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An adventure on the Amazon
By Kay Kemmet
May 2, 2012
The boat caused ripples in the black and otherwise placid water as it maneuvered through a thin channel. Only a few beams of late afternoon sunshine seeped in through the canopy.
The water reflected the greenery above, the birds flying overhead and the perfectly blue sky. But underneath, there was only the unknown. For starters, I assume there were piranhas, freshwater eels and perhaps a crocodile.
I came to Peru in search of adventure, and this weekend, along an Amazon tributary, I feel like I found it.
I’ve been dreaming about visiting the Amazon since the first “Anaconda” movie premiered during my childhood. Yes, Jennifer Lopez starred in it, and it gave me nightmares, but it still made me want to see this mystical place with enormous snakes, parrots, thousands of trees and plants for myself.
It’s a lame introduction, but in rural North Dakota, there weren’t many other options to feed my already blossoming need to explore the unknown. Any fears of the anaconda were quickly relieved with a Google search — they can’t actually swallow a person whole and few grow to the size they are portrayed in the movie.
There are many beautiful places in Peru but none, perhaps not even Machu Picchu, has intrigued me as much as the rainforest, and I’ve often referred to my trip to the Amazon as the apex of my study abroad.
It didn’t disappoint.
During my Amazonian vacation, I met a shaman and bought the dragon’s blood, a natural antiseptic — it is not related to blood beyond the deep red color. I danced with natives, had my face painted with achiote, an Amazonian fruit like plant, and practiced my blowgun skills.
I fell into the Amazon — only a few feet from shore — and kayaked in that same dark and mysterious water. I crossed a decaying bridge over piranha-filled water and fished for the carnivorous fish using raw meat. I hiked through the rainforest in search of villages and different cultures.
I also tried some of the Amazon’s unique native food. Our hotel, the Rainforest Lodge, only can be reached by boat, so most of the food is local. There’s lightly breaded fish and alligator from the Amazon, wild boar and, of course, chicken. Papas fritas are replaced by fried yucca, banana and plantain. Instead of lettuce, the heart of a palm tree is shredded into what looks like long rice noodles. Cocona, a small plum-like fruit, replaces tomatoes in salsas and strawberries in daiquiris. Bananas and papaya are everywhere. Despite the differences, rice still reigns and seems to be served with every meal.
There were aspects that made me cringe: adorable monkeys chained to trees, native Peruvian women dancing with their breasts exposed and frowns on their faces while tourists took their pictures, piranha fishing for nothing more than amusement and Iquitos’ child sex trafficking reputation.
I feel like I checked a lot off my Peruvian to-do list in one weekend, but perhaps the best part of the trip was relaxing in a hammock or lying on a patio chair next to the Momón River, an Amazon tributary. The heat is sweltering here and the humidity makes Lima really seem like a desert, but next to the water, the breeze reminded me why I’m in Peru: to enjoy myself.
With partial exams next week, I’m reminded that I’m a quarter through my study abroad, and while I have some great travels to show for it, I’ve also been much more consumed with class work than I had hoped. My blog has been dry for a month now. I haven’t had time to make many Peruvian friends beyond the ones I met during my first weeks of school, and my communication with my friends and family back home is dwindling.
I came to Peru to study and learn Spanish, but that isn’t very much fun. My hard work seems to be paying off, and so far, my grades are looking great — at least prior to my pre-exam week vacation. But I feel like I need to remind myself why I came to Peru: to enjoy being in a new culture and living in a foreign country and to discover more about myself along the way.
I’m satisfied with my Amazon adventure, but I now remember that I have to continue that adventure everyday I’m in Peru. Taking a combi to Catolica doesn’t count.
Kay Kemmet is an international student at Pontifica Universidad Catolica del Peru studying Spanish, Latin American history and journalism. She’s from Bismarck, North Dakota and studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Total coments: 4
Commented By: Hipolito1
On: May 2, 2012. 4:36 pm
Kay, one secret to enjoying your studies and your commute to La Catolica is to carry a newspaper with you and strike up a conversation about something you read. You could also ask someone the meaning of a word you don't understand. Don't be shy, but start with "desculpa la molesta..." Once one person explains, others may join in. Peruvians usually are very polite to foreigners, but may also may be more shy. But once you open an avenue, you will be surprised. Most Peruvians have never talked to an Estadounidense, and many want to know more about you, but are too shy to ask. Happy Commuting.
Commented By: Hipolito1
On: May 2, 2012. 4:40 pm
I been in Peru 8 years and lived in Tarapoto for two years. Most of my jungle friends thought "Anaconda" was a comedy. When I go home, people ask me if I'm afraid of Anacondas or piranhas. I tell them, "I live in Peru, not Hollywood.",
Commented By: Roger Harris
On: May 2, 2012. 9:10 pm
Kay, this is a wonderful description of what the Peruvian Amazon has to offer. Your readers who are interested in travel there might enjoy my book "Amazon Highlights." Published in February 2012, it helps first-time Amazon travelers decide where they want to go, what they want to do, and how to make the most of their money.
Commented By: pygocentrys
On: May 5, 2012. 12:52 pm
Your "do list" in one weekend??!!How naive and banal! You haven't even begun to scratch the surface of the amazing biodiversity and beauty of the Amazon! I've been going there since 1990 - partly fish research, partly leading ecotours - and on each visit I see things I never saw previously. Always a learning experience.If you go to more Amazon villages than the touristy ones you will meet some of the sweetest, most honest, and loving people and see how the people REALLY live.
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