And that brings the cultural portion of these ravings to a close. But stay tuned for Part 2 which will feature wildlife and the beautiful and fascinating flora of the Amazon. In closing, however, we would like to leave you with this one image of dusk on the Amazon.
"Bucket List" It seems that ever since Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson teamed up to make a movie by that same name everybody has one. If you happen to be married, your joint list is probably somewhat longer than your individual list would otherwise be. We have been whittling away at ours in some earnest since shedding the shackles that confined us to that realm defined as “contributing members of society” some 18 years ago and joined the ranks of the lackadaisical do-nothing olde farts. In short, we had become the Galloping Geezers, the epitome of carefree living! We are now firmly established in a beautiful gentile southern Alabama neighborhood where our neighbors have no idea as to the chaos living among them. Let’s keep that our little secret…
We have checked off many of the items on our “list” over the past 18 years and even managed to add a few more, which, we then systematically checked off. Our major check mark was living successfully unencumbered for nearly 15 years in an RV while travelling throughout North America and visiting all the spectacular sites the United States, Canada, Mexico AND Alaska have to offer. Just imagine… that would probably be the most difficult endeavor imaginable for most of humanity because it involves sharing about 200 square feet of living space with another person 24/7. But the experience afforded us both the time and financial resources to comfortably visit a couple of other spots a bit more out of the way such as Antarctica, the North Slope, the Galapagos Islands and NOW the Amazon!
Welcome to the jungle! Meet your guide, known throughout the Amazon as Mono Dedos or “Monkey Toes” in English.
The Amatista, one of the dwindling number of wooden riverboats on the Amazon, was built in 1998. She is 127’ in length with a 28’ beam and carries 31 passengers. Amatista is translated “Amethyst” and she truly was a gem of a hostess during our time aboard.
After arriving at a variety of moorings (tied to a tree on the bank), aboard the Amatista, with the river level at a its highest, our primary mode of exploring was via skiff which was able to transport us through the narrow and shallow sections off the main river, which are not accessible by boat during the dry season (usually April to September). If you are into a lot of hiking through primordial forest in heat and humidity, the dry season is your best choice. We oldsters prefer to be transported by some mechanical contraption as frequently and as far as possible; ideally with bar service! We were informed that the dry season offers the better opportunity for seeing non-aquatic residents of the Amazon like jaguars, capybara, armadillos and anteaters. As an afterthought, although the wet season generally ends about April, April and May are usually the months with the river at its highest level. The river subsides as the rain diminishes so the summer months, June through September, would offer the best opportunity to explore by foot.
Our first village stop was Vista Alegre, home to a butterfly sanctuary. We had to maintain a firm hold on Brian the entire time to safeguard the fluttery occupants and their future larval offspring, eh.
Next stop: MV Amatista
After this the camera had to be pried out of my cramped fingers and it took two people to separate the eyelids of my left eye which had congealed together with sweat, mucus and some other substances recognizable only to God.
It was fortunate that we were visiting another village that afternoon to visit the local witch doctor. Actually, in the Amazon, these native healers are known as Shaman or, in our case, a Shamana.
Our Shamana, Carola, was 33-years old and had been practicing for 12 years after completing several years studying under another Shaman.
YUMMY! This is one of our fellow “explorers,” Brian, he’s a Canadian, eh. That should just about explain it.
My Bride, foregoing the gastronomic delicacies before her, took the opportunity for a “Granma fix” (The act of snagging and cuddling the nearest defenseless small person and cooing unintelligible sweet nothings at him/her as if you were related, all the while assuming the child actually understands Norwegian.)
Hmmm. I look a bit deranged here…and drooling! You’d figure if I was going to insert a gratuitous picture of myself I’d at least look cute. DON’T SAY IT!!!
And here we have a view of downtown Vista Alegre and a wee bit of village life in the Amazon.
So long as these guys stay in the river, I will be a happy camper. However, with the torrential rainfall that periodically falls around here, that boundary between river and land becomes rather blurred.
You may have noticed that peculiar vehicle behind my Bride. That is a tuk-tuk and Nauta is infested with them. They’re abundant everywhere! Since very few people have their own vehicle, they are the predominant method of personal transportation.
(We stocked up on these $1 disposable ponchos and ended up using just 2 of them over the course of our stay during the “wet season.”)
Having already met the local piranha, we were then introduced to the local fresh water Amazon Barracuda.
Amazonia, People And Culture May 19, 2018
I managed to catch this candid shot just as she was preparing to scamper up those vines to the rest of her troop in the treetops. Believe me, these little furballs are not easy to photograph as you will see in due course.
We spent 10 days in Peru which included 6 nights on the MV Amatista exploring the Amazon and 2 of its tributaries. But, I’m getting ahead of myself, so let’s start at the beginning…
We arrived in Lima around midnight after 8 hours in the air from Pensacola, Florida. Arriving in a strange country in the middle of the night can be a rather unsettling experience. Fortunately, “G Adventures,” our tour operator, was ready for us.
Kids are kids no matter where they grow up. I played with a stick in the gutter in Philadelphia when I was 5 years old. The only difference I can see is I didn’t have to worry about some 12’ caiman reaching out of the water to have me for lunch. At the end of our weeklong trek along the river, we beached the Amatista in Nauta, a town of about 30,000 folks living a couple of days by river from the nearest large town, Iquitos. There has been a road developed recently that allows that distance to be covered in about 2 hours.
We visited another marketplace in Nauta which was very much like the one in Iquitos but somewhat larger and a bit more regimented. Our second guide, Victor, was leading us through the various aisle of fruits, vegetables, fish, chicken and beef while purchasing various items that we would be eating on the Amatista for dinner that day.
And every community of any size from Mexico to Argentina will contain at least one Catholic Church in various degrees of grandeur. The church in Iquitos, though small in comparison to many, is no less magnificent.
In hindsight, I do not believe this guy was really prepared for us as his smile quickly withered when he realized we had not only our 2 carry on “go bags” but also 3 full sized US Navy sea bags and a steamer trunk filled with enough gear to survive everything from a Saharan sirocco to an Antarctic white out. Somehow, he managed to get us and all of our gear safely to the hotel. After two nights in Lima, we boarded a 2-hour flight which transported us to the Amazon and the city of Iquitos.
PLEASE NOTE: We are preparing this Update in 2 editions. This first part will be more about the details of the trip and the people and places we encountered along the way. The second part will concentrate on wildlife and the jungle. Be further warned that the author has a peculiar sense of humor. Venture onward at your own peril!! And Enjoy!!
Our first stop in Iquitos was the marketplace. The “farmer’s market” of any new area will give you a pretty good idea as to the types of cuisine the locals prefer. If caiman, piranha and larvae are something you’ve always wanted to sink your teeth into, read on, we’ve got ‘em!
That’s the butterfly on the lower left. My Bride, ever on the lookout for unattended children to pounce on, found another munchkin she simply couldn’t resist.
We saw pink dolphins. A lot of them. Pictures????? As my Mafioso pals would say, “Fugedaboutit.” I laid across the bow of the boat for 15 minutes with my right eye glued to the viewfinder while focused on a spot in the river where the dolphins had been jumping, somersaulting backward, doing tail stands and giving rides to the local monkeys across the river. After 15 minutes of staring at that spot, I got one picture of these two…
Occasionally you just have to use a picture of a beautiful child to put everything in perspective.
At this point you are probably asking yourself, “Just where in hell did that ornery husband get to?” No worries, mate, I was there.
The crew did an excellent job of providing a great “picnic afloat” breakfast wrapped in banana leaves as well as papaya juice and coffee…with cream!!
They are rather unique and call out to “Try me!!” Our folks all got together, rented tuk-tuks, and spent a little down time at the end of the day in one of the local cantinas. We managed to get this picture of Zack and AK as we raced back to the boat after our refreshments. Our driver, Wiley Wille, turned out to be much more than their driver, Jorge del Gordo, could contend with as we slid across the finish line by 3 furlongs. It’s amazing what a few extra US dollars will get you. And, YES, everybody takes US Dollars and they are happy to get them! At this writing, May of 2018, the exchange rate is 3.3 Soles per US Dollar.
Between our village visits we did manage to get in quite a bit of wildlife viewing which we will feature in Part 2 of this missive. However, one morning we had breakfast in the skiffs while tied off to a tree in a section of the river inhabited by the Amazon pink dolphins.
The fellow in the orange life vest is our guide, Neil, and that big fellow seated across from my Bride in the front of the boat is our gastro adventurer, Brian. He somehow survived his consumption of that butterfly larvae in Iquitos. (Hint: You weren’t told just what the larvae was when it was first mentioned in this diatribe. You really MUST continue reading or risk being left forever in the dark.)
Two of the ladies from the village founded the sanctuary where they were primarily concerned with raising and releasing butterflies into the wild. One of our group, Arkady (aka: AK), was immediately set upon by one of these winged killers who obviously perceived him as a threat to the harem.
He was fortunate that a butterfly whisperer was nearby to affect a rescue.
We were all given a container with a mature butterfly which we released into an enclosed breeding area, although some were a bit reluctant to leave their plastic shielded homes.
Hugs, CC & me
YES, folks do grill these things and then proceed to eat them. Shish-ka-bug.