Whilst being very excited to be in Santa Marta, we were keen to explore a little further whilst we had opportunity to leave the yacht in a safe location. Having searched around on the internet, I had found a company (Amazonas Jungle Tours) that provided Amazonian adventures on the borders of Colombia, Peru and Brazil. Too good to miss, I started investigating flights and found a relatively cheap option from Santa Marta to Bogota and on to Leticia on the Amazonas region. However, when trying to pay for the flights online with a British credit card I was amazed to see the price of the tickets treble !! Not a happy bunny at this stage as you can imagine. Luckily Steve suggested visiting a travel agent in town to get the 'local rate' and thereby curbing my stress and language (sorry Mum and Dad !).
Our travel arrangements worked well although I did have slight wobble when we started our descent into Bogota and as I was commenting on the pine trees, I started to notice the other passengers donning jumpers and coats. Ah yes, Bogota is at a higher altitude and therefore appreciably cooler than Santa Marta. What a pity we were wearing shorts and flip flops. In the end, we only had a short wait in the temperature controlled airport before boarding our flight to Leticia, so no problem really.
We were greeted at Leticia airport by Sergio from Amazonas Jungle Tours and then taken to the office to size up for wellies and waterproof ponchos. En route we passed Santander park where the nightly spectacle of hundred of parrots coming in to roost takes place – it was an incredible sight and sound ! Having then dropped our belongs at a hotel for the night, we set out to explore Leticia. Our highlight of the evening has to have been watching the local burger restaurant serve up dozens of meals in the space of minutes.
Next morning we transferred down to the harbour at Tabatinga and boarded the Lineas Amazonas water taxi to travel up the Amazon to Puerto Narino, via stops in Brazil and Peru. I had to keep pinching myself – I was actually travelling along the huge chocolate mass of water that is the Amazon !
We were met at Puerto Narino by our guide Jesus Fernay and interpreter Cat. After a quick walk through the delightful village to drop off our bags at the hostel and we were taken to a restaurant for lunch. We really enjoyed the local food and juices (my vegan option was particularly good) and then headed back to the dock to board a small boat to see if we could find the famous pink river dolphins. We were not disappointed and saw pink and grey river dolphins as well as lots of birds and butterflies in the 'floating jungle.' A quick rest stop and change into our swim wear and it was time to swim with the piranhas. I thought Jesus Fernay was joking, but I can confirm that I saw a local fisherman pulling piranhas from the water where we jumped in ! Apparently they don't bite humans, but I exited the water very quickly when something brushed my back. Fellow swimmer Sarah also exited quickly when something brushed her back (minus the girly squeak I let out), remarking on the fact the you "can't see what's coming for you in the chocolate water."
We then set out for an evening boat trip caiman hunt with local guide Johnny even bringing a baby caiman on board for us to see, before releasing it to continue its night-time hunting. A very full day was topped off with another delicious meal before we collapsed into bed.
The following day we had a hearty breakfast to set us up for a hike through the jungle. It had been raining and our wellies and ponchos proved very useful, as did the walking stick Jesus Fernay cut for me, although I still managed to land on my bum in the mud. Having been shown numerous trees and plants and received explanations on how they are used by local tribes, we visited a conservation area where we met howler monkeys and caimans. Back in the village, we climbed the lookout tower to enjoy the views over Colombia and Peru whilst stuffing down local ice creams. We also had time to visit a local home to purchase some chuchuwasa (a spiced alcoholic drink) in order to fortify ourselves for the evening ahead. Now it was time for our night time jungle walk....
Having witnessed my less than graceful slips in the jungle during the day, Jesus Fernay was at pains to suggest that if I took another tumble I should keep my hands in the air. Apparently the jungle was full of tarantulas and scorpions at night – lovely ! Our torch lit walk was another fascinating insight into this incredible part of South America and was full of tarantulas, poisonous frogs and other wildlife. Inevitably I landed on my bum in the mud, but boy did I keep my hands in the air !! It's not so easy to get back on your feet without using your hands and I did have to resort to begging someone to help me up and “quickly please.”
After more delicious local food we opted for another early night and I was reminded of youth hosteling days in the UK where you spent the day 'swishing' in waterproof clothing, desperately trying to dry it overnight and being resigned to putting wet clothes back on in the morning. At least the Amazon wasn't cold.
All too soon our time in the jungle came to an end and we boarded the ferry back to Tabatinga and Leticia. Luckily we had some time to look around Leticia again before our flights back to Santa Marta and spent an enjoyable couple of hours in the Museo Etnográfico. Another unusual experience found us sitting in on a lecture about masks around the world, in Spanish, by a Swiss gentleman – really quite interesting if a little random. Arriving back in Santa Marta was a strange experience as all the other rally boats had moved on to Cartegena and there was no-one for me to bore with stories and hundreds of photos of our adventure. We'll catch them !