calanoa amazonas

Seems gap years are absolutely not for hanging out with your mother. So I was particularly pleased when Jack agreed to spend two weeks of his surprisingly action packed year traveling with me. We met in Bogota. Then we headed 1000 km south to the small town of Leticia right where Brazil, Peru and Colombia meet. A two-hour boat ride up the Amazon later we pulled up to Calanoa, a tiny jungle lodge in the middle of nowhere. We had found heaven.

Heaven with a social conscience. The lodge is located in a private nature reserve overlooking the shockingly wide Amazon; think sea more than river. Everything at the camp is designed with the support and participation of the local indigenous people. It is an experiment to discover which designs and which local materials work best in the hot and unbelievably humid climate. Needless to say my hair was huge and nothing ever got dry. If there were kinks they were gone by the time we got there.

Our cabin was simple and elegant. Jack had an upstairs loft to himself. My bed looked out to the water. Not your typical luxury. There’s no hot water. The generator only provides electricity for a couple hours each evening, just enough time to recharge all your electronics. Don’t even think about checking email, there is no Wi-Fi or cell reception. Going without was liberating!! It definitely added to the feeling of adventure.

What Calanoa does provide, in spades, is the luxury of experiencing nature in its most pristine. Everyday we went on two or three excursions with a guide from one of the neighboring villages (and an English translator as our Spanish is pretty poor). Their knowledge of the jungle is awe inspiring. Sometimes we traveled by boat, some times on foot. The location is completely inaccessible by car. Or truck.

In my journal, I noted that there are 7500 species of butterflies, 1800 different kinds of birds, 3200 kinds of fish, 2000 kinds of reptiles and amphibians and 800 different insects. “Most of them poisonous” adds Jack. I also diarized each and every day just how ferocious the mosquitos are. The environmentally friendly repellant I brought from Canada did not cut it. We begged and bartered the strong stuff from other guests.

Each evening guests share a large community table. While I had my reservations about having to talk to strangers every night, we both loved the experience. Seems everyone who makes the trek this far into the jungle is interesting and adventurous. It didn’t hurt that the food was plentiful and delicious, mostly local and usually organic.

This is a must visit place. More about the actual jungle soon!