It wasn’t my first time in a jungle. I did spend almost a year in Costa Rica, however this was the most informative stay I have had so far. And as I found out, each jungle is a bit different.
We flew into Puerto Maldonado and too a boat ride on Rio Tambopata to our hotel. I say hotel, but that was something else. I think of it more like a retreat. You could see that the buildings had a minimal impact on the forest around. Everything was constructed on platforms so you had to use special walkways between the reception, the restaurant area and the bedrooms. Almost everything was made of wood. The rooms had no real ceiling, just the roof of the building so you could hear a lot that was going on the neighbouring rooms. Bathrooms were very basic and only with cold water but very classy. And the rooms themselves didn’t have the fourth wall, there was just a hammock hanging across. That was also the first time I had to sleep with a mosquito net.
One of the highlights was an organized plantation visit. I’m from central Europe, so imagine my surprise to see how pineapples grow!!! We learned about sugar cane and cocoa nuts, not to mention the brutal life style and the slavery. We swam in the river – it was piranha free. However not caiman free. We also went on a night boat ride to be able to watch them hunt. There were only few moments in my life when I was that terrified. Not because of the animals, although yes, them too, but to ride on a boat in the dark not knowing the direction, what’s ahead or what’s behind you and then you feel the boat hitting a rock or what ever it was, and just thinking – the boat is going to flip and we’re all gonna die. Nothing bad happened of course, but because I was so stressed out I don’t remember much about the caimans.
On one of the jungle walks we learned about the medicinal qualities of many of the plants. Also about the poisonous ones. Very important thing to know: nature is so ingenious that in close proximity to any dangerous plant there is always one that you would use as an antidote. You just need to know which, but it’s there.
I also came to admire ants. Their colonies are massive, we only see a small percentage of the whole construct over ground. And they don’t really eat what they gather, they just need it to grow a special fungus which then serves as their source of food.
One more thing I did was to use the hotel’s facilities. Normally if there is a spa I’ll book a massage or something relaxing. This time I got curious about “Shaman cleansing”. Sadly, I did not get to try ayahuasca – we were there too short for me to risk it, but I can assure you it was an experience. It was just me in the hut, with the shaman. We chatted for a while, so I found out a lot about the way local people have been using plants to cure various diseases. He even told me that people come there to cure cancer. It’s not easy, you must be on a certain diet and consume certain herbs in a certain order, but apparently some patients have been known to get better. I guess a lot depends on the stage and your general immunity as well.
After the chat I closed my eyes and he started chanting and burning some special plants. I think I spent there over two hours, but it felt much shorter. My mind went to strange places, the room started spinning, filled with light, I felt suspended in space and time. I must say, I have gotten a bit high, my pupils were dilated for most of the night. I highly recommend it for all those who are spiritually curious.
The jungle adventure finished way too soon. After two nights it was off to Cuzco.