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Monday, November 21, 2016

A Terrifying Yet Tantalizing Tango with Trust Above the Treetops

If you were to ask me if there was any one excursion or activity that represented this whole season in my life, one word comes to mind: CANOPY ZIPLINE.  

Firstly they hook you up to a harness and get you to sit in it. Then one feels the exhilarating feeling of being raised higher and higher into the air. Until you look down and the jungle floor is starting to look like a dot. Within minutes one finds themselves 40 meters above ground level and being helped onto the actual platform where the zipline is. All the butterflies in your stomach start to bounce around as if they were playing in one of those big bouncy castles.

 After being hooked up to the zipline itself you are then told to JUMP. It's at this point that some visitors start crying and there have been a few (very rare) that actually can't go through with it. But the ones that do jump are rewarded with an up-close and personal encounter with nature that is beyond ethereal.

So much of this parallels my journey of making an exodus from Vancouver and giving my all mentally, emotionally, spiritually, financially to make that daring jump and do all God has called me to do.  There was no guarantees if by making this move it would be the biggest mistake of my life or leaping off the diving board into one of the richest experiences one could possibly have. 

Trust is a theme that is woven into both the experience of being on the canopy zipline and the journey of making this incredible adventure happen. My guides securely hook me up then give me the thumbs up signal that it is OK to jump. They've done this a million times with so many visitors and not one accident. Yet I'm 40 feet above the jungle floor and anything that goes wrong would be instant death my head tells me. My emotions are whirling around like laundry in a washing machine. Thus begins a terrifying yet tantalizing tango with trust.

Even before I got to the jungle, there were many signs along the way that this was the path. Many of the things I needed like knee high socks, insect repellent, a hat with a brim, raincoat, flights from Santiago to Lima etc. All these things I would find deeply discounted or on clearance. Yet with all these signs my inner doubts pounded within my mind like a noisy construction drill. However, in the end I chose to trust and clear those doubts out of my mind the same way my jungle guides clear the bush with one whack of a machete. 

The cost to come as a volunteer may have been 75 USD a day but the return on the price that I paid is an infinite times what I paid out. Witnessing the inaugaration of a new school wing, enriching the lives of the village of Chino with the language of english are only the beginning. There were intimate and lively chats with visitors to the lodge and daily excursions where I got an up-close and personal encounter with nature Three times a day my body was filled with wholesome food from a buffet that looks  fit for royalty. Pure wholesome food coupled with frequent hikes in the jungle and my health soared like squirrel monkeys leaping from treetops.

Truthfully, hanging 40 meters above the jungle floor in a harness was actually the safest place I could possibly be even if my head was trying to tell me something else. The same is true with life, there is no real security in any one thing whether it would be money, job, home or stability. A lesson life has taught me is that the most secure place you'll ever be is that place where you're meant to be. There was more safety and security in me giving up everything and going to the jungle there ever would have been staying on and holding on to shreds of things that no longer served me.    

The most interesting part about the zipline experience is that you don't just jump once and are done with it. Your first jump lands you on a first platform where you are met there by a guide and when hooked up again. In total you actually have to leap three times before you get to the final station and are lowered down to the jungle floor. 

Coming back from the jungle there are still multiple leaps I still have to take in daily life in the area of trust. Everytime my fears creep up on me and want to steal my ability to trust, all I have to do is remember the moment when I was strapped to the zipline and I took a deep breath and chose trust over fear. All I can remember is that in the very next moment, for one eternal second I felt what it was like to be one of those majestic Macaws gliding effortlessly over the jungle......

Monday, November 14, 2016

Iquitos.......Hotspot or Hodgepodge?

roasted grubs on a stick

"Hodgepodge or hotspot?" That is the question that screams through my mind as i narrowly escape the endless rows of amazon tour companies beckoning my attention on the streets of Iquitos.

The masses descend upon Iquitos like a swarm of piranhas to a carcass. A general rule of thumb is that people are here for one of two reasons or perhaps abit of both. Foreigners are in Iquitos either getting a taste of the Amazon jungle or to participate in a Shamanic ceremony taking  Ayahuasca.

Ayahuasca for those that may not be familiar is a psychedelic tea concoction made from plants and herbs of the Amazon. It is taken as part of a special ceremony with a Shaman preceding over it. Ingestion of Ayahuasca can result in dizziness, vomiting, hallucinations and visions. Unfortunately there are those who did not take the ceremony seriously and do their research and ingestion of the tea resulted in death.

Ayahuasca popularity is evidenced by the amount of restaurants one can walk into in Iquitos where they have two menus, a regular menu and the other for those who are on the Ayahuasca diet. Namely no fried food, no alcohol, no fatty foods or spicy foods either etc.

In Iquitos mosquitos will feed off your body if like a stupid sucker one walks out without repellant. Likewise, crooks and robbers feed off naivety like there is no tomorrow. Whether one is here for Ayahuasca or the Amazon, you can bet that there is someone out there who is more than willing to overcharge and under-deliver on the experience you are looking for.

 The best protection against crooks in this place isn't with a gun or pepper spray, it is with knowledge and research. Knowledge that tells you that Tahuayo Lodge has one of the best reputations out there. Research that informs you that there is both a false monkey island and butterfly farm and a real monkey island and butterfly world and how exactly to get there. In Iquitos many boat drivers are being paid a special commission to take naive unprepared visitors to the fake versions of the real places.

When it comes to Iquitos, doing a little homework goes a long way in having a flawless stay in the city. Instead of getting ripped off by some unsavory tour operator; conned by a disingenuous Shaman; robbed at Belen market or fallen victim to a scam, one can take your hard earned cash and sit outside enjoying a cup of coffee at Amazon Bistro. Or hear the excited chatter of Ayahuasca drinkers as they converge at the Karma cafe while enjoying delicious spoonfuls of Thai green curry.

Or perhaps your greatest triumph of all will be having returned from Belen market with camera intact full of magnificent pics without getting robbed because you were smart and took a guide and little cash, unlike those other silly gringos who decided to pop by there with a $4000 camera hanging from their neck for all the world to see......

Pilpintuwasi butterfly farm and animal orphanage 


Monday, November 07, 2016

Crazy Critters at Yarina Lake

While on a mini vacay to the Amazon Research Center, I did a 4.5 hour hike to Yarina Lake. There I encountered a whole host of crazy critters that I thought I'd only ever see watching National Geographic channel. From that one hike I came back so chock full of interesting photos that I've dedicated an entire post just to all the creatures I encountered that one afternoon

disclaimer: social media can paint a perfect picture of someones adventures and leave people thinking that they are living some kind of fairytale life. As you look at these photos what they don't show you is me going over slippery logs, trudging through mud, getting rained upon etc. There was even a couple of times during the hike that I stepped onto what I thought would be semi-solid ground and within a sec my leg had been swallowed up thigh-high into soft mud.

Yarina Lake

Rose Toed Tarantula

Crested Forest Toad

Mata-mata (turtle)

Amorous Alpacas

Amorous Alpacas