I’m still reveling in my victory against the Zabrowskis in Hearts the night before when I rise from bed at the crack of 8:30am. I actually had rustled myself at 6am to listen to the morning birds one more time, record some video to bring back to my daughter and then promptly kept sleeping until the absolute need to get out of bed. I headed to breakfast and to say goodbye to the Zabrowskis. Most groups leave around 9am and the lodge really quieted down after that. I washed some laundry, checked in on the world of the internet, wrote some in my journal while reflecting on what my time in the jungle has meant to me.
I have enjoyed my time at Inkaterra profusely. It has been a wonderful escape, more so than I knew I needed at this point. While not in isolation, I have been gifted with time alone when I want and time with interesting and engaging new friends. The staff have been exceptional and I know at least a dozen by name; Dino, Roberto who knows my penchant for a bottle of wine whether I have a dinner guest or not, Caesar, Yuri and his eagerness to show me more and more of the rainforest, the improbably named Sherlock, Susan with her wonderful hands and cooling massages, Rachael who like many is studying to make a better life for herself in Peru while being unsure of her current relationship with her boyfriend, Alejandro the manager constantly making sure my extended stay is enjoyable, Hector who greets me with a broad, earnest smile when I come to use the Internet connection and on and on.
Jamie, who brings me a cool glass of water while I read, strikes up a conversation and then quickly points me to a book of Manu National Park. He’s also studying to be a guide for Inkaterra and admits needing to improve his English before applying for a job. He is able to rattle off dozens of species living in Manu National Park, having grown up in the area. He relates a story when he was young and his father would take him up river for many days to go hunting, teaching him as his father taught him how to live with the jungle and how to respect it. As with many countries, Peru can use more people brought up in this manner as I see a genuine interest in Jamie to educate others and protect that which he holds dear.
It seems most of the staff here has some interest in the jungle more than just a passing fancy for where they work. There are more than 20 lodges on the 45 minute stretch of Rio Madre de Dios East of Puerto Maldonado and while jobs in town are sparse, there are options for employment on the river. I can’t help but believe most are here by choice, if not in Inkaterra precisely, in the jungle, instead of flocking to Lima or Cusco for a job in the city. Most I speak with have grown up in the region and hold respect for the jungle, enjoying the heat and humidity in the rainforest as compared to the chill of the Andes or desert along the coast.
After lunch is more relaxing, which I know I won’t have a chance to basking in for quite a while….a day just for me, completely. I take a few more dips in the cooling pool, read some, nap some, pack at a dawdler’s pace, check on the happenings at home and Facebook (yes, even here, in the middle of ‘nowhere’ I still can’t shake the addiction to stay connected to friends and family) and then enjoy a last supper before another soak and an early sleep.
I’ve been asked if there is anything I regret not doing on this portion of the trip. That answer is pretty easy for me as I tend to have very few true regrets in life. I usually know what I want and do it, or simply let it go if it can’t be obtained. Here, I do regret not making one of my meals be entirely of the scrumptious deserts I came to crave and steal from others too full to finish. Given more time and funds I would have loved to travel further down river to one of the other communities but was hinted at from the guides that those experiences tend to be a bit touristy. So while that’s not a real regret, exploring more of the river and river life, really getting into it and what it’s like, would have been very enjoyable for me. I can see coming back when I can dedicate more time, maybe months, to learn what it’s like to mine the river for gold in a sluicing barge, harvest fruit and transport it to town, or just subsist in a land so abundant of life. And I’d love to share it with my daughter.
I’ve received a small taste of what life in the Peruvian rainforest is like and now long to return and share it with others. This place has infected me in the same manner the Himalayas of Nepal have infected me, how thoughts of the Pacquare River in Costa Rica quicken my pulse, or the crags and South Coast of Ireland can bring the sound of pounding surf and chill of the Atlantic to me. How the sandstone of Southern Utah calls to me regularly and won’t be ignored.
Add the Peruvian rainforest to the list of places I’ve fallen in love with.