10 Things to Expect when Trekking in the Amazon Rainforest
One of the most amazing experiences I have ever had was spending 5 weeks trekking and canoeing around the Amazon Rainforest of Northern Peru.
Living away from civilisation and immersing in a completely different way of life was truly eye-opening and it was this expedition that really gave me the travel bug. If you’re up for a challenge then a jungle trek is the perfect adventure for you!
Here are some things to know before visiting the Amazon and also a few useful tips...
1. Packing light is essential
When going on a long trek it is so important that you only pack what you really need, as you’ll be the one having to carry your rucksack everywhere and you need to make it as light as possible. It’s very easy to over pack and you end up repeatedly asking yourself “but what if...” which results in a whole load of stuff in your rucksack that you will most likely never ever use!
For 5 weeks in Peru I only packed 2 main outfits (one for the day and one to sleep in) and a couple of extra t-shirts for travelling home in. Clothes are not important in the jungle and there’s no point packing loads because it leaves less room for the more important things - like a medical kit and a mosquito net! So remember - if you’re unsure whether or not you’ll need something, the answer is usually no, leave it at home!
2. Expect to get dirty
This probably seems quite obvious as trekking in a rainforest is bound to be muddy (RAIN-forest = lots of water) but once you get dirty, don’t expect to be getting clean again any time soon. While in the jungle, the only place you will have where you can wash is the river, which is not the cleanest of places!
Luckily everyone else in your group will be in the same boat so after a while you no longer notice and it becomes normal to be constantly covered in mud. Don’t let this put you off though - even if you don’t necessarily look clean afterwards, you will always appreciate a long swim in the cool river following a hard days walking, and changing into your clean outfit ready for bed is one of the best feelings ever!
3. Be open to trying new food
Eating in the rainforest is an interesting experience - of course you can catch your own fish and occasionally find fresh fruit on the trees but you will also need to take food with you. Get used to eating pasta or rice nearly everyday and, other than fish, the only meat you will probably be eating is meat from a tin, i.e. spam.
Again, don’t let this put you off! You will be amazed at how creative your group becomes with their cooking and you will quickly grow to love the food. After trekking all day you will most likely eat anything put in front of you, so be open minded and be prepared to try new things! After all...you don’t really have the option to be picky out there!
4. Deet will become your best friend
As you probably know, the rainforest is literally crawling with insects so one of the most important things you can pack is some insect repellent, otherwise known as deet. Keep this with you at all times!
Every morning before emerging from your mosquito net, and any time after you’ve been in water, spray deet on yourself! In a lot of foreign countries, insect repellent is only really needed in the evenings and at night, but in the jungle insects are always around and the last thing you want is to suffer with bites all over yourself because you forgot the deet!
You will soon find yourself carrying a small bottle wherever you go and when you come back home you will feel lost without it!
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5. Prepare for noisy nights!
Night time in the jungle can be quite a scary prospect, but once your group is safely tucked up in mosquito nets under your handmade shelter (or individual hammocks if you’re lucky) then it can be quite an interesting time. It’s true that the jungle comes alive at night!
The first few days you might struggle to get to sleep - all around you will be the buzz of insects, the shrill of birds, the yell of monkeys, and the splash of electric eels, but before you know it the noises will become like a lullaby and you’ll be sleeping like a log every night!
Sometimes it’s nice to just lie in the dark and listen to the sounds - it’s really unbelievable that there can be that many creatures all in one place!
6. Early mornings
Bed time is when the sun goes down (usually 5 or 6 pm) but mornings begin before the sun comes back up! Prepare to be waking up anywhere between 4 and 5 am to collect firewood, get breakfast going, and pack up the camp ready to move on for the next day of trekking.
This might sound daunting but it will be a lot easier than you think! You will have had around 12 hours sleep but if that still isn’t enough, the excitement of the day ahead will surely wake you up! Being up early means you can make the most out of your day and you will also get to witness some amazing sunrises!
7. Insects aren’t really that scary
Before my trip I was really worried about the amount of insects that were going to be out there. I didn’t like the idea of them crawling on my things and I was a little frightened of being bitten or stung. The truth is, you can’t escape from insects in the rainforest. Before long you learn to accept that the jungle is their home and the vast majority of them mean you no harm!
It becomes normal to sit down for a quick break and 30 seconds later find your feet covered in ants, but believe me when I say that it really isn’t as bad as you might think! Instead of being scary, they just become a slight inconvenience and you will more than likely overcome any fears you might have - I know I did!
8. When it rains, it rains!
This might seem like another obvious one but when it rains in the jungle, it’s more than just a small shower! Sometimes the downpours will only last 5 minutes, but they can also go on all night so make sure to take waterproofs and wellies! Also take a waterproof cover for your rucksack and put everything in dry bags for extra protection.
You can usually tell when it’s going to rain as the skies will often get darker, but sometimes you might get caught off guard so it’s best to always be prepared! However, when it rains in the jungle it’s usually quite an enjoyable experience in comparison to a rainy day back at home. After walking for hours, feeling hot and sweaty, a nice cool downpour can be a lovely little surprise!
9. You will meet your BFF’s
Living without any form of communication with the “outside world” means you will naturally spend an incredible amount of time talking to your peers - whether you go with a group of friends, or join a trip where you know nobody, you will learn almost everything about each person you are with! In the jungle there’s no TV, no internet, no phone signal - nothing to distract you from socialising as a group. It may surprise you how close you will all become and the memories you make together will be some of the best you ever have!
Prepare to make some new friends for life, and be sure to take down everyone’s contact details so you can stay in touch afterwards! One of the hardest things about my trip was saying goodbye to everyone back at Heathrow airport - so many tears were shed and it was so heartbreaking to see everyone going off their separate ways after so long of living together like a family. You will go through so many ups and downs during your trip and these people are the only ones you can turn to, so your friendships will become extremely strong as you help each other through this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
10. Record everything!
The final thing to remember when going on trip like this is to keep a record of everything! Take as many photos as you can (don’t forget spare batteries and memory cards) and this includes photos of the group as well as just the beautiful landscapes. As well as photographing your journey, I also advise keeping a diary while you are out there. Even if you don’t particularly enjoy writing,
I strongly suggest you try! I filled up 2 diaries on my trip and even though some evenings the last thing I wanted to do was write about my day, I am so so happy that I did! When you return from your trip you will of course remember everything, but as time goes on you forget the smaller details and things can become a little fuzzy. Every now and then I sit and read through my diaries like a book and it’s amazing - it brings back all the memories in such detail that it almost feels like it happened yesterday, not 3 years ago!
Overall, if you’re planning on heading out on a jungle trek then go for it! You will have the time of your life! Just remember that life out there is completely different to being at home, so it may seem scary and could take a few days to adapt but it will be so worth it and you will come away with so many unforgettable memories and experiences!
By Alice Wills