Cumaceba Amazon Lodge

This is the view of the port entrance to the Cumeceba Lodge from the water. It’s only accessible by boat–no roads at all. You can tell by the tall trees that this land is relatively permanent. I stress “relatively” permanent, however. Just a couple years ago, the area flooded and the entire lodge had to be re-built.

I’m usually big on research before I travel, but I didn’t do ANY before coming here. I just chose a Travel Agency I’ve booked day tours through in Arequipa, and let them arrange the entire excursion. So, I feel pretty lucky that everything worked out!

I took a 5 day package with the Cumeceba Lodge. It included one night in Iquitos and 4 nights at the Amazon Lodge. After flying to Iquitos, which took most of the first day, I stayed the night in the Garden House in Iquitos. The next morning, I got a walking tour of the city, then was taken to the port where I met the other English speaking members of my group. Together, we took a 1 hour boat ride to the lodge.

The port of Iquitos is on the Nanay River, which joins the Amazon. Notice the floating houses. This city is only accessible by plane or boat with few roads.
Our group included two Israelis from Tel Aviv (who were perhaps the most interesting people I’ve met in a LONG time), two Spaniards from Barcelona and me. We were briefly joined by two girls from France as well.
Pulling away from port of Iquitos on the Nanay River. Notice the mud colored water. You can’t see into it more than a couple inches because it carries so much sediment. When we actually joined the Amazon a couple miles away, it was even dirtier.
Even the gas station is floating.
I’m pretty sure this lodge wasn’t as rustic as the one I stayed at.
Most of the boats along the Amazon are long and narrow. Those for passengers often have a covering. These boats are called pequepeque (Pronounced: pekay-pekay, roughly the sound the motor makes).
Most excursions required a boat driver (conductir), who typically spoke no English. They were rather laid back, mostly young, men. We even ran out of gas on one trip and the driver had to use a long pole, like a Venice gondolier, to propel us the final 200 yards to the dock.

There are at least a half dozen lodges you can stay in outside of Iquitos. Mine was probably the most rustic–no internet, no pool, no air conditioning. The only electricity in my room was a weak overhead light, not even a fan (which I really would have liked). We could only charge our electronics twice a day, during 2-hour periods that overlapped with lunch and dinner. But since there was no internet and I didn’t have phone service, that didn’t matter so much. The food was great and very healthy. Meals were (very roughly) at 7:30am, 1pm and 7:30pm. (Time is a fluid concept in all of Latin America.) There was always a serving of meat (usually fire roasted chicken) or fish (fried), baked plantains, boiled yucca, a salad of either spiral cut heart of palm (referred to as jungle spaghetti) or cabbage, cucumbers, tomatoes and bread. There were no pastries, only fruit for dessert, usually bananas or papaya. I may have even lost weight!

As we arrived at the Cumacebe dock, one of the men was fishing and had just caught this one. There’s a huge variety of fish here, including piranha, just off our pier. Many went swimming after lunch each day and no one was bitten!
There’s swimming and fishing off the pier, despite the huge turtles, snakes and piranha.
My guide, Sergio, is in the middle. He had excellent English speaking skills. He also spoke Spanish and Quechua (Ke chu wa). To the right is Tito, who kindly proposed to me during the trip, despite not sharing a language with me. He was easy going, kind and hard working. I could do much worse! Phew! I was worried I wasn’t going to get a marriage proposal while in Peru!

Other “amenities” included coffee, tea and “cold” (OK, room temperature) filtered water 24 hours a day, a small bar, two decks of hammocks and lots of (very needed) mosquito netting covering the entire top of each cabana. All the windows were screened, patrolled by house geckos that snacked on any bug that landed. One tiny lizard even fell from the mosquito netting ceiling, landing on top of my hand as I brushed my teeth. He narrowly escaped being pushed into my mouth on the handle of my toothbrush!

The squirrel monkeys hung out at the lodge, since they were fed bananas 2-4 times a day!

The housekeeping left something to be desired, however. I finally had to ask for a fresh towel after the third day. It took more than one request to get. Since nothing ever dries in the high humidity, my damp towel was beginning to grow mushrooms. My room was never swept, nor my trash emptied in 5 days. I wouldn’t have minded so much if there’s been a broom around or a bin to dump my trash into, but there simply wasn’t. The water was solar heated, so was only warm starting about mid-morning. For me, this isn’t a big issue, since I’ve often lived with solar heated water. I’ve learned to take a shower before dinner (often my second of the day, depending on the day’s activities), so a morning shower isn’t needed. There was no ice for drinks, but the beer at the bar was cold.

If you come here, bring a flashlight and rain gear. When they offer to rent you mud boots, pay the 10 soles immediately. You’ll need them.

Two or three times a day we’d climb this hill up and down from the pier to get to the main lodge building. Since it rained often, the path was usually slick and muddy. The “bridge” over the water to the floating pier was adjusted daily due to wide fluctuations in water depth, depending on rain.
There’s a long covered “bridge” from the port to the lodge–necessary since it’s quite a muddy patch between the two. The last night, we took a “tarantula walk” down this path. Turns out the ceiling had more than a dozen large spiders crawling up there, as well as frogs and scorpions. Eeek!

There’s little to do at the lodge, but the guide keeps you busy with excursions after breakfast and another after lunch. Many days we also had excursions before breakfast and after dinner, too. There’s lots to see and do if you have a guide to show you around. My guide was Sergio and he was simply fantastic. Without him, the trip wouldn’t have been interesting at all. He took me fishing for piranha. We had several walks in the jungle and boat rides in a small, stagnant lake to identify plants and animals. We took trips down the Amazon to nearby villages. We saw native Indians and some fish that were almost as long as I am tall. There were lots of caiman and birds. I had three baby monkeys crawl onto me (which I enjoyed) at a rescue center and a tarantula jump onto my stomach (which I did not enjoy). It was an adventure!

Prayer for Tourists, in the small lodge bar.

Between excursions, I slept. I can’t explain it, but even with the heat and high humidity, I slept very well. In fact, if I wasn’t moving, my body wanted to fall unconscious. The Amazon seems to be the cure for insomnia, at least for me. The environment also–briefly–cured my scaly, dry skin. Arequipa is at an altitude of over 7,000ft with no rain this time of year, typically no cloud cover, and a relative humidity that’s almost always below 20%. The Amazon is near sea level and the relative humidity is almost 100%. It also rained every single day I was there, sometimes for 8-10 hours at a stretch. My dry skin simply sloughed off during my first two showers (both taken within my first 10 hours there). My dry hair also came back to life. Briefly.

Exterior of the cabanas. The roofed area to the left had a central post that supported a half dozen hammocks.
The main dining room where all meals were served and all excursions met.
The raised hallway to the cabanas was only marginally lit at night. You needed a flashlight to find your room.
This was my “home” for 5 days–#19. The thatched roof was actually separate and hung above the walls. The ceiling and windows of the cabana was covered in mosquito netting. Inside was just a double bed, bookcase and bathroom. No frills.

I learned a LOT and plan to return, someday, to the area to volunteer at the butterfly farm, the manatee rescue center and the monkey rescue center.

Amazon River, locating Iquitos and the Cumaceba Lodge.