Posting from Copacabana, Bolivia, where I'm catching up with the events of the past days, blogger-wise!
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Exploring the depths of the jungle was the last thing we wanted to do after the horrible ending of the Inca Trail, but we had already paid lots of money for it so we mustered all our energy, packed up and left for the airport at 7am only to find out that our flight has been changed to 12:30pm... we could have slept, at least...
But it all turned out all right, and our jungle trip was much more relaxing than expected. Of course, there was walking involved (but not up and down) there were mosquitoes and sand-flies, but a good concentration of deet on your skin would scare the hell out of any living bug. The jungle-style accommodations (rooms open to the forest, no doors - just curtains, etc) were more comfortable than we thought - great beds, clean bathrooms, and awesome food. The only thing I didn't like was that people who had nothing in common were seated at the same table and occasionally I had to listen to obnoxious conversations of the type "so what exactly do you do in the United States", and god forbid, answer such questions...
Without asking for such a privilege, we had a "personal" guide - Omar - just for the two of us, which made things much easier - we walked at our own pace, asked all the questions we needed and were right close to him when he spotted animals hidden between the branches. We had to wake up at 4am almost every morning (understandably, after all those early awakenings on the Inca trail we hated getting out of bed before the sun) but we went to bed at 8pm so it was OK.
The rain forest is indeed like nothing I have seen so far. The tall green canopies, the abundance of strange-looking tree species, the thin trunks rising straight up to the sky, the monkeys jumping from branch to branch high above your head... it was worth the effort and the money. Seeing the macaws, parrots and parakeets feeding on clay by the hundreds early in the morning - allegedly to neutralize the toxins contained by some of the fruits they eat - was one of those experience one never quite forgets. As one of the ladies who was watching the clay lick with us said, "this experience has enhanced my whole being". I'm too cynical to make such a ridiculous statement, but it was beautiful nonetheless. Angela missed this event entirely, because she preferred to sleep late that morning, he he... no enhanced being for her!
One of the things I've learned was that it's really hard to get good pictures of wildlife in the jungle. On the forest floor there's never enough light and there are so many branches and leaves between you and the animals that taking shots of them is usually a futile endeavor. At the clay lick the birds were too far away, even for my 300mm lens. I tried though, and I even got some great shots of capibaras, a tapir, some birds, and even a piranha fished out of the water by Angela!