A few years ago, as part of the Heliconia Society International Conference, I went to Peru. I went a couple of weeks earlier with some friends, and we hired a car and driver to go to look at some of the jungle areas to the south east of Peru, along the Madre de Dios River. This is very rugged country, and the road in was dirt, or rather rubble, which had just recently been opened after the wet season rains.
One of the really exciting parts, apart from mountain climbing on hunters’ trails, and wading through rivers and other complications, was just walking along the road. It had a sheer drop to the river on one side, and a steep cliff on the other, where there were no landslides.
This cliff face was a plant collectors dream. It was very wet, with little waterfalls and cascades bouncing off the rocks; but the plants – there were ferns and mosses and philodendrons and begonias, gloxinias, calceolarieas, fuchsias and bromeliads, orchids and a hundred other things that I am not enough of a botanist to name.
Every step you take, there is something new, and even a few heliconias, one of which was completely new to us, as well as some which were not so new, but it was exciting to see them in their wild environment.
When you see the environment of the tropical jungles like this, and where the roads are cut through and the light can get in, the variety of plants is truly staggering. Jungles are not really just big trees, but collections of plants some only a few centimetres tall, others twining, trailing, and all growing together, mixed in an amazing jigsaw, according the the micro-environment – wet, dry, sunny, shaded, facing east or west, and infinitely varied.
Some people have a holiday by the pool, others on a cruise, but give me a jungle, any day, and you see so much that is new, exciting and stimulating, so that when you come home, you are refreshed and excited by the world out there.