SUP trip through Peruvian Amazon

Dusk falls on the Madre de Dios River.

“People are changed by the jungle.”

The words came from the darkness next to me, tinted with the lyrical tones of a Peruvian accent.

We were all exhausted; soaking from a late-afternoon deluge as we’d stopped to unload the boats for the night and worn from a week of travel. But it was a satisfied exhaustion, one where life is just as it should be.

SUP trip through Peruvian Amazon

Prepping the gear before putting onto the first river of the trip, the Queros.

When in the midst of good people in an exceptional place, it’s hard to be anything but satisfied.

And in these places when life is drawn down to its most simple aspects, it’s possible to see just how much an experience changes us.

SUP trip through Peruvian Amazon

Pepe Negro, Alvaro Bedoya and Pepe Lopez reflect on another successful day on the water at a random jungle hot spring.

Our mission, on the outside, was fairly simple: mount our standup paddleboards and explore a region of the Peruvian Amazon in and around Manu National Park.

Pepe Lopez, the expedition’s organizer, had assembled a largely-Peruvian team made of savvy river men, whitewater kayakers and seasoned standup paddlers.

SUP trip through Peruvian Amazon

Where the road ends, the river begins.

We were eager to see what the jungle might hold for us.

The goal was to accomplish the first SUP descents on several Amazon tributaries, including the Queros, the Pini Pini, the Tono and eventually the Upper Madre de Dios.

SUP trip through Peruvian Amazon

Occassionaly the rivers intersect with signs of civilization.

Our group started high in the Peruvian Andes, crossing over the mountains as we drove the two-day trek from Cusco into the Madre de Dios region.

After a few days spent tracing the headwaters of the jungle rivers high in the Cloud Forest, we proceeded to follow the rivers, dropping further into the jungle and meeting muddy waters with a mere one to two inches of visibility and hot temperatures.

SUP trip through Peruvian Amazon

Cusco locals stroll around the Plaza de Armas one evening as the sunsets.

SUP trip through Peruvian Amazon

The road to the Amazon was littered with many small towns rife with color and friendly — yet cautious — locals.

SUP trip through Peruvian Amazon

This old Russian Antonov was slowly being consumed by the jungle. Near Villa Carmen Biological Station.

The team performed admirably, meeting the calmer, darker waters with laughter and plenty of bug spray.

We camped several nights in the jungle, treated to superb camp cooking from various members of the team and parsing the next day’s gear by the light of our various headlamps.

Offer good food in great company, and it doesn’t matter where you sleep.

SUP trip through Peruvian Amazon

In the evenings, life slows down. The crew whips up some magical jungle fare.

The trip was a success, but the accomplishments seemed to pale in the scope of the sheer hungriness of the place around us. Some environments seem to be passive, others even supportive.

Not this place – the jungle tests you. Pushes you. There’s no room for weakness. And there’s a visceral glory to that.

SUP trip through Peruvian Amazon

Luis Vereau pushes out against the storm on Madre de Dios River.

Insider Tip: If this sounds like a trip for you, reach out to Apumayo Expeditions, Amazon Conservation Association and Casa Andina Hotels.

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