Cusco to Puerto Maldonado is a short flight of just over thirty minutes and actually took longer to leave the terminal, taxi and land, than it did flying time. The view en-route is a stark contrast to the dry browns of Cusco and within minutes, it was nothing but green jungle and thick brown rivers, snaking below.
Puerto Maldonado airport consists of a single runway and small terminal which despite its sparseness, gets a fair bit of commuting traffic through the day. Walking from the plane across the concrete to the baggage collection, the humidity hits you fast. Coming from moderate altitude and with a dry heat is a fading memory as 90+ degrees and 80% humidity smother you immediately. After some confusion over which bus to take, the tour guide finally loaded us and eight others, before putting the luggage on the roof-rack.
Rib still killing me, it was a ten minute grind to the check-in point and time to re-pack essential items. The lodge puts the remaining luggage in ‘safe storage’, translating to a locked room, with straw walls and no roof. Instant introduction to the wildlife looking up at the reception ceiling, as a pink toed tarantula was sitting comfortable, upside-down, right above our heads. I’m no fan of spiders but was totally fascinated to see something in the wild like this. After the re-pack, it was a 45 minute bouncing bus ride to the town of Infierno and the port at which to take the boat up the river.
The trip was broken a little with some free snacks and some brief description about what to expect on the river and in the jungle. The boats aren’t the most comfortable but after finding a position that my side could handle, we were handed another snack of fried rice wrapped in leaves, and headed off on the river. There’s a checkpoint about 1.5 hours into the trip and a chance to stretch legs, as we all have to sign in to the visitors book and get a stamp on our passports. The heat is heavier at this point and the bugs are starting to move around.
It was great to finally get to the reserve and some cooling juice while getting the talk about room allocation and lodge rules. Our room was thankfully away from most of the groups, so the night was quiet and the jungle sounds loud but intensely calming. The showers are cold here, unless you wait until late afternoon, when the Sun has heated the water pipes a bit. Beds are very comfortable but a little small after living in a King bed and there are mosquito nets that are to be slept under, to avoid the wildlife munching on you, in the twilight hours. Electricity is also sparse here and there is none in the rooms themselves. All lighting is by candle and oil lamps, the latter being turned on and put out at set hours by the lodge staff. Electricity goes off just after 9pm in the main area, so if you need a cocktail from the bar that requires blending, it needs to be ordered before then.
After settling in, the group took a short walk, to watch the Sunset over the river. So relaxing after the hot travel today, and great to see the lodge has its priorities right. Along the way, there was also a sighting of a couple of monkeys chasing something in the trees.
Back at the lodge it was time to try out the bar offerings and a tasty drink named ‘Blue Morpho’ was quickly downed, before sampling several other local concoctions. This did the trick of finally shutting the brain down to desire sleep.