Peruvian Amazon Day 4: Butterflies, Piranha & a Birthday

July 24, 2015 in Peru, South America, Travelogue


I sat, today, within a cloud of butterflies.

Imagine confetti on New Year’s Eve or in the middle of a big Mexican fiesta.  Like that, only living butterflies of every color. The majority were pale blue and a lemon yellow sort that, when they folded their wings, looked like pale green leaves. There were also bright orange ones and two very fancy, frilly ones in every shade of iridescent green and blue, lined with black.  They were all assembled on the wet clay of the river bed.  I don’t know if there was some mineral in the mud that they were sucking up, or if they were just enjoying the sun, or what.

We sat on the steps down to the boat next to them and we let them swirl around us and land on our bodies.

How many were there? I’m not a good estimator, but based on the section where I counted ten that were sitting still, there must have been at least three or four hundred.  It was spectacular. I’ve never seen anything like it.  My favourites were tiny black and white zebra striped ones with a little streak of red along the top of their closed wings, but when they opened up, they were a deep indigo with dual slashes of shining turquoise on each wing. So different from what you expected when they were closed.

This morning we filled small bags with soil for future planting

filling bags

About two hundred bags, to put iron wood tree seeds in later. Then, we sifted through giant boxes of sand to remove all of the twigs and leathery remains of last year’s egg shells. They use the boxes to curate the turtle eggs that they dig up from the beaches along the riverbank in August.  Apparently the turtles are at risk from people who poach the eggs to sell in the markets. I stapled, and stapled, along with Adan, a local guy who drove our boat the other day, to enclose the whole area in shade cloth to keep the small animals from getting in there and digging up the eggs.  It’s fun to be working on a few projects that will carry on after I leave.

At this very moment I’m sitting on my porch in a handmade chair, watching my clothing dry, slung over a piece of bamboo.  I can hear Hannah playing her guitar.



Piranha are hard to catch. The dual pontoon raft floated silently on the chocolate glass of the oxbow lake and we did our best, with tiny pieces of beef, to entice the feisty fish to nibble… and nibble they did, but they resisted all attempts at actual catching. Duko, the middle aged Dutch man who is visiting with his wife caught one. The guides caught three. We girls caught a grand total of zero.

I took some spectacular pictures, of birds and spiders and the fish our guides caught. I didn’t manage to catch the baby caiman on film. We watched the sunset change the lake into a kaleidoscope of colours and I wished upon the first star I saw.

Walking through the jungle in the dark, whispering with my Mom and Hannah was a highlight.


We are all three enjoying the same things. Tonight it was spiders, great big, hairy, hunting spiders, flat skinny legged spiders that put one in the mind of the spines of an umbrella when stripped of the canopy, tiny spiders in the middle of immense webs, patiently waiting. And, a long line of leaf cutter ants, impervious to the fact that night had fallen, working tirelessly to carry leaves many times their size. When I was a little girl in the jungles of Mexico I would sit, squatted down on my feet, for long hours and watch them pass, each ant only walks a few meter section of the trail, picking up, carrying, depositing and then going back for another load, the next ant picking up the leaf like a relay baton and moving it the next stretch.

Have I mentioned yet that the showers here are cold?

night shower

The showers here are cold. Even better, the water is pumped straight out of the river. What does that mean? It means that when one does her laundry in the shower her white shirt emerges with a slightly rusty cast from the brown river water. I spent a half an hour with a baggie of bleach trying to rectify the problem this afternoon. Nonetheless, there is something sensual about showering with water from the Amazon in an open air bamboo shower by the light of a single flickering candle.

I am getting a lot of joy out of the evenings here. They remind me of my childhood full of oil lamps in a northern forest. I am remembering how much I like to be truly unplugged, even though I also enjoy aspects of continual connectivity.

Other photos from the day…

The river


Miss Melody, doing laundry

Tres Chimbatas

Tres Chimbatas guide

On the left... yellow bellied piranha, on the right, white bellied piranha

On the left… yellow bellied piranha, on the right, white bellied piranha


Tres Chimbatas

Also, Courtney and Melody shared a birthday today... the lodge made a big party and we had cake!

Also, Courtney and Melody shared a birthday today… the lodge made a big party and we had cake!