Raincoats and Repellent: A Trip into the Amazon Rainforest

Sydnie Schell is a student at the University of Kentucky and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is studying abroad with ISA in Lima, Peru.

Iquitos, Peru, Schell, Photo 1
The Amazon River
Iquitos, Peru, Schell, Photo 2
A boat ride on the “Highway of the Amazon”

It was one of the more surreal moments of my life when it started raining in the Amazon rainforest. Perhaps it was momentary jungle insanity brought on by the humidity, or the sheer shock of feeling like I was on a whole new planet, but I started laughing. It wasn’t until this downpour that it truly hit me– I am in the middle of the Peruvian rainforest. This is crazy. This is unbelievably amazing.

We trustingly followed our guide into the jungle (in the middle of the night, no less) to hike in the middle of one of the largest ecosystems on earth. Surrounded by thousands of plants, animals and other wildlife, I was armed with nothing more than my flashlight, iPhone, and bug spray doused rain jacket.

At one point during the hike we all decided to pause and turn off our flashlights. The darkness settled around us, still and expectant. It was so dark that when I held my hand just inches away from my face, I still couldn’t see it. My tongue rolled over my teeth to release some declaration- of curiosity, of astonishment- I can’t remember, but no words escaped. There was no need to say anything.

I was suddenly struck by the overwhelming feeling of insignificance and power of nature. Some of the most fascinating species on the planet- bullet ants that could kill a person with a few bites, poisonous tree frogs, and my personal favorite, bioluminescent fungi- were all less than meters away from me. Nothing quite dwarfs us more than the vastness of nature.

The feeling struck me again the next night. After spending the day fishing for piranhas, climbing palm trees, drinking water straight out of a tree branch, and hunting down caiman, we returned towards the lodge on our boat. I was resting my head against the rail as the water of the river splashed against my face when suddenly the boat’s engine stopped working.

Once again, we found ourselves in the middle of the Amazon engulfed in darkness. While waiting for help, I stared up at the Milky Way. I have never seen the stars like this. Back home in Kentucky, the most I’ve ever seen is one or two, and now I can see millions of them. I tried to wrap my head around the intricate complexities of the cosmos, but came away just marveling at the sheer size of the universe and thinking about how incredibly fortunate I am to have traveled here.

Iquitos, Peru, Schell, Photo 3
Stargazing in the Amazon

The otherworldliness of it all still hasn’t caught up to me even weeks later. Stunning. Breathtaking. Enchanting. I don’t think a language rich enough exists to describe the Amazon. I’ve never felt so removed from the world as we know it, and it was exhilarating.

Want to read more about Sydnie’s Peruvian adventure? Check out “Learning to Trust Myself:  My First 48 Hours in Peru”