Into the Jungle....

Trip Start May 20, 2010
1
161
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Trip End Sep 05, 2011


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Where I stayed
Decameron

Flag of Colombia  ,
Saturday, June 4, 2011


DOMINIQUE HERE:

Day : 381
Temperature : 30 something stupid degrees
Weather : Hot, humid and steamy with occasional spectacular thunderstorms

Our journey to Leticia took the form of two flights on Copa airlines. Firstly to Bogota, with a ninety minute transfer, which we spent having our second breakfast in the café Crepes and Waffles, gorging ourselves on very delicious but very naughty waffles, ice cream and warm gooey chocolate fudge sauce…..at 11 o'clock in the morning!

As we flew over the Amazon Rainforest on our second flight we were treated to a spectacular view of the jungle from the air. Miles upon miles of endless greenery, uninterrupted by roads or buildings or any other man made scars. Just before landing we caught our first glimpse of the mighty Amazon River. It is always very strange to see something that you have heard about for years, since childhood….and it finally hits you that you are actually there!

When the bags were brought off the plane to the airport building the sniffer dogs were set to work, pouncing on the pile of bags and checking every single one out before the bags were placed on the conveyor belt. There is a huge presence of police in every airport here, and security in Colombia is some of the highest we’ve encountered on our trip…multiple bag and body searches….the ongoing drug problems here are huge. I was a teeny bit disconcerted when my bag was put to the side along with a couple of other ones, but this did mean that my bag didn’t get peed upon by the dog, unlike many of the other bags that day!! Kev had already told me that in the event that my bag is searched his plan was to deny any connection to me at all! Thankfully all was finally well when eventually my bag was allowed to pass through….the last one from the plane to be put on the conveyor belt....and Kevin didn't need to disown me!

Leticia itself is a small town on the border of Colombia sitting on the banks of the Amazon river. Immediately adjacent to Leticia is Tabatinga (imagine Uphall and Broxburn for those of you from north of the border!), the equivalent border town in Brasil. This is the town from which we will take the boat to Manaus in a few days time.

We found ourselves a little hostel on the edge of town, managed to get some money out of the only functioning ATM and clarify where we would be taking the fast boat to Parque Amacayacu. We stocked up on some snacks and bags of water to last us for our trip into the jungle and I even managed to get a few snaps for the "Cats around the World" catalogue...I've been working hard!! In the evening we managed to cook up all the remaining food that we’d been carrying which saved us having to go out and buy dinner.

The following day we caught the fast boat to Parque Amacayacu, a national park belonging to Colombia. After a two hour ride upstream we finally arrived at the Decameron Hotel at approximately 1pm. The trip up river proved to be fascinating. We spotted numerous birds from the boat including kingfishers, egrets and parrots.....so that's one animal ticked off my wish list already!! On the Colombian side of the river we sadly saw many patches of deforestation and development.  Some areas which had been cleared were really quite large and the land was being used for cattle. Apparently, so we have been learning, the last remaining wildernesses like the Amazon are not only being threatened by loggers, but also more and more by clearing for cattle grazing, palm oil and sugar cane in an attempt to meet man’s insatiable appetite for meat, sugar and cheap ingredients for food. Sometimes it’s not until you see the destructive effects of our human existence and greed first hand that it really sinks in….it’s truly terrifying.

On a positive note, our first afternoon at the Parque Amacayacu was excellent. We took a trip along the river in an attempt to see the Amazon river dolphins. We needed to head over to the Peruvian side of the Amazon which actually brings me to an interesting point. I had no idea that there are so many islands in the middle of the river. Some of these islands are enormous.  So large in fact, that you think the Amazon is a certain width and then suddenly the land disappears and you see that the river is twice as wide because you were infact cruising past one of these islands.

Our group headed out on a little boat, about 10 of us all together with the driver / guide.  We had travelled out into the middle of the river when we saw a huge storm heading our way. Suddenly the wind picked up and our little boat was blown and buffeted sideways, listing in the wind. The rain bucketed down, drenching us in seconds and the lightening crackled and thunder clapped right over our heads. It dawned on us that perhaps it was not the best time to be on the river, in such wide open space, in a boat with a metal roof. We headed to shore and sheltered for 10-15 minutes as the storm passed overhead, and as quickly as it had arrived it passed away again.

As the rain stopped and the wind calmed down we continued onwards once again.  Having done similar trips in the past, we were well aware that nothing in nature is guaranteed. Although we were hopeful to see dolphins we were not expecting it. However, within five minutes of arriving at our destination we spotted the first dolphin. In fact we saw two different species of dolphin, one being the pink dolphin that this area is renowned for. Another animal ticked off my wish list of things to see...things were going well!

I can’t tell you how difficult it is to photograph these animals. As soon as you hear the splash or the noise of their breathing they are gone again. It doesn’t matter how fast you turn your camera towards the noise, you invariably end up with a blurry shot of some ripples in the water. It took about 200 shots to get seven semi-usable (ie recognisable) pictures of the dolphins! Nevertheless it was a totally worthwhile experience, it’s always incredible to see wild dolphins.


So tomorrow we will be heading out to climb up to the top of the forest canopy for a bird's eye view of the rainforest. Should I mention at this point that I am not a fan of heights??!


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