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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Day 2: Welcome to the Jungle

Day 2: Saturday January 12th, 2013
Writing from: Tahuayo Lodge

Today began as we boarded our midnight flight in Miami airport. We arrived in Lima around 5:30 AM. Some of us reported sleeping fitfully, others not at all. Luckily, adrenaline and caffeine would soon carry the day!

We breezed through customs and immigration (a few class members receiving their first-ever passport stamp) and checked into our domestic flight with about 3.5 hours to spare. We briefly considered heading into Lima for a quick breakfast, but decided to stay in the airport instead. We exchanged money and enjoyed Peruvian café food.

We boarded our flight for Iquitos at 10:10AM and arrived just over an hour later. Stepping on to the tarmac, we were greeted with our first blast of Amazon heat (93F) and humidity.

We gathered our bags in the small airport and were met by our drivers and guides. They drove us in a super-cool tour bus through the streets of Iquitos, which were teeming with 3-wheel motorcycle taxis and people.

We arrived at the headquarters for our tour company and then boarded a covered boat for a 3-hour journey up the Amazo and Tahuayo rivers.

Pushing off from the dock and heading into the broad, swift Amazon, we were all struck by this moment and the one where we finally made it- we had reached the mighty Amazon after about 24 hours of travel!

Everyone enjoyed the journey upriver. We passed many small villages, lots of interesting wildlife, and a few primitive balsam boats still used by locals. We ate a bagged lunch and some of us napped.

After about 3 hours, we pulled into Tahuoya Lodge. This facility is an amazing oasis in the jungle, with a series of about 15 buildings spread on perhaps 3 acres, all connected by thatched walkways. The entire complex sits on the edge of the river and is raised on stilts to deal with the periodic flooding.

There are common rooms (reading room, laboratory, dining room), group rooms for the students, and private rooms for the professors. The sounds of the jungle permeate every inch of the place, and within the complex itself we were able to see many birds (including owls), spiders, snakes, and various other wildlife (but all in a good way).

After a short orientation from our guide, we headed back on to the river, this time in an open canoe with an outboard motor. We viewed wildlife along the shore (mostly birds and bats) until it started to rain. By which I mean rainforest rain – a deluge! We all joked about getting so soaked as we sped back to the lodge, where we tried to dry off (good luck!).

We worked on our journals until dinnertime. After dinner, we were led on a night hike through the surrounding jungle. We each gasped when we were dive-bombed by giant flying cockroaches, but were nonetheless able to enjoy viewing tarantulas (of the pink-toed variety, each ranging between 3 and 7 inches across, always in a tree, very cool), a juvenile caiman, various sleeping birds, opossum, and various insects. It was quite an adventure.

We returned to the lodge by 9PM to settle in for the night. It was quite an adventurous day to be sure.

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