We stayed in a thatched roof hut that seemed to be the standard type of structure for the forest. It stood about five feet above ground on stilts, had no walls, a sixty foot square bamboo floor and a pitched roof made of palm leaves. Wimper put two ropes up across the hut, over which we strung thin mosquito netting. We slept under the netting on tarps with thin blankets. Although the rainforest was quite humid during the day, it was quite cold at night, but the blankets sufficed. As soon as the sun went down, the forest was pitch black.
We spent many hours aboard this canoe
There was also a simple outhouse approximately 50 feet from the hut, and a cooking hut that we did not use. Making a trip to the outhouse was quite an adventure at night as you needed to climb down the ladder and then navigate through the forest to find it. It was a creaky shack with a hole and it was best not to think about was above or below.
During the trip, on the edge of a lagoon, we saw a moderately sized resort hotel called La Selva Jungle Lodge, which runs about 75 USD per night. The huts had actual drywall sides, bathrooms with running water, and a dining/restaurant area and bar. There were many tourists staying at this hotel, as well as a couple others we had heard about. They traveled in large groups, but their experience seemed much more sterile than the one we had chosen by going in a small group and staying in more rustic accommodations.
The cabana where we slept in the rainforest
Our first introduction to the cuisine that Wimper would be preparing for us occurred when we stopped at a cabana next to the river, which belongs to one of Wimper's friends. It was a simple structure that was a mixture of rudimentary building materials and modern tools such as metal locks. There were also a lot of Toucan beaks hanging from the top of the hut, which were apparently a common delicacy for the Indians living in the forest.
Wimper made a fresh salad of onion, cucumber, tomato, canned tuna and lime juice. We would have this same dish for lunch the next 3 days. It was actually quite filling and probably nutritious. One thing that concerned us was that after the meals, Wimper washed off the plates and utensils directly in the river, but we never got sick from it.
A typical house in the rainforest. This is similar to the one we visited for lunch.
Dinners were cooked at the base camp over an open flame, as Irwin had mistakenly taken the wrong kind of propane tank for the stove that was at the site. Everything was quite damp, and we contributed by giving them firestarter sticks, which we had brought with us, and they started the fire quite quickly. The first night, they cooked a large pot of vegetable potato soup, server over rice. It was excellent. We also partook in a mint herbal tea made from long blades of grass, which was supposedly effective for treating minor pains and depression.
The other dinner we had was fried Jaguar fish and Piranha that we had caught ourselves (see the section on Activities in the Rainforest), french fries, rice and plaintains. The fish were so incredible, and just melted in your mouth.
Breakfast consisted of scrumptious fried apple fritters, scrambled eggs, oatmeal, coffee or tea in enormous quantities. One night Wimper told us about many of the different types of tourists that he had guided and that he especially enjoyed Americans as they tended to eat everything that he cooked and lots of it. We were more than happy to perpetuate this opinion.
Visions of wild predators filled our imagination as we went deeper into the rainforest, but our hopes were finally dashed by Wimper, who explained that most of the animals were scared away when oil companies started exploration in the area. In order to see large animals like Monkeys, Temurs, snakes, Jaguars, Crocodiles, Caymans, Pink Dolphins (a fresh water dolphin species found in the rivers of the Amazon Basin), it is necessary to embark on a tour of at least five days, which allow one to travel farther into the forest to more pristine areas. It was unfortunate that he didn't tell us this prior to going, but this would give us an excuse to come back.
What we did see were many species of beautifully colored birds. Wimper told us the names of many of them, but I could only relate them to species I was familiar with. There were many Heron like birds, many slightly smaller than Oriole like birds in brilliant shades of color that stood out against the homogenous backdrop. We startled some very large Pelican like birds with colorful crown displays that swooped gracefully down the river, and Vultures that circled high up in the canopies. A couple of the more familiar birds we expected to see were difficult to find as they stayed high up in the trees and did not like rain, including the Toucan and species of Parrots including the blue Macaws and red "Papagayas".
Dense rainforest interior
The other predominate life form were insects, but not so many as we had been warned about. I used DEET and bug spray fairly sparingly, and did not experience much discomfort, although their presence was certainly visible by the bites all over our bodies. At one point, there was a very large Tarantula like spider nearing our sleeping area, and many large species of Beetle. Flying insects such as mosquitos and gnats also called the rainforest their home, and loved visitors.