Thank goodness for window screens! But as demonstrated in my last post on the Amazon, screens don’t always keep the wildlife out.
For instance, we shared The Hammock Room at the Research Center with this tarantula. He wasn’t as interested in us as we were in him.
We named him Tomacito, or “Little Tommy.” Tomacito served as a reminder to shake out our shoes each morning before getting dressed. Insects and critters found their way into our little sanctuary, but it was the ones I couldn’t see that bugged me.
That first morning we ventured into the jungle with Orlando, our amazing guide, the Eighth Natural Wonder of the World. (I will tell you more about him later.) In spite of the heat and 90+ percent humidity, we covered as much skin as possible, and sprayed whatever body parts we couldn’t cover with repellant. Nighttime mosquitoes carry malaria, daytime ones dengue fever, and I can’t remember which carry yellow fever, but I didn’t want to be the breakfast special for any of them.
Below are a few of my own unofficial rules of the jungle for the timid traveler.
Rule of the Jungle #1– bring mosquito repellent!
Fallen trees and leaves, mud, and overnight storms in the tropical rainforest made hiking challenging.
We wore rubber boots to keep our feet dry. Bea stepped in a puddle deeper than anticipated, and water poured into her boot.
Rule of the Jungle # 2–Watch your step!
Orlando uprooted several small trees, and cut the trunks off with his machete to make tea from the bark to relieve his mother’s arthritis. He replanted the roots in the fertile soil, so the tree would survive. Maybe the tea really was for his mom, but I believe it was also his tactful way of providing the Gringos with walking sticks to help balance on slippery walkways.
Rule of the Jungle #3–Take the hand extended to you, and be grateful for kindness in any form or guise.
So many trees and leaves were poisonous, covered with harmful insects, or had razor-sharp edges. Another guest at the Research Center slipped and braced herself on a porcupine tree. It left dozens of venomous barbs in in her hand, which swelled up painfully. There was no doctor there–her guide Fernando cut the barbs out of her hand with pins and a knife, and she took a course of anti-biotics.
Rule of the Jungle #4–Don’t touch ANYTHING!
Rule of the Jungle # 5–There are exceptions to any rule.
Orlando saw an Olive Whip Snake, and quickly caught it with his bare hands.
He showed both kids how to handle a snake without getting bitten…
Orlando’s grandfather was a shaman. Orlando said, “My grandfather used to say, if you can get a snake to wrap around you, it will become gentle and give you its energy.” As soon as it wrapped around him, the snake calmed down, and then Orlando released it into a tree.
Rule of the Jungle #6–Be as open to new experiences as you can without endangering yourself or others.
Rule of the Jungle #7–Bring your camera!!
We caught many tantalizing glimpses of wildlife, but by the time I could focus the camera, the creature was almost always natural history.
However, some critters obligingly held still for the camera.
Occasionally I would be rewarded with a shot like this.
Rule of the Jungle #8–Only you can know what it requires for you to glean the most meaning and satisfaction out of your jungle experience or your life. Do no harm, but make up your own damn rules, and break them whenever necessary.
Next time we’ll explore the Amazon jungle’s waterways–fishing for piranha, searching for caiman, and hearing the haunting stories about the pink river dolphins called Encantados (the Enchanted One), and observing them at play.
All images and words copyright 2013 NaomiBaltuck