Part I (Into and Out of the jungle)

We were originally scheduled to stay out in the selva (jungle) for 30 days but we’ve cut it short by one week. There were a couple of things happening that helped us decide on a shorter stay. The main issue is the fluid in Chris’ ears (Otitis Media with Effusion) the second one being some financial issues with the center we were staying at.
Chris’s ear problems started in our very first flight from Atlanta to Ft. Lauderdale. His ear problems would have started on the flight from Chattanooga to Atlanta but the flight was canceled and the airline decided to put everyone into a bunch of shuttle vans and drive us instead of flying us. Chris was on the tail end of a cold when we left and we thought nothing of it. The takeoff and ascent out of Atlanta was not a problem but the descent into Ft Lauderdale was a painful experience. Flying and even scuba diving have been problems in the past and with our healthier eating habits and reduced stress we didn’t think it would be a problem. The last time Chris had OME it was due to a bad cold and had to have tubes in his ears. That was over 5 years ago and a lot has changed in our lives since then and we’ve even flown several times without any issues. But it was an issue on the flight to Ft Lauderdale. The cabin of the airplane is pressurized and the theory is that the pressurization forces the air in your ears into the soft tissue. When that happens the fluid in the soft tissue enters the inside of the ear. What normally happens when you descend is that the Eustachian tube will be open and allow air in to equalize the pressure in the inside of your ear and allow the fluid to drain out. With a bit of Eustachian tube dysfunction or swelling around it the fluid is not able to drain out nor is air able to easily enter the inside of the ear to equalize the pressure. The descent becomes a painful experience where there is a vacuum formed on the inside of the ear. No amount of chewing gum, yawning or trying to blow air into your ears works. Some tiny bubbles, one or two at a time are able to forcefully find their way up the Eustachian tube. When they do it feels like a needle is being stuck deep into the neck muscles behind the ears. Eventually we land and there is no more pain but there is temporary loss of hearing of about a 40% and Chris can feel the fluid moving around if he looks up or down. This has happened in the past and usually clears on it’s own without any issue. We had one more flight from Ft Lauderdale to Lima Peru that day and same as before the takeoff and ascent were ok but the descent into Lima, Peru was painful and uncomfortable. We bought some ibuprofen and Sudafed at the pharmacy since that usually works. The ibuprofen worked to ease some of the pain but the Sudafed did nothing to open up the ears.
We spent the night in the hotel across the street from the airport in Lima. It was nice that it was so close and that we didn’t have to take a taxi or worry about any other issues late at night. Our flight to Iquitos, Peru was at 2 PM and Chris prepared by taking some Sudafed before the flight. Sudafed has worked many times on previous flights but not on this one. If you don’t have any issues it’s no problem to make a quick stopover to drop off and pick up a few new passengers. If you have ear problems each landing is an exercise in physical and mental restraint. On the second landing we arrived in Iquitos and were taken to the hotel by Eddie the motocar driver that the center uses. We paid 20 Soles but found out later that it should have only cost 10 Soles. We had never seen a motocar or mototaxi before but it is the transportation of choice in Iquitos. Cars are extremely rare and the buses have a limited route. The front part of a motocar is usually a 125cc motorcycle. The back half has large wheels and a covered bench seat that can hold 2 1/2 full Americans or about 3-4 Peruvians. They have exhaust pipes but most are loud and they are everywhere. We were told that they are called Iquitos Mosquitos because they are buzzing around everywhere. I don’t have they words to accurately describe the constant drone of these things. It’s great if you want to go anywhere in the city, there is always one available but if you are trying to talk to someone or even sleep it’s a bit of a problem. A new motocar cost about 6,000 Soles so it’s not too expensive to buy plus you can make money taking people around the city and surrounding area.
The next day we were driven to the Belen market to buy some rubber boots that we were told to get for our time in the jungle. They cost was 18 Soles each or about $6. We should have haggled with them because we’re pretty sure that’s the tourist price. We know better than that now. We’ve since learned that just about everything is negotiable.
From the market Eddie drove us out of town and down a very long dirt road that was mostly washboarded with potholes and covered with lots of water in places. After about about an hour the road ended because the seasonal rains. We paid Eddie 50 Soles. We later found out that others had paid about 20 Soles for this trip with other drivers. Another newbie tourist mistake that we will try not to make in the future. Without a road we hopped into a large canoe with Omar the person that we had been in communication with. He would be walking with us and taking us to the center. We walked about 20-25 minutes on a maintained trail, through water puddles, a few small log bridges where the water was a little deeper and over one large log bridge where the water was at least 3 feet deep. We were glad we bought the boots earlier that day.
We arrived on April 5th and decided to wait a few days to see what would happen with Chris’ ears. After 5 days Chris decided to go back to Iquitos to visit a doctor. Chris went to the clinic and it cost 40 Soles or about $15. The doctor did an exam and could see the fluid in Chris’ ears and could also see the redness from the infection. He wrote a prescription for a shot of Penicillin, Dextramethorphan and some tables of Alleve and a non-drowsy antihistamine. Chris was directed to take the prescription to the pharmacy near the front door. For 17 Soles he received a vial of penicillin and a glass ampoule of Dextramethorphan, a saline injection solution, a syringe with 2 needles, a couple of blister packs of Alleve and one blister pack of an antihistamine. All of that for just $6. Chris wasn’t sure what to do with the syringe and all of the liquids for injection. Would he have to administer his own shots? Fortunately he was told to go back and see the nurse. She escorted him to another room where she used one large diameter needle to fill the syringe with all of the medicines for injection then changed the needle to a smaller diameter one for the gluteal injection. Compared to prices in the U.S. $21 is almost unheard of for a Dr. visit AND medicines. The penicillin shot cleared up Chris’ ear infection very quickly and the Alleve took care of some of the pain until it did. Unfortunately none of the fluid ever drained out of Chris’ ears.
The shaman would work on Chris’ ears several times with massage and different ointments and natural antibiotics but nothing helped. The shaman even brewed up something called Boahuasca that is supposed to help with colds and help remove fluid. Chris had to drink it 2 times a day for 5 days. It did not taste very good at all. It didn’t work either so all of that horrible taste for nothing. But you never know if it’s going to work or not so it was worth a try. Otitis Media with Effusion (OME) is just not something that someone out in the selva is really able to treat and the shaman didn’t really have any experience with either.
So we are now in Iquitos, Peru. We returned to the clinic to see if we could get an appointment with the Otolaryngologist. They said come back at 7 PM which seemed really late for an appointment. And they also said to come back the same day which really seemed odd for someone familiar with waiting a week or two to see a specialist. So we returned early around 6:00 PM just in case there was an opening early. We waited around 20 minutes then one of the staff took us outside where we got in a taxi and she took us a few blocks away to where the Otolaryngolists office was located. We had assumed that the specialist would be located in the clinic so the taxi ride was a bit peculiar but luckily the lady that checked us into the clinic also rode in the taxi with us to the specialists office. Chris had some sentences written down in Spanish to describe his symptoms and after reading several the Doctor started speaking in English. Then a quick exam and some Ceftin antiobiotics were prescribed for 7 days. The Dr visit costs 50 soles or about $18 and the antibiotics costs 142 soles or about $51.
So now we are just waiting for the antibiotics to work and to see if we need to return to the doctor. Chris isn’t able to fly right now which isn’t a big deal since we aren’t schedule to fly out of Peru until August. We had thought about taking one flight while we were here in South America but now that does not seem like a good idea. We’re also not sure about going to Cusco or Machu Pichu beacuse of their elevation.
We are in good health otherwise, we both lost weight while staying at the Center out in the selva.

As you can see we are giants compared to most Peruvians.  This is Elias who was our shaman during ceremonies for the first couple of weeks. His Icaros (healing songs) were very strong and he would sing for about 2 hours or more. He would sing a couple of icaros to start the ceremony then sing one icaros at the foot of each person in the maloca then close out the ceremony by singing another icaros.
As you can see we are giants compared to most Peruvians. This is Elias who was our shaman during ceremonies for the first couple of weeks. His Icaros (healing songs) were very strong and he would sing for about 2 hours or more. He would sing a couple of icaros to start the ceremony then sing one icaros at the foot of each person in the maloca then close out the ceremony by singing another icaros.
This was our screened in hut that where we slept for 23 days.
This was our screened in hut that where we slept for 23 days.
The Maloca at Luz Cosmica where healing ceremonies are held at night.
The Maloca at Luz Cosmica where healing ceremonies are held at night.
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