Puerto Maldonado is a rainforest town on the east side of Peru, near the Bolivian border. The airport is a single hangar building divided into ticketing and a two gate departures area. In town, locals buzz around dirt roads on scooters and auto rickshaws.
Our lodge was gracious enough to welcome us at the airport – even two days after our scheduled arrival. Our first stop was supposed to be the lodge’s in-town office. A two minute drive from the airport we pull into the driveway of a local home, a pile of scrap metal piled up on the side, laundry strung up in the yard, kids and dogs running around. A table on the porch provided some semblance of a check-in counter.
Soon we were off to the river—a fast taxi ride on dirt roads through the forest. At the bank of the river our driver left our bags on a bench, motioned us down a set of stairs towards the water and took off. At the bottom of the stairs we found our boat; loaded with boxes of supplies and with a local family seated and ready to ride. We settled in and one of the men on the boat pulled our lunch, including something wrapped in a leaf, out of a crate.
We had been warned that our delayed arrival meant there wasn’t an English speaking guide available to accompany us to the lodge and this is where we started to wish we were more conversational in Spanish. Especially as we watched a similar boat fill up with PFD-wearing gringos.
It wasn’t long, though, until we were relaxed and enjoying our scenic cruise. Which ended suddenly at a barely visible set of stairs leading up the bank and into the forest. We followed blindly for a quarter mile hike until finally arriving at our destination. The Inotawa Lodge was more impressive than we had imagined… big and airy with bamboo walls, windows stretching around the perimeter and towering ceilings topped by a roof woven from leaves. Open air rooms were clean and simple without hot water or electricity.
We quickly made ourselves at home in the hammocks but didn’t have much time to chill out as we soon met our guide and jumped right in to a full schedule of activities.
Our top five rainforest activities:
1. Watch out guide coax giant tarantulas out of their baby-filled nest (lots of big spiders in there!).
2. Take cold showers. Listen to everyone else react to the cold showers (the open air room design doesn’t allow much privacy)
3. Eat fabulous buffets of fresh, local foods like fish, eggs, plantains and fruit with fun fellow travelers from Europe andAustralia.
4. Fish for piranhas and search for caimans in the lake. Go swimming with the piranhas and the caimans.
5. Get up at dawn to watch the parrots feed, fight and flirt
Our three night stay was over waaaay to quickly but we were excited to be on to our next adventures.