Hello! This is a really quick post to say that I’m alive and well-ish, after being floored for a week by a rather nasty sinus infection. My respiratory system really dislikes the cool, humid Lima winters, especially the way the humidity traps the serious air pollution and deposits it all over the inside of my lungs. Mmmm!
So I’m pleased to say that I’m getting away from it for ten days, heading off on a trip-of-a-lifetime to the Amazon jungle! Ok, so I’ll be spending half my time in the jungle city of Pucallpa, which by all accounts is a NOT a trip highlight. Pucallpa will be a good immersion in the threats to the Amazon and social challenges resulting from urban expansion and economic modernisation. It’s mostly poor shanty-slums in a cleared and developed section of the rainforest, with logging the major industrial activity, but from Pucallpa I am travelling on to Purus.
You’ll struggle to find Purus on a map. It’s a tiny speck in a sea of near-pristine forests right near the border with Brazil. The only way into and out of Purus is the float plane that comes twice a week and lands on the river. It’s not on the tourist routes: there’s not even a hostel in town. I only know about the place because of my work with Peruvian natural protected areas. Two areas – Purus Communal Reserve and Alto Purus National Park – are managed by national parks staff based in Pucallpa and Purus, and the Director of the Communal Reserve has invited me to come for a visit. He will meet me in Purus and show me around. Yeah I know, I’m spoilt.
So what is a communal reserve, anyway? It’s a protected area where indigenous tribes live voluntary in traditional forest villages, maintaining their cultural practices with limited contact with the outside world. In some communal reserves the tribes live in isolation, avoiding all contact with others out of fear of decimation by strange diseases (as happened in the past) or strong cultural values. In Purus the communities have some contact with the wider world and are working out ways to blend their ancient traditions with modern opportunities. That sounds like the kind of sustainable thinking I’d like to learn about, so hopefully I’ll get the chance to visit and see how they’re weaving the old and the new together.
Purus Communal Reserve joins up with Alto Purus National Park, which is unspoilt primary Amazonian rainforest. I’ll be thrilled if I get a chance to travel through there, though since there are no tourist facilities in this part of Peru I’m not sure I’ll be able to. Still, I’m hoping to see some amazing wildlife, like the pink river dolphins and giant freshwater otters, the brilliantly-coloured macaws and toucans, the many types of monkeys, and if I’m lucky perhaps a tapir! There will be a world of jewel-like insects, amazing frogs and lizards, fascinating fungi and many other forest-floor wonders to explore.
Of course, the jungle has it’s down sides, most notably the sheer number of things that can kill you or make you rather ill, or are just really disgusting (botflies, I’m looking at you…) and I’d really rather be properly well, instead of the still-sniffly state I’m in. I will do my best, however, to avoid the bullet ants, the giant tarantulas, bushmaster vipers and all the terrifying parasites people love telling me stories about. I’m taking my anti-malaria pills, I have insect repellent that’s potent enough to melt plastic (Bushman’s 80% DEET) and I’ve packed my emergency locator beacon, just in case…
I have also packed my camera and all four lenses (including a shiny new 100-400 mm zoom, purchased especially for the trip) and checked all my batteries are properly charged. Forest photography is particularly tricky, but I’m hoping to come home with a few decent photos as my only long-term souvenirs of the adventure.
Be good while I’m gone!
This photo: forest fungi in Tasmania’s Tarkine – can’t wait to see what funky fungi I can find in the Amazon!
Top photo: The Amazon jungle stretches from the eastern edge of the Andes – like here at Macchu Pichu) to the great rainforest plains through Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Colombia, and of course Brazil. Wow!