Written by Kristen Kellogg
Deep in the jungle of Peru, you’ll find one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature -- The Amazon River with the largest basin in the world. An adventure through these parts was something I dreamed of for years and being able to experience it in real life was a truly once in a lifetime experience.
I explored the region of Loreto, one of the hidden gems of the Amazon. I started my journey in Iquitos -- there are no roads in or out of this wild city from mainland Peru which made the beginning of my trip by boat so much more exciting. Cars are a rare commodity here and Tuk Tuks are everywhere you turn.
After spending the evening in Iquitos, we ventured off by boat and that’s where the big adventure began. I loved seeing two rivers converge that make up the birthplace of the mighty Amazon River - the Marañón and Ucayali rivers.
There’s an extensive amount of protected land in Peru which means plenty of space for the immense amount of biodiversity to slither, crawl, climb, hop, swim, soar and run wild. The thick rainforest in these parts does something to the adventurous spirited. I cherished every misty early morning and late evening I spent forest bathing while in search of wildlife. The Allpahuayo MIshana Reserve, a white-sand forest we trekked through for three mornings, was one of the most unique places I’ve seen in the entire world.
The Peruvian guides are incredibly well versed and passionate about what they do and know every nook of the jungle, quick to spot a variety of species I would have never seen on my own. Our guide Rey even knew all of the animal calls. A few that I loved getting to see thick in the treetops -- there are 500 varieties of trees per 2.5 acres -- were the Brown-Banded Puffbird and Capybaras to sleepy Sloths camouflage lounged high up in the treetops.
One of my favorite experiences was a quiet afternoon. As we transferred from hiking the rainforest to gliding across the waterways, time slowed down as the boat wove its way through the mangroves. Rey used his machete to clear any fallen brush as we wove our way through the enclosed and winding canal-like spaces to an estuary-like area. Grey and pink dolphins played around us as we ate cecina, a delicious local salted meat with rice and enjoyed the peaceful afternoon without another soul around.
The kindness of the locals was uncanny, inviting me into their homes for cooking and meals throughout the trips entirely -- the river fish were delicious. Sharing a simply prepared meal with locally harvested meal in their beautiful community was a heartwarming experience. and share a meal with them. One of the most interesting drinks tried was Masato, which is reserved and made for special ceremonies. It is smashed to make a paste. After chewing and spit, saliva ferments into the drink. And guava grows here which Rey calls the icecream of the jungle.
The locals truly embrace what the land has given them to live off as well as things that travelers can take back with home. I had to buy an extra bag to bring all of the beautiful gifts back that I picked up from the local village -- handmade soap from the coconut trees, carved wood platters, and a hand-woven hammock.
I can still remember my very last night of the adventure sitting out in the middle of the Amazon. One of the most peaceful moments of my life, setting aside the camera hearing just one boat in the far distance hum by as we sat and watched the blazing ball of fire fall below the river and light up the reflection with oranges and pinks like I had never seen before.
A lifelong dream and an opportunity to share a lesser-known part of Peru with the world through my lens. There are so many things I will miss about this place. The two I’ll miss most are the surreal 5 am mornings waking up at the crack of dawn to a real life soundtrack of overwhelming sounds of the jungle and the locals who became fast friends.
While you’re dreaming about Peru, the Peruvian Amazon will be waiting for you!