Sleeping with the Bushmasters
I knew a jungle lodge in the Peruvian Amazon was not going to be a Four Seasons, or even a Motel 6. But I had no idea that a few days after we arrived, the guide leading our little group would announce that we were to leave the lodge’s comparative comforts (mattress, mosquito netting, wooden floor) to go camping deeper in the jungle. By nightfall I found myself 18 miles upriver by canoe, alone except for my husband, Rich, four other tourists, three guides, a cook, about 9 billion mosquitoes, a few hundred fire ants, some caimen (crocodiles), spiders, birds, flying fish, sloths, monkeys and – rumor had it – a handful of bushmasters, the incredibly aggressive, poisonous 14-foot snakes that are attracted to light and heat.
Being well beyond radio range, we had no idea a huge storm front was moving in the night of our campout. As darkness fell, we were huddled in our leaky tent, water dripping on our heads and pooling on the floor, wondering if we could get any more miserable. Then our guide said, “Don’t go out of the tent tonight. But if you do, there’s a machete by the door. Use it.” Immediately I pictured myself standing outside in the torrential downpour, machete in one hand, flashlight in the other, trousers down around my ankles, fending of a ravenous bushmaster. Our guide added helpfully, “If you just have to take a leak, we have plastic bags.” Rich turned to me and said, “And we paid money for this?”
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I'm an American writer living in Seville, Spain and traveling the world with my husband, Rich.
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