The Things I Learned while Working in the Amazon

In June I set out to work in the Amazon rainforest near Iquitos, Peru. I had an incredible experience there living a simple, peaceful life. The majority of my day was spent in hammocks reading, contemplating my experiences so far, and napping in the heat. We grabbed some machetes and established a makeshift volleyball court and played until we could see more bats than daylight. At night I would sit near the river and watch the moon rise over the rainforest, to say it was beautiful and magical does not do it enough justice.  It was a fantastic job working in a small, cosy jungle lodge, reading books and chatting with guests – though it wasn’t without creepy crawlies of course!

Here are only a handful of the entertaining things I learnt while working in the rainforest. The philosophical, contemplative thoughts will be saved for another post. Enjoy!

Plank walkways, Iquitos, Peru  The Amazon River, Peru

  1. The nature can be okay. Sometimes.

Macaw, Iquitos, Peru 

2. Butterflies there are bigger than your hand

Butterfly in Iquitos

3. Canoes are great fun. They are made from trees, filled with holes and go in zigzags when novices use it. Hilarious!

Canoe, Amazon, Peru

4.You don’t know the definition of hot and humid until you’ve been to the rain forest. And the little relief at night-time is embellished by spectacular lightning storms and fireflies.

5.  The animals aren’t all big and scary. There are also kittens, called Dennis.
We also had a dog – who you would think, living in the rainforest, wouldn’t be frightened of anything anymore. She ran at the sight of a fly, while the cat chased the intruding dogs and giant pigs away.

Dennis

6. Houses are used as one or two stories, depending on the season. For half of the year, the first floors are underwater. For the second half, they have a huge clean-up to do once the water recedes.

Belen, Iquitos  

7. You will wake up with a cockroach in your bed – at least once.

8. Mosquitos bite you something brutal. The Amazonia-strength insect repellent you use or the amount of long clothing you wear will never be enough. Your best form of protection? Your sacrificial friend – the one who always gets bitten more than you. Take them with you. At one point I counted 130 bites on my legs!

Mosquito bites, Iquitos
This isn’t even that bad. I counted 130 on me at one point. I was the sacrificial friend!

9. When fishing in the Amazon, piranhas WILL eat the other fish in the bucket as they lay dying.
See the long one in the middle with a strip of the body gone?! Yep, the orange piranha did that while gasping for air.

Piranha, Iquitos Peru

10. If you’re quiet enough, the neighbours come to visit. These include monkeys, poisonous tarantulas, and 2 metre snakes. Don’t worry, the snake is just as scared to see you (especially when you scream unmentionable words when you come a metre from it accidentally on the path you see).

11. Bungalows are pretty but don’t give you any protection from nature, and often have holes in the floorboards.
Cue sleeping with a machete beside the bed, in case said snake returned. It was a legitimate fear.

Toad, Iquitos  Iquitos Snake

12. Fried banana pancakes and passionfruit juice become a daily essential.

13. Even though you are in a lodge in the middle of the amazon rainforest and surrounded by rivers, where the local village still operates by candlelight and cut out canoes, there will still be guests who are shocked when you tell them there is no internet, no coca cola, and no, we don’t sell Doritos (oddly enough).

14. Sloths and monkeys are funny creatures, but we already knew this before.

Sloths, Iquitos, Peru, Amazon   Monkey, Iquitos, Peru

15. Your clothes will never truly be clean. They will be full of mud, rain, or animal paw prints. They will either smell like the sweat resulting from humid 30 days, or the river water you wash them in.

San Pedro Lodge, Iquitos, Peru

16. There is life without the internet. There are books to read, naps to have, swimming to be done, exotic fruits to pick and nature to scout. Why not pretend you are Tarzan and swing on some vines hanging off of a 400 year old tree?

Hammock, San Pedro Lodge, Peru, Iquitos, Amazon   Jane, Tarzan. Jane

17. It’s hard to take an attractive coconut photo if you are me.

Iquitos, Peru

18. This is what Jesus would look like if he wer born in the rainforest. Macaws, tapirs, sloths and all! 
This is in the main plaza in the closest city, Iquitos.

If Jesus were born in the jungle...

19. It’ll be the best damn month of the trip. The guests you get to become friends with, the books you read, the animals you see, the beautiful butterflies, the hammocks and relaxation. The sound of crickets at night-time, and the mesh windows allowing you to hear the rain and see the lightning. The pets, the staff, the atmosphere. It’ll be incredible.

Pilpintuwasi

I hope you enjoyed – I sure did and cannot wait to get back to the rainforest. I’ll gladly take the snakes and tarantulas again for the countless rewards

Penny x

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