Hannah has been reading The Princess Bride aloud to the girls in the evenings.
They are in love with the story and the quiet giggling is fun to listen to through the bamboo walls. She is doing voices, of course, and there is much discontent when she decides to stop, like little kids the girls are begging for more.
We hiked this morning, like, really hiked.
We got up at five to beat the sunrise and headed up the river into the Tambopata Forest Reserve just as the sky turned pink. The hike to Cocococha Lake was five kilometers, one way, which doesn’t sound like that far until you add in the massive amount of mud. Up to my calves in some places. And very slippery mud banks leading steeply down to log bridges that were three small logs wide, the entire bridge not much wider than the length of my boot. We crossed five of these, one only two logs wide because the third had come loose from the edge of the bank.
The guide began our hike with his usual warning: “Many things has spineys. Many things is poison. Please. You touch nothing.”
I followed that advice assiduously until I slipped in the mud and reached out, instinctively to steady myself on a small tree by the path… which was covered with thorns about half an inch long, a dozen of which I drove hard into my palm and I sliced a ribbon out of my right thumb. Ouch. Whatever white powder collects on that tree stings, a lot, let me tell you.
It took us two full hours to hike the five kilometers, slipping, sliding and scrambling the entire way. Hannah hung back towards the end of the line where I was bringing up the rear and whispered, breathlessly, “Mom, this is just like in The Princess Bride, in the forest…. I’m pretty sure the person in front of me is spouting fiery gasses, and we definitely have the Rodents Of Unusual Size… The capybara, remember? The mud is “inconceivable!” All we are missing is the soldiers of Guilder!” We chuckled and kept walking.
The lake was somewhat of a disappointment, in that it did not yield a sign of the elusive giant river otters, that are, apparently, a solid two meters long. We did, however, see an enormous black caiman right away and loads of interesting birds.
A canoe that seats 16 is a big ass canoe.
It seemed okay as we crossed the lake, Courtney helped to paddle, and then we drifted with the wind and current down the far bank, eyes peeled for the otters. However, as we crossed back and the wind caught us broad side and it became apparent that we were making little progress up stream against the current and the wind, I did the math and offered to paddle.
Courtney was glad for the break and when she handed me the paddle I understood why. It was handmade and must have weighed at least five pounds. Just the paddle. The grip was too big and a ridiculous shape. Every stroke was an effort and we had over a kilometer to go. Just the guide and I, working against the wind and the water and the weight of all of the passengers. It took a very long time. My shoulders and back were really sore. My core felt the pull. My mom offered to take a turn. No way I was handing her that paddle, so I pretended it wasn’t hard and kept going. When we finally docked, she picked up the paddle on her way out of the boat and gave me that look she does, and just said, “Oh my gosh! How’s your back?!”
It was a long pull to precede a long walk back… Only this time in the heat of the day with the bugs at full bore and six teenage girls who were fighting over who would get to be first in the shower when we still had over an hour of walking to do.
As for me, I loved every step.
My lipstick red mud boots are holding up perfectly and I don’t have even one sore spot on my feet. It reminded me of long Camino days only with more mosquitos and the potential for an anaconda. The best creature of the day, however, was the tarantula our guide coaxed out of her hole with a long stem. Put your thumbs together, and your index fingers together and make a circle. Now pull back about an inch… That’s the approximate diameter of the spider. She was spectacular.
“How do you know it’s a girl?” One of the kids asked.
“Because after they mate, the girls eat the mens tarantulas,” the guide informed us. “This one, she is a very big girl.”
Pictures from the day…