Paddling over the tar-black water, I had never been more motivated to keep my kayak upright. I dodged the tips of thick branches, each one of them whittled by the Amazon river water to fool my apprehensive eyes into mistaking them for the snakes or a crocodiles I’d been warned about.
The Amazon isn’t the kind of place the average traveler should explore solo–you can’t just show up and rent a boat or set off on your own through the jungle unless you’re seriously versed in survival skills. So, instead of spending months studying under Bear Grylls , I signed up for a spot on the Delfin II, one of the small luxury ships that cruise the river.
Silence is a rare commodity on the tourist trail in Peru. In Lima, your double-decker tourist bus might sit in a traffic jam for hours. At Macchu Picchu, it’s tough to find a spot for quiet reflection without the click of a shutter snapping from a selfie stick nearby. Even on the Amazon, far off the beaten tourist track, on a small ship with only 14 rooms, I had yet to be alone, to really feel the silence.
But now I was on my own in this kayak; the river and the jungle my sole companions. The hot afternoon sun burned through the clouds, warming the plastic seat beneath me as I navigated my way along this isolated branch of river.
The support boat and guides drifted out of sight. I drew my paddles out of the water and set them on my lap. At last, I had my moment of stillness—but not silence. All around me, the jungle was making itself known–the calls of parrots mixed with the hoots of monkeys and the buzzing of mosquitoes, rising in a cacophony of nature.
I enjoyed a moment of pure peace and joy before realizing that my rudderless kayak was being washed toward the tree-lined shore. My guide’s one piece of pre-kayaking advice flashed through my mind: “Don’t get too close to the trees—that’s where the wasps nest are, and you don’t want to make them angry.” I take tips about angry stinging insects seriously, and so I broke the stillness and started paddling.
Soon, I was gliding along like a pro. I passed small villages and waved to the children playing on along the shore. I raced locals heading back from the market in canoes (they were not aware of their entry into my challenge), and scanned the treetops for signs of life. Every so often I’d be rewarded with a twitching branch that revealed something exotic–a bright yellow bird, a sleeping bat, or a frolicking monkey.
I was half-disappointed and half-relieved when I paddled up to my meeting point with the skiff. In just a few minutes, I would return to the Delfin II, where a thin layer of glass would stand between me and the river, making a world of difference. But hey, at least there’d be air conditioning, cold drinks, and someone else to keep us from crashing into the wasps nests.
More from SmarterTravel:
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Caroline Morse was hosted by Delfin Amazon Cruises on her trip to the Amazon. Follow her on Instagram TravelWithCaroline and on Twitter @CarolineMorse1 for photos from her adventure. For more information about Delfin Amazon Cruises, visit www.DelfinAmazonCruises.com.