January 16, 2021, 7:19 pm
I woke up to the sound of birds chirping outside the tropical, cabin-style room I slept in the first night. A quick breakfast of scrambled eggs, fresh fruit grown in the Amazon region, bread, Colombian coffee and juice prepped me for the day.
An Amazonian Ferry Ride
David the guide took me to Leticia’s small port, which sat along a tributary connect to the Amazon River. Colorful and shabby houseboats bobbed in the water while other bright houses on stilts stood above on dry land. David explained how the port looks completely different during high season, when river water sometimes seeps into the houses settled on the stilts.
We gathered with other tourists and locals on a wooden dock and waited for a ferry to whisk us away. The ferry sat about 50 people and workers secured luggage on the roof and in empty seats. The water was choppy that day and waves splashed into the boat as we made our way north along the Amazon River. The river serves as a border between Colombia and Peru. Since we were traveling north, I could see Colombia on my right and Peru on my left.
After about 40 minutes of cruising along the Amazon River, we arrived at the entrance of Marashaw Natural Reserve, located on the Peruvian side and where we would be sleeping that night. A local guide met us where the river shore kisses the mouth of the jungle.
We began a 1.5 hour hike through the Amazon, stopping frequently for the indigenous guide to tell us short creation stories of the tribes that lived in the area, medicinal benefits of certain plants and to point out bird species. The guide provided us with rubber boots for the hike, so make sure you wear long socks and leave space for your shoes in your bag if you head to Marashaw Natural Reserve. Speaking of baggage, remember to pack light so you don’t have to lug a heavy backpack through the jungle like I did. The hike wasn’t especially difficult, but I’m told the trek gets more challenging (and slippery) after a hard rain.
Marashaw Natural Reserve
I arrived at the lodging area of Marashaw Natural Reserve to find screened-in rooms of various sizes connected by wooden boardwalks. All the boardwalks led to a common area and dining hall that looked out onto another Amazon River tributary. Each structure had a roof made from dried palm fronds and windows were covered by mesh screen framed by curtains. My room was small, yet comfortable and had a basic bathroom attached. A mosquito net hung over my bed and something that looked like a fishing net acted as a ceiling. The accommodation was primitive, but clean and I felt like I was sleeping at an Amazonian summer camp after all the campers had gone home.
After putting my luggage in my room, David and the local guide took me out on a long, wooden canoe. We paddled around for about an hour as David told me about the giant water lilies floating on the water’s surface and pointed out more bird species. We even spotted a family of Capybaras, the world’s largest rodent, nibbling on vegetation along the river bank.
We returned to shore for a lunch of Peruvian lomo saltado, rice, salad, fried plantains and fish fritters. After lunch, we hiked a different trail that led us to an enormous tree and the guides told me more about the culture of different tribes in the area and pointed out more flora and fauna. We also took the canoe back on the water to do some traditional-style fishing, which consisted of a fishing line and hook connected to a simple bamboo stick. I didn’t catch anything, but the local guide caught a baby piranha.
Searching for the Black Caiman
Once dinner rolled around, we filled our bellies with fried rice, more fish fritters, rice and salad. Colorful Macaw parrots perched outside the dining hall. Around 9 p.m., we headed back out on the water to do what I was looking forward to the most on this Amazon tour: searching for the black caiman. The stars brilliantly filled the sky as our canoe quietly glided through the water. After about 20 minutes, another guide in the boat paddled near the river bank, stuck his hand in the water, and pulled out a two-foot black caiman. He held the creature tight as he explained to us the difference between a caiman, alligator and crocodile, and spoke about their mating habits, diet and more. I was fascinated, but declined to hold it. I was sure I would drop it inside the canoe, then flip the whole boat as I tried to escape a canoe with a caiman on the loose. I didn’t need that drama in my life, not on this Amazon tour.
I was exhausted by the end of the day and couldn’t wait to curl up under my mosquito net. If Day 3 would be anything like Day 2, I would need to get plenty of rest.
Visit Uncover Colombia’s Amazon tour page to see a detailed itinerary and find out how you can take the same tour.
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