sunrise over the amazon
sunrise over the amazon

It was a Tuesday. October 13. I can probably start referring to dates before this day as BS, Before Sloth. Everything after will henceforth be known as MS, or Missing Sloth. Until we are reunited in the afterlife. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

That morning Sami asked us to meet at the docks at 5:30am to try to catch a sunrise. The local people and perhaps the government had been doing a lot of burning in the area – you could smell it and see it in the air – making good sunrises and sunsets hard to hunt down. But we’d had a nice jungle rain the day before, so we piled into our skiff and headed out to find a nice spot, Sami greeting and then shaming a local guy he saw hunting for turtle eggs in a canoe. We saw birds and fish jumping, and caught a bit of a sunrise.

trees on trees on trees
trees on trees on trees

I think we went back for breakfast after that, or maybe looked at our thousandth tree. You know when you go to Europe, and a few weeks in, you start finding it difficult to care about another church or bridge? It gets a bit like that with trees in the Amazon. But only a bit because I love trees. And they are mad impressive in the Amazon.

You’re also kept from boredom by your absolutely crazy guide, who after breakfast, rounded us up and announced that today was the day one of my dreams was coming true. “Mistress!” he called. He called us either “girl” or “mistress.” “You want to see a sloth today? Okay we go see a sloth.”

Tired and unbelieving, as Sami’s claims tend to run towards the fantastical, “ooooookay, suuuuuure,” was the general response of the group.

creepy grass curtains
creepy grass curtains

Then we motored over just a bit beyond on lodge, and Sami stood at the head of the boat, communicating in rapid-fire Portuguese with our driver. He got out his ubiquitous machete and hacked his way through a grass curtain. The Amazon is covered with these floating lawns, and the water rises and falls 20 or more feet during the year, so the grass catches on the trees and creates these creepy sheets of dried lawn.

We paddled a bit farther in, still none of us seeing a sloth, and then, barefoot, he starts shimmying up a tree that was probably not even as thick around as my thigh, packing the heat that I do. He climbs up further, and none of us can even see what he’s aiming for, when he starts shaking and breaking branches off the tree.

Then, as if from the Heavens, down falls a FREAKING SLOTH. Defying all odds, she reached up slowly and caught herself on a branch and then moved as fast as she could to escape.

so. cute.
so. cute. sloth on a leash. looking a little pissed but that’s okay.

This was not very fast at all. Sami grabbed her and dropped her in the boat on a harness he had somehow fashioned out of a branch.

And then

We held


Like. It was freaking magical. I stared into her eyes. I held her in my arms. Well, in my two fingers. Their arms are creepy long and their nails are even longer, and they can reach to crazy angles and scratch you, so you have to hold them with just two fingers under their wee armpits and keep circling them away from your body, while trying to compose yourself for photos and keep the screaming inside.


I’m sure this was a somewhat traumatizing moment for the sloth, and it certainly was a bit for us to watch her hurtling towards the shallow waters before she caught a branch. The whole thing was maybe five minutes start to finish, and I don’t think sloths have great memories. But since I will never be the same, I’d kind of like to think she won’t be, either.

We let her out of the boat and she swam slowly to the only tree that was lopped off at about ten feet, poor thing, so she clung shyly to that until we paddled away.

Here is a video compilation of some of the encounter, with Samir up in the tree catching the sloth, me freaking out, and Tess’ mom giving running commentary:

amazon school room
visiting the classroom! I spoke Spanish with them, as they’re learning Spanish.

The rest of of the day is somewhat of a blur. We went to a shop (generous description) and Tess and I bought candies and sodas to take to a local school. We’d seen the students getting picked up in the school boat. They get classes for a few hours a day, and if they’re really smart, there are scholarships available for them to receive schooling elsewhere. It was adorable, bare bones, but the kids were happy and fed and sweet. Sami said that the original school building had been burned down in a fire by a jealous girlfriend. …again….Sami…

Back at the lodge, we settled in. A new group of people came and included some of the hostel standards – the Asian couple that takes a thousand pictures, the smug girl doing yoga every morning as you walk by thinking “I could do yoga if yoga could figure out a way for me to be eating donuts while doing yoga,” the girl with the mini hula hoops or the silly things they swing on ropes.

the teachers on the tour in front of the Amazon school.
the teachers on the tour in front of the Amazon school.

There was the seriously smelly Australian who had given his clothes to a local three days ago to be washed but hadn’t seen the local since. There’s always a middle-aged couple too sweet for words (from Canada, no less) that were apologizing for everything and wearing the entire REI catalogue.

We were missing the guy with a tiny guitar. There’s always one of those.

Tess and I were preparing for bed, when she discovered a friendly cockroach making a nice snack out of the apples she’d left on our desk (nope. never letting you forget it.) LUCKILY her brother Casey, who is like seven feet tall and was very helpful in carrying large objects the entire trip, was also a bug smasher.

We also got to eat the fishies we had caught the day before! Piranhas are good but labor intensive. I'll stick to hunting chicken nuggets down.
We also got to eat the fishies we had caught the day before! Piranhas are good but labor intensive. I’ll stick to hunting chicken nuggets down.

She got him from the neighboring cabin while I kept watch. There is nothing more terrifying than having to leave a bug or spider unwatched while you leave the room to gather reinforcements. He killed it with a sunglasses case, and it actually splattered apple juice all over his face. Had that happened to me, I would have been on a boat back to the mainland faster than you could have said “ew,” but he calmly washed it off. And wiped his hands on Tess’s towel. I made sure.

More to come tomorrow…

And if you haven’t heard it today and you need to, I would cuddle you like a sloth if you wanted it.

Click on the gallery photos below for more pics!!!