It was dusk in the treetops of Leticia, in the furthest reaches of Southern Colombia. First came the cicadas, intensifying in their chorus of chirruping. Slowly, the percussion of croaking frogs joined in, a backing track of speeds, depth and volume all perfectly attuned. Slowly the bats hanging outside the mesh windows began unfurling their tightly wrapped wings and preparing for an evening out hunting, the scratching vocals intermeshing with the symphony of life outside.
The mighty Amazon rainforest was coming to life as the night set in, a chorus of activity and a hum of life gaining in momentum and intensity as a bold moon rose high above our treetop treehouse. I checked the lining of my mosquito net one more time, and shone a torch round the floor for a last minute sweep of wayward tarantulas. This was my paradise, all my childhood exploration dreams come fully realised.
Tears had pricked my bloodshot eyes as I gazed out from our small Colombian aircraft, the rainforest sprawling endlessly out the window in an infinite sea of green. “As we prepare for our descent into Leticia, please return your seats to the upright position..” The announcement faded to the back of my mind my emotions got the better of me.
It was my thirty second birthday, and I was about to plunge head first into a lifetime dream of mine to explore the mighty Amazon Rainforest. The sheer wonder and excitement I felt building up to this experience what overwhelming, I’d played this moment many times in my head before. As we descended closer toward the miniature airport I traced small branching tributaries coming together to form the larger river, clouds of parakeets flew overhead the tallest trees, swooping in for the prime fruits to gorge on before returning back to the park in Leticia to roost.
The small strip of runway tarmac was flanked with palm trees and cleared scrubland, the windows fogged just a hint as we came into slow in front of the small mostly open-aired airport building. Plans for airport expansion were mapped out in one window as we walked in towards the single baggage claim. One of the more remote towns in the world, the city of Leticia is accessible only via air or Amazon riverboat from neighbouring Brazil or Peru.
Daydreams swirl aggressively of green anacondas slipping through murky waters. The green being the largest of the anacondas, magnificent and semi-aquatic, the reptiles of many a myth, movie, and my own deep respect and fascination. Distracted, I tugged my luggage off the conveyer belt and wandered out to find the assigned airport pickup. In a town that straddles the joining points of Colombia, Peru, and Brazil; English is far down the list of spoken languages, with Amazonian dialects being lost amongst the prominence of Spanish and Portuguese.
On arrival to reception, it’s a further twenty minute walk through new-growth jungle across strategically places logs and stepping stones before we reach our treehouse, towering high above the ground. I’d spent many months self-planning this trip, deciding that the packages on offer were generally too pricy, too structured, and too touristic for my usual liking. In the end, self planning was definitely the way to go and Leticia is well placed for randomly arriving tourists – there is no shortage of day trips, accomodations, and things to do with little notice.
Leticia I found to be a vibrant and interesting small town, quite different from anything I’d expected. Homes teeter on stilts along the river banks and most resident’s livelihood depends on small, wooden long boats for getting around, working as a water taxi, or bringing fruits and other goods in from neighbouring Brazil and Peru. It’s a melting pot of the three cultures and every July the three bisecting countries meet together to share their food, dress, dance, and culture in a huge celebration of Amazonian diversity. I found this town to be like nowhere else on Earth.
The Amazon in the flooding season is an endlessly fascinating waterworld where the rivers rise up to 15 metres, and you can explore what is normally the jungle floor by boat. A watery land of ancient trees and marvellous creatures, spilling out into across the magnificent Lagos Yahuarcaca and into the surrounding forest floor. Monstrous snakes and enormous fish compete underneath Victoria Amazonicas, the world largest lillypads spanning up to 10ft across, with stalks plunging as far as 26ft down to the bayou floor.
It was a birthday wilder, and more overwhelming, than I ever could’ve dreamed. I would go back every year given the chance. What many see as too difficult, too dangerous, or too scary; was a wilderness paradise and relaxing escape into on of the planets truly remaining wild places. I’ll remain forever thankful that I was able to have this experience.