If you think stepping out of your comfort zone is camping at San Elijo or San Onofre State Beach, try the Amazon. Mariko’s thin Japanese-Hawaiian ankles have become swollen kankles with bug bites covering the entire bottom portion of her legs. Mine aren’t much different, despite the fact that we covered ourselves with 98 percent DEET. Chase counted the bites on my upper right arm alone: 53.
Mosquitoes: 100. Team Amazon: zero.
After getting up at 4 a.m. yesterday (not by choice) to see wild macaws (they were awesome), we took a seven-hour boat ride from the Tambopata River up to the Tavara river with a few Class I and II rapids.
Antsy as hell and sleep deprived, we pumped up the iSups and took a few runs on one of the rapids that kept us from going further south. Mariko found a mini standup wave and put on a show for our entire crew.
Mariko is a natural athlete. She hasn’t been SUPing long and ended up winning both events she entered last spring at the Teva Mountain Games.
When the sun started setting, our boat crew and guides helped set up camp on the side of the river, and then we quickly got caught in a classic Amazonian rainstorm.
Being wimpy Americans, we took shelter in one of the boats and plugged in Chase’s Goal Zero solar panels and watched three episodes of Modern Family on my iPad. By 10 p.m., when the rain slowed, we finally got into our bug-infested tents, covered with DEET and slept as peacefully as one can in the jungle.
This morning, we finally got to paddle some distance. The Amazon is insane! A caiman (a mini crocodile) chased our photographer and so we got to see just how fast he could run. We paddled about 45 to 50 kilometers today in an area we don’t know if anyone has really paddled before.
Our guides and the boatmen from Rainforest Expeditions are hooked on standup paddling now. They think they’ll be able to use the sport much more than for recreation, but for research purposes, especially with the Macaws.
We have two more days of actual paddling, including one trip where we’ll meet with a local medicine man. So far, we’ve seen zero traces of humans, but a ton of wild macaw, a turkey vulture-looking bird that tried to take a bite out of my booty when I went to the bathroom, and dozens of other rare birds.
We paddled seven-and-a-half hours north back to the lodge today just because none of us could bear to camp again. It’s been an adventure just to get here, but paddling in the jungle is something we will never forget.
Photos by Chase Olivieri