1. Accept you will be eaten alive by mosquitos.
It doesn’t matter what prevention methods you use. You could coat yourself in DEET, wear long sleeves, trousers, hats and scarves, make sure you keep the door to your lodge closed at all times and use a mosquito net over your bed. You will still get eaten alive. I did all those things and ended up with just shy of 500 bites. So did everyone else at the lodge. But don’t be afraid of it, sure, you’ll itch like crazy for about 3 days after. It’s worth it. Just don’t waste your time worrying.
2. Be aware that you will accidentally put your hand on a tarantula.
They just hang out in the lodges at night. It’s no big deal. In fact, it’s more annoying that when you go on a night walk to see snakes and spiders you spend an hour only getting bitten by pesky mosquitos and maybe catch a glimpse of a frog. Seriously, it’s difficult to find the dangerous creatures. Apart from bullet ants, which seem to be everywhere. So when you go to pull out one of the chairs in the lodge’s bar to sit down you’re more likely than not to accidentally touch a tarantula. I did. I’m still alive and the guide even let Alex hold it before he put it out.
3. Don’t go anywhere near trees.
Bullet ants just pop up when you least expect them to. Like when you’re doing a night hike and you’re walking through some low palm leaves, casually moving them out of the way and then the guide tells you to be careful because he’s just seen a bullet ant on one. Apparently the most painful sting on the planet. Not venomous though, so that’s something to be thankful for.
4. Don’t be afraid to be bitten by a monkey.
If you go and visit one of the animal sanctuaries to hug some monkeys you will almost definitely get bitten: in a friendly, playful way, not a malicious way. Or at least, if you’re anything like Alex you will. Don’t worry you can’t catch TB from them. We asked.
5. Don’t bother expecting a shower or to feel clean at any point.
The shower will be cold, dark and full of ants. It’s the jungle. It’s humid and you’ll be sticky, so just take some wet wipes and accept that you will feel that way until you leave. Even after you’ve swam in the river, because the mud gets everywhere.
6. Don’t ask questions about the food.
They will tell you it’s fish or chicken. It’s not. It’s some sort of lizard. Still tastes fine. Just eat it. It’s always served with rice, plantain and salad. Oh and the palm leaf thing that the guides call ‘jungle spaghetti’ is absolutely banging. Probably no nutritional value whatsoever but it tastes great.
7. Don’t bother wearing a waterproof jacket.
If it rains it will absolutely pour. You’ll just get soaked, even if you have spent £140 on a high-end fucking jacket. There’s no point. Water will find a way in. If you have valuables though, like a really nice DSLR camera, make sure you have a waterproof case. I’m so glad I came prepared for that one.
8. Don’t bother taking walking boots.
Again, don’t waste your time lugging around boots. They make you take them off, no matter how good they are, and put on stinking wellington boots that have been worn in excess of 100 people and have holes in the ankles rendering them useless for their original purpose.
9. Bring a torch of some kind.
Obviously Alex forgot his. We’re in the jungle and everything is running off a petrol-powered generator. They have electricity for 3 hours a night. It gets dark fairly early in June, say 6pm, and once the generator runs out, that’s it. And if your guide is as kind as ours to wake us up at 5am the next day to go on a boat to watch the sunrise even though it’s cloudy, you’ll need the torch then because it’s still dark at that time.
10. Do take a camera.
When all said and done, it’s bloody beautiful. And being on the river at sunset, spotting pink dolphins after a casual swim and mud mask on the banks is the best way to spend your birthday.
If you want some actual information about the Europeans fucked over the Amazonian people, check out Alex’s blog post Boom, bust and bio-piracy: the man who stole the Amazon’s rubber trade.
*This really is just a way to explain the funny things that happened on our two-day jungle tour. This article isn’t meant to be serious in helping you prepare. Although I guess it is a good insight into what you might expect.