5/26/10: Iquitos, Peru
This afternoon, I was all ready to write today’s post. I had it all planned out. I was going to write it, get it out of the way early, and finally be caught up on blog writing. I even had a title – “A Day for the Birds.” Here’s a bit of how it was going to go:
This morning we went out to look for a prehistoric bird. The thing about prehistoric is – what does that mean? Normally when I think of the word “prehistoric,” I think extinct. But we didn’t go birdwatching for an extinct bird, that would just be plain ridiculous. So prehistoric can’t mean extinct. I guess if you break it down, the word “prehistoric” means “before history.” But what does THAT even mean? Does it mean before oral history? Written history? What about caveman drawings? Is that written history? And what’s the big deal about things being prehistoric anyway? I’m pretty sure cockroaches are prehistoric, but you don’t see people throwing parties when they see a giant cockroach on the kitchen floor…
And then I would continue with a few more mediocre prehistoric jokes and throw in a bunch of pictures of all the birds we saw today.
And then I was going to come up with some way to end it and pat myself on my back and be on my merry way. Yes, I said merry way. You got a problem with that?
Then tonight happened. I don’t want to scare you, so I’ll tell you this much before getting into the story. [SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!] We make it out alive.
Our late afternoon excursion today was a jungle hike. We took the boat out to a trail and walked for about an hour into the jungle. We saw a bunch of insects and lots and lots of plants, but not much else. At one point Moises turned to look at me and shook his head ruefully, saying “We make too much noise.” Well, we’re eight people and six of us had never seen a tarantula until last night. Of course we make too much noise! But Moises is a poised guide, and I think so that we would remember the hike later for something, if not jaguars, he led us off the trail to a giant tree and gave us a talk.
“Lecture time. Get comfortable.” Uh-oh. He’s going to yell at us for making too much noise. Our boots are too loud. We talk too loudly. We walk too loudly. Our cameras are too clicky. I don’t want to get yelled at! “I have worked in the jungle for 33 years. I used to work for the army. Train students on how to survive in this jungle. Most of them wouldn’t last two days. I’m sorry, Moises! I don’t know anything about the jungle. I walk too loud, I know! It’s easy to get lost in here, especially on a day like this. No sun, and the sun is your compass. But me and Raoul, we have a compass up here, in our heads. You guys, you don’t know where we are. If you were here by yourself, you wouldn’t last two seconds.” The yelling is coming, the yelling is coming! Noooooooooo! You have three enemies. No water. No food. The jungle heat. Just do it! Get the yelling over with! I’m going to teach you how to find water in the jungle. That way, you can survive for a few hours at least. Oh. He’s not going to yell at us. Whew.
Moises cut up pieces of the safe drinking water vine and we all had some vine water. Then we started walking back. Except we didn’t go back to the main trail. For some reason, Moises and Raoul started hacking a path through the jungle instead. We followed, ducking under branches and squelching through puddles. We got whipped by vines and branches. I walked through countless spider webs. All three of us tripped and fell (not at the same time, though that would have been funny). And this went on for close to an hour – until we stopped. I looked around me. We weren’t anywhere closer to the main trail, and as far as I could tell, we weren’t anywhere closer to the dock either. We were in the middle of the jungle, we had walked for an hour, maybe in circles, none of us had any clue where we were, it was getting darker and darker by the minute (and we didn’t have any flashlights!), and Moises and Raoul were holding a hushed consultation a few yards away from us. What part of this situation wouldn’t make one panic? So I started to panic. I turned around to face Amy and Kevin. “I think we’re going to die out here,” I said solemnly. Amy looked at me nonchalantly. Kevin just shrugged. I was completely and utterly stumped. How could they not appreciate the deathly peril we were facing? We were going to die out here, lost and lonely and with a thousand mosquito bites – what could be worse?! Where the heck did I find these people?!
I kept thinking that it would be pretty ironic if we perished out there, lost, right after Moises gave us that speech about the compass in his head and surviving in the jungle. But I really didn’t want to die for the sake of a good irony. It wouldn’t have been worth it. I was just getting to the panic level where I was about to passively voice my concerns to Moises (“Um, Moises? How long is it going to take us to get back to the boat?”) when he turned to us. “There’s too much water this way. We have to turn around and go back to the main trail and walk back that way.” So we turned around. And went back. And walked. And walked. I don’t think I’ve ever walked so fast in my life. By the time we finally stumbled out of the jungle and reached our boat, the sun had been down for awhile, and I was completely exhausted from thinking about all the ways we could have died in the jungle (jaguar, choking vine, drowning, boa constrictor, monkey attack, poison spider, machete accident, brain fever).
We made it back to the lodge without incident, and it turns out that they had sent two boats out (separately) to look for us. So I guess in the end, Amy and Kevin were right. There was no need to panic. We were always going to make it out alive.
Picture of the Day: Little toad, big toad.