Irapay Amazon Lodge

 

It was at the edge of the Jungle city of Iquitos that I entered the Amazon river for the first time. The water was muddy and thicker than any I’d seen before, with life teeming above and below its opaque surface. I strapped on a life-vest, and stepped into the powered canoe, gripping the sides tightly as the other passengers boarded and it rocked side-to-side. The motor roared, and we slid deep into the river, passing other canoes with sun-weathered men bent in tired C's over their rudders after a long night of checking their nets. Trees with smooth, light trunks, grew deep into the water. Their branches draped and spread downward, like skirts of braided vine. The mirrored surface of the river remained undisturbed by our passing, completing the shapes that dipped below their surface, in symmetry otherworldly in perfection—patterns that shifted and twisted in the brown glass as we passed, in a kaleidoscope of perspective.

The canoe was taking the group to the Irapay Amazon Lodge, a resort off a branch of the Amazon River. After about forty-five minutes, we docked at a little landing and climbed the wooden planked walkway up the hillside. At the top, were stunning grounds with exotic plants, and palm trees, and birds I'd never seen flying to and fro, singing all the while, and colors so vivid that it felt like a lie.

I was staying in a picturesque, luxurious little “hut”—a stand-alone, airy dwelling, with enormous screened windows and a modern private bath. There was no air-conditioning, but the hut was well designed, cooled by cross breezes and a ceiling fan. Just outside the front door was a pleasantly shaded porch with comfortable lounge chairs from which you could watch the sun lower between the fringe of palm trees.

A kidney-shaped pool was at the heart of the resort. It through encompassed a water-bar on one side, and a rectangular portico on the other, with wading pool channels mere feet from the guest rooms and shaded lounge chairs and hammocks on all sides.

The resort offered customizable tour packages of the Amazon for its guests, and during my time at the Lodge, our main guide, Flavio, unveiled a world I'll never forget. There were baby anacondas at the animal refuge, and spider monkeys that would jump on your shoulders and pick your pockets. He took us to a butterfly sanctuary and into an enclosure with hundreds of butterflies feeding on plantains, their iridescent blue wings flashing opened and closed—eyes upon eyes upon eyes. We went to the waters where the pink dolphins played, and we caught orange-bellied piranhas with willow sticks and raw chicken. There was sunrise boat-tours to watch the birds where we saw Tucans and Kingfishers and neon-yellow creatures that built hive-like nests and cackled like witches at a cauldron.

An indigenous tribe, called the Boras, lived near the resort, and Flavio took us to their village one day, and we listened to their singing and danced together. When the Amazon rain came that night in all its fury, the tribe's songs echoed through the resort grounds—the drums pounding above the torrent, staffs striking the ground again and again while their voice rose and fell, mimicking the sounds of the storm that swept through the Jungle. Theirs was a mystical world, with no separation between earth and spirit, where the rain was its own divine entity, carrying life and death. A world that somehow moved in parallel with my own. The storm raged, and their voices continued unbroken for hours, the drums beating steadily on and on...

When I woke, the world was washed, sparkling and new.

A little cafe sat at one corner of the resort, where my mornings unfolded slowly, amidst the rich aromas of espresso and cream mingled with the honeyed sweetness of fresh-baked rolls smothered in maracoya jam from the Jungle. The mid-afternoon and evening meals were served in a spacious, round dining room, and featured jungle cuisine—juices from jungle fruit, spicy sausage and rice, fish caught in the Amazon river, and plantains from the trees nearby, cooked in every way imaginable.

While there, I lived unplugged from the outside world and took full advantage of being off-grid. I waded in the pool, read in a hammock that overlooked the Rio Momon, and lounged with other guests under the portico, drinking amber Cosquena beer and mojitos. The grounds were bursting with life and begging to be explored, and I wandered happily, writing in cozy nooks, taking in the wild beauty all around me.

I experienced a profound spiritual connection and unwinding there, and could only console myself to leaving by making a solemn deal to return. The morning I departed, the clouds were black and swollen with rain. They loaded my bags into the canoe, and I watched the thatched huts disappear from the cliff tops as we skimmed around the sinuous curves of the great river, back to the chaos of Iquitos.

Later that evening, the clouds burst, and the rains swept through the Iquitos. Back in the Jungle, the Boras were singing, giving thanks for the rain.

I could still hear the beating of the drums.


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