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The Tale of Sara and the SLOTH!

The room is lit only by the soft glow of a kerosene lantern sitting in the corner. As I lay down in my bed after a long day, I realize event the sheets are damp from the intense humidity that fills the air.  I look up at the mosquito net that separates me from the outdoors, and I long to see the stars shimmering in the Amazonian sky but instead see only the underside of the cabin’s thatched roof. The screen extends down and makes up the top half of the wall, providing a perfect window to the jungle around me. The room is silent except for the constant humming of the swarming “bichos,” or bugs, outside and the occasional howl of a monkey from deep in the jungle. Moments later, I am suddenly grateful for the shelter the cabin offers from the wild as I hear the first crackle of thunder as a rain storm lets loose. The animal sounds are now overpowered by the large drops of water pounding into the roof and falling on to the ground outside. The once putrid smell of sweaty, wet, bug spray-covered clothing slowly mixes with the fresh smell that the water brings as I fall into a deep, relaxing slumber. It’s not possible to plan for all of the adventures that can be found in the Amazon Rainforest.

Without a doubt, traveling to Iquitos, a city of approximately 400,000 people, located in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon, was one of the most unique experiences of my life thus far. After an early morning flight last Friday, we landed at the airport, were picked up by our guide and were taken on a brief tour of the city. One of our stops was a traditional food market where vendors sold and cooked their products along the street. There were many different local fruits, river fish, suri (grilled caterpillar) and caiman, a species of crocodile the lives in the rainforest’s freshwater lakes and rivers, for sale.

To reach the lodge, we had to take a boat down the Amazon River. The Amazon was far wider and deeper than I envisioned. Near Iquitos, parts of the river were more than one kilometer wide, and our guide said it was approximately 30 meters deep in some places. The river continues to grow in both depth and width as it crosses Brazil as well. After a long day of traveling, the best part of Friday was watching the sun set while we were on a boat floating in down the Amazon River.

We woke up early the morning of the second day in the jungle to try to spot the elusive Amazonian and pink and gray freshwater dolphins. We were successful and getting to see them in the wild was without a doubt another high point of the trip. On Saturday, because it is flood season in the Amazon, we canoed through parts of the flooded jungle to see the different flora and fauna. In the afternoon, we fished for piranhas and went swimming in the middle of the Amazon River. I was not worried about the depth, current or animals lurking in the water. Rather, my biggest concern was that I didn’t have my bathing suit or towel with me, but I decided to jump in with my clothes on because I knew it would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Sunday was the most memorable for me because it was the day of the sloth. We spent the morning at an animal sanctuary. I played with the monkeys, saw a macaw and toucan, held a small anaconda and a baby caiman, and, of course, made friends with an “oso perezoso,” the sloth.  For most of the year, the sanctuary is open land that the monkeys and birds can roam around, and they are fed in an open sheltered building. However, the sanctuary grounds were under water and most of the animals were concentrated in the small shelter, which made it easier to play with them.

Knowing full well that I will probably never have the opportunity to return, it was difficult to leave the city of Iquitos and the Amazon Rainforest behind. After three crazy days, I will admit, however, that at the same time it was comforting to return to Lima and have clean clothes, a cozy, dry bed and a hot shower waiting for me.

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