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Welcome to the Jungle
by: Mike Ryan
One of the hardest parts of hiking in the jungle
One of the hardest parts of hiking in the jungle is being able stop humming Welcome to the Jungle, Jungle Love, Bungle in the Jungle or The Lion Sleeps Tonight incessantly while on your trek. Other than that is just like a walk in the park except for the heat, the humidity, the bugs, the monkeys…
Feel the Heat
We did several day hikes and a couple nighttime treks in the Amazon Jungle around Puerto Maldonado in Southeastern Peru. To say I was sweating profusely is an understatement and that was on the nighttime trek. If you’re from a dry region like, anywhere that’s not a jungle, you are in for a treat with the heat and humidity. Maybe “Treat” isn’t the proper word but you will be shocked at how both will sap your energy. Wearing breathable clothes is not quite as important as just wearing washable ones because they will be soaked daily.
Love the Shoes
Normally we hike with hiking boots or shoes but in the jungle, a good pair of rubbers or galoshes or whatever you want to call a high pair of rubber boots will do. It’s a called a rain forest for a reason: the rainy season pretty much runs from the beginning of January to the end of December; if you get my drift. That means the title of your trek could be, There Will be Mud.
Gotta Get a Guide
While I was envisioning a freaky looking guy with a bone through his nose and a bunch of exotic tattoos for our guide, I soon realized no, that’s my image of my daughter’s idiot boyfriend back in the States. Our guide was named Paul and was a fine looking young man, born and raised right there in the jungle; maybe I should have brought the daughter along. A guide is essential on a jungle trek as there are so many plants and animals you wouldn’t even know about if not shown. That and the fact that you can go about twenty yards into the jungle and then be completely lost on your own. Our guide Paul showed us plants that supply the main ingredient in Ben Gay and are used to numb injuries, plants that give you hallucinations and plants that give men erections. As you can imagine: mixing them up could cause problems. He claimed over 85 percent of the plant life is worthless or deadly to man, which still leaves hundreds of thousands of useful and helpful plants. Knowing what is what could decide the difference between life and death if lost so, as you can imagine, I never left his side and tipped him before the return trip.
Take Me to the River
The river is life in the jungle. If you are lost, you can’t even tell east or west from the path of the sun because underneath the canopy, you’re lucky if you can find the sun. Paul told us you always want to look for a river as that is the only way to find your way out of the jungle or to a town. The river we were on is called the Madre de Dios or Mother of God River. He claims it’s because when the locals get lost and finally find the river they shout, “”Mother of God, there’s the river.” I think he was pulling my leg but hey, I laughed at everything he said so he’d keep his eye on me.
If you have any Bug phobias you may not be comfortable in the jungle. There are insects as big as small cats down there and they don’t give you that cuddly feeling either. Heck, even the ants carry pieces of wood on their backs and their anthills are as tall as I am. We used Sawyer’s Permethrin insect repellant that you apply to your clothes before even arriving. I applied it to my shirts, pants, socks, hats and even my underwear. You Know, it worked so good; I would advise bathing and gargling in the stuff but the instructions said something or other about not ingesting it so maybe that’s not a good idea.
Take Me to the River Part II
Our guide Paul also offered to take us Piranha fishing the next day and said afterwards we would swim with the piranha; something he claims they do every day. He claimed it’s completely safe and they never get bitten, that’s only Hollywood stuff. When I made a smart aleck remark about maybe they only like “white meat” l realized that, in all my travels, I have now offended people on three continents. I was then afraid of getting accidently “Lost” in the jungle and began again laughing at every joke he made and otherwise keeping my mouth shut.
Everybody wants to see the monkeys. They are cute little things and sometimes hard to spot even when nearby; another reason you need a guide. What people tend to not think about is that those cute little monkeys are up above you and have to poop and pee at some time or other. They tend to save up so that some time or other is right when people are standing under them. They are smart little critters so this is not by accident. How cute do you think they are now?
If you ever get a chance to visit a real jungle, jump on it, sing any and every jungle song that pops into your head and enjoy every last minute of it. Watch out for the mud, the bugs, the monkeys, the snakes, the poisonous plants, and the heat, the humidity and even the fish but other than that: it’s just like a walk in the park.