It’s a Jungle Out There!

Forgive me, Blogger, it has been three weeks since my last post.   I’ve been wandering in the wilderness, sans laptop, with nary a scrap of wifi to leave a trail behind.  Let me tell you how it was.

Beyond the frozen Andes…

..a thick cloud cover gradually dissipated to reveal…

…mile upon mile of endless jungle.  

No roads.  Only the mighty Amazon River and its tributaries winding their way through the hot steamy rainforest like great brown snakes.

We landed in Iquitos, a jungle city accessible only by air or water.  Three-wheeled motocarros, motorized rickshaws, were the popular mode of conveyance.  Families of five squeezed onto motorbikes to go about their business.

We chose Amazonia Expeditions for its environmental work, and its support of the little villages along the Tahuayo River.  Our guide was Orlando.  He is the Eighth Natural Wonder of the World, and I will tell you more about that later.

Mario, Orlando’s sidekick, spoke no English, but always knew when an extra hand was needed, or how to make us laugh.

We traveled in this blue motorboat four and a half hours upriver on the Amazon and then the Tahuayo.

At Tahuayo Lodge we switched to a small motorboat…

….picked up supplies…

…and set out for the research center, another two hours away. The jungle was huge, the river was endless.  No breadcrumb trail to follow back to civilization; we just went deeper and deeper into the wilderness.

Travel on the Tahuayo River was a more quiet and intimate experience.

Wildlife was easier to view.

We stopped to watch Squirrel Monkeys playing in the trees.  Or maybe they stopped to watch us.

Here and there along the riverbank were villages consisting of about a dozen houses built around a village green.


For the Riberenos, the river people, the river was not only their only highway.  It was their laundry room…

Their bathhouse…

Their pantry and their lifeline.

At last we arrived at the research center.

My grown kids were in their element, as excited and carefree as I have ever seen them.  If you have followed my blog, you already know I am a confessed Travel Weenie.   But I am vulnerable to peer pressure (my children, actually), and I try to stretch myself out of my comfort zone.   Which is how I ended up in the Amazon Jungle.  Frankly, I wilt in the heat, and the thought of spending a week sweating and swatting mosquitoes carrying dengue fever, malaria, and yellow fever,  never mind typhus, was daunting.   I’m reminded of a Big Bang Theory episode in which Leonard reports on Sheldon’s condition: “He’s paranoid, and he’s established a nest.”

Well, here is my little nest.

And here is a little story–more like show and tell–that I will leave you with until next time.  There was a public shower and restroom that we accessed by walking down a long thatch-roofed walkway.

In the bathroom on our first morning at the station, Bea said, “Don’t touch that post, Mom.” “Why not?”I asked.   It was backlit, but even looking up close, I saw nothing alarming.

She said, “Take a flash photo.”  I ALWAYS have my camera with me, and so I took the shot, and looked at the viewer.  This is what I saw.  That post was four inches wide, so you can imagine how big that arachnid wallflower was.

Just thinking about this is making me sweat, so I’ll sign off now.  Next time, we’ll venture beyond the restroom, and into the jungle to see some of the wildlife–and further challenges–we encountered on our Amazon jungle hikes.

Thanks for stopping by.  It feels great to be back!

All words and images c2013NaomiBaltuck

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  1. Holy Moly – He’s cute! What a fantastic voyage. I can only imagine given your photos that it was even more spectacular.
    *and the he’s cute wasn’t sarcastic. I was talking about the 8th wonder boy 🙂

    1. Hi Leslie,
      You can’t imagine! Orlando was amazing! Jungle born, and it showed in everything he did. This guy killed flies on his back with a casual over-the shoulder swat of his machete!

  2. Carol says:

    Yours is a much more adventurous adventure than I think I would be up for, but I am excited to join you vicariously!

    1. Dear Carol,
      It is so nice to be cool and clean and back in touch with my friends! Most of my big adventures are the kind I have in my own mind, so this was definitely a stretch. Thank you for coming along for the ride.

  3. scillagrace says:

    Can I call you my hero? I wanna be you. (not sure which of my grown children might take me to the Amazon, though!) Sounds like a fantastic way to stretch out of Weeniehood and support the preservation of the wonders of this world.

    1. Dear Scilla,
      I am still cowering in the corner of Weeniehood. I’m sure you would approach approach a trip like that with much more courage and a lot less whining! Still, I am SO glad I was able to experience the Amazon, and to have shared it with the family. It has really affected my perception of that area, and its people.

  4. Mary Brugh says:

    What an adventure! Looking forward to the next post (without arachnid).

    1. Hi Mary,
      Thanks for the visit. More to come!
      P.S. Are tarantulas arachnids?

  5. Tina Schell says:

    The phrase is “STEP outside your comfort zone” Naomi, not JET !!!! Cudos to you for your courage and sense of adventure. Looking forward to more stories 🙂

    1. Hi Tina,
      Thanks so much for your very generous response. Generally I like to venture out of my comfort zone one toe at a time, but there we had no choice but to take the plunge. I sure appreciate your stopping by.

  6. kathy says:

    Wow! Sounds like an incredible adventure. You’ve already gone WAY beyond anywhere I would dare to go. But I’m so grateful you did, and have brought these stories back.
    Can’t wait to hear more!

    1. Hi Kathy,

      I was outnumbered! But sometimes I really do appreciate the gentle nudge that forces me to stretch myself. This time, though, was quite a stretch and I’ve got the scars to prove it. I am glad I went, and so so so glad to be home!
      Thank you, as always, for your sweet comment.

  7. Thanks for sharing this wonderful adventure!

    1. Thanks so much for coming along! It’s always good to hear from you.

  8. You are so brave! That HUGE ‘arachnid wallflower’ would have convinced me to swim all the way home, alone and with no towel. But, wait a minute, I probably wouldn’t have made it far enough to take that shower because I the mosquitoes would have long since sucked me dry.

    Wonderful pictures and I look forward to more. I live vicariously through others because I’m such a wuss.

    1. Dear Tess,
      Thanks so much for your comment–it really made me laugh. We were covered in repellant, and as soon as we washed off in the shower, we were vulnerable to the mosquitoes that were everywhere, but it was so humid that our clothes would stick when we tried to dress. I finally took to wrapping myself up in my towel, dripping wet, and making a dash for the cabin, where I could dry and dress in relative safety.
      I don’t think I’m any braver than you–I just have more persuasive children! Thanks so much, as always, for your encouragement, and for making me smile.

  9. Proud of you — and glad to enjoy from the comfort of my nest . . .

    1. Dear Mary,
      Thank you so much! I too am luxuriating in the simple comforts of my own little nest–such as warm showers, very few insects, comfortably cool weather with low humidity, and water that is safe to drink straight from the tap. I will never take them for granted again.

      1. Amen to the gratitude for not-so-small comforts!

  10. tchistorygal says:

    OM gosh, Natale. I don’t think I could ever have kids THAT persuasive! You are so brave! What an amazing story, and I’m sure we’ve just heard the tip of the iceberg, pardon my inappropriate metaphor. Good to have you back! 🙂

    1. Hi Marsha,
      I was really just a typical tourist doing what those tourists do down there. Several small groups went into the jungle for survival camping–without tents or food–just to challenge themselves. THAT was brave.
      Anyway, I am glad to be back! Thanks so much for the visit.

      1. tchistorygal says:

        Sorry for putting the wrong name, Naomi. What is wrong with my brain? It’s not like I don’t know you or can’t read your name on the post – hello! It’s embarrassing to sit here and have to look at it! Well, I’m glad you are back at home. That trip will have to go down in the memories of a lifetime, though, I’m sure! 🙂

      2. Dear Marsha,
        Please don’t think twice about it! It’s not an easy name, and it’s also hard for us all to keep all our blogging buddies straight. Once I got my blogging friends Greta and Grace mixed up, but it wasn’t a big deal. I’m just happy to hear from you.

    1. Hi Elyse,
      Thanks for checking in! This is one of those, glad-I-went- and-now-I-never-have-to-do-that-again things. But hardier folks than I love it so much that they go down again and again.

  11. Any music, drumming, dancing on the trip?

    1. Hi Richard,
      We enjoyed lots of Andean music–panpipes and such. there’s a group called Inkari that often plays at the Northwest Folklife Festival, and we love that music.

  12. Kanerva says:

    Wow! Already looking forward to the next installment, spiders and all.

    1. Hi Kanerva,
      Thanks for the visit. I will have another good batch of photos and stories for you!

  13. Lynne Ayers says:

    What an adventure! Welcome back, safely 😉

    1. Thank you, Lynne,
      You can’t know how happy I am to be back!

  14. Roy McCarthy says:

    What an adventure – like others I’m quite happy to see it portrayed so well from the comfort of an armchair. It must put into perspective those original explorers who plunged into the Amazon when it was completely unmapped and with no idea of what might be around the next bend.
    Love the birds with the blue/yellow beaks.

    1. Hi Roy,
      Trust a writer to put a whole new perspective on this. I cannot imagine chopping my way through this wilderness without a map and a guide. Trees with porcupine barbs and razor edges, venomous creatures that you wouldn’t have a clue to watch out for, the water teeming with piranha, six and 9 foot caiman, venomous water snakes, not to mention a host of parasites! Thank goodness, our guide was amazing, and I felt we were in good hands.

  15. bulldog says:

    This sounds like a real adventure that I cannot wait to learn more about… what a privilege to visit the Amazon…

    1. It was more of an adventure than I am used to, that’s for sure, and a once in a lifetime trip for me. When we travel, we usually visit museums, take in the historical sites, or go for a hike or bike ride. The jungle down there grows so fast, there were spots that we were literally chopping our way through to keep the path clear.
      I get the feeling from your amazing and exotic wildlife shots on your very fine blog that you are much more of an adventurer.

  16. footsy2 says:

    Good to know you made it back in one piece! Looking forward to the next instalment.

    1. Hi Footsy,
      Thanks so much! It’s so good to be here, and so nice to hear from you. I’ll make the next post a good one!

  17. niasunset says:

    WOW! What a great experience and voyage… Photographs are amazing. Thank you dear Naomi, love, nia

    1. Dear Nia,
      Thank you so much!

  18. Wow, it sounds like this was an amazing experience, far out of your comfort zone. I’ll look forward to reading more.

  19. Anne Rutherford says:

    My gosh how truly amazing. Thank you for being a portal for me (others) into a place I may never actually visit. That bathroom walk reminds me of something from the Swiss Family Robinson – I loved the thought when I was 8, have to re-access that inner 8-year old to navigate it now! Look forward to more. Love you and your adventures!

    1. Dear Anne,
      Thanks for the visit! I read and loved Swiss Family Robinson as a kid, and had that same feeling. It was a little like Disneyland, without electricity (all very dimly lit with solar power), it had cold showers (which was okay because it was so hot there), but don’t forget and drink the water or rinse your toothbrush in it! Everything is built up on tall poles because the river floods. Last year (or it might have been the year before), in spite of being located on high ground above the riverbank, and in spite of being built on twenty foot poles, the river rose and covered the floors of the whole complex with several feet of water. But the little network of walkways and screened in hammock rooms and cabins was really charming.
      Love you too! See you before too long!

  20. Glad you’re back. I would say there are some experiences that improve in retrospect, once they’re over and you’re back in the comfort of your own space, a memory you will have forever.

    1. Hi Lee,
      Going to the Amazon was a little like childbirth. When you have your own little baby in arms arms, and time softens the discomfort and pain. After a trip, and from a safe distance, the fear and discomfort of the trip fade into the background, and you remember the family togetherness, the exciting new things you saw, and you can enjoy your memories, photos and stories.

  21. Ruth Shelby says:

    Naomi, what were those interesting big birds with huge flat bills?

    1. Hi Ruth,
      I am fairly certain that was a photo of a Boatbill, or Boat-billed Heron.

  22. ShimonZ says:

    I can only admire your adventuresome spirit, and that of your family. The pictures, together with your story, tell of a completely different world from what you’re used to. It’s beautiful in places, and difficult in other places. But more than anything else, it’s completely different than what you’re used to. And that means you’re on a very intensive learning experience. Looking forward to hearing more about this, and wishing you and yours a very good adventure with much happiness.

    1. Dear Shimon,
      A very intense learning experience is a perfect way to describe our time in the Amazon. I was describing it to my sister as similar to childbirth, in that it is difficult at the time, but you are left with fond memories and a whole new world is opened up to your consciousness.
      Thank you so much for your visit, and your thoughtful response.

  23. nutsfortreasure says:

    Another great adventure!

    1. Thank you, Eunice! Good to set off, and even better to come home!

      1. nutsfortreasure says:

        🙂 Yes glad you did so safely too!

  24. I’m green with envy! But I do understand about the heat, humidity and insects.

    I’m living vicariously through your story. Can’t wait for the next installment!

    1. Hi Sarah,
      Thanks so much for the visit, and for taking the time to share a response. What’s really funny is the unexpected response to our guide Orlando in the Romance Writers’ Circle! He was very compact, but all muscle, and like a fish in the water, so incredibly adapted to his environment. The kids and I actually envisioned Orlando and Mario as characters in a reality series, but they were so funny we could pitch it as a sit-com.

  25. Naomi ~I knew when you said you’d been lost in the jungle….you were serious! I adore the adventurer in you and your family. The nest made me laugh because that would so be me!!! The spider….cringe. The photos are amazing and I look forward to hearing and seeing MORE! ♥


    1. Dear Paula,
      Thanks so much for the visit. Oh, my gosh, it was with mixed emotions that I retired to my little nest each night. I could hardly wait to be still and quiet to process the day in my own little cone of safety that no mosquito could breach. But I was a bad Girl Scout, and forgot my flashlight, and the lights in the cabin were solar powered and so dim that, especially within the mosquito canopy, I couldn’t read myself to sleep. But the jungle noises at night were surprisingly soothing.

      1. No flashlight. In the jungle. At night. Oh my (!) Naomi! 🙂

      2. One night we woke up in the pitch black to hear some fair-sized creature crawling around on the screen ceiling directly overhead! I will NEVER forget my flashlight again!

      3. I will send you one!!!

  26. restlessjo says:

    Amazing where that family of yours can lead you! I’m waiting with baited breath 🙂

    1. The best is yet to come! Thanks for stopping by, Jo.

  27. Jamie Dedes says:

    Welcome home, Naomi. My goodness what an adventure. I was breathless just reading and looking at the photographs … and that last one. Yikes! Look forward to more ….

    Glad you are all back safe and presumably none the worse for wear.

    1. Dear Jamie,
      Thanks so much for the words of welcome. I am so glad to have come, and even more glad be home!

  28. frizztext says:

    great travel report, Naomi! And I like your intro very much: “Forgive me, Blogger, it has been three weeks since my last post. I’ve been wandering in the wilderness, sans laptop, with nary a scrap of wifi to leave a trail behind…”

    1. Hi Frizz,
      Thanks for the visit, and the kind response! It felt a little like I had dropped off the face of the earth. An interesting experiment to be so cut off from the technology I am used to having at my fingertips.

  29. reocochran says:

    I liked the photos but felt your feeling of being lost and hope that you also felt a sense of peace in the quiet without media. I have been relying for the past year on my youngest daughter’s laptop, she is finally moved out, the wi-fi turned off, no computer but going to the library daily is not being out in the wilderness, but a BIG adjustment for me! Take it easy and best of memories of your trip… Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comments. It turned out to be a nice break from the media, although I missed being able to view and edit my photos. It was also very pleasant to lose myself in a book without feeling guilty about neglecting the blog.
      Thanks for the visit, and for sharing your thoughts about it. It’s always good to hear from you.

  30. Ruth says:

    Good to see you back and what an amazing trip. You can probably blog all year with these photos! Looks like a real life changing experience and three weeks without a laptop must have been so freeing.
    Thanks for sharing your photos and I look forward to seeing more.

    1. Hi Ruth,
      I am glad to have gone, but it is SO good to be back! I enjoyed a bit of distance from my blogging–although it is nice to come back and reconnect with my blogging buddies. I appreciate your visit, and your thoughtful response.

  31. A dream travel my friend. I hope one day I can follow your footsteps too. Fun pics full of adventure!

    1. Dear Island Traveler,
      Thank you for your sharing very generous thoughts. I know you and your family are experts at making every day into an adventure!

  32. Now that is some big adventure, Naomi. Not sure I’d enjoy those creepy-crawlies. As for mosquitoes, you can get bitten by nasty ones even in this country, as my hubbie has just discovered. The bites on his leg became infected and he ended up in hospital, receiving powerful antibiotics via a drip.

    1. Dear Sarah,
      What a terrible mosquito experience for your poor husband! I hope he is all recovered. Thank goodness for modern medicine.

      1. He’s still not recovered completely, but much improved. But he’s feeling very impatient with how slowly the antibiotics are working, after someone told him that in Cuba there’s leaf they wrap around cellulitis, which gets rid of the swelling and infection in two days!

  33. adinparadise says:

    Oh my! What an adventure, Naomi. My hubby keeps on about doing an Amazon adventure cruise. I’m also not a great heat and insect person, so am very wary. Thanks for all of your fascinating pics. I’m sure you had a wonderful trip, in spite of that HUMONGOUS spider. 😯

    1. Dear Sylvia,
      There are different ways to explore the Amazon. If you were to go on a cruise, you would probably come home each night to private showers and air conditioning. Thanks so much for your visit–your message (about HUMONGOUS spider) made me smile.

      1. adinparadise says:

        I think I might just be able to cope with that, Naomi. 🙂

      2. You are such a trooper, Sylvia, and so well traveled. I know you could find the perfect way to see the Amazon, and you would have to take lots of pictures to share when you got back!

  34. My Tropical Home says:

    I tried to flush down the drainhole a spider as big as that a couple weeks ago while cleaning our bathroom 🙂 and no we don’t live in the jungle. Unfortunately I only managed to drown the mama spider. I didn’t know she had Babies on her, the Beloved saw them creeping away when I called him to do the royal flushing (I couldn’t do it, I was too creeped out)…

    1. Oh, Mary, it definitely sounds like a traumatic experience!

      1. My Tropical Home says:


  35. This line put a BIG smile on my face – Forgive me, Blogger, it has been three weeks since my last post. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with confession In the Catholic religion but when you first enter the confessional you say, “Bless me Father, forgive me my sins, it has been X amount since my last confession”.
    Your first line reminded me of that.
    Okay, so you’re forgiven. Hey … you posted something here that is so much more worthy than having you drop by and see my blog.
    Super GREAT ADVENTURE … your two guides look like they were ready to show you all they had to capture your adventurous spirit. Your photos and your description – Fabulous, Darhhhhling …..!!!!

    1. Dear Isadora Dahhhhling,
      I must confess that I knew what I was doing when I wrote that line. Thanks for the absolution!
      Writing about the trip is no substitute for dropping by my friends’ blogs while I was gone–I’m still catching up on my blog reading, which I love to do. I missed you all.

  36. reocochran says:

    I will always spy the beautiful and exotic birds and ignore snakes and spiders, along my visits to your photographs. The sky clearing and revealing the beautiful and almost mystical Amazon River is so gorgeous and an inspiring sight. It makes you really appreciate this wonderful world we have!

    1. And there is such diversity! In one acre of Amazon Rainforest, there are more different species than in all of Canada and the United States! Thanks so much for your visit, and for sharing your generous response to this post.

  37. Great story in pictures. I felt like I was there with you! The Amazon seems so overwhelming to me, but you brought it to me in bite-sized pieces and I feel like it’s a place I should consider seeing for myself.

    1. Hi Juliann,
      What a wonderful way to word it, “bite-sized pieces of The Amazon!” Thanks so much for the visit, and sharing your thoughts about it.

  38. pattisj says:

    I find it difficult to believe you are a Travel Weenie! It doesn’t show.

    1. Oh, Patti,
      One day I will write a post–maybe I’ll call it “True Confessions of a Travel Weenie.” It is a constant struggle to force myself out of my comfort zone, but I usually get where I’m going. I just don’t tell you all the gory details (like poor Orlando not quite having to pry my fingers off the zip line platform in order to launch me over to the next tree.)

      1. pattisj says:


  39. Oh yeah! You are my Amazon guide and this is my trip.

    1. Oh, my gosh, Liz, you don’t know what you’re saying! I’m afraid I wouldn’t be fit to guide anyone in the Amazon, but we could hold each others’ hand.

  40. Jo Bryant says:

    What a fantastic experience. I loved your images…it made me feel as if I was there

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