floor boards with the force of a small WWF player, revealing himself with a grunt as the lodges resident baby howler monkey.
After a monkey inspired yoga photo shoot we took him back to the lodge, where he raced off upstairs to annoy the teenage spider monkey who spent most of his time skulking around in the rafters.
A nocturnal frog lived in our bathroom for the full three nights we were in the Amazon. He liked to land with a gripit-ing smack somewhere close by in the midnight darkness, when your pants were down around your ankles.
A lot of the food at the lodge was home grown. After most meals, the bright green parrot who was always lurking around would swoop in, land on the edge of the long table, then sidle its way down, one claw at a time, its beady gaze unwavering with desire to reach the sugar bowl.
We trekked through the jungle for hours most days, searching for anything our cocoa-leaf chewing guide could find, because he was the only one who could find it.
He knew where the brown, hairy bodies of tarantulas lay camouflaged amongst the dead leaves at our feet.
He was able to tell which plant was what, which bugs were edible or which frogs were poisonous.
He could tell monkeys apart by their screeches, while we had to wait to spot them in the treetops.
He knew the places to avoid, so we followed him everywhere, stepping over branches, brushing away ferns, slapping at mosquitoes until he somehow found something in the thickness of it all.
As we walked, butterflies with the widest, brightest blue wings I’ve ever seen would flutter by, land with thin, delicate legs, onto fat green leaves, then flitter away.
With one neat whack of his machete, our guide cut the small dark husk of a nut clean in half.
On one side lay a wriggling, white grub, on the other a shiny nut. Ignoring the nut, he scooped out the grub, spat out the wad of coca leaves he was forever replacing, then ate the curling creature in one bite, laughing, before we all followed suit.
He showed us how to fish for piranhas using raw meat for bait. We flung hooks tied to thin pieces of string out into the river, to wait for bites.
Some of us caught the small, red vampires, reeling them in to expose their rows of sharp pointy teeth to the rest of the group. Others caught the river bed, tree tops, or each other.
At night, trekking through the jungle, we’d turn off our torches and stand in the hot, thick darkness, listening to the night time sounds of the Amazon.
Hoots, rustles, shuffles, a nervous cough, then we’d turn our torches back on. The light would catch spiders wrapping insects up in their webs, tiny mouse-like creatures frozen in fear and more than a few moving bushes slowing to a stop.
There were creatures everywhere yet nowhere at the same time.
We caught a glimpse of a bright green snake in the bush our first day there, yet when we went searching through the thick brown mud for anacondas, we found nothing but dead tree trunks.
We tried twice to find one, wading through swampy mud for hours in the oppressive jungle heat.
In the end, the anaconda found us a few days later.