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Amazon River Expedition:Kapok Camp Hike and Suspension Bridge System

Suspension bridge for traversing dense jungle territory

In the afternoon of the third day of our Amazon adventure, we made our first actual foray on foot into the jungle. Rather than viewing the vegetation and the birds and critters from the boats, we were actually going to hike to the Kapok Camp where we going to spend the night.

Around 5:30 pm  we piled into the skiff to motor over to the lagoon area where we took two catamarans to the starting point for the hike through the rain forest to the Kapok Camp where we were to stay overnight. We were given thick leather protectors to wear over our boots  to protect  from snake bites and other hazards that could lurk on the jungle floor.

Because it had rained heavily earlier that day the hour long hike was over very muddy terrain. A trail of steps made from cross-sections of tree trunks had been laid out but were quite slippery in parts with the mud. 

As we trudged through the rain forest, sweat dripping from our faces, Robinson stopped constantly to point out ant and termite nests, mushrooms,  seed cups and pods, and sap from trees that had medicinal uses. His knowledge and that of Juan-Carlos is encyclopedic and I could listen to both of them for hours. 

He showed us what looked like a branch but was actually hollow and contained a watery liquid that supposedly boosts the immune system.  My notes at this stage were pretty scattered  as I was trying to keep upright in the mud,  take pictures, and not get side-swiped by flying creatures. But I think it was called Cats Claw. The picture shows Robinson holding the branch so that the liquid could drip into our mouths.

At one stage he cracked open a pod that revealed a nest of grubs that he said could be eaten to prevent stomach upset and traveler’s diarrhea.

Of course the only person in the group brave enough to eat a grub was Robert. In fact he ate two. Check out the video. And whether or not it had a anything to do with the grubs or just his cast iron stomach, when several in the group came down with gastrointestinal problems later in the week, he did not.

Eventually we came to series of 8 sequential suspension bridges, which ended in the trail leading to the Kapok Camp. We were told that no more than 4 people could be on each bridge at a time, and were sent out at short intervals.  I was among the first few to go and I think in most cases there was actually only one person on most section at a time, as we watched them coming one by one across the final bridge.

Much less “engineered “ than the Capilano and Lynn Canyon suspension bridges in Vancouver,  these structures  with the circular tower junctions reminded me of some of the locations in the computer game, Myst, which I used to love to play, where various dwellings where puzzles had to be solved, were connected by similar suspended bridges.

When we reached the camp we were assigned individual tents, each with an adjacent outhouse area. Mine had no toilet seat. Robinson told me that poachers come to steal things like the seats. Anyway my thigh muscles got a workout. There was a sink  with soap,  toilet paper and a clean towel.  The next morning the running water no longer ran!

We had dinner in the large communal dining room. Mercifully it was relatively insect free but it was hot as Hades.  I figure I dropped about 10 lbs weight and it was all sweat!  And if you are wondering why there are pictures of Robert and not me its because in my pictures I look hot, sweaty and flushed and generally awful, while Mr. Cool barely broke a sweat.

Dinner featured two specialties of the area. Chicken and rice wrapped in a huge leaf, and fish also baked in a leaf. After dinner we were treated to a talk (translated) by Carola, a local shaman or Medicine Woman. More about that later.

Because I am not comfortable on uneven terrain in the dark I decided to skip the short night walk that Robinson led - the only activity I missed on the whole trip. I headed into my "home from home" to organize things by flashlight. The heat inside the tent was "encroyable".  Within seconds I was losing another gallon of  water through my skin. As I contemplated the two camp beds to decide which one to sleep on, all thoughts of sleeping anyhow but "déshabillé", fled from my mind. If there was any emergency I would flee naked into the night and not give a hoot but at least I would be cool. Then I heard the group stop about ten feet from my "home" as Robinson pointed out a huge tarantula.  I hoped the tarantula would stay in his nest but then I heard someone say "oh its huge." Great, I thought to myself, they enticed it out - and I got under the sheet and hoped it would not find me.

Read about my night in the next post!! Amazon River Expedition: My Night in the Kapok Camp.