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eirekay Puerto Maldonado - A travel report by Eire
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Puerto Maldonado,  Peru - flag Peru -  Madre de Dios
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eirekay's travel reports

Puerto Maldonado – It’s a Jungle Out There!

  21 votes
Page: 1 2
Miles from nowhere, 3 hours boat ride from Puerto Maldonado, deep in the rain forest, no electricity or warm water, communal meals and rubber boots. Sometimes you have to get away from it all to find it all again!

The Guide called these Cabybaranas the Hippos of South America
The Guide called these Cabybaranas the Hippos of South America
Our adventure in the Madre de Dios rain forest was an afterthought. We wanted something to do after hiking the Inka Trail, but in the end it was a fantastic journey that in some ways surpassed Machu Picchu. We flew from Cusco into Puerto Maldonado and let the wild times begin! The airport itself is little more than an oversized hangar surrounded by crates of bananas and mango awaiting departure. We had chosen the Explorer Inn, which provides housing for Graduate Students working on their thesis. The Students lead small groups three days a week in return for housing and meals. We were greeted by a young dutch man, Merijne, who placed us in a car, assured us he would see at the dock, and sprinted off on a moped. The driver, who spoke little English, drove through the town of Puerto Maldonado at break neck speeds, careening through traffic, but that was nothing compared to what followed. As we left town on a series of semi paved one lane roads, he accelerated to Mach II. Pairs of 18 in. planks disguised themselves as bridges at stream crossings. My friend Mary and I were breathlessly cringing in the backseat when, an hour later, he halted, spewing clouds of dust behind us. The “dock” was a steep river bank with ropes to cling to as we lowered ourselves down. Settled in to the boat, we finally relaxed enough to take in the beauty of the Rio Tambopata. Butterflies fluttered on the banks. A family of Cabybarana climbed out of the river as we motored by. Macaw flew overhead. We passed gold mining rigs on the banks, waiting for spring. The sounds of the jungle grew deeper. The boat pulled up on to a non-descript muddy bank, marked only by logs dug into the dirt and a rope banister. Up the river bank and down the path to the clearing. The Explorer Inn. Dropping our packs in our bamboo hut, we set off to get our mud boots, watching as the cook tossed out some bananas for waiting monkeys. Those first couple moments were the last time I saw those boots clean.**Cont-

Favourite spots:
Sunrise on the River as we went to the Colpa
Sunrise on the River as we went to the Colpa
Our days had a routine: 5am the howler monkeys started howling, 5:30 wake up knock, 6am breakfast, 7am activity of the day started, 1pm back to the lodge for lunch, 2pm on your own, 6pm dinner in the Lodge until the solar lights ran out. Nights offered nocturnal walks or a boat ride to go caiman spotting (small alligators). Days brought a different adventure. A boat ride to a clay colpa to watch in wonder as macaw and Amazonian parrots landed on the steep cliff to dine on precious minerals. Canoeing on an ox bow lake to see prehistoric Hoatzins, flightless birds with claws on the tips of their wings. Trip further up river to see a slash & burn plantation where indigenous people are taught to farm. My favorite: hike to a lake where we caught piranha which we later ate at lunch. As we were preparing for the hike back, Mary mentioned being hot. “Jump in” replied Merijne. “We just caught flesh eating fish in that lake.” “Yes, but you don’t have any open sores. You'll be fine." We passed.

What's really great:
Leaf cutter ants carry their load
Leaf cutter ants carry their load
Daily as we hiked through the rain forest, the amazement increased. Leaf cutter ants. Frog that dare you to see them. Blue Morpho butterflies. Brazil nuts - they grow nested in something that looks like an undersized coconut. As they get knocked down from the trees, birds or monkeys will cluster vying for the nut meat. One afternoon we went hiking on our own. As we came around a bend we saw a small jaguar; it paused, watched us for a moment then calmly walked off. We reach for cameras, but too late. Like idiots, we went jogging after it. Lost. Two blondes in the rainforest without a punchline. Mary stopped and looked around. “How stupid are we?” Knowing that the sun set over the river, and that if we found the river bank, we would make it back, we hiked in that direction for almost an hour. “Recognize anything?” “Yep, I know where we are.” “Sure?” “Positive.” Mary asked me on the flight home when I actually knew where we were. “About 5 minutes before we hit the river bank.” I confessed

Leaf Frog
Leaf Frog
There is a primal, spiritual feel to the rainforest that is impossible to describe. It is more "experienced" then "seen". It is both full of sounds and quiet at the same time. It teems with activity that you can only glimpse but certainly feel. I was filled with a deep respect for the "Circle of Life" that lives here. Seeing the 3 foot high ant hills or watching as monkeys loudly competed for territory with toucans. We spent hours searching for animals that camoflauge themselves with such artistry. Trees vye for sunlight, some slowly "walking" themselves to the right or left by shifting their roots. We spent one afternoon just sitting on a log watching and listening.

Our Jungle Hut
Our Jungle Hut
The Explorer Inn was perfect for us. The Inn is small, offering only 8 guest rooms with the students living in a more dorm like arrangement. The huts are bamboo with screen windows - no glass. The bathrooms are small, there is not hot water and the toilet and shower are not filtered, which means the water is muddy (think mineral bath - you would pay good money for that) but it suits the environment. I don't think I would have wanted more. There is no electricity in the huts - bring a headlamp. candles are provided. Each hut has a wide porch with chairs and there were several hammocks on the grounds.

The Animal Sighting Board got updated every afternoon
The Animal Sighting Board got updated every afternoon
The meals at Explorer Inn were fantastic. Catfish steamed in banana leaves. Chicken cooked in bamboo tubes. Roast pork with mangos. Huge breakfasts with eggs, pancakes, rolls and always Bananas. Everything bananas. Bananas in rice, banana pudding, you name it - bananas.

All the meals were communal, served at big tables in a single seating. The conversations were wonderful, blending students, professors and travelers from all over the world. Several separate tables were provided but we rarely saw anyone sitting at them.

There was a bar in the Lodge, serving beer and wine. Not much selection but considering where you are, a cold brew is a cold brew.

Other recommendations:
Butterlfies on the river bank
Butterlfies on the river bank
One more thing: Bugs, Bugs and more Bugs. Consider treating your clothes with a product like Permathrin. It can be applied several weeks beforehand and will last through several washings. We even treated our hats. Long sleeves and pants are a must or you will be eaten alive by the mosquitos. You also may want to bring bug repellent wipes. To put it delicately, you will be drinking lots of water and on long hikes you may need to relieve yourself - there are just some places you do not want to be bit.

Published on Friday October 7th, 2005

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Thu, Nov 02 2006 - 10:36 PM rating by ronellevan

Excellent report, makes me think we should include it in our trip.

Tue, Sep 12 2006 - 05:58 PM rating by mrscanada

I love pictures of butterflies. I've never seen the small white and black ones before. I enjoyed reading your review.

Sat, Oct 29 2005 - 04:40 PM rating by toribio


Mon, Oct 17 2005 - 11:32 AM rating by miguelmarchi

you have courage!

Sat, Oct 08 2005 - 09:22 PM rating by gloriajames

Hiya Eire!!
Loved your report on your adventure!

Sat, Oct 08 2005 - 01:47 PM rating by akhila

A wonderful report!

Sat, Oct 08 2005 - 11:17 AM rating by jorgesanchez

Oh, Eire! You are also UNA AVENTURERA!
Congratulations for your good report.

Sat, Oct 08 2005 - 08:57 AM rating by mistybleu


This sounds like an incredible expedition. You've told some wonderful stories - really enjoyable to read.

Sat, Oct 08 2005 - 01:21 AM rating by davidx

I didn't do the jungle extension either. heat and insects bug me but I should have loved the birds ,butterflies [yes, I know they are insects!] and mammals.
Another beautiful report from you.

Fri, Oct 07 2005 - 08:24 PM rating by gegeone

Nice report indeed. I admire you for diving so bravely in the wild. I cannot dare do the same since my health doesn't allow me to have food and drinks that may be risky. So, I find consolation reading reports like yours and picture books, and watching National Geographic like programs.

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