Going viral

A sunset on the Madre de Dios river in the Peruvian Amazon
A sunset on the Madre de Dios river in the Peruvian Amazon

In 2006, three years after my first solo trip to visit my place of birth and reacquaint myself with my relatives, I returned ahead of my family, having booked a week-long tour of Peru. The tour began in Lima, then moved to Cuzco and the Sacred Valley before taking us to the jungle, ending the tour with our very own Amazon experience, where I filmed the only video of mine ever to have gone viral.

The spider monkeys were very cute
The spider monkeys were very cute

Our plane landed and we caught a very funky looking tour bus to Puerto Maldonado, where we climbed aboard a motorised canoe which was to take us to the lodge. The trip down the Madre De Diós River took under two hours and welcome drinks awaited us at the entrance of the lodge.

I had my own room, the ‘Anaconda’ suite with two beds, a bathroom and a front room where I could put on my layer of insect repellant or lay on one of the two hammocks and take in the jungle air. The rooms had no windows. Instead a mosquito net separated me from the wildlife and allowed me to hear the sounds of nature (and the other members of the tour).

The Amazon leg included a trip to ‘Monkey Island’ which, if you asked me, should have been called Mosquito Island because although the monkeys could be heard but not seen, the mosquitos flourished, and accompanied us on our walk. One by one the monkeys appeared and it seemed the guide’s calls of “platanos monos” (bananas monkeys in Spanish) were finally being responded to. My favourite monkeys were the Spider Monkeys, a black money with a long tail that proceeded to swing from branches, as if to grab our attention away from the other monkeys. As they ate bananas, the monkeys played with each other, pulling one another’s tails, and tried catching bananas thrown to them by group members.

Our tour included a fair bit of caiman spotting
Our tour included a fair bit of caiman spotting

After dinner, our group went on a canoe downstream to do some Caiman spotting. This was preceded by star gazing and listening to our surroundings. We drifted for a while as we listened and watched, and then we searched for caiman. We spotted two in the water but it was the third that was the most exciting of the night. As we shone the light on the land, the caiman grabbed onto a snake and shook the life out of it, then jumped into the water. Our canoe swayed violently as people jumped to the side furtherest away from the caiman and its dinner, a great end to our caiman spotting adventure.

Later in the tour, donning Wellingtons and holding our cameras, we embarked on a 2 hour trek through the forest surrounding the lodge. Our guide, Victor spoke to us about many of the trees and plants in the jungle, stopping every now and then to put a name to the noises we would hear throughout the morning. One of my highlights was seeing the tarantulas Victor lured out of their homes in the dirt with a stick. Their sizes were impressive, and I took a few photos and a video of some as they came out, before they realised it was all a set up and returned to their holes in the ground.

We stopped by a lake which was allegedly home to an anaconda, and climbed an 11 metre structure to get a better view. There we stopped for some morning tea and photos. It was then that one of the group members asked whether an Anaconda had legs. We had a lot of fun with that, and it brought up lots of images of anacondas doing the backstroke and pushing canoes over to have easier access to the people they were about to eat.

After an unsuccessful attempt to fish for piranhas, (my time to shine would come years later as I fished for piranhas in Peru once again) we returned to the lodge, passing another tour group who were all swimming in the river, much to the surprise and disgust of a lot of our group.

The tour was an incredible experience, and upon my return I uploaded my ‘Giant Spider in the Peruvian Amazon’ video to Youtube, where it suddenly went viral.

I still cannot work out how it came to have more than 1 million views. Was it merely a well-tagged video? A well-timed upload? All I know is that by the time Youtube asked me if I wanted to make money out of it its success had plateaued and to this date it has only made me $2.91. Let’s just say I will not be retiring from my ‘Giant Spider in the Peruvian Amazon’ video’s revenue anytime soon.

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