After hours of fighting the current going up the Beni River in northern Bolivia with our two-stroke engine, we finally make it into dense jungle. The sounds of the Amazon come alive while the darkness falls like a thick blanket over the rainforest. Far away from any civilization we swing our machetes in the light of a small fire and prepare our campsite for the first night of a long adventure.
A howler monkey calls in the distance and the rays of the early morning sun filters through the nearly impenetrable canopy. We start our long trek into the vast jungle, stomping through the thick mud and following our guide’s every move in complete silence, all in a bid to increase our chances of spotting some wildlife.
It’s time for lunch and the jungle is our pantry. Fishing the aggressive piranhas takes some skill and quick hands. An insect is used as bate to catch the first piranha, which is then chopped up as bate to catch even more of these violent fish. There’s not a lot of meat on a piranha, but when boiled with some herbs from the jungle it makes a delicious meal and will keep you going for a few more hours.
Like a splash of color in the evergreen forest, a pair of macaws sit and observe us from above.
After days of trekking we finally stumble upon a small tribe village. It’s been quite a while since they had visitors, especially pale faces like us. Out here they live entirely off what the jungle has to offer, as well as the occasional canoe passing by with villagers trading goods. A small boy offered me a few bananas for my t-shirt. I looked at their drying line of torn clothes and happily gave him my old Mickey Mouse t-shirt and a pencil for some delicious fruit.
I learnt the lesson of always keeping an eye on the ground in the Amazon when I nearly stepped on this fierce anaconda. “Just a little baby”, said our guide. Well I’m happy I did not meet the mother! Anacondas can grow up to 9 meters, lurking in the dark shallow waters of the Bolivian pampas.
It was late afternoon and we had just completed the last leg of our journey. I rolled out my sleeping bag over the palm leaf covered ground when an eight-legged creature ran out of the bag’s opening. A massive tarantula was not happy that I had ruined its new found home and I wondered how long he’d been hitchhiking in my backpack. Our guide quickly picked him up on a big leaf and blew some tobacco smoke over him to calm him down. “Dinner anyone?” he asked with a smile.
Sloths are extremely slow moving animals that can sleep for up to 18 hours a day. This chilled out little guy had been rescued when he was a baby and now lives in the thatched roof of a villager’s house.
Life on a floating house in the Amazon is a tranquil experience. Sit back, relax and just listen. Simply observe and learn from what nature can teach you. There’s always a new sound or a new little creature peaking out from the dense canopies above you. With more than 10,000 species of mammals living in the Amazon, you’re up for a treat!