“You never took us to Disney land” my kids complain whenever we fight. What a bad mother I have been. “But you got to swing, Tarzan style, on a vine in a real jungle” I can now snap back, at least at Jack. I thought I’d been to the jungle before. But, once I got to the Amazon I knew everything before this was just jungle lite. I had never seen anything as dense, tangled and creature filled. Jack and I spent many wonderful hours hiking, wading and slipping through the rainforest, carefully following our machete-wielding guide.
Nothing prepares you for the heat, the rain, the mud or the mosquitos. They are particularly ferocious. Locals say, “Just don’t scratch the bites”. Ha! I found myself unconsciously clawing at various large red welts, constantly. More importantly nothing had prepared me for the beauty of the jungle. There is the obvious splendor of the gigantic trees, the mish mash of vines and the shocking brightness of the flowers. Then there is the more hidden wonder of mating grasshoppers, poisonous dart frogs, hairy tarantulas, sleeping sloths and hundreds of different birds.
The Amazon starts high in the Andes and runs to the Atlantic, approximately the same distance as New York City to Rome. It houses 10% of all species on the planet with more being discovered daily. The forest absorbs a huge amount of CO2, earning it the nickname the lungs of the world. Jack and I could feel the difference this freshness of air made. We had way more energy, slept better and were nicer people (though that may be due to vacation mode).
Offsetting our exhausting, exhilarating treks were tranquil Indiana Joneseque low canoe rides through the mangroves and swamps. Not having to watch our step made it easier to see the canopy above us and better understand the diversity.
Sadly, 137 plant and animal species are said to be lost every day. Deforestation is a huge problem. If it continues at today’s rates scientists estimate that half of the ten million species that currently exist will be extinct. They also believe 70% of rainforest plants have anti cancer properties. Would be a shame to loose cures before we even discover them.
Our last night was spent sleeping in hammocks deep in the jungle. It was noisy, exciting, uncomfortable but most of all dark. I have never not been able to see, anything, at all. The dense overhead growth kept out the stars and moon. We were a 30-minute hike from the nearest people, the nearest light. It was incredible! An unforgettable you Tarzan, me Jane experience.