The Amazon rainforest is a wondrous place to be. Experiencing all the sights and sounds is truly an over stimulating experience and something everyone should take part in. There is always something new and something unexpected to comprehend. A viper snake tucked in between leaves, a tarantula scurrying on the ground, a solid red line of fire ants carving a path in the soft soil and energetic monkeys playing high in the tree tops. Along the riverbanks local fishermen fish and set traps for their next meal.
Near the shore of the riverbanks piranhas are abundant and aggressive to bite at any meat they may interpret as a meal. Though small and a slightly salty, the tiny fish are quite tasty. Catfish is a meatier fish we ate with stew and rice, a more filling meal. With all the animals and beautiful landscapes that we saw in the rainforest, what I remember the most is something I would have missed if I didn't take a moment to slow down.
My father and I were located just outside the larger town of Iquitos, Perú. About two to three hours up river we stayed at campsite about a hundred yards inland from the river’s bank. We were in Iquitos in July so the flood waters weren't as much of an issue as it would have been in the rainier season of November through April.
One of the days we were in the rainforest we hiked all day through villages and low lying waters with a local named Homer. We had no path to follow; there were no nicely trimmed trees or vegetation to keep branches from smacking us in our faces. A machete was our savior, the most valuable equipment we had. Because of thick walls of vegetation, without our machete we would be extremely limited in where we could go. Numerous times we stopped for vipers and other creatures that crossed our path. At every angle there was something to look at, an insect the size of my hand, a variety of different trees and plants, monkeys, iguanas, and so much more wildlife.
As it started to get later into the day the weather began to change at a rapid pace. We were still a good three hours away from our camp by the time we started to head back to our site. We knew that hiking in the dark was inevitable. About an hour away from camp it was pitch dark, we couldn’t see twenty feet in front of us. To be honest it was eerie to be in the rainforest in pitch black dark and not knowing what could possibly be in front of you or worst, behind you.
On top of it all it started to rain, I still had my camera around my neck and just placed it under my shirt to keep it from getting wet. My lousy attempt to keep my Nikon camera dry would prove to be ill-advised. Like someone turning on the shower head full blast, it started raining the hardest I’ve ever seen it rain. Still walking, I struggled to get my camera into my bag. Within minutes we were soaked to the core. Everything we had on clinged to our bodies, water matted my hair and a constant wiping of my eyes was necessary to see where I was going. As my dad and I were walking at a brisk pace towards camp we both noticed a few blinking lights. At first I thought I was seeing things but the tiny burst of lights started to get more and more frequent. My dad and I stopped in our tracks; the torrential downpour suddenly wasn’t our main concern. Like in a trance we patrolled the flickering lights. I asked him, “Are those fireflies?” He replied back, “I’ve never seen them before, but yeah I think they are.” We both have never seen fireflies before in person. But it wasn’t only a few fireflies it was hundreds, and we were in the middle of it. It was like glitter that falls from the ceiling during a celebration or when a big game is won, only instead of falling to the floor it hovered around us. We stood there watching the insects for at least five minutes, eventually they dispersed and the glowing lights started to disappear back into the pitch dark forest.
This was a moment that I will never forget. To think I also missed out on this experience because I was rushing to get out of the hounding rain. It was this moment that I learned to not always be in a rush, because when you are in a hurry the possibility of missing out on something memorable is high. We saw a lot on our adventures in the rainforest but the downpour of fireflies is one encounter we will never fail to remember.