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Amazonian Adventure

guideBeing close to Cuzco, after we left Machu Picchu, it seemed almost rude not to pop in on the neighbouring Amazonian area at Puerto Maldonado.  Our daughter's fear of the ordinary ant would surely be shrunk into perspective! As our time to arrive approached we realised that we were hopelessly unprepared. Our bags were full of ski gear and swimwear and not the lightweight breathable, and long, clothing needed. Our last night in Cuzco was spent dashing round the shops looking, rather unsuccessfully, for garments that would save our skin - literally.

Our accommodation was arranged at Estancia Bello Horizonte. From the airport we were taken to the office, where we left the un-necessary luggage and hung out briefly in the efficient cafe next door awaiting another family. Both are run to fund a children's home, but at no point were we asked for a donation. By staying at the lodge you are supporting the project. From the town it takes about 45 minutes in the minibus to reach the lodge.

There are several cabins in the clearing which overlooks an open view of tropical rainforest. The twin bedded simple rooms had pristine bedding and nets and bathroom. There were 2 rooms together sharing a terrace, which was perfect for the 4 of us. 3 course tasty meals were presented in the dining room (a large caged space), where you sit together with your guide and other guests encouraging friendships and chat. There is also a netted bar area with games and inviting hammocks.

After a lovely lunch and a quick dip in the natural pool, we and our Catalunyan companions, joined Henri who guided through the forest around the property - getting us to chew on this numbing plant and smell that one, watching giant ants and monkey's movements. A taste of what's to come.

Next day - unfortunately minus my husband who had taken a dislike to his malerial tablets! - we set out into the rainforest. It was hot, around 36 degrees, and we are wearing too many clothes; caps with ear and neck protection, trousers tucked into socks. But we got on with it and began to see the walk through Henri's eyes and stories. We heard about naked cannibal tribes and hovered over tarantula's holes and were followed by large and colourful butterflies.

butterfliesOn reaching a small tributary river we climbed into a wooden boat that was manouvered along by pole. You wont see other tourists here as its on the lodge's land and we got stuck and had to machete our way through at points. We were going in search of caiman's - little crocodiles - and we saw a few small ones dozing on the riverbanks. Then we made our way back and on arrival dashed for the pool, which is 400m from the rest of the lodge, was a very welcoming dip. The hubbie was busy hydrating himself and hoping to join us the following day.

By now with the challenges of the rainforest, the swopping of diorolite sachets and encouraging of children, the two families in our group were feeling some camaraderie. The following days excursion felt a breeze compared to the previous one as we zipped along in a motor boat to see colourful birds and sloths at dawn. This was followed by a walk through the forest to Lake Sandoval. We began to see the insect world in a new light - carefully stepping round ant trails and studying the patterns of their lumberjack work, feeling relaxed in the presence of a tarantula, trying to capture that illusive photo of a bright blue butterfly the sound of your hand, and befriending lizards and giant stick insects.

Once on our wooden boat we emerged on the lake in search of otters, turtles, caiman and prehistoric birds. Lunch was a rice dish wrapped in a banana leaf taken under a tree at the water's edge whilst batting off beautiful butterflies. If too hot you could take a splash - literally, to warn the sting rays.

We returned to Puerto Maldonado for a refreshing icecream and quick Wifi catch up before returning for the last supper and a beer over backgammon. There were sad farewells. When you experience such an adventure with people it does seem to create a strong bond!