TerraTraveler volume 1 Sophisticated Cruising

18 || TERRA TRAVELERS I wake up suddenly just as daylight is sneaking into my room, startled by an otherworldly noise disturbing my dreams. At first I think the plumbing is playing up and a drain is painfully protesting. Ex- cept I’m in the jungle, where the plumb- ing facilities are minimal. The sound is spooky and ethereal, as if a vortex has opened to the underworld and a ghoul is calling me in. It’s the weirdest noise I’ve ever heard, and I was awestruck. Not for the sound alone, but for what it sig- nified – I was in the magical, magnificent Amazon. This vast rainforest gives the world its oxygen and contains creatures, plants and entire tribes never encountered anywhere else. It’s an endless mass that you fly over realising that if your plane goes down, there’s a good chance they’re never going to find you. Its estimated 390 billion trees protect 1,300 bird species and more than 430 types of mammals. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) says millions of its species are still undescribed, and between 2014- 2015, a new plant or animal was discov- ered every two days. Male howler monkeys are the source of the-ghouls-are-coming-to-get-you yodeling that woke me, and we see them on a jungle walk that morning. They’re large monkeys living in families in the treetops, which makes us an easy target far below when the dominant male urinates on us, in case we didn’t get the vocal memo about this being his territory. The Amazon covers eight countries, and I was staying in Tambopata National Reserve in Peru. I flew in from Lima on a small plane above the snowy Andes that looked unnervingly close. Finally the snow gave way to browns again, then the mountains flattened out into green rainforest. We left the bulk of our luggage at the offices of EcoAmazonia in the town of Puerto Maldonado, taking only a back- pack. You don’t need much for three days in the jungle. Mostly just a camera, torch, sun lotion and lashings of insect repellent. Then we boarded a boat on the car- amel-coloured Rio Bajo Madre de Dios, which meets the actual Amazon River hundreds of miles downstream. This particular part of the jungle is less dense and intimidating than ex- pected. I’d imagined canoeing by hand through narrow channels, push- Lesley Stones An Amazonian Adventure