We were tired. Oh man. And we slept in for this transition day from the Andes to the Amazon rain forest.
Nothing much to report—said farewell to Patrick and Patrice, picked up at 9:30 and checked in for our short LATAM flight at noon to Puerto Maldonado. Cusco airport was not-quite-amusingly quaint in that 1960s concrete Latin American way (soon, they say, there will be a new airport at Chichinero), and we spotted a lounge that we could hang out in (thanks Chase Sapphire).
Flight was short, just about 40 minutes flying time, and probably an eight or ten hour drive, and boom, we’re in the Amazon rainforest. As we came out of the Andes we spotted the fishbone of the highway and the likely illegal logging roads, then further along we spotted the even more destructive illegal gold mining operations, and their mercury extraction leaching pools. What’s the #1 use for gold these days? Jewelry, and the biggest consumer of gold jewelry is India. Good job India, destroying and poisoning the rain forest for a few shiny baubles. Now if only the US and Spain would stop selling Peru the mercury required to extract the gold... heh, it won’t happen.
The airport was newish and (once again) efficient, even with foam-hand-sanitizers in the spotless restrooms, and we found our tour company. It was a quick 10 minute bus ride to the office, where we stashed stuff we wouldn’t need (ahem, down jacket, long johns, etc etc) and were given colored luggage tags with a number on them (purple for Puerto Maldonado, yellow for Refugio Amazonas, green for somewhere else) and then were herded on the bus (no not the bus on the right, you are on the bus on the left).
After the bus waited awhile on the side of the road, the Tourist Police pickup came (Tourist Police written in English on the side just to make you feel more comfy) and we convoyed south for half an hour and got on the boat upriver.
The boat—a long shallow narrow boat, no windows—easily sped upriver on the broad Tambopata River, and one of the guides pointed out things along the way, from monkeys and caimans to egrets and herons and capybaras. It was pretty great, and while I normally don’t like boats the scenery made up for that dislike.
Once we arrived at Refugio Amazonas, we walked 15 minutes to the main camp, took off our shoes, and yep, we were in a ‘rain forest’ lodge. Dark wood, a bar, and a Guest Services Manager welcoming us with cold towels and lemonade and a big HDTV hooked up to a laptop that would not stop beeping the Windows 10 alert sound. Bing, bing, bing. Bing bing bing. Chris ‘fixed’ it, and as the GSM was getting ready to press “play”, well, she just couldn't get the video to play, so she manually welcomed us to the lodge. I found the tech-kerfuffle amusing, but was already feeling like this whole thing was more mass-tourist than I prefer, and were just warm bodies to shuffle around to the attractions and activities.
Our room was... interesting. Normally rooms have four walls, plus a roof and a ceiling. Call it six surfaces.
Our room had three ‘walls’ of bamboo slats, no ceiling, and no outside wall. GSM had warned us that “we would be safe and we designed this place to let the rainforest in!” but it felt more like we were letting the other guests in our bedroom as well—through the gaps the slatted bamboo partitions we could see people walking by on the deck outside the room’s beds, and over the top of the partition I could hear some Midwestern woman discussing some business transaction, some muttering about Indiana. Drinks had started at the bar some 80 or so meters away, and the ‘bump bump bump’ of Eurotrash lent that distinctly downmarket hostel vibe to the experience.
I was not impressed, though at least they weren’t playing Bob Fucking Marley.
The buffet-style dinner was pretty good, though, and we masked our ‘hmphness’ with a pisco before and a beer after dinner. The activity director took our ‘plan’ for tomorrow: macaws before breakfast with a 4:15am wake up , a botanical plant walk in the late afteroon... and we were tired and went to bed at 8:30, trying to sleep despite the French chatter from the couple in the adjoining cubicle-room, perhaps 5 or 10 millimeters from our heads. Every time we thought they had finally STFU, they started up again, and finally Chris pulled out some French and told them to si vous plait silencio. I was more annoyed by the light in the room that I couldn’t turn off despite looking for a switch, because it was 2m up the wall, so eventually I hung my rain jacket over it.
When the Eurodisco stopped at 9:45, though, we were finally able to kinda sleep. My gadgety thermometer says it’s 28C (82F) and it’s more than a bit humid, and we were both worried about oversleeping. Still, whatever, it was a warm bed, and sometime after 11pm the eight cubicle-rooms quieted down and I had a good five hours of sleep.