So it turns out that the rain forest is actually a fairly harsh environment to live in. Who would have thought?
Gone are our misguided delusions of tanning in the sun, swimming laps across the river, being fluent in Spanish within the month and keeping up our physical fitness.
These activities have been replaced with 1) doing everything we possibly can to not sweat buckets constantly and 2) limiting insect bites to just a handful a day. Sometimes we’re successful, sometimes we’re not.
My biggest complaint of life here are the bites. They are everywhere. The soles of my feet, behind my knee, the base of my neck, those too hard to reach parts of my back. There is no relief from the constant itching. No object is above being used as a scratching implement, sometimes I’m completely unaware that I’m even itching. Once, I only realised when I needed to put the lid back on my bottle and saw that I had been using it to itch the bottom of my feet. It’s become an unconscious reflex. Bite spray, tiger balm and long clothing only get you so far. Those bastards are canny. They get you when you’re distracted, unsuspecting and vulnerable.
Heather and I have insects fly straight into our faces on the regular. Sometimes they hit an eye or fly up a nostril, and they come out of nowhere. The main culprits are moths, crickets and giant flies. The sound of buzzing or a slight skin tickle is enough to set us both on edge and start flapping about at an invisible enemy, deranged and panicked.
Insects are also annoyingly good at crawling into food and drinks. It’s a rare occasion when you can get through a meal without the appearance of a boiled ant. Heather once found 3 moths in her stew, she was pretty shaken.
The weather here is almost always hot and humid. The temperature is mostly mid 30’s and the humidity above 60%. This causes a lot of sweating. Constant, all-consuming, itch-inducing, salt-producing sweating. Sometimes the only thing you can do to not go crazy is just sit still, calm down and distract yourself. Waking up in the middle of the night sticky with sweat and tangled in sheets is not very pleasant. So tanning isn’t much of an option, sitting in the sun exposing your skin to insects is the last thing you want to do. Relief from the heat only really comes with a storm; it’s the only time the dense air lifts and a cool breeze travels across the river.
Other minor complaints are that the water tastes like chlorine: we put chlorine tablets in the water to purify it. And it’s actually pretty difficult to do anything without a conversational level of Spanish. The station manager, Javier, is great and looks after us really well here, but his English is basic and so we are constantly uninformed about stuff that’s happening and have to blindly follow him around sometimes, not knowing where we’re going or what we’re doing. We are getting Spanish lessons and have downloaded DuoLingo, at least on this matter we have some control.
We are both hoping that we manage to acclimatise somewhat to the heat, and become less appealing to hungry insects, although we’re not sure when this will happen, if ever. This post will serve as a reminder of how we felt during the first couple of weeks, and be interesting to compare to how we feel in a few months time.
I think I need to mention, just at the very end, that we both love life in the jungle. We’re in awe every single day at the life that exists here and both feel so amazingly lucky to be living here; but that’s for a different blog post.