In Deeper With A Really Big Knife


This blog entry about the events of Thursday, December 11, 2003 was originally posted on December 15, 2003.

DAY 54:  Alone in my hut in my mosquito net tent, I heard rustling outside, followed by the sounds of small footsteps of monkeys.  Suddenly one of them landed on the roof of my mosquito net and so I grabbed my things and ran off to the main hut — not for fear of monkey bites, but that they’d steal my stuff.  When I got into the main hut, I saw that a monkey had gotten in and taken a scoop of rice before running off.

Juan took me in a canoe down the reflective black waters of the Yanayacu to go bird watching.  We saw hawks, eagles, turkey vultures, Amazonian ducks, kingfishers, toucans, parrots and other tropical birds you might have seen in a pet store.  Juan, who wasn’t nearly as proficient in English as my previous guide, simply pointed out birds and told me “It’s fishing.”  Well, I supposed that was true.

AFTER LUNCH IN BASE CAMP, where an iguana had stopped in for a while, I asked Juan to take me deeper into the jungle to go camping for a night away from base camp.  The cook rowed us ten minutes upstream and dropped us off on the other side of the river.  As we walked under the jungle canopy which filtered out a lot of the sun, we walked passed ferns, big 300-year-old eucalyptus trees, palm trees, many kinds of ficus trees and cannonball fruit trees (with fruits like cannonballs that monkeys smash against trees).  Juan turned out to be a much better guide than he was that morning, as long as he conducted it in Spanish — which I more or less understood.

I was on lookout for snakes, which was a maddening task since most of the roots in the jungle just look like snakes.  I have a phobia of snakes and I just cringe when they slither.  I don’t know what it is about them; I think it’s the absence of legs that makes me squirm — the way a person scared of heights does when atop a skyscraper observation deck.  The difference between tall buildings and snakes is that snakes can bite you, sometimes fatally.  I kept my guard up, but felt a little relieved with the thought that Juan Carlos, out of his ten years of guiding, had only been bitten twice.

JUAN STOPPED EVERY FIVE MINUTES OR SO to listen and look around at the surroundings.  At one point we heard the crashing of leaves, tree to tree — big black capuchin monkeys were nearby.  We ventured off the trail a bit to follow the sounds, but they just got farther and farther away until they were gone.

The best part of Juan being my guide was that he let me use the machete as we walked.  I soon discovered that holding a machete shot up to my Top Ten Things to Do of All Time.  Previous machetes had already cleared a path for the trail we were on, but I couldn’t resist but wave around the big knife like a pirate and have a little fun by lopping off plants — even if they weren’t in the way. 

Watch out, coming through, Guy With A Machete coming through.  Did you just look at me funny Fern?  Chhhting!  Off with your stem!  What did you say about my mama?  Nothing?  Chhhting!  Off with your leaves anyway.  Watch out, coming through, Guy With A Machete coming through…

WE WALKED TWO HOURS DEEPER into the jungle to a campsite near a lily-pad filled lagoon and a big ficus tree.  We put down our things and went climbing up the tree.  Juan went first, which was a good thing because out of nowhere, he pulled out an anaconda from one of the branches, holding the head to keep it from biting.  In defense, the snake wrapped its body around Juan’s arm, trying to constrict it, but Juan just pulled it off and straighten it out to show me. 

“Look, a baby,” he said.  At about six feet long, that baby really made me flinch back with a big “Whoooa.”  After I felt the serpent’s skin, Juan let it go carefully, after of which it immediately swam into the river for fear of its life. 

Perhaps it knew there was a Guy With A Machete in town.

WE SET UP HAMMOCKS WITH MOSQUITO NETS around them, and had a dinner of mangos and crackers.  Juan led me on a night hike on trails shielded from the moonlight with the jungle canopy.  It was pitch black without our headlamps, aside from the one-inch fireflies that glowed orange-red, appearing as glowing red eyes following us with a loud buzzing noise. 

Aside from the tarantulas and scorpion spiders, I noticed a poisonous bullfrog in the path before Juan almost accidentally walked on it. 

As I lay back to my hammock, I listened to the loud sounds of the lagoon, a chaotic symphony of ribbits, croaks, chirps, buzzes, wooshes, whistles and growls coming from all directions.  I wondered if the baby anaconda might have called its 30-foot-long mother to come back to us for revenge.

At least the machete was nearby.

Next entry: Slimy Yet Satisfying

Previous entry: Monkey Business

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Comments for “In Deeper With A Really Big Knife”

  • first!  [again]

    I am on a roll! beat that Td0t! (^_^)

    btw, where’s the Amazon women? where’s xena and her same-sex-lover gabrielle?

    ...and Guy With A Machete sounds dangerous, you might wanna keep your distance.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/15  at  03:32 AM

  • i thought that baby anaconda was cute. i like snakes. strangely, your phobia involves animals without snakes. my phobia involves animals with too many legs. i hate anything with more than 4 legs. yuck. though seafood is another story.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/15  at  01:39 PM

  • I am so proud of you, I can’t believe you faced your fear and conquered…a BABY anaconda tongue wink He is so cute. That should start preparing you for SA!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/15  at  02:13 PM

  • This amazon trek is unbelievalbe! As I’m reading, I’m wondering if I could do it… I haven’t reached a conclusion.

    LP: Dem is fightin’ words… IT’S ON!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/16  at  02:42 AM

  • Snakes never really bothered me… growing up in Florida they’re everywhere. After a while they just seem like stray cats?don’t let them bite you, and only pet them or pick them up when you have an audience. But again, bugs—-eek. I get the shivers everytime you mention them. I’m starting to wonder if we need to meet your plane when you get home with a straight jacket—you’re nuts! Sleeping in a hammock in the middle of a jungle!

    But those TREES!!! They are amazing! They’re so primitive and organic looking—especially compared to the boring single-trunked trees we have here in Jersey. Hug a tree for me, and scream “Save the Rain Forest!” And for your readers… be sure to recycle!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/18  at  03:29 PM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Slimy Yet Satisfying

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Monkey Business


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