One Time, I caught a Piranha
Before moving back to Australia my wife and I decided we should travel to South America before we settled down and had kids. I had always wanted to go and visit Buenos Aires, being a big fan of football I wanted to see what Boca Junior was like. On a quick side note we managed to see a Boca game that my wife booked as a surprise. It was more of a surprise to her when she found out that the game was actually at a small local club that has seen better days called Arsenal that was on the out skirts of the city. My sister in law who was traveling with us came along for a different experience and even though she doesn't like football, having a beer or something to eat would make the slow trip worth while. Arriving at the tiny stadium that was full of character it didn't go down to well that they don't serve alcohol at games due to the violence and when I asked the tour guide if they had any vegetarian food for my sister in law he just laughed at me. I found that Argentinian's really like meat.
My wife being more civilised than I, wanted to see Machu Picchu and walk the Inca trail. Not having any real idea what that was I said fine, I will go to Peru. For me, when thinking of South America images of the carnival in Rio de Janeiro would pop in my head, not how wonderful the people and the country of Peru are.
We joined a tour for part of our trip to South America and met some wonderful people from Australia and New Zealand. I had a rough idea of what country's and places we were going to visit but I'm not much for detail and was quite surprised that part of our trip was to the Amazon which was in Peru. I thought it was only in Brazil.
As we entered the Amazon by boat I couldn't help but notice that everyone seemed to be excited and pleased with where we were. I, inside, was completely petrified. The intensity of the heat and humidity was unrelenting and every time the tour guide opened his mouth it seemed that everything he pointed at could kill us. He was slightly different to the tour guide that I had in Northern Queensland at Cape Tribulation where he definitely took glee in telling us that most animals there could kill us and that nine of the deadly snakes in the world were in this part of town. Being the only English person in the party most people would laugh and smile at how I would fret at most insects. I was from the land of ladybirds and daddy long legs, where I was safe.
There is no doubt in my mind the beauty of the Amazon and how lucky I am that I have been there, that is until you turn the lights off.
One night while walking through the trees looking at wildlife the tour guide made us turn our torches off. The blackness enveloped us instantly and with that came the low noise of panting which increased not only in in sound but in proximity to us right away. Whatever was making that noise seemed like it was on top of us. I quickly turned my torch back on as did many others and the sound disappeared. The guide told us that was bamboo rat, I didn't care what it was I didn't want to hear that noise again. The only animal I had ever seen in North London was a fox going through my bin and no it wasn't wearing a waistcoat and a pocket watch.
The next morning after a night of lying in bed staring at the many giant insects that seemed to be looking right back at me while attached to a huge cloth mosquito net, we set off down the Amazon in search of piranhas. To be honest I didn't know that was part of the tour. Standing on a boat waiting to catch a fish that I had seen in horror movies and Speed Racer felt surreal. No one in our tour group caught a single thing in a couple of hours. We were about to leave when I got a tug on my fishing rod.
The tour guide rushed over and helped me pull the aggressive, tiny fish out of the water. He held the fish without fear and had a big smile as people took photos while I stared at its ugly face and sharp looking teeth as it gnawed at me. After placing the fish back in the water we left. As we travelled back to our jungle lodge people were eager to show how scared I looked in the photo, which I was.
The next part of our adventure was the Inca trail itself. I thought we would just coach to the site itself I didn't realise that we were booked into a three day undulating hike. Now I do sound like a moaner and to be clear I did moan a lot.
The whole of the tour group loved the experience of walking up and down the beautiful country side of Peru while tiny little Peruvian porters dance up the mountains while carrying our tents and food in packs that were twice the size of themselves.
The altitude gets to you before you know it. In one part of the tour we stayed in a village and played the locals at a game of soccer, the winner would receive a 2 litre bottle of Pepsi. Being young and fit we took an early 3-0 lead but the locals were still smiling. 10 minutes later we were 5-2 down. It was so hard to breathe, I would smash the ball into touch so I could get a breather while hunched on my knees. It was reassuring to look up to the side line and see my wife and everyone else laughing at us.
The walk itself was amazing but very hard. As we approached Machu Picchu as the sun came up everyone was in awe and taking photos. I couldn't help but notice the train on the other side of the mountain. As I turned to my wife and asked if she knew we could get a train up, she said "yes but you wouldn't want to miss this would you?"
"Miss three days of eating quinoa and everyone having stomach cramp and exploding in the toilet. No of course I wouldn't want to miss that."
As we left the Inca trail and got a train to the next part of our adventure we got chatting to people on the train. A rather cool looking older American guy started chatting to us about what we been up to. He didn't know that you could do a three day hike and I said neither did I. After a pregnant pause he looked at us and said rather nicely that we all smelled, really bad. After we had all done the smell test we laughed. At least I caught a piranha.