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  • Writer's picturePru Warren

Eyeballing a Big Jungle

Thursday, 9.1.22 10:30am

It’s important, I find, to surrender any illusion that I can be physically attractive while traveling; I simply don’t have any energy to spare. I love the Athleta leggings because they have pockets. They’re totally comfortable and I can keep my passport, money, and a large packet of tissues on my left hip/thigh…which is already bulging pretty impressively without the additions.

On the right: My phone, in its book covering. And a tube of Burt’s Bees chapstick. AND a tube of sunblock lip balm. These stand out from my ample body through the lycra like a cartoon of the snake that swallowed a VW beetle. There is NO illusion that I’m not walking around with full saddlebags on my saddlebags…

…but see above, re: surrendering any hope of fashion of style. I just AM a big fat lady, bulging in odd places. (Or more places than usual.)

But here’s what I’ve learned in the jungle: I wish I’d added a belt. You know—for the FULL fashion faux pas look. Advised by Lindblad, I bought lightweight long pants with cuffed hems, and a lightweight long-sleeved shirt. Patagonia DOES make them in my size, but just barely—and when I stand next to Twig, in HER Patagonia togs, I look like the funouse mirror…but again: See above. Give up. Be comfortable; do right.Ignore the “look.”

But if I’d added a belt, then I could have hooked my Lindblad water bottle to it and proceeded with hands free. Every time the footing is uncertain, several small and very strong crewmen are there to offer firm and non-judgmental hands—but I was hampered by the fact that I was holding that stupid/wonderful bottle.

We were awoken at 5;30 by a knock on the door. Dawn was doing its thing but our view was hampered by condensation on the windows. We were in the boats by 6 (Twig ended up in a different boat, but Rusty and I were in the same boat by happenstance.) Jorge was our naturalist and Rey our “security” (I’m not asking why we need security on the Urucaya River)—but our ace in the hole was our driver, Primo, who had an absolutely uncanny eye (and the ability to spot TINY green birds in thick green foliage while driving the skiff and avoiding the perpetual drift of logs.

See the guide in the other boat with the X-harness on his back? (To hold his binoculars.) Now look at the eager nature-spotter in the front; blue shirt, cap turned backwards. That's the Queen of Old Town Alexandria, who is a master at cardio tennis and a mainstay of both the Athenaeum and the Garden Club. She looks like Indiana Jane, don't she? Who's bad in THIS photo?? Go, Twig, go!

As Rusty said—all the other boats (both of them) were just sort of following along behind, picking up Primo’s leavings. We had lunch with Alberto, the Mexican expedition leader and he agreed that Primo was absolutely one of the best. I can’t remember all the birds we saw, but am grateful that Rusty is keeping a list. We saw a monkey, just out there loose and doing his monkey thing. Imagine! Jorge spotted a green iguana that (and sorry to quote Rusty again) “he must have placed there before we started, since no one could possibly have seen that if they didn’t know it was there beforehand.” The guides use laser pointers. They flash them around up close until we all agree that we can see the pointer, and then they move them up slowly to a foot or two below what we’re supposed to be looking at (they won’t put it on the animal) and then—hey! I see it!

It was amazing. We drifted or motored around until Jorge or Primo spotted something (and more than a few times it was Rusty going “Hey! What’s that?!” and we all cooed. The breeze was bliss, the scenery very definitely NOT HOME, the ride was too short.

We came back to the boat in time for breakfast, which featured camu camu juice—like a small, tart cherry so packed with Vitamin C that it’s sold at cruel prices in health food stores in the US. Drink up!

Next: Tog up for the jungle walk. The provided boots were tough and durable but also comparatively thin; as Russ pointed out, we could feel the earth below our feet, which was good for balance. It was good for me, too, because the tops could roll down. I could actually get boots that fit my feet without cutting into my strong and impressive calves. Yay! A tilley hat added to my fashion plate appearance. Water bottle in hand, camera in pocket, off we went.

We were with Jorge again, which is good; he’s charming and extremely knowledgable. The walk wasn’t as fun as the boat ride (well, duh—more effort required on my part!), but it was still quite wonderful to be in the jungle, following a “path” that Edison, our team’s Guy With A Machete, apparently picked out of thin air…but every now and then a short hill would be surmounted by a crude staircase with bannisters, so Eddy knew what we was doing.

We stopped often to cluster around Jorge and learn something. We call this one cannonball fruit. You can get sap from this tree that you can use to make a cast. These ants will help to alleviate arthritis; get a few bites a week. All better.

He hacked off what looked like two feet of tree limb; it was a vine. “How you can drink if you’re in the jungle? This vine. See?” He tipped up the length and opened his mouth. Drip, drip, drip. “Can I try?” Rusty and Twig spoke over each other. We all got a chance. It tasted like a spa infusion; water with something very faintly citrusy. Delicious. “And it’s a cancer preventative,” Jorge added. “Gimme that,” I said. More cancer preventive for me. It’s only a matter of time, with my family history. I need all the help I can get!

This is Twig as the world's most adorable hobbit.

By the time we got back to the skiffs, we were all hot and glad to see the boats. It wasn’t as hot and humid as DC in summer, but then I don’t spend a lot of time outside in DC in the summer. So the skiff ride back felt like summer vacation. Then Jorge took our boots. OH, BLISS!! We took off our socks and got our feet wet in the spray. Heaven!

Now it’s time for the fruit demonstration. Pardon me!

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