My jungle guide is a Peruvian by the name of Santiago. He wasn’t too impressed with me, but I think he’s incredible.
We take a moto to the national park border, sign in, and pack all we need into a dug-out canoe. Santiago loads it up with rice, eggs, water, tomatoes, and potatoes.
For eight hours he paddles slowly downstream in the creek. The jungle around us is dense, and the mangroves all have spikes the size of nails running along their roots so that if I fell into the water, without a canoe, I would drown or be in agony trying to claw my way out.
The price of life here seems to be pain.
Santiago paddles a few times, stops occasionally, and listens. Then he paddles. Tree branches collapse, and I shift excitedly, but he ignores them. He zones out the unnecessary sounds, but can point out the monkeys, and an Iguana which takes me five minutes to find after he points straight at it.
We see two anacondas that first morning, curled into branches over the creek where the best place to get sun is. After one anaconda sighting he declares that I am lucky to see one on my first day. On the second sighting he is amazed. He shifts the canoe so that I am about a metre away from its coil. It makes me anxious knowing it could choose two ways to travel if it wakes, and one of them is the canoe.
When river dolphins splash around, he imitates their call. When monkeys pass nearby searching for fruits, he calls to them. It fools the animals sometimes, especially when we sight the otters on our third day. They are really pissed off. They yell at us in otter-speak, the second time that Santiago fools them.
I’m sunburned by the time we reach a clearing with two shacks in the late afternoon. One of the shacks is for us. I rest in a hammock just as the storm hits us. Lightning strikes and I am scared.
But despite this there is peace. There is no reception or internet. As it grows dark someone turns on a motor, which powers the electricity. Santiago prepares dinner.
*This story is part of a series of journal entries travelling into the Loreto Region in January. You can read the first piece of the collection here.