This morning birding was cut short! We were looking for pink dolphins but like their reputation they were very shy today! Instead, we took an amazing tour of the Indiana market! Yes I am from Indiana U.S.A. but I was in Indiana, Iquitos, Peru. This community was more developed than some of the other river populations. Paved streets, electricity, population in the 1000’s and automobiles made this a more familiar lifestyle than the others we visited.
As I ate breakfast, I looked across the tables at the amazing group of people who I have shared this journey with and couldn’t help but feel a wave of sadness roll through me. This wasn’t just any teacher professional development. It was an emotional journey of learning, friendship, facing fears, cooperation, exploring and a love of the Earth. I was not ready for this journey to end, but I knew this day would come.
Before we left for Monkey Island, which I was sooo looking forward to, we hiked to the amazing Ceiba tree! As I walked through the mud and the muck, the trail widened and the Ceiba tree appeared. It’s size was both intimidating and awe-inspiring. From the base up, it looked like the tree went on forever. It stood strong and proud as if to say, “I am the great Ceiba. I one part of this beautiful place you call the Amazon. I call it home!” This was the perfect stage to document the friendships forged here!
After our photo ops, we left for Monkey Island. This is a monkey rehabilitation center whose aim is to not just educate people like us but to return monkeys to the wild. Many of these monkeys were rescued from the pet trade. I had been looking forward to this visit! I LOVE monkeys!
After the morning fun, we headed back to Ceiba Tops for a shower, pack up and eat lunch. Packing was interesting! I had to creatively find room for my fragile souvenirs in between sweaty, smelly jungle infused clothes! After playing what I call Luggage Tetris, I was ready to go, but I wasn’t. The storm was coming.
We took boats to Iquitos and busses to the airport. After checking in our luggage, we said farewell to our wonderful jungle guides and the Amazon. The farewell was bittersweet. Once you experience the Amazon, you feel drawn to it in a way that seem innate. I knew I had to leave but I felt like I was leaving a part of me behind! Once inside the airport gate, I was distracted from this sadness by the joyous banter of my Amazon amigos. We ate, talked and laughed a lot. This was a great transition from heartache to the flight.
I slept most of the flight from Iquitos to Lima. I was eager to get out of my seat but not for what was coming – the goodbyes. Our group was leaving to go in different directions. Some of us were heading to Machu Picchu. The rest of us were going home on different flights. The hugging began!! I was fine until my roomie Megan gave me a hug and said goodbye. The tears began to fall. I bit my lip hoping to fend off more tears. It didn’t work. The connections made were not just with the Amazon! Spending all this time roughing it, learning, laughing and exploring with these wonderful people has led to life long friendships! I knew the storm of sadness would not last long but I wasn’t ready to say good-bye.
There was a small group of us who were able to spend some awesome time together before our flights. We ate greasy food, itched our insect bites and laughed at Jackie applying Benadryl gel in the food court! It was perfect! I will never forget these people! I will never forget this experience! I will never be the same after this perfect storm!