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Lungs of the Earth

When Ash and I went about planning our destinations, the Amazon Rainforest was in each of our Top 5. I just couldn’t believe it would really be out first excursion!

Flying into Puerto Maldonaldo, we were giddy as school girls… well maybe just me. After being mobbed by tuk-tuk drivers at the landing strip, we were off to find a hostel. I cannot recommend Tambopata Hostel enough.

Tuk-Tuk and Away We GoLooking for Jungle RatsThey'll Float, Right?

We arranged a 1 night, 2 day adventure about 2 hours down the Tambopata River (eventually meets the mighty Amazon) deeper into the Peruvian Rainforest for the next day. Waking at 5am, we met our guide Esteban, and headed for an awaiting pekye-pekye. Slowly cruising down the river on the hot and humid morning, we reached the Tambopata National Reserve (near the Peru, Bolivia, Brazil border). We then proceeded on the slowest 5km hike ever recorded… stopping to look at every monster tree, strange insect, colorful bird, intricate web, and even catching a piranha.

After a lunch consisting of chicken and rice wrapped in a banana leaf, we rented a canoe and paddled onto Lake Sandoval. Esteban had been speaking of the endangered Giant Otter, which he hadn’t seen in 3 weeks. Jackpot! We spied the handsome family of four clear across the lake and we made haste to see them dining on huge piranhas. We shored the canoe and while hiking another 2km via a virgin trail, Esteban exclaimed, “we better walk faster”. Similar to a distant expressway, we could hear a hum… closer… closer… closer… and like a swarm of bees the heavy raindrops drenched us. As the skies opened up, we bailed some water from the canoe just in time to see a troop of squirrel monkeys making its way across the edge of the lake.

 Lunch is EarnedWhere's Waldo (he is blond)Yep, I'm cute

We recuperated by way of a cat nap then paddled onto Lake Sandoval around dusk. We visited the viewing tower (70 feet tall) then the Main Event: Black Caiman Searching. The incredible sunset proved to a precursor for the evening. Armed with a flashlight and headlamp, Ashley and I trained their beams at the palm tree swamp on Lake Sandoval’s NE shore. Every so often, our lights reflected the glowing orange eyes of the North American Alligator’s cousin, the Black Caiman (largest predator in the Amazon). Esteban rowed the canoe into a swampy area and edged himself to the rear of the rocky boat. Like a firecracker, he lurched his hand into the water and captured a 3 foot Black Caiman, losing his flashlight in the process (we reimbursed him). What a thrill it was to hold such a wild creature while Ash couldn’t find a spot far enough away in the canoe.

The Sunset is Prettier Than GregorioArachnophobiaNo Match

We celebrated the adventure with a candlelight dinner (no electricity in the huts) and a tarantula the size of a sand dollar was kind enough to join us, perched 8 feet directly above me. Again, Ash was not thrilled. We wrapped the mosquito nets tightly around our beds, wondering what the Amazon Basin had in store for us the next day.

My expectations of the Amazon had been high and they were exceeded. The biodiversity, medicinal attributes of the plants, incredible smells/sounds/sights all blew me away. 

- Greg


  1. Tambopata Hostel w/ Playful FrancoArranging a tour upon arrival will save you lots of $$$. This is true of anywhere in the Amazon Basin. You can have the same experience booking a trip from an Amazonian town as booking a room in a jungle lodge. Our trip was $175 per person including food, transportation, guide, and lodging. Similar packages can cost well over $300 by pre-booking.

  2. Before booking a 7 day excursion in the jungle, make sure you can really take the heat, humidity, and bugs galore – we planned for 6 days and 3 was plenty.

  3. There aren’t many hostels in Puerto Maldonado. But Tambopata Hostel is fantastic – friendly people, delicious breakfast, slow but free Internet, great location, and cool showers. Only $10 per person too… cheap and nice is what I’m talking about.

  • Skip & Kathy Lohman

    Sounds like you are enjoying yourselves. Thanks for sharing your great adventure on this blog. Skip & Kathy

  • Belinda Connell

    this first week is already an adventure of a life time, the pics help but we will never know what you two are really seeing, touching, hearing…..Greg you do a wonderful job in the blog, i really enjoy reading it. Ashley honey, I would never of thought of you out there but you ARE doing it and you will never regret a moment, even the caimans, and the tarantulas.
    Jessica and the girls came for the weekend ( Mark had to work) and Adrian and Molly came also. Having a good time. Parade tomorrow… Your mom took Bryce Connor Alex Lane to the KU game… we won in an over sold field house, people had to stand in the aisles throughtout the whole game. Flying high now but the schedule gets very rough the second half. Your dad and Braden & others had a dish at the lake to see the game.
    check out Beccas sonogram on facebook of the baby.
    Marvins dog had 14 surprise puppies ( Drews dog jumped over the fence) only six survived. They are such proud Parents ha
    Keep the blog going i really enjoy it… love you very much Nina

  • fofs

    Thanks for following along Skip and Kathy. I will be on the lookout for an orphaned dog that can compete in the West Chester Ugliest Dog Competition.

  • fofs

    Belinda, I have a ghost writer for the blog, so I cannot take any credit. And Ash was superimposed in the Amazon photos. She stayed behind at the Ritz getting a cucumber facial.

  • fofs

    Nina, Thanks so much for responding. I know, isn't it hard to believe that the girl who at one time couldn't even eat outside is doing all this? It really has been amazing so far. Stay tuned…the second half of the Amazon Rainforest blog will be put up today. I talked to my mom yesterday so she filled me in on a little of what has been going on. I bet your girls weekend was fun and I did see Becca's sonogram…amazing! Continue keeping me updated. I love hearing all about it.

    Love you! Ashley

  • mhendy

    Laura and I were driving back from Russells wedding today and she was reading me the blog from her iphone. It was hilarious to hear her try and pronounce some of the native words your ghost writer was using. After reading it myself, I cannot pronounce them either. Awesome job on the blog, we absolutely love it. Dietz looks like bear grylls in the shots on the boat; when do you guys make your own lodging huts and eat cooked snakes?

    insanely jealous, cant wait to see you in BA!!! greg, update, commercial real estate is still slow

    Matt and Laura

  • fofs

    We shalll erect our own lodging when “This Old House” returns to the airwaves.

    Thanks for the encouraging words about the blog… glad to see the $ spent on the ghostwriter is worth it.

    - Dietz

  • grablovicm

    Wow! Thanks for sharing all the info. What a great trip idea!

  • grablovicm

    Wow! Thanks for sharing all the info. What a great trip idea!

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