Do I Want to Hold a Dangerous Amazonian Anaconda and Eat Piranhas?
Dangerous, no? Everyone must hold an anaconda at least once in their life. I fly from Lima to Iquitos, the largest city in the world, inaccessible by road. A blast of hot, steamy air hits me as I descend from the plane. Amazonia, I thought.
Old Portuguese tiled buildings adorn Iquitos’s streets. Many others display the mouldy decay endemic to humid places. The jungle encroaches on the city’s outskirts. All items are “imported.” Motorcycles outnumber cars in this isolated outpost. The town’s restaurants sell river fish, but no piranhas.
I found a jungle tour. We travel about 2 hours downstream to a simple set of wooden buildings placed on stilts above the water. In the rainy season, the river rises flooding the land. It’s not the Amazon, but a small tributary where the forest surrounds us.
I enter my tiny room with only a bed and fan or air conditioning, but who needs it? The roof cannot prevent all the rain from coming through. A few drops hit the floor.
The hotel includes almost repellent-resistant mosquitos at no extra charge. I layer on tons of it before they leave me alone. Not a hospitable bunch!
Our guide takes us to a reserve on the Amazon, where spider monkeys jump on our boat. One eyes me and finds a coke bottle, unscrews the top and drinks it. Doesn’t this monkey understand the concept of unhealthy?
Two macaws await on shore, waiting to be photographed. They’re tame and I move close. They don’t ask for soles, Peru’s currency.
Moving further, I encounter a South American coati. Get lost, I thought. A gang of coatis robbed and assaulted me at Argentina’s Iguazu Falls. They are “animal non grata” to me. I moved away. A sloth awaits.
Travellers get their pictures taken with the local sloth. Poor thing, I think. I hold her. She cooperates and even seems to relish the attention. She’s cute, but no anaconda. Where’s the anaconda? Who wouldn’t want to hold the world’s heaviest and second-largest serpent? Why not?
At last, they fished a poor green anaconda out of its watery home. People pose with it around their necks. It’s my turn and I hold the creature’s head and tail, easy. I feel it trying to move, but to no avail. He almost seems content and friendly. Good, no one wants an aggressive, angry snake on them!
Finally, I hold a small caiman, an alligator-like creature. He looks angry. You can’t blame him. I hold him behind the head so as not to get bitten but regret disturbing this poor reptile.
Time to look for pink river dolphins. Some folks go swimming in these piranha-infested waters. In reality, they ignore humans. It appears the water mammals are taking a cue from them. We wait.
In the distance, a dolphin jumps out of the Amazon. Pink dolphins outsize their ocean counterparts. They even know how to shrug their shoulders.
The next morning, we go fishing, but for what? I place the bait on the hook and lower it into the water. Something nibbles, and I pull the rod up. Where’s my bait? No bait, no fish. Thieves, I think.
Others catch sardines, but who cares, and piranhas, but these piranhas stole my bait. More tries, more thefts. My image of piranhas eating cows turns to them, ripping me off. What an inhospitable bunch! More bait, more theft. I have luck today. Despite my misfortune, we returned to the lodge with a feast of piranhas.
A smile comes to my face. Most people fish for tuna, bass, perch, trout and pike, but I fished for and ate piranhas!