Day 3, Amazon Voyage; Sunday - Feb. 10, 2008
We started out with a 6:00 a.m. boat trip along the Amazon River near San Joaquin/Yarapa area looking for birds and animals. There is more to see they tell us in the early morning. Our small boat had David from Smithsonian with us, and he stated that we saw over 60 different species of birds this morning. Dad announced that he wanted to see monkeys, and we saw two different species – squirrel and saddle-backed Tamarin. I would estimate that there were probably 60 to 70 in the squirrel monkey family jumping merrily from tree to tree. We are learning that it takes a while to learn to spot birds and animals. On these boats there is a spotter to dodge logs and to spot birds and animals. The River is loaded with logs and floating plant debris. This is the time of year that the River is rising. Therefore the water runs into the forest and washes out all of the fallen trees etc. into the river. Every once in a while you hear a thud which is the ship hitting a log. Some of these are huge, huge logs. In fact last night we could not make it as far as they hoped due to the debris in the river. They usually navigate in the dark and only occasionally turn on the spot lights. Our captain has been navigating the Amazon for 29 years, so I am going to assume he has is down. With all of nature’s debris, there is absolutely no human debris. However, we did see one floating plastic bottle and Juan Tui Tui, our spotter, jumped out and picked it up. Although you cannot see human debris, one must remember that the river is the septic tank for the people as well as their drinking water. Our guides tell us they become immune to the bacteria in the water.
Then back for breakfast. A quick breakfast and back to the boats to look for more. We were traveling on the Yarapa River which is black water. We saw some truly beautiful birds and three iguanas, and a brown-throated three-toed sloth. We have several photos that show how all of this is done. While we are looking at something, the driver just runs the boat into the reeds. Our spotter, Tui Tui can spot these animals sailing down the river at about 25 knots. He was born along the river, so I suppose that makes a difference. Our tour guide, Miguel, says he is the best in the business. I am convinced.
Back to the La Amatista for lunch, yes you guessed rice, catfish, chicken thighs and veggies. This will not be a get fat trip. That is good. I must admit, I am not hungry, but I hope there is something new for dinner. We are now getting ready to go into our first village. We will have a geography lecture first and then after our village experience, David will lecture on the birds we saw.
We stopped at a village that is between a fork in the river-sort of like living on Merritt Island river to river. The village name was Clavero Village. We were told to put our long pants in our socks and then spray our shoes and socks with bug spray to hopefully prevent chiggers. With long pants, long sleeve shirts and hats, we look like we are from outer space. The natives are all barefoot and wearing shorts. If strangers stopped in our neighborhoods, stared at us, took our pictures, and looked inside our houses, I don’t think we would be very friendly. However, they greeted us with welcome and were just curious to look at the photos we took of them through the digital lens. I asked David why they don’t worry about chiggers, and he said that after a while your body just adjusts or something. I didn’t see any sores on the kid’s legs and feet, so I guess that must be. We saw people washing dishes and clothes in the river. David told us that as a baby your stomach distends from all of the parasites and bacteria in the water and then after a few years your body becomes immune. All the kids looked healthy enough, and definitely not fat. The people collect the river water and let it sit in tubs for a day. After the sediment sinks to the bottom of the tub, that is the water that they use for drinking, cooking, and rinsing dishes. They wash the dishes directly in the river. They also bathe in the river.
We learned that the people grow crops (fruits mainly) and gather the crops by the water’s edge. Several times a week a fairy comes by, picks up the crops and one or two persons from the village go with the crops to Iquintos to sell the food in the market. Then they ride the fairy back with a few supplies that people asked them to pick up.
Back to the boat in time for a quick shower because it was extremely hot in the village. Our crew put on a before dinner show which was excellent and then dinner. You can’t say they don’t keep you busy. Yes, chicken thighs and catfish were on the menu.
This is a cruise like none other. We were told how safe it is, so no one locks their door even at night and you hang your camera equipment outside your door on hooks, so that it doesn’t fog up when you take it outside. We took a photo of thousands of dollars of equipment just hanging on hooks outside of doors. Some of the bird people have telephoto lenses that would blow your mind. I must admit they are getting some spectacular shots.
That night we tied up, or treed up (because they run the boat onto land and tie to a tree).
More to Follow,
Tom and Holly