Jungle Life: Part Two

*this is the second in a four part series, detailing my time volunteering in Manu National Park in Peru in January this year. A new chapter will be posted every Monday*

Part Two: Monkeys & Vines; an un usual combination

Chiko and Paula asleep on my bed....with me

By Morgan Pettersson.

It was a very interesting first day in the Jungle.

I awoke to a crash on my bed, which I assumed was Lizzie falling or stepping onto my mattress, so I ignored it.

Rookie error, instead it was one of the resident monkeys Paula jumping from the bamboo wall onto my bed.

She landed atop the mosquito net that we were sleeping under onto my leg and proceeded to curl up and go to sleep for the next hour with her tail wrapped around her head.

It was such a calm and surreal experience to have a monkey sleeping with me.

Suddenly the second, younger monkey, Chiko swings over the wall from the neighbouring room and proceeds to hang by his tail in search of his mate.

On spotting her he too leaps on to my bed and curls up with Paula and falls asleep.

One of the long term volunteers, a fellow Australian, reassured us that it is normal for the monkeys to try to sleep with you at night.

For this entire bizarre episode I had laid as still as possible, unsure of how to act and not wanting to move my leg in case of a monkey attack.

Alvaro cutting up the stick to eat

I soon realised however that it was the mosquito net that was actually providing them support and was soon able to sit up properly, and was no longer staring at the monkeys from a weird angle.

They were both so friendly and so used to human interaction, especially Chiko who was raised in captivity.

During breakfast they would start climbing up your leg and into your lap, which was great unless you were trying to eat.

After breakfast we went with Alvaro, the main person in charge of the conservation project, into the jungle for observation.

We only saw one animal the whole trek, a poisonous snake sitting on a rock in the centre of the river.

It was a baby and not very big but its yellow and black diamond pattern spelt danger.

It was a very hard walk, steep uphill for half of it through mud and high humidity, and Alvaro was so fit he barely broke a sweat.

The rest of us on the other hand were gasping for breath and begging to stop.

My current congestion mixed with the humidity made my chest hurt and I didn’t fully marvel at the scenery to begin with.

We stopped eventually at a point half way up a hill and Alvaro picked up a large stick like plant with gum dropping off it.

He proceeded to cut into it to reveal a white fruit, which was supposed to cure or prevent the eater of cancer.

We all had a bite, after Alvaro banished it threateningly in front of our faces, and it resembled an apple in texture, but not in taste so much.

Further on down the trail it began to slope and was started to come across streams and waterfalls.

The waterfall

It was absolutely breathtaking and it culminated in coming across a huge waterfall, after re cutting a path through the jungle.

This was completely off the beaten track and we began to need to climb under and over fallen trees and plant life.

To make the experience even more complete we arrived at the top of a waterfall and had to climb down it and across it, which lead to some amazing photo opportunities.

It looked like a scene out of a water advertisement.

The most interesting part of the day though was when we came to a section of the jungle where the ‘old trees’ were and there was one giant tree in particular with a vine hanging from it.

This Alvaro proceeded to run and swing Tarzan style up and over the treetops lying on the jungle floor below us.

I decided I had to try it and so after psyching myself up, and being really, really scared I was going to hit the trees in front of us, and I don’t like heights and this was not safe in any way, I swang out and faced my fears.

It was amazing!

I felt completely inhibited, seeing the entire jungle spread out below!

That was until I came back and freaked out about landing on a precarious tree root and forgot to let go.

This debacle resulted in Alvaro trying to grab me, the vine continuing to swing back out with me and Alvaro, us slamming into a nearby tree and some how entangling my shirt and bra into a stump in the vine.

Alvaro kept hold of me as we re swung over the jungle below us, and he attempted to pull me off as I was now hanging by my shirt.

Completely topless, flashing my three friends and two other volunteers who had come on the bus with us the previous day.

Eventually with Alvaro still holding onto my legs I managed to pull my shirt off over my head and we landed with a crash onto the jungle floor.

The famous vine

The best part of this story is that I landed in Alvaro’s lap, completely topless and exposed.

Ever the gentleman Alvaro proceeded to stare as I attempted to put my bra back on which was tangled up and to put my retrieved shirt back on.

We sat laughing on the forest floor for about a minute before getting up and climbing back up to the others.

Meanwhile the other two new volunteers had managed to swing on the vine fine without any shirt loosing incidents.

There is nothing you can do in these situations except for laugh, and laugh I did.

Although the closer we came to camp the more embarrassed I felt as I knew everyone was going to get a really good laugh over lunch.

Alvaro on the other hand had a bounce in his step and proclaimed that it was the best morning trek he had ever been on and thought that It was absolutely hilarious.

(He had also been in the jungle for this time for about three months).

The path we took back was different to the one was came on, thankfully, and we ended up walking back by the raging river, jumping from rock to rock and along the sand bank on the side.

As there was still an hour before lunch we decided to trek 15mintues to the small nearby waterfall, which had a pool at the bottom that you can swim in.

It was amazing to wade out into the clear, cool, naturally fresh flowing water and to feel so pure and so close to nature.

We also took a rather risqué photo shoot with the four of us girls, with such a great setting why not?

This afternoon we have just rested and had a nap and then Alvaro took us on a tour of the medicinal plants that are growing all around camp.

The small waterfall

They each have interesting properties and can cure ailments, diseases, fevers, cancers and all sorts of other problems.

One interesting development so far has been that Chiko, the boy monkey, has taken a considerable liking to my friend Felicity who is naturally a red head and who’s hair is a scarily similar shade to Chikos.

He follows her whenever he can and physically attaches himself to her as well.

This is a love story to watch.

*next week: the Chiko love story unfolds, a trek through the jungle to a waterfall, conservation work, amazon river swimming and the love story sours via monkey bites*

 

*A big thank you to Ecopressed for featuring this post on their mini features section: ecopressed.com*

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