I knew today would suck, I guess I just didn’t realize how bad until I had to take three flights to get home, with substantial layovers between them. Add to that the logistical switch of leaving from Heath River (5 hours from Puerto Maldonado) vs. Lake Sandoval (45 minutes) and it sucks even more.
I slept well again, despite it being freezing cold. I wrapped up in two fleece blankets again, beneath 2 comforters. Surprisingly I slept well. Out cold around 9 and slept right through until 4:45 when I heard Pat and Wally’s phone go off next door. None of us took a shower this morning. As nice as it would have been to be warm, sitting in the cold open boat after that would not have been advisable. The staff at Heath River gave us blankets and comforters for the ride.
We opted to eat breakfast on the way so that we could sleep later. Pat and Wally’s flight out of Puerto Maldonado was at 1:15 so we left at 5:30 and began the 5 hour journey in darkness. How the captain of the boat could see is beyond me, or maybe he was just doing it by feel. It went by surprisingly fast though and was really only cold for the last 45 minutes or so when we were going straight into the wind. We still had to make stops at the ranger station, the Bolivian checkpoint and the Peruvian checkpoint. We picked up a ranger along the way and he hitched a ride back to PM with us. We got there around 11 and nearly burst, we had to pee so badly! No rest areas along the Tambopata River! But not surprisingly, it’s blue skies and sunny today. Of course it is.
A quick change of clothes (hallelujah for something warm and dry!) as we were reunited with the luggage we left in PM. Then we had to pack everything in the backpack back into the suitcase, which I somehow did easily. I tried to pack everything wet or damp or sweaty into Ziplock bags, which I think helped squeeze everything in. No rest for the weary though as Wally and Pat had to check in by 11:30, so off to the airport we went. I checked in then and left them here since the InkaNatura guide was taking me to the Butterfly Sanctuary outside the airport to kill some time. I thought he’d be taking me to lunch and back to the airport, but he just said farewell and told me to walk back to the airport myself. Hmmmm. It was maybe 1/3 of a mile, but my carry-on weighs a ton. I guess it won’t kill me to take it on one more trek.
The butterfly sanctuary was nice and serene, and warm and sunny, which I didn’t get much of the last few days. I took some photos and started to dry out. The sore throat I’ve had since I got to the Amazon is going away; I sort of knew that was from breathing in and sleeping in the extremely humid air. I enjoyed an Inka Kola on the patio there and then walked to the airport.
I now have 3 hours to kill until my flight out of PM. The terminal is tiny and I’m alone here but for the vendors at the various food stalls (three). I had a cheese empanada and a cinnamon juice drink while I wait for my iPhone to recharge. Ahead of me I have a 6 hour layover in Lima, a 6 hour flight to Ft. Lauderdale, then a 4 hour layover in FLL before a 3 hour flight to Boston. I like having a schedule cushion in case a flight goes awry, but this is nuts. It’ll be almost 2 days between showers, which is just gross.
I’m trying to wrap my head around how I feel about the trip. It’s a tough balance because I absolutely loved the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. It was such a high for me to be there finally and to take on that hike and nail it. I enjoyed Cuzco to bits, it was fun and I consider myself blessed by the travel gods to have been able to see the festival. That was fun. I had higher hopes for decent wildlife encounters in the Amazon and I feel very let down. After 4 trips to Africa, I know better than anyone how fickle Mother Nature can be, but I really just wished we’d have been tossed a bone. It didn’t have to be a jaguar, but a parrot or macaw or tapir would have been nice. The howler monkeys was an amazing encounter, but so fleeting. The otters were great too and we were lucky to have that second sighting of them in Heath River. Never in a million years did I think that the “occasional cold blast in the Amazon” would hit the days I was there, but it did. (I strongly advise bringing at least one warmer outfit no matter when you go. I wish I’d had more layers and a better raincoat.). Ultimately I think I’d go back to Peru because there’s so much I didn’t get to see. But whether I have the stomach and mental fortitude to try the Amazon again is the question.
Wrapped up the trip with a quick shower at the spa at the Wyndham at Lima airport and then a nice dinner of ceviche, causita and a Pisco Sour before heading for my red eye back to the US. I may be back...