Irapay Amazon Lodge
At the edge of the Jungle city, I saw the river for the first time. It was muddy, thicker than any water I had seen before, with life teeming above and below its impenetrable surface. I strapped on a lifevest, 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.
On my side of the Amazon River, were trees with smooth, light trunks growing deep into the water. Their branches draped and spread, 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, like 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 rounding bend after bend, I could just make out thatched roofs atop the high cliffs, and the canoe pulled off onto a little landing.
When we climbed the wooden planked walkway to the top, I looked around knew I would never want to leave. Everywhere there were exotic, colorful plants, and palm trees, with birds I’d never seen before flying to and fro, singing all the while, with 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 see the sun lower between the fringe of palm trees.
A kidney-shaped pool lay in the center of the resort, just a few feet from my door. It encompassed a bar on one side, and rectangular portico on the other, wrapped round by the arms of a wading pool, and surrounded by shaded lounge chairs and hammocks.
Life began to move a little bit slower, with greater clarity, for this was a place where you could live and breathe deeply.
During my time at the Lodge, our tour guide, Flavio, unveiled a world I'll never forget (read about it HERE). There were baby anacondas at the animal refuge, and spider monkeys rescued from the black market that would jump on your shoulders and pick your pockets. I walked through an enclosure with hundreds of butterflies feeding on plantains, their iridescent blue wings flashing opened and closed—eyes upon eyes. We spotted dozens of pink dolphins, and fished for orange-bellied piranhas with willow sticks and raw chicken, and then held them—jagged-toothed and glaring—in our bare hands. There was birdwatching before the dawn where we saw Tucans and Kingfishers and funny birds with neon-yellow wings that built hive-like nests and cackled like witches at a cauldron.
An indigenous tribe, called the Boras, lived near the resort. 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, the batons striking the ground again and again, while their voice rose and fell, mimicking the sounds of the storm that sweeping through the Jungle.
Theirs was a mystical world, with no separation between earth and spirit, where the rain was its own entity, carrying life and death. A world that somehow moved in parallel with my own. I sat on my bed and closed my eyes to take it in, as their voices continued unbroken for an hour, and the drums beat steadily 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 delicious 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—veritable secret gardens of bright flowers and palm trees, filled with the songs of strange birds—and I wandered happily, writing in cozy nooks, savoring the pace of life and the wild beauty 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. Soon. 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.
Somewhere, deep in the Jungle, was a tribe giving thanks for the rain. I could hear the beating of the drums.