We were grateful for bug screens on our trip to the Amazon, but the natural world often defies human-made barriers.
For instance, we shared The Hammock Room at the Research Center with a tarantula. He wasn’t as interested in us as we were in him.
It was a reminder to shake out our shoes each morning before getting dressed. Insects and critters found their way into our little sanctuary, but it was the ones I couldn’t see that bugged me.
We ventured into the jungle with Orlando, our guide. In spite of the heat and 90+ percent humidity, we covered as much skin as possible with clothing, and sprayed the rest with repellant. Nighttime mosquitoes carry malaria, daytime ones dengue fever, and I forget which ones carry yellow fever, but I didn’t want to be breakfast for anybody.
Below are a few of my own unofficial rules of the jungle for the timid traveler.
Rule of the Jungle #1– bring mosquito repellent!
Fallen trees and leaves, mud, and overnight storms in the tropical rainforest made hiking challenging.
We wore rubber boots to keep our feet dry. Bea stepped in a puddle deeper than anticipated, and water poured into her boot.
Rule of the Jungle # 2–Watch your step!
Orlando uprooted several small trees, and cut the trunks off with his machete to make tea from the bark to relieve his mother’s arthritis. He replanted the roots in the fertile soil, so the tree would survive. Maybe the tea really was for his mom, but it was a tactful way of providing us with walking sticks to help balance on slippery walkways.
Rule of the Jungle #3–Take the hand extended to you, and be grateful for kindness in any form or guise.
So many trees and leaves were poisonous, covered with harmful insects or razor-sharp edges. Another guest at the Research Center slipped and braced herself on a porcupine tree. It left dozens of venomous barbs in in her hand, which swelled up painfully. The nearest doctor was hours away, so her guide cut the barbs out with pins and a knife, and gave her anti-biotics.
Rule of the Jungle #4–Don’t touch ANYTHING!
Rule of the Jungle # 5–There are exceptions to any rule.
Orlando caught Olive Whip Snake with his bare hands.
He showed us how to handle a snake without getting bitten…
Orlando’s grandfather was a shaman. “My grandfather said if you can get a snake to wrap around you, it will become gentle and give you its energy.” As soon as it wrapped around him, the snake grew calm, and then Orlando released it into a tree.
Rule of the Jungle #6–Be as open to new experiences as you can without endangering yourself or others.
Rule of the Jungle #7–Bring your camera!!
We caught many tantalizing glimpses of wildlife, but they were often quicker than I was when it came to focusing the camera.
However, some critters obligingly held still for me.
Occasionally I would be rewarded with a shot like this.
Rule of the Jungle #8–Only you can know what it requires for you to glean the most meaning and satisfaction out of your jungle experience or your life. Do no harm, be respectful, but make up your own rules, and break them whenever necessary.
All images and words copyright 2013 NaomiBaltuck
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