Colombia Amazon Rainforest Adventure
Welcome to the Jungle
It was the night before my departure to the Amazon rainforest and I’m rolling my last bit of clothing and adding it to my backpack. I haven’t traveled with a backpack since my early twenties. When my younger me considered a few days of hiking the Appalachian trails a vacation. I groaned as I placed the heavy pack on my shoulders, wishing I was using 4 wheeled luggage instead. But I was not going on a “vacation” to the Amazon. I was about to embark on a journey filled with adventure, a Colombia Amazon rainforest adventure to be more precise…and this adventure requires a backpack.
Let the Adventure Begin!
The next morning I hopped on the plane and landed in Bogota and headed straight to my hotel. I’ve been to Bogota many times, so I planned on just unwinding and catching a good night’s rest in preparation for the next day’s flight to the southern part of Colombia. I read and re-read the trip’s itinerary until I had it memorized. But I still could not believe I was about to trek through the Colombia Amazon rainforest!
Morning came quickly and I went downstairs to meet the rest of my group. After a short briefing we headed to the airport and flew down to Leticia. I had a window seat on the plane and stared out as we flew over the Amazon rainforest. For as far as the eye can see was nothing but a carpet of green. I wondered what was under the thick canopy below us? What is life like in rainforest? And then I saw the Amazon River from the sky. It looked massive and powerful, filled with senseless twists and turns as it cut a swath through the green carpet below us. The plane lowered its landing gear as a runway appeared from nowhere. The Amazon rainforest adventure was real and the experience of a lifetime was about to begin.
Landing in Leticia
When the plane finally came to a stop and its door opened, a rush of hot, humid air literally engulfed us. The air felt like a hot, wet heavy blanket crushing you with its weight and saturating you with its inferno-like dampness. We disembarked and entered a tiny airport. The lack of air conditioning and countless passengers waiting for their luggage inside the baggage terminal quickly made me realize this trip would be void of the daily comforts we are accustomed to in our normal lives. We gathered our belongings and jumped into the van and drove off to the hotel.
We arrived at our hotel mid-afternoon and checked in before having lunch. The hotel was clean, comfortable and bustling with other travelers. Plenty of backpacks lined the lobby, giving the hotel a bit of a hostel-like feel. My room was decent size and had air conditioning, which I immediately cranked to its lowest possible setting! I placed my pack on the chair and checked out the bathroom. Not exactly glamorous, but functional and clean. Above the sink was a large sign warning guests not to drink the tap water. I thought to myself, “well, another check mark for the Amazon rainforest adventure” and headed down to meet the group for lunch.
Lunch consisted of fish, as did almost every single meal during this Amazon rainforest trek consist of fish. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, FISH. I spent the week gingerly picking small yet sharp fish bones out of every meal served. I’m not a fan of fish, especially fish soup for breakfast. But I’m here for the rainforest adventure and it’s all part of immersing oneself in local culture and cuisine.
Tejo and Exploring
After lunch, we had a short amount of free time in our schedule. A few of us ventured out to a local bar and played Tejo. Tejo is a popular Colombian game where you toss heavy pucks at packets of gunpowder stuck in clay (think skeeball). Alcohol, metal pucks and explosives….how can you not love this game! I’m not sure how much gunpowder is in those packets, but when you hit one with the puck, it’s LOUD! We consumed a few local beers as well as celebratory shots of alcohol after each successful toss resulting in an flash-bang explosion. The group stopped playing after our puck projectiles were bouncing against the concrete walls instead of anywhere close to the intended clay playing area.
We reconvened with the rest of the group at dusk and toured Leticia, visiting the Ethnographic Museum of the Bank of the Republic. It is the point where Colombia meets Brazil and Peru. Where a jungle of the size of an ocean and a river that looks like a sea, give space for a city, Leticia. We continued our journey to the Santander Park (AKA Parrot Park) and watched the nightly arrival of thousands of parrots and swallows. The birds come out of the Amazon rainforest, where they spend the day, to roost in the trees in the park. The locals think it’s because the birds know they will be safe from predators here. Watching this spectacle was amazing! We then walked to Leticia’s esplanade to enjoy the scenery.
Preparing for the Amazon Rainforest
The group returned to the hotel and our tour provider showed us how to make our own bug repellent for use in the Amazon rainforest. Aerosol products are not permitted. So we shaved blocks of DEET and mixed it with some natural oils and soap and poured it into pump bottles. I can’t recall the exact recipe, but the concoction worked. Don’t get me wrong, nothing is going to save you from mosquitos in the Amazon rainforest. But the number of bites would have been far worse without our repellent.
After a long day and, yes, a fish dinner, we called it a night and headed to bed. Tomorrow is the day we head to the Amazon rainforest by navigating the Amazon River. I laid in bed and stared at the enormous gap between the floor of the hotel room and the door. Wondering what bug or creature might crawl in and join me? Shaking such thoughts from my mind I dozed off to sleep dreaming of what tomorrow’s adventures will bring.
To be continued…..