We departed Cusco for Puerto Maltonado, the driver dodging and honking his way through the morning traffic . The flight was the same one we took to Cusco, which is just a stop along the way to the Amazon destination only 30 minutes farther east. I was ready for some warmer weather! However, most of us were not prepared for the level of humidity that hit us when we stepped off the plane at the very small airport. Our guides found us, and two more people joined our group for the first two days. They were a fun relaxed couple from British Columbia.
The hour long van ride felt much longer because of the unpaved lumpy roads. We passed by several acres of slash and burn, making space for banana and profitable papaya crops. The houses looked shanty-like, but after a few hours in the climate I could appreciate the lifestyle. The next leg of the trip was an hour by boat on the Rio Madre de Dios, one of the Amazon tributaries, which was 30 feet (!!) shallow being the dry season. The boats resembled long canoes with a wood roof attached and a motor at the back end. Daniel, our guide, said the wet season was often miserable for visitors with long rain and wind spells that forced events to be canceled.
The boat docked at an unmarked staircase that led to a boardwalk of sorts through the jungle floor. Three minutes into the forest was the Inotawa eco-lodge. It greeted us with a large open lobby and four hammocks. A staff member had a fruit drink for us, and other staffers were carrying our bags into the main complex connected by raised boardwalks. The main lodge had maybe a dozen small rooms off the main hall with curtain doors, and past that the dining area, bar, and kitchen also connected by covered boardwalks. Sleeping in those rooms in the main lodge would have been difficult, but luckily we had our own bungalows off the path a ways. The bungalows were cute, with candles for the evening, and working bathrooms (albeit not very private).
What makes this an eco-lodge is its minimum carbon footprint. No AC or really any electricity most of the day. They used generators that ran about four hours a day, from around 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. The bungalows would have light during that time, and people could charge cameras and other electronics. The food made was local, and the staff members were locals. Daniel grew up on a farm in the area, for instance. The boardwalks out to the bungalows were lit by beer-bottle “tiki” candles once dark out. Quite a change from the previous legs of the trip!
We dropped off our bags in the rooms and agreed to meet in two hours for a short hike in the jungle. After drinking a lot of water and leaf-wrapped “fried rice” on the boatride in, we were ready to not move for a while. The best way I can describe the heat is to imagine a very hot sauna and wearing all your clothes including the shoes. Then try to imagine doing any physical activity such as walking. Clothes had to be peeled off to take a quick shower (the water was controlled by a valve, no temperature control), after which I did not dry. When 4:30 p.m. came around, I nearly had to push Herr out of bed.
The hike was to the mother tree, a very tall and wide tree with giant wooden vines used to climb up to a wooden platform two thirds of the way up. No one made it up very far, too much perspiration. Back at the lodge we saw the resident monkeys. Daniel had found them a while back, and it took him a week to convince them to come down to be seen using lots of bananas. Shortly after, we went on a night hike. The sun consistently disappears a little after 6 p.m., being so close to the equator. Armed with flashlights, we walked the trails again, spotting spiders, frogs, and other bugs. We heard a lot of wildlife, especially when Daniel had us turn off the lights. We stood still for five minutes taking it in, eyes adjusting to the darkness but still not seeing anything.
Back at the lodge, dinner was served at 7:30 p.m. in a pseudo buffet style. We managed to hang out until 9 p.m. before we called it quits. The bungalows had cheesecloth-like netting that kept the bugs out but the heat in. Despite that, I slept well (crickets are much easier to sleep to than honking horns and barking dogs).