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4 a.m. Rise and shine. No sleeping in. Jerks.

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JungleFishing

Fishing off a dock for piranha in the Amazon

 

How to survive in snake country

Snakes get a bad rap.  Pretty much everyone you know is creeped out just thinking about them, let alone being in their presence.

Sure, they look like total jerks, with their beady little eyes and oddly shaped heads. And they are known to slither like legless freaks as they go about their day.

But you have to admit, seeing a snake in the wild is cool.

So if you’re headed into a snake infested area and you want to increase your chances of not dying a horrible snake bitten death, take note of the following suggestions.

1. Watch your step

Better yet, watch everything:  watch where you put your hands, where you sit, where you roll in the leaves, etc. In places like the jungle, if a snake could be chillin’ somewhere, he probably is.

Snakes in the trees. Snakes in the leaves. Snakes everywhere. Night hike. Peru.

2. Don’t handle snakes

This is a no-brainer, right? Why, then, do we still hear about some drunk moron who thought picking up a cute poisonous snake would be a bright idea?  Handling snakes might seem like a fun, manly activity until somebody gets a fang to the jugular.

And guys, I know this will be incredibly difficult to do, but you are going to have to resist your natural temptation to poke snakes with a stick.  Easier said than done.

"Would you like to test your manhood by handling this snake?" "Sir, with all due respect, I read on some blog that I should not cuddle with snakes." Me, making the right choice.

3. Wear boots

Your favorite pair of smelly Birkenstock sandals aren’t going to cut it in snake country.  In fact, snakes might bite you just because you’re wearing Birkenstocks (scientists believe snakes don’t like hippies, but they have yet to determine why).

You could go with a badass jungle combat boot and be feared by all living things.  Or you could tone it down a notch and go with simple rubber boots. Either choice is acceptable.

4. Invest in a powerful snake repellent

If you believe in snake repellent, please contact me right away.  My snake repellent is the best on the market, and is guaranteed to repel all snakes within a 50 miles radius.  Call now, and I’ll even throw in a free case of spider repellent.

Had I not heeded the sagely advice found in No. 1 through No. 3, I would've stepped on this poisonous mussarana barefoot and then picked it up to investigate.

Victor

Meet Victor, Amazon guide extraordinaire.  Here he’s posing with a rainbow boa.

Victor hails from Puerto Maldonado, a sweltering jungle town on the confluence of the mighty Madre de Dios River and the Tambopata River.

You should see this guy work. He’s in the zone in the jungle.  Comfortable. Quiet. Relaxed. Picking up on every minute movement, sound, and reflection.

To watch a man so entirely in tune with his natural surroundings is a thing of beauty.

Once, while hiking, he stopped suddenly, sniffing the air.  What is it, we asked.  Pigs, he whispered. He could smell them. I looked everywhere.  No pigs to be found.

I walked right by that snake he’s holding.  She blended in perfectly with her surroundings, just another extension of jungle mass.

These guides work their asses off.  I noticed that in both Central and South America.

"Hello little baby." Is it poisonous? "Yes." Jesus, dude, put that thing down!

Inevitably, your guide will talk about how very rarely he’s able to spend quality time with his family.  Normally they have but 3, maybe 4 days off per month, and even then they’re wiped out and totally exhausted.

On our way back to Puerto Maldonado (a 3 to 4 hour boat ride on the Tambopata, depending on which way you’re headed), Victor was noticeably excited to spend a few hours with his family before he picked up the next tour group from the airport.  It was his daughter’s birthday.  She, like most girls in the area, demanded a clown.

I believe as travelers that we can help put an end to guides being torn away from their families for so long.  Their services are vastly useful.  Their time, valuable.  In the end, money talks.

By the way, Victor, if you’re reading this, we do remember that you asked us to send these photos to you for your Facebook page.  In fact, I’ll do that now.  After all, they are pretty killer shots.

And no, you’re not going to get me to hold those snakes.  Nice try, buddy.

It really is a jungle out there

I often contemplate which ecosystem I would prefer to be lost in, should such an unfortunate fate befall me.  Would I choose the forests of my youth, with bone chilling winter temps and blood-sucking summer ticks perhaps being my biggest threat?  The mountains, with its unpredictable, chaotic weather? Canyons, easier to navigate, but a flash flood risk?  The open ocean?

As we set out on our guided jungle night hike, I occasionally felt too co-dependent.  Co-dependent on  Victor, our guide, who navigated twists and turns with ease, as stealth as possible in the pitch black. My normal attempt to mentally check off navigational features was useless.  I was lost.

And then you realize you are surrounded by critters.

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