A Snake (as opposed to) A Fish Story

A few weeks ago, we were in the Peruvian Amazon.

It was our first trip to Peru and also to the famed jungles of northern South America. I didn’t know exactly what to expect, which, of course, is the fun of travel.

As our plane descended into the town of Iquitos in northern Peru, I gazed upon the mighty basin for the first time. I wasn’t prepared for the ceaseless green, the only interruption being serpentine rivers folding back on themselves. They appeared lost in the maze of jungle.

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I was reminded of a blog I had written about the four most amazing places I had witnessed on the planet. These places, the vast ocean, the mighty Himalayas, alien Antarctica and the plains of Africa, are incomprehensible in scale. I began to ask myself if perhaps I was about to discover a fifth place of wonderment, a green marvel on the blue planet. We would soon see.

The excitement of discovery awaits every day we wake up and embark upon nature.

Our day began in heavy fog with hundreds of shore birds milling around, waiting for the warmth of sunrise. We observed them through a scope and marveled at the fog moving along the river. As the sun rose and the fog cleared, our view of the river and it’s brilliance grew before us. Soon enough we grabbed our binoculars, loaded up in a small boat and headed out to find…..whatever.

We encountered spectacular king fishers on the river banks and exotic pink river dolphin in the brown waters of the Amazon. We fished for piranhas and gaped at their razor sharp teeth. We learned about the trees and observed beautiful flowers.

But what we weren’t expecting came late in the morning.

Our guide, Aldo, was speaking to our driver and they started searching the banks of the river, for what they would not say. Being a professional fish watcher, I knew enough to realize they were looking for a particular habitat. They searched for piles of dead trees, almost like looking for a beaver lodge. At one point, the driver drove the boat up into the dead trees and the guide peered over the edge in anticipation of….something. Then he shook his head and we moved on.

Then, Aldo, pointed to a very large stack of dead wood up ahead and we motored towards it with anticipation of surprise. All of a sudden Aldo yelled and jumped off the boat into the downfall, almost landing in the water. At the same time as he jumped, he reached down and grabbed something in the water. Then he looked up in surprise as his eyes became much larger than his tiny 5’5” frame. He yelled, “I got it” and with all his strength, he lifted the head of a very unhappy anaconda! What Aldo had not anticipated was the size of the snake he had just “sort of” captured. He yelled for the driver who came rushing out and also jumped into the bushes and grabbed the next three feet of the terrified snake.

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At this point the two suddenly comprehended what they had.

The snake, of which they had ahold of about four feet was three times that long! And it had wrapped it’s tail around a tree snag, determined to stay in it’s watery home.

So there we were, nine guests sitting in a boat and our two guides in the bush with only four feet of a 12’ long anaconda in their hands. I raced to the front of the boat and offered to jump in and get the next three feet of the reptile. However, I did understand that still left the last 25% of the snake firmly attached to the tree or to me if it decided so. Aldo, who was panting and struggling to maintain a hold of the snake’s head, was screaming into his radio for back up and decided it would be best not to get me involved.

Just about the time we all thought our guides strength would falter and they would lose the anaconda, a second boat came racing up and two more guides jumped into the fray. Finally, the four of them hoisted their catch, a gorgeous, and VERY long serpent!

Now what do you do once you’ve caught this monster?

Well, I guess you wear it…or at least that’s what I did. The guys wrapped it around my neck so I could feel it’s slithery weight against my neck. After all, how often do you have this opportunity? It was an extraordinary animal to see in the wild and feel it’s power on my back.

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In the end, of course, they let the snake go back to it’s lair. They laid it out in the grass and very quickly and carefully backed away. It slithered through the grass and slipped quietly into the muddy river and within seconds, it disappeared from view, leaving us in awe of what lies unseen in the mighty Amazon.

Later that evening at dinner as we were recounting our exploits on the river, Aldo admitted that it was the first time he had ever grabbed an anaconda and had no idea that it was the leviathan it turned out to be. It was both a proud and scary moment in his guiding career! I high-fived him and congratulated him on his first snake grab.

It was his first time grabbing an anaconda and my first time wearing one. I chuckled to myself as I realized that “Wear a Twelve Foot Anaconda” wasn’t on my bucket list.

I made a mental note to add it, then cross it off as complete. Not a bad thing to accomplish on a Tuesday.

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