Our second venture into the varied landscape of Peru brought us to Tarapoto, a cloud forest city in northern Peru located in the high jungle plateau of the Amazon Basin. As our plane descended into the “City of Palms” over muddy chocolate rivers — fitting as one of the areas biggest industries is cacao — and verdant mountains, the area reminded me a bit of the Caribbean. The jungle humidity hit me the second we stepped off the plane and my first thought was “I didn’t pack enough clothes for the number of times I’m going to have to change each day after sweating through my shirt just simply breathing.”
We had booked an all-inclusive stay at the PumaRinri Amazon Lodge located just south of the confluence of the Huallaga and Mayo rivers for a four-day, three-night program. We’ve noticed that program tours here are quite popular and they make traveling so much more carefree and enjoyable. When we lived in London and traveled extensively through Europe we did a ton of DIY-type travel, but in South
I have flashbacks to the time we found ourselves at a small train station somewhere in rural Portugal after getting off the sleeper train from Spain at 5 a.m. with only the company of each other and two elderly Portuguese-speaking women and sitting on our suitcases watching the sky turn light wondering why our connecting train had never arrived. It wasn’t until hours later when the young English-speaking barista for the coffee cart arrived that we learned the national rail workers had decided to strike that day!
Once our driver met for us at the airport and we were ensconced in an air-conditioned passenger van, we hit the road for the cliffside-hugging picturesque 30-minute drive to the riverside lodge with a brief stop in the village of Shapaja for an opportunity to purchase any drinks or snacks at a local bodega. We arrived at PumaRinri just as heavy gray clouds started gathering together overhead promising a cooling afternoon rainstorm on the horizon. Once we got checked in, refreshed ourselves with a tasty welcome drink of freshly squeezed grape juice, we bounded down the steps towards our terraced river-view suite and quickly donned our swimsuits for a much-needed cooling off in the pool while we waited for the lodge’s lunch hours to start.
Twenty minutes into our swim, while floating contently on our backs with our faces upturned to the sky, the first drops of rain started to fall. First a lone drop here and there, then building to a glorious crescendo. After several dry months in
With the rain still steadily falling we retreated to the lodge’s open-walled kitchen and restaurant, flanked by shady mango and coconut trees, with communal-style picnic tables facing out toward the river dressed in the traditional brightly colored striped fashion of Peruvian textiles. Meals with a view! We decided on fried salchipapas, a popular potato and sausage dish, and a Peruvian jungle regional dish known as juane made with rice, meat, olives, hard-boiled egg, and spices wrapped with bijao (macaw-flower) leaves for lunch before settling in for an afternoon of getting caught up on our books interrupted only by the steady staccato of falling mangos. Thud. Thud. Thud. One of the staff members relayed that in the five years he had been at the resort only one person had ever been the unfortunate target of one of the fruit missiles
The next day dawned bright and early with the 7 a.m. temps already promising a hot, steamy selva day. Fingers of fog clung to the mountains
On our program itinerary for the day was a guided hike and swim to the nearby
Our Spanish still isn’t the greatest and it somehow got lost in translation during our check-in the previous day that the program for the day had been switched with the following day, so in thinking that we would be visiting a native pottery museum and cacao farm we hadn’t packed swimsuits or towels in our day packs, but that didn’t stop us from peeling down to modesty’s minimal layers and diving into the cool crystalline water of the sandy pool at the base of the fall.
Upon our return to the lodge, an air-conditioned nap was very much in order. If you’re looking for more of an alfresco siesta, there are a few colorful hammocks strung up underneath thatch-roofed posts to cradle you to sleep.
Waking up much cooler and refreshed, we grabbed our telephoto lens and hit the
Stay tuned for the second part of our jungle adventure of slathering on yet more bug spray and glistening with jungle perspiration as we head to the village of Chazuta to visit a native pottery workshop and cacao farm!