Allpahuayo Mishana: It Ain’t Disneyland!
A guest post by Gart van Gennip
It has been four years since my first and last true jungle expedition, when I spent five days in the Pacaya Samiria reserve. So I jumped at the opportunity to travel to the Allpahuayo Mishana Reserve with some foreign visitors last week. Five days on a beautiful boat (The Dawn on the Amazon I) travelling up the river Nanay. Bill had recommended going there, as our visitors were keen on spotting monkeys, but not so keen on being punctured by legions of mosquitoes. “The water is too acidic!”, Bill assured us; “Mosquitoes prefer sweet water”.
I admit, I was skeptical. Mosquitoes have been around for about 200 million years longer than us humans and there is a reason for their survival; they’re tough! But Bill hit the nail on the head and there were surprisingly few mosquitoes!
Still, that doesn’t mean that the rainforest is a theme park. There are no guarantees that you will find what you’re looking for. And then there is a good chance you will come across a few things you weren’t looking for and hadn’t counted on. The encounters with a tarantula and a 5-inch flying cockroach come to mind, but also the rainy weather. It came down with buckets. Bathtubs. Olympic swimming pools!
As many of you probably know, this is the ‘wet’ season. That doesn’t refer to the amounts of rain we had, but to the high water level of the rivers. Both, however, were factors that influenced the animal and particularly monkey spotting business. The river has inundated vast parts of the forest. Approaching monkeys in the flooded jungle by canoe while navigating among the trees and bushes, is a tricky thing. You can hear the monkeys, but if they get as much as a whiff of you; they’re gone.
Nevertheless, being in the rainforest is an overwhelming experience. The vastness of the forest, the smells, the quality of the air, the continuous concert of sounds, the views of the rivers, cochas and creeks, and the absence of anything modern and civilized, apart from the boat we were on. There are plants growing on trees that grow on even larger trees with beautiful flowers and impressive root structures.
Despite the rain we were also treated to spectacular sunsets and sunrises, lakes so still they looked like giant mirrors and to hours of just taking in the sheer beauty of that ever flowing, mysteriously dark, yet peaceful river.
Harpy Eagles, monkeys, a sloth, and a capibara
We did see monkeys, as well as a sloth, a yellow-black ringed river snake, a capibara and countless lizards, butterflies, spiders, frogs, toads, and of course; birds! We saw Harpy Eagles, hawks, falcons, woodpeckers, kingfishers, anis great and small, toucans, and that peculiar yellow-rumped cacique, which lives in colonies and uses a surprisingly wide scale of sounds.
We witnessed the pink dolphin chasing a fish across the river. The poor thing jumped out of the water time and again, with that pink snout snapping at its tail fins. I can’t say if it got caught, or managed to escape.
Night excursions in the canoe
At night we would take the canoe out on one of the cochas, following the sounds of frogs and toads, calling each other from miles away. We actually managed to locate one, sitting on a branch, hovering over the water. At night the sounds are even stronger and more mysterious than during the day. All of us heard sounds coming from the deep jungle that resembled human voices, laughter even. It is no wonder that anyone would become convinced that spirits live in these remote places.
We visited several communities, including Llanchama, Mishana and San Antonio. We met the locals, who gave us tours of their villages and the nearby jungle, and we learned a lot about medicinal plants, delicious fruits, unusual trees and local farming. We also learned that rubber boots would have been a useful thing to bring, and that ant bites can be a lot worse than mosquito bites.
San Antonio, Iquito indigenous, their language, and legends
In San Antonio we met an old lady, one of the few inhabitants who still speak Iquito, the language of the tribe that used to live in this area and from which Iquitos got its name.
The lady told us about the Legend of Iquitos. Her granddaughter translated her story into Spanish. In short, it is the ancient story about how the Iquito natives were chased from their land by a wizard and scattered across the Amazon jungles. The wizard, who took on the form of a tiger (jaguar), killed many of the Iquito, and many of them fled. The tiger chased them, trying to eat them.
One old lady tricked the tiger and blinded him. She was able to kill him. She cooked the claws of the tiger and used the nails to make a necklace. She put this necklace on a parrot, which then flew across the jungle, looking for smoke plumes of the various Iquito in hiding. They saw the necklace on the parrot and therefore knew that the tiger was dead. This is how the Iquito reunited and founded a new place to live in the jungle.
There are only a couple of dozen people who still speak Iquito. When the Iquito went to the big city, which was named after them, they felt intimidated and embarrassed. They wanted to forget their cultural heritage and integrate into this new society. Fortunately, there is an NGO working with the remaining Iquito, to record the language and teach it to the younger generations. We told our hosts never to be embarrassed, but to be proud of their culture and language. It was a moving experience.
Not a theme park
I was also greatly moved by the tiny, gnat-like sand fleas in San Antonio, which weren’t at all impressed with my repellent. They had me running back to the boat! Thank goodness for modern medicine in the form of a tube of cortisone.
Allpahuayo Mishana: It Ain’t Disneyland!
If you enjoyed reading this article by Gart van Gennip, you will want to read the story of his Trip into Pacaya Samiria Reserve. Gart is also the publisher of The Virtual Community of Ikitos.com. Check it out!
These links below are from Bill Grimes, to other articles and photos of similar subjects that you might be interested in. To learn more about Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve and some of what we see and do with Dawn on the Amazon in the reserve, check out these articles;
I have several great photos taken while Bird Watching Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve and some of my best photos are on Expedition Through Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve If you got this far, thanks, much appreciated.
Several other articles by Gart van Gennip you can enjoy on the Captain’s Blog by clicking the links below…
I wrote this review of Gart van Gennip’s unique web site back in December 2008. Since those times it has grown up into a force in our virtual Iquitos community.