Welcome!

Well hello there! Welcome to The Adventures of Rob & Lauren. We are two professional photographers from Canada with a passion for art and adventure. This blog follows our journeys around the world as we seek out incredible people and places. We also try to share as much knowledge as we can with our amazing readers!

Feel free to poke around the site. There’s a lot of great resources and articles regarding photography and travel. And make sure to use an RSS reader or check back frequently. We promise lots of hilarious antics, super cool photos and exciting stories! 

Visit to an Animal Sanctuary

One of the excursions we went on during our jungle tour was to visit an animal sanctuary. We are huuuuuge animal lovers, so we were quite excited!

We use every opportunity to take photos, even if we’re just travelling from one place to another :)

Two images of our jungle guide, Warren.

The landscape is incredible in every sense. 

I love how the river is such an important part of life for the people. 

Upon arriving at the animal sanctuary we got to see a coati! They are members of the racoon family, and seemed like an anteater-monkey hybrid! They would dig in the dirt to find worms to eat, but loved to climb up into the trees as well. Cute, but not to be petted! They were definitely wild little guys. 

At this animal sanctuary all of the animals were free and not caged up. They were orphaned or injured and were unable to live on their own in the wild, so these guys took care of them. We got to see a spider monkey, which is just an incredible animal. As soon as you saw them move, you instantly understood the name “spider monkey”. 

Now this naughty little monkey was named Pepe. We were warned beforehand that he loved to steal things from the visitors. Even with the heads up, he still managed to grab Rob’s glasses and run right up the tree!! He also managed to give them a few chomps as well. Two of the guys who worked at the sanctuary had to climb up the tree after him to get the glasses back!! Naughty Pepe!!

The monkeys would just hop up and climb all over you, it was one of the most incredible experiences we’ve ever had. 

There were sloths hanging around in the trees, and we watched this one walking along the ground to get to a tree. She walked in a straight line, even straight over an anthill! When you move that slow, making detours are clearly not too high on your list of priorities! 

Sloths have very little defense from predators, and are quite vulnerable. They have these huge claws to defend themselves. I would not want to be on the other side if they got mad!!

But even with those intense claws, they are still the cutest animals!

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And the only thing cuter than a sloth? Baby sloth.

Here’s Pepe giving my lens a really good inspection. Thankfully monkey slobber is easy enough to clean off. It’s for reasons exactly like this that we always carry a Lenspen!

Monkeys are so incredibly expressive and human-like. Getting to be around them was such a pleasure, we could have spent all day there!! 

Pepe was trying to steal the sunglasses from one of the guides as well! 

Now here’s a crazy animal! This is a matamata turtle, probably one of the most unique looking animals I’ve ever seen. 

There were some amazing birds hanging around, but this was the only shot we got of one! We were way too amazed by the monkeys!!

As well as an anaconda. Yep, these guys live in the Amazon as well! Not quite the scale that Hollywood would have you believe, but very large nonetheless! What amazing creatures snakes are. 

Such an incredible place, I really hope we will get to see more of these sanctuaries popping up instead of zoos with cages. Animals like this need as much space as they want, and these guys all seemed so happy and full of life. Loved it. 

Primary Jungle & Killer Ants

Happy Monday everyone! Hope you’re all finding things to fill your time now that the Olympics are over! We are still plugging away at our shots from Peru, and having a great time reminiscing. Rob might be scanning some more film tonight, yay!

Previously we shared some of our shots from a stroll through the secondary jungle. Well, that was just a warm-up! We got to walk through primary jungle and it was a whole different experience! Primary jungle is more in the hundreds-of-years-old area, versus 80-years-old for secondary jungle, so you can just imagine all the amazing stuff that is growing there! This is where you needed your rubber boots. Like, you really really needed them…

We were so enthralled with the shapes, colours, and light that you find in the jungle. 

This is a tangarana tree, home to the tangarana ants that defend it. Our guide told us that local tribes would use these trees as a form of punishment, and are also known as “punishment trees”. If someone had broken the rules they would tie them to the tree for a few hours. The ants would bite them, injecting formic acid that would cause intense pain. They would need to spend a whole week recovering from those few hours. If they repeated the major offence, they would be tied to the tree until they died. You can see a couple of those scary little guys on the tree, just waiting for someone to bite….

The jungle is filled with other interesting little bugs! These are termites crawling all over our guides’ hands. They aren’t dangerous at all, but actually extremely useful! Locals often use them as a form of insect repellent. They simply squish them all up and it keeps the mosquitoes away! Needless to say, we stuck with our Watkins DEET, but try it out and let us know! :)

Crossing the water on a log bridge. Adventure!

See what I mean? Those rubber boots were essential!

Check me out! I’m totally Tarzan! Ok, clearly I sucked at that. But it was neat! Apparently these aren’t vines. If you tried to swing on a vine it would just come loose and you’d hurt yourself. These are actually roots from a plant that grows up at the top of the trees to get the sunlight, and then has super long roots that go all the way to the ground to get the nutrients it needs. 

Gotta say, these were some gross looking bugs. They were all around on the leaves and totally creeped me out. I’d be getting in position for a shot, and one would be right beside my head! 

One of the really enormous trees in the primary jungle. 

This will give you a sense of scale of the trees all around us. That’s Drew!

This was our boat that dropped us off and picked us up from our trek!

Poisonous! I think it’s pretty safe to say that most things that are very brightly coloured in the Amazon are well worth staying away from!

A cicada. These are what are responsible for so much of the noise in the jungle. We really wish we had a great sound recorder! Next time….Look at those incredible wings. Wow. 

A little frog that one of our group members spotted. This little guy did a great job of blending in with the leaves that he was incredibly hard to spot!

These ants were scary. They are incredibly huge, and apparently could kill you after 5 bites due to the large amounts of formic acid they leave behind. Yikes!!

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Another of those huuuuuge ants. I definitely wasn’t getting close to take these shots. 

Cheers!

Lauren :)

The Smallest Monkeys in The World

Here’s a nice little post for you to enjoy over the weekend! An assortment of shots from the jungle. Everything just sounds cooler when you say it’s “from the jungle”. Try it.

We were also lucky to spot the smallest monkeys in the world! Those photos are near the end of this post, if you’re just too excited to see them. I wouldn’t blame you. Monkeys are awesome.

And before we get into this post, just wanted to give a shout out to Susie! She was super wonderful and came up and said hi to us while we were out shopping. Now that we’re back home in Edmonton you might spot us out and about, so please come say hello! We love to meet our blog readers!!!

First up, a man fishing in the morning. It seems like such a quiet existence, very often I envy that. 

They often use nets as well as poles. This gent was checking to make sure his net was in good order. 

We were heading off for a stroll through the jungle, and had to be properly outfitted. You know you’re going to go to some awesome places when you have to wear your wellies (aka. rubber boots). 

Yeah, I rock the big lenses. P.S. Check out that *sweet* watch. Loved that thing. I’ll let you know all about it when we start reviewing our gear! P.P.S. Please excuse my nails. Gosh that’s embarassing! But c’mon, we were in the jungle!!

I was always amazed at the number of people they could fit in a boat, and how close they could get the edges of the boat to the water without sinking. 

These birds enjoyed just hanging out on this…thing? I don’t know what that is. A bird hang-out, let’s say. I really dig the symmetry and colours on the back of the bird that’s just about to land. 

This young girl was doing laundry on the banks of the river. I love her expression here. 

And this tree stump that we floated past had such great shapes going on. So many incredible things to see in a short boat trip!

One for all you creepy-crawly lovers out there. It terrifies me how well hidden this was. 

Here I am, modelling those rubber boots for all I’m worth. 

A couple shots of that gorgeous vegetation all around us. 

Oh my goodness. My new favourite animal of all time: the sloth. Honestly, these little guys are the sweetest little things you can imagine. At least this one was. Please don’t go pick up a wild sloth because “Lauren said they’re nice!”.

Anyway, a young boy saw us travelers coming past his small village and walked over with his pet sloth in the hopes that we would pay him to hold it. Well, I did, and that little sloth and I had a moment. I was giving him some pets on the head, and he was just loving it! Seriously, if I could I would have kept him forever and named him George. I miss George. 

Our guide spotted these teeny tiny little monkeys hanging out in the trees. He said they are the smallest monkeys in the world! I did some quick Googling and they might be Pygmy Marmosets (any monkey experts feel free to chime in!). Aren’t they incredible?? 

Another look at those cuties. 

And here’s a little guy hiding out in the trees. 

Shooting these monkeys was really really tough! I was using a 5DMKII, a 70-200 2.8 L IS, with a 2X Extender on it. In the end it was a 400mm lens I was trying to handle! That meant that these monkeys were faaaaar away, moved super quick and I was focusing through a ton of trees, which gave the camera major problems. Tough tough tough. I have so so so much respect for wildlife photographers after this trip. It’s so much harder than it looks! 

In regards to that extender, it’s useful when travelling as it effectively doubles the focal length of any of your lenses. The one downside is that you lose a few stops of aperture, as well as a bit of image quality, so it’s not a perfect solution. It’s small enough though that for these rare times we’re shooting wildlife, we’ll still bring it along!

Have a great weekend everyone! We still have so much to share with you, so make sure to keep checking back for more adventures!

Lauren :)

Holga: Floating Islands of Lake Titicaca

Yesterday we received a big ol’ box on our front step. At first neither of us had a clue what it could be. Then, when we saw the sender, we got a rush of excitement: it was from ABC Photocolour, the cool peeps out in Vancouver who do all our film processing! That meant that all the film that Rob shot while in Peru was here! We went for a month without being able to see what he was getting, which for us, having shot only digital for 4 years, was quite difficult! But we’re about taking risks, doing something new to us, and seeing how it turns out, for better or worse! Things are more fun that way :)

So, Holga. Many of you might not be familiar with that camera. Well, it’s a neat one for sure. It’s considered a “toy” camera, as it’s made totally out of plastic, including the lens! What’s especially awesome is that it uses medium format film, which gives the shots a really fantastic, unique feel. You basically have this really cheap camera that’s shooting film intended for really expensive cameras. The cheapness also tends to give you some unexpected elements call “light leaks”, where the plastic, imperfect nature of the body allows little bits of light to come in and change up your shot.

All and in, we absolutely love the results, and are excited to see all the rest of Rob’s Holga stuff from Peru! If you’d like to learn more about Holga, and other such toy cameras, definitely check out Lomography, which has a bunch of great info! If you want to buy a Holga, I’d suggest eBay or B&H, as Lomography tends to be a bit pricey. Rob uses the Holga 120CFN right now, but would go for a 120N next, since he doesn’t use the flash very much when traveling. Getting rid of the built in flash also makes the camera crazy cheap ($20 if you don’t wanna check the links, but wanna know! For $20, pick one up and play!).

Now for the shots! These were all taken on Fuji NP400PR black and white film, and scanned on a Microtek M1

The location is the Floating Islands of Lake Titicaca

Those borders around the images are from the scanner holders. We keep them on there to easily differentiate film from digital shots on the blog. In the future we’ll be trying to get the full film edge so you’ll be able to easily see the type of film we’re using! When we print these shots, we’d get rid of the border for a cleaner print :)

Scanning takes quite a while, so we’ll be doing our best to get more film work up here, but you’ll have to be a bit patient! Thanks so much for following along, hope you’re having fun!!

Let us know what you think of this film work, vs. the digital stuff you’ve been seeing so far! Comment away!!

Fishing for Piranhas

Growing up in North America, you hear amazing stories all about those terrifying, flesh-eating piranhas that live in the Amazon, like their unbelievable ability to devour a human being or cow in seconds. They gain so much notoriety that they hardly seem real.

Well, they are real, but the myths about them are not. Piranhas do not kill and eat a human being in seconds. In fact, they hardly bother humans at all. People regularly swim in water where tons of piranhas live! They are more like scavengers than anything, and seem to only be aggressive when they are caught in shallow water without any food for a long time. If you want to read some more on the habits of these interesting fish, you can check out this article I found on Cosmos. It’s definitely a neat thing to learn about! 

In Peru, we had a chance to fish for these very fascinating little creatures. To experience something like that, something that seemed straight out of an adventure movie, was incredible. Traveling allows you to do things that you never even thought possible, and that is what is so addictive about it for us!

One thing we were surprised to learn is that piranhas are actually frequently eaten by Peruvians, and are seen as just another fish. We frequently saw people out fishing them every day, and they were widely sold in the markets we explored. They probably shake their heads in wonder as to why we travelers go nuts over the chance to catch these things! They are full of bones, and pretty tough to prepare! But all that aside, we were still really pumped to try our hand at catching these toothy fish!

 We headed out in a small wooden boat with our guides. They took us to a spot known to be populated with piranha, and we floated close in to the bank. The sun was shining, it was quiet, and we were surrounded by the jungle. It was incredible. We were given simple wooden fishing poles with a hook on them. We baited them with small pieces of beef, and waited. 

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I’m a pretty competitive person, so I really wanted to be the first one to catch a piranha! Not that I could really control it, haha! It was pretty neat though, you’d put your hook in and could distinctly feel the piranhas nibbling at the meat. The strategy was to wait until you felt a big bite, and then quickly yank the pole straight up. It was pure luck, but I did indeed catch the first fish! Hooray!!! And yes, these are pretty small fish! Generally between 15 - 25 cm long, and the ones we caught were definitely on the puny side. We threw them all back to fight another day. 

Me staring down my catch. Grrrrrrr. Check out the hook there. It is distinct for fishing piranha. If you had a regular one, you’d have to get your fingers mighty close to those very sharp teeth when pulling the fish up. Instead it has a super long top so you can keep your digits safe. Smart Peruvians! 

Close up of those teeth. Scary!

BAM! I rock at piranha fishing! I caught another one! It was super duper tiny, but it still counts. 

Our guide showing me how to remove the hook. I did, and got to hold a friggin’ piranha in my hands! Unreal. 

Now, I know you’re waiting for a shot of Rob triumphantly holding a piranha, but, no go. They were just not biting for him that day. Don’t worry though, I caught two so I’ll share that tiny one with him :) This was a really fun experience, and I’d love to go back out again and do some more fishing! Apparently there are many other cool things to catch in the Amazon, but more so during dry season, and we were there during the wet season. Next time!

Finally, a neat little video from Iquitos. Everywhere we went we rode in motocarros, and they are quite the experience. Basically they are a 125cc motorcycle with a three-seater rickshaw mounted on. And by three-seater I mean three small people. We had to become pretty good at spotting the ones with a wider seat so that all three of us large North Americans could fit without being absolutely squished. Peruvians are much much smaller :) These motocarros had major vibrations (my feet hurt every time we took one for an extended period of time!), quick turns, and were open-sided so you could really see everything around you. Very very fun :) I don’t think they’d go over too well in snowy Edmonton though….

A motocarro ride around Iquitos, Peru from Rob & Lauren on Vimeo.

If you’d like to check out more videos, and keep updated on all the ones we’ve posted, make sure to check out the Adventures of Rob & Lauren channel on Vimeo!

http://vimeo.com/channels/taornl

Enjoy!

Culinary Adventure: Japadogs!

Right now, as you likely know, the Winter Olympics are going on in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Vancouver is about a 12 hour drive from where we live in Edmonton, so definitely not a quick trip. Usually that’s not such a big deal. But as we’ve been watching Olympic coverage while we work, we’ve frequently seen them talking about a food phenomenon that has everyone in Vancity obsessing: Japadog.

In case you haven’t heard of Japadogs before, they are hot dogs with really unique Japanese-style toppings. I’ve never had the pleasure of enjoying one, but my mouth certainly starts watering every time I see them! People have actually been standing in line for over an hour for one of these! Sadly, they don’t have any stands in Edmonton. It seemed like we would never enjoy the culinary delight of a hot dog with some Japanese flair.

But then, Rob had a brilliant idea! He suggested we try to make them ourselves. With a small bit of research I was able to come up with the ingredients for one of their most popular dogs, the Terimayo. So we headed to our local supermarket and the adventure began!

Make Your Own Japadog

First up, your ingredients:

You’ll need the following to make your very own Japadog:

- Hot dogs: We used these neat Piri Piri flavoured smokies because we wanted to know how they tasted, but based on my research I’d say either 100% beef hot dogs, or Jalapeno Cheese Smokies would be acceptable choices. Or really whatever you want. There are no rules here.

- Hot dog buns: The key to a successful hot dog is to make sure your bun to meat ratio is correct. Don’t buy a bun that’s way too big, or you’ll regret it. I’m serious.

- White onion: I found the fried onion to be a fantastic part of the hot dog, and would definitely make it a must on this one. One medium onion was enough for four hot dogs, and generous onion toppings. 

- Teriyaki sauce: Go for a thick teriyaki sauce. This Kikkoman stuff was stellar. 

- Japanese mayo: Local supermarkets here in Edmonton have carried this stuff for a long time. I have no idea if you will be able to find it, but hey, go for it! Honestly it tasted quite a bit like regular mayo, but it was good anyway :) If you can’t find it, go for regular mayo, or get fancy and add some miso paste to your mayo. I’m totally gonna try that out next time. 

- Sushinori: This is dried seaweed that is generally used for making sushi. At our supermarket we had no problem finding it and there was a ton of variety. Just head down your “Ethnic/World/Asian” aisle and hopefully you’ll find it! Go for the large sheets, and not the small sheets that are individually packaged. Those bad boys are for snacking, and are quite a bit more salty, which would probably be overpowering. On their own though, we really dig those, and snack on them quite often!

This Japanese mayo was worth the cost just for that really trippy mascot. 

Scooter has a tendency to be very curious about what we’re up to. He likes to be right in the middle of the action. 

I LOVE fried onions, so I definitely don’t skimp!

This is the type of seaweed we found. Tasty!

Best cat in the world. We missed him so much, and are so happy to get to hang out with him again!

Fry those bad boys up. I make sure to do this first since frying onions takes a little while. 

This is what a sheet of the seaweed looks like out of the package. 

I folded the sheet in half the long way, and then in half again. It tore in part quite easily. Score!

Grab yourself some “kitchen shears” (aka. the super sharp scissors that came with your knife set) and cut those bad boys up! Go for nice thin strips. 

Cook your hot dogs/smokies according to package directions. That is all. 

Now, if you’re going to have a kick-ass Japanese style hot dog, you need a kick-ass Japanese style beverage to go with it. We chose a nice, icy-cold Sapporo. 

Man, making these hot dogs is easy! All you have to do is assemble now!

Yum. Japanese mayo. 

Dinner ready just in time for a night of watching the Olympics!! Good times!

So, if you’re like us, and unable to get yourself a real Japadog, definitely try this out!! It was AMAZING. Honest. We couldn’t believe how good that combo of flavours is. It was also crazy easy to do. From start to finish it only took about 20 minutes, and all the ingredients were easily found in our large supermarket. One day we will journey to Vancouver and have a real Japadog, but until then, this is a pretty darn good substitute!

Lots of love,

Lauren & Rob (whose tummies are very very happy!)

iPhonography: Cusco

Some more iPhone photos from Peru for you today! These were taken one night as we were walking around the streets of Cusco. 

If you’re interested in iPhonography, definitely keep following along as we’ll try to give you as many pointers and tips as we can! 

When it comes to taking iPhone shots at night, you’ll need to remember that the “shutter” will be open for a long time to let all the necessary light in. This means that if you start shaking the iPhone at all, your photo will come out blurry. To prevent it, we have a couple easy tips.

1. Make sure you’re standing very still. It’s even better if you can brace yourself against a wall. If you wanna be super duper still, breathe out just before taking your shot. That’s getting pretty intense, but hey, everyone likes to be intense right?

2. Hold your finger on the “shutter” button of the iPhone, and then release when you’re ready to take the shot. Don’t just press it, or you’ll make the phone move around. Press the button, hold, compose, then release. You’ll vastly improve the sharpness of your nighttime images if you shoot this way!

At night, your phone will also have some trouble knowing what to expose the shot for. Make sure you select the darker parts of the scene (in these examples Rob selected the buildings for the phone to focus on), otherwise all you’ll see is black! The iPhone will take a moment to figure it all out, and then you should see the buildings nice and bright on the screen. Then you’re ready to take your shot!

This is the famous 12-sided stone that was created by the Incans. It is truly an incredible feat of engineering, as it has held up for hundreds of years, with no mortar, surviving even earthquakes. The 12 sides represented the 12 kings in the region. Apparently there are stones with far more sides than this, but it was this meaning that makes it so famous. 

Feel free to leave any questions you might have about shooting with the iPhone in the comments and we’ll answer them for you!

Hope you’re all having a great weekend! 

Lauren :)

iPhonography: Amazonian Leaves

You may not know this, but Rob is an exceptional iPhonographer. What on earth is that? Well, it’s a photographer who uses an iPhone! If you’ve seen our Articles section, you’ll know that we are quite enamored with that little gadget for many many reasons. And one of those main reasons is the incredible photos you can create with it. 

While in the jungle Rob, as usual, had his iPhone out, snapping away. Personally I think the following is the best photo he’s ever taken with that phone. Straight out of “camera”, no editing done whatsoever. Lit with an LED flashlight. 

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And this one is pretty sweet too :)

And here’s a super neat video he took with the iPhone. Near Waikiki beach in Lima, parasailers glide along the warm air currents. The sky was often filled with them!

Parasailers over Lima from Rob & Lauren on Vimeo.

Sugar Cane Rum. Yum.

I can’t believe how many things we were able to do when we visited the jungle! More than that, I can’t believe how incredibly photogenic everything was. Even a short walk out your door provided some incredible photographic opportunities! Sitting here in winter wonderland Edmonton, I definitely miss that!

These palm trees create this shape in a really awesome way. They first grow the new leaves straight up, and then as those slowly age they droop lower and lower, until they die, hang straight down, and eventually fall. It’s a continuos cycle. Very cool. 

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We walked through a small village to see our sugar cane demonstration, and as always I loved taking shots of all the adorable kids. 

Doesn’t this chicken have the best colors ever? Incredible!

So, the purpose of all of this strolling was to witness a demonstration of how the juice is extracted from a piece of sugar cane. They have this pretty hardcore piece of wood, and through the strength of a lever, crush the cane bit by bit, releasing the juice. 

It took quite a bit of muscle to break that cane down. 

And then, in the really neat finale, the lady twisted the mashed up cane really tight, and a whole slew of juice poured out! Now, I’m sure you’re wondering, what was the point of all this? Well, the sugar cane juice by itself is very delicious! But you can leave it to ferment and it turns into a form of rum! We tried some that had fermented for a couple days and developed an alcohol content similar to beer. It was still yellow, and tasted pretty nice. Then we tried one that had been fermented for a week, and was more along the alcohol content of rum. It was clear, had quite the kick, but was delicious! If I lived here, I’d totally make myself some awesome homemade sugar cane rum!

I was called upon to try my hand at it. It definitely was a lot harder than she made it look! I tried my best, but didn’t get near as much juice out of it!

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Rob, in the meantime, found a couple turtles to play with!

So tiny!

And, as always, managed to delight the kids by taking their portrait with his Instax!

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Loved this cute little boy and his turtles!

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On our walk back, I again found myself drawn to taking portraits of the people we passed. This little guy was playing hide-and-seek I think! What a mischievous little grin!

And this gentlemen had such a wonderful face I couldn’t resist asking to take his portrait as well!

These kids had just come back from a quick dip in the river.

We then hopped back in our boat to sit on the river and enjoy a sunset. I loved the light playing on the water.

And the birds flying above the clouds. What a magical day!

A Walk Through The Jungle To Meet With A Shaman

Never in my life did I think I’d be able to write a blog post title like that! Traveling takes you places and gives you experiences that you never expected you’d have, and end up treasuring for the rest of your life. Now that we’re home in Canada we appreciate those moments even more, and are already missing Peru and everything it gave us!

One of the excursions on our jungle tour was a walk through secondary forest to meet with a shaman. Secondary forest there is that which has only been growing for about 80 years. It had previously been cut down for agriculture, and is now being restored. That means that what we are seeing is very new. Even though it’s young, it’s still absolutely beautiful and fascinating! We saw so many plants that were just incredible. And trust me, I’m not the kind of person to find plants that interesting. But in the Amazon, everything is interesting! 

These trees are serious. You don’t want to mess with them!

The shapes and patterns were just stunning. 

These trees were just incredible. They are called “Walking Palm Trees” and actually walk in a sense! As you can see, there is no one central root. Instead, it has many. And as the central roots die, the outer ones grow to continue supporting the tree. They gradually move towards the center, and new outer ones replace them in a continuous cycle. This allows the tree to gradually move along the jungle floor! Our guide said they could move up to 50cm a year. Crazy!

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Here’s a close up look at those roots. 

I loved the vibrant colours that you could find everywhere in the jungle. These fungi were stunning. 

And I guess these ones are the actual edible ones! Don’t quote me on that and go try and eat them though ;)

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Rob looks like quite the adventurer here, doesn’t he! He still has his face paint on from when we visited the Yagua tribespeople!

One of my favourite parts about walking through the jungle was the chance to spot animals in the wild. I’d get this rush of adrenaline as I tried to snap a shot before they ran away. This little monkey was just checking us out as we walked by. He is a saddle-back tamarin, and super duper cute. 

When we finished up our walk, we came to the home of a local shaman. They use palm leaves to roof their homes, and I just loved the patterns it made. 

When we arrived, he had set out a bunch of the local plants the he uses in his healing. 

As well as a couple of drinks that he makes for different ailments (the one on the right was good for asthma)

And various roots and barks. 

The shamans chakapa: a “leaf rattle” that they use to dispel negative energy from their patient. If they were to use their own hands, they would take on the negative energy themselves. So by using this they can harness the energy, and then throw it away without harming themselves. It made an really fascinating sound, as you will soon find out…

And this is a piece of ayahuasca root. If you’ve been to Iquitos, you’ll most definitely hear of ayahuasca at some point. It is a jungle vine that, when brewed into a drink, has hallucinogenic properties. People take ayahuasca to cleanse themselves their bodies (it happens to cause both vomiting and diarrhea) and their minds. We’ve heard of some pretty intense visions that our guides had while taking ayahuasca, and none of us were up to it at the time, but it’s something we’d definitely be interesting in trying in the future. If you’re looking for some interesting reading you can Google it, or I found an article on National Geographic of a first hand experience with it! It’s definitely a very very interesting part of Amazonian shamanic culture. 

Next we all tried the drinks that the shaman had made. This one is called Seven Roots and is made up of various roots, barks, leaves and stems. It’s a very popular drink in the Amazon, likely for it’s reputation of being “jungle Viagra”. Can’t say we found that effect, but who knows! It is also drunk for general good health, so we shot it down. It had a sort of herbal medicinal taste (and also a kick from the sugar cane rum that it was blended with). Not bad at all!

Then we got to witness the shaman demonstrating how he would begin a cleansing ceremony. Before an ayahuasca ceremony this cleansing would be performed to prepare the patient. First he drinks something called camalonga, which contains garlic, camphor oil, among other things. He smokes mapacho, which is dark tobacco, to cleanse and protect himself. Then he begins to shake his chakapa in a rhythmic way, and starts to whistle and sing. 

But how can a photo really convey what it’s like to witness that? Luckily we had our 5DMKII on hand and took a quick video. 

Shamanic Cleansing Ceremony from Rob & Lauren on Vimeo.

And finally, a quick portrait of the shaman. He was a really interesting person, and I wished I spoke Spanish so I could learn more about him. This aspect of Amazonian culture really fascinated me, and I’d love to return to study it more. We were told that he began training when he was 13 to become a shaman, and learned from his father and grandfather. They spend 10 years with a very strict diet (no salt, fat, sugar, red meat, alcohol, sex or drugs) and spend their whole lives practicing and learning. Truly fascinating! 

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Hope you guys enjoyed all of that! We took a quick look at our shots today and can’t believe how much we have yet to post! Much more to come!!

Lauren :)