I just got back from the selva (the jungle.... the Amazon to be exact) and racing 180 kilometers (don't ask me to convert that) for three days down the Amazon river in a raft that I built with three fellow peacecordian chicas from Ancash (ANCASH LADIES DO IT BETTER!) There are so many stories, funny moments, desperate moments, people met, that I don't even know where to begin. I guess I will start with what hit me first.
The HEAT. Calor to the extreme. I mean, I realized going into this that I would be dealing with a rain forest.. a jungle... and that means humidity and omnipresent sun... but I definitely didn't realize HOW much that would affect me until I got there. The heat consumes you and there is no escape. Your pores feel as if they are pouring out sweat like sap seeps from the bark of gum trees. Sweat takes the form of tears... I drink so much water and it all would come pouring out of me. Under the cover of the Amazonian rainforest and its myriad of trees and plants was where the heat licked your body the most. We went on a trek the day before the raft race which included hacking thru the Amazon with a machete and looking for monkeys, birds, weird bugs and spiders and that's where I felt I was being cooked the most. And unlike the cold, where you can put layers and layers of clothes, mittens, wool socks, find some good blankets, make a fire and drink cocoa... there is nothing you can do besides melt in the humidity in the jungle. It made me appreciate my mountains that much more.
On that day trek we got to take a 2 hour boat ride as well, which means we visited some local villages (how crazy and awesome would it be to be stationed out there where you commuted with a little boat?), held a baby sloth, and saw gray and PINK dolphins! Then we were off on the great (gret.. hehe Colleen) journey down the Amazon River for three days!
The first day is meeting the other 47 teams... getting on a bus and going from Iquitos to Nauta. Once in Nauta we procured much needed supplies (some machetes, rope, a hammer, two young boys who know how to make a raft...) and then crossed the river to start building our home for three days. :) Naturally, us peacecordians had no clue where to start. Every team was given 8 balsa logs and three smaller strips of wood and 30 meters of rope and some nails. We then had from 3 p.m. till the next day to construct the thing. With the help of the boys and a chainsaw we macheted and constructed a ghetto looking thing before sunset. We had no idea if it would hold up on us. But we were content with having finished before any other team did (actually I was worried that we hadn't spent enough time on the thing.. thinking it would surely come apart by day 3)... and it floated! That's a good sign.
The entire thing was a camping trip. The people who organize this Longest Raft Race in the World are VERY well organized, the food is good, the staff friendly.. they gave us little mattress things every night to sleep on (nobody needs a sleeping bag... it's too hot) and two of the three nights we slept in schools! :) There were bugs but not nearly as many as I though there would be and actually I came away pretty much unscathed except for 10 blisters from rowing (having done crew in college did come in handy!), some bad sun burns on the ankles, and ten cold sores on the lips (heat induced I'm sure). And you know what? We did it! Us four girls came about in the middle of the pack every day and our ghetto boat was the little raft that could! We even had the clunky heavy oars and the shoulders and back were definitely sore for a day.
For me, the best parts of the experience would have to be my team Ancash Ladies Do it Better (we were constantly singing on the top of our lungs... RESPECT... I'm on a BOAT.... build me up Buttercup... Bohemian Rhapsody... the Spice Girls.. as well as the "gotta along without you before I met you" harmonizing jingle... just to name a few of the tunes), getting into fast currents (and when I say fast currents I mean faster than when we were basically moving nowhere when we felt like we were sitting in a lake), and jumping into the river whenever we felt like it. Awww... that water felt so good. I mean. It was dirty. But it FELT so good. Other highlights would have to include the finishes each day (except for the LAST day when the last part we had to row UP current for fifteen minutes)... the first two days endings were happy because the local kids were swimming with us helping push our boats into shore, everybody cheers, and you just feel so STRONG for doing it and eating oreos and other goodies when we got tired. Also, the other rafters on the river with us were amazing and fun... we spent most of our river time with not our fellow peacecordian boats, but some men from France who were hilarious and some Limenos who pirated our ship. :)
The Amazon River is SO big... and wide... and we had to cross it a BILLION times. Well, it felt like it. :) It was amazing and I'll never feel as badass as I did when I was doing it... until next year of course!
So long Amazon! Hasta la proxima