Meeting the monkeys of Alto del Aguila // Colombian Amazonas
Puerto Nariño is a colorful, well developed village with about 7.700 inhabitants. The village is located 75 kilometers – a two hours’ boat ride – from Leticia. The atmosphere is very relaxed and quiet, also because there are no cars. The boat ticket is 35.000 COP (10 €) and you have to pay a tourist fee of 10.000 COP (3 €) when you arrive at the port of the village. The center of the town is located only a few walking minutes from the port. There is a small square with some restaurants, street vendors and locals hanging out. I stayed in the Guesthouse Alto del Aguila, which is located 20 walking minutes from the center. On our way, we passed colorful houses, a school and a busy football field, where kids were playing, cheered by lots of adults. It seemed like the social meeting point of the village. After passing the school, we walked into the jungle before arriving at the guesthouse.
This place is run by a friendly old man, who was already waiting for us. He welcomed us and showed us around on his lot. There are six cabanas (little huts) and a bigger wood house, which serves as a common area for the guests. This place was once a monastery where spirituals and priests lived. All of them left over the last decades and the owner, who was a priest himself, is the only one who stayed behind and opened the cabanas for tourists.
The location of the guesthouse at the river is really beautiful, but for me the highlight are the cute yellow monkeys (Mono Ardilla / Saimiri). They are living in the trees around this place and in harmony with the people since ages. I felt like I was the luckiest person on earth. I saw the monkeys running around the lot, climbing and jumping between the cabanas and trees. The priest saw my fascinated face and said: “Come with me, I show you how they are coming over to you to play”. He gave me two bananas and as soon as I started peeling them of, the monkeys came over to me. They ate the bananas from my hand, jumped on and of me, totally relaxed with me. I think I had the biggest smile ever in my face. When I was just a few months old, my grandma gave me a monkey soft toy. This toy was my best friend, I took it everywhere with me, it appears on almost every picture of my childhood. This is why I’m a bit crazy about monkeys 🙂 I always wanted to interact with a monkey, but I don’t want to support any tourist attraction that is locking up animals, keeping them away from their natural environment and forcing them to entertain tourists. So here I was, in the middle of the jungle, with free monkeys sitting on my shoulders, playing with me.
A few minutes before sunset the owner told us to take his little boat and paddle a bit on the river to see the amazing sunset. First, I didn’t want to leave the monkeys, but it was great advice of him, because again I was stunned by a beautiful sunset in a purple, pink sky. The owner also told us to look out for pink dolphins (which are pretty common in the Amazonas), but that evening, we couldn’t spot any. I was able to spot some of them a week later when I took a boat to Peru.
We paddled back to the guesthouse and decided to relax a bit in the common area of the wood house. The house has swinging doors, so the monkeys are able to open the door by themselves. They are walking in and out of the house, climbing on the furniture and playing with whatever they find. After watching them for a while I went back to the cabin to get some sleep. I had to walk back through high grass, it was wet and I tried to not think about what kind of animals I was surrounded by. Thanks to the rubber boots I could borrow from the owner, I made way my back to the cabin. It was really amazing but I was also a bit anxious, staying in the middle of nowhere, listening to jungle and animals sounds that I have never heard before. But I was so exhausted from the trip, the oppressive heat and humidity that I fell asleep deeply, while trying to process all the amazing impressions of this day.
In the morning when I woke up, I got a coffee and went to a viewing tower, which is built next to the river. I climbed up and had probably the best coffee view ever: over the river, in the Amazonas, surrounded by rainforest. It didn’t take long until I heard noises in the trees. The monkeys came over to sit on my lap and play with me. There was even a mum with a baby on her back coming over. I sat there for a bit, trying to enjoy this unique moment as much as possible before I had to say good-bye to the monkeys.
As I’m writing about my time in this guesthouse, I still can’t believe that I was actually there. If you are going to the Amazonas, makes sure to visit this amazing place. You can even stay there for a few days, because it’s the perfect place to disconnect, enjoy the rainforest, watch and interact with the animals and soak up the unique environment.