Characteristically, we’ve neglected the blog for the last few weeks. We’ve been busy – sort of. Brandon has strongly suggested I write a summary of our last, at least marginally notable, activities in Peru before we sign off on our trip blogging – we’ll be flying back to the States in less that a week. So, I’ll do my best to cover our most recent highlights and lowlights, starting with … the Jungle.

Brandon and I spent a five-day holiday weekend in the Amazon basin, gratis (at least in the skewed way I figure finances) due to B’s economic stimulus check from GWB. We stayed at the rustic Inotawa lodge off the Rio Madre de Dios outside Puerto Maldonado, across the river from the Tambopata Reserve. We flew directly down the mountainsides surrounding Cuzco into the basin, leaving behind the cold and dry highlands for the hot and wet jungle. We stepped off the plane into a sweltering heat, feeling instant relief on our chapped, dry skin and fragile nasal membranes, and shedding our Andean sweater layers into piles at our feet. The spicy smell of earth hung heavily in the air and huge green leaves fanned us as we jarred down a narrow pot-hole-ridden dirt road with our guide. A two hour boat ride down the wide, muddy river brought us to our lodge.

We were introduced abruptly to the jungle on our first night. Our guide bought us on a short night walk, into the thick dark forest surrounding the lodge, where we clutched our dim flashlights like weapons and followed close at the heels of our local leader. He poked casually at a tree as we passed, letting loose a deadly scorpion onto the path and saying “Remember never to touch ANYTHING, ANYWHERE, ANYTIME in the jungle.” We heartily agreed to obey, warily eyeing the curled creature. We’d never seen a scorpion before, except on the Discovery channel. Next, we were lead to a momma tarantula’s hole, where she emerged as if on cue with her body as big as Brandon’s hand, bringing her furry babies out to greet us as we approached. Yes, we respected the jungle.

During our stay, we fished and swam with piranha, watched bright red and green Macaws gorge on gray river clay, caught Caiman, swung in hammocks and watched squirrel monkeys clamber up and down trees. We traipsed through jungle terrain, smelled the stench of wild pigs and ate gigantic bananas off local trees. We befriended lonely Pepe, the rusty-red resident howler monkey of the lodge who would curl up in our laps as we read and who would hang from the thick wooden beams of the roof to watch while we ate. And a luxurious sunrise symphony of bird calls roused us every morning- calls that sounded like bells and flutes and large droplets of water falling into deep wells.

We loved the jungle – we didn’t mind that our damp clothes never dried out, that the shower was perpetually cold, that the mosquitoes were hungry, that stinging bees were bright green and as big as golf balls, and that electricity was still a thing of the future. It was a good break – a needed break from the beautiful but barren, dry-season highlands that we have grudgingly come to adore.