Six Days on the Amazon
by Cliff McDuffie
Rated "G" by the Author.
edited: Thursday, June 04, 2009
Posted: Saturday, May 30, 2009
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Our adventures while aboard a river boat for six days on the headwaters of the Amazon River in northern Peru.
September 28, 2007. We take I-75 toward Miami to fly out to Peru. By 3:15 PM the car is in storage and we are at the airport awaiting our 1:35 AM departure. Arriving in Lima at 6:30 AM we cleared customs easily, were met by our tour company, Overseas Adventure Travel, and bussed to our hotel in Miraflores an area of Lima known for its flowers and major hotels.
No time to settle into our room as we joined twenty other soon-to-be friends, heading to a museum in Lima to view ancient Inca artifacts. The bus ride took us by several active Inca archeological digs, right in the middle of Lima. It’s springtime; with the temperature in the low sixties a light jacket was comfortable.
After lunch six of us boarded the bus again and visited “Villa El Salvador” a real shanty town located 35 miles from downtown Lima but still within city limits. This is really an amazing “city.” These residents came to Lima to find a new life but had no skills and no jobs so they began this “homeless” city and now have “shacks” built on the side of a dirt mountain. They have established their own government, have rules and regulations and have actually built a small community with businesses, paved streets and some light industry. They are well known for their furniture making. I found it interesting that all 42 areas of Lima have their own Mayor and then elect a Super Mayor to govern it all.
The following day we were whisked off to the airport to fly northeast to Iquitos, to board our Amazon River vessel “LaAquamarina,” our home for the next six days. It’s hot here! Temperature is like we left in Zephyrhills. Outside the Iquitos Airport we are surrounded by three-wheel motorcycles that look like rickshaws. They speed along with apparently little concern for road rules, whichever is there first powers through. As we near Iquitos they seem to be everywhere. They remind me of bees around a hive, all hurrying somewhere.
We board our river boat, settle into our well appointed cabin (for a river boat anyway) and set sail upriver. The Amazon head waters are here in Peru, beginning in the Andes flowing north then east through Brazil and emptying into the south Atlantic. The sun is in the north rather than the south, my first time across the equator.
We immediately begin seeing local river traffic. All kinds of dugout canoes, river rafts, river taxies, one Peruvian Navy vessel, banana boats and log carrying rafts The river is the main highway here so all goods flow either to Iquitos or to Nauta on the Maranon River, a main tributary of the Amazon.
As there is no road to travel, boats are piled high with fruits for market. Natives, who live many miles from town, build a raft of balsa wood, erect a tent on it, and pile it high with market goods, then live on the raft for up to a week to get to market. They then sell the raft and ride the river taxi back home.
We lunch with a native family using banana leaves as a table, Take a midnight hike in the jungle. Fish for Piranha (I caught six). Paddle in dugout canoes with natives. Visit a Shaman and have a rite preformed for us. Visit a local school (elementary is mandated). Watch along the river as women wash their clothes, children swim and many interesting birds seek their meals. We found the Peruvian people very friendly and most happy even though they had little more than the clothes on their back. All seem to be clean and take pride in what they have.
Homes are platforms built about five feet off the ground. Most along the river had open sides and a thatched roof. There seems to be no furniture as everyone stoops or sits on the floor. The main room is living room, bedroom, and dining room with a kitchen off to the side. The men still hunt with bows and blowguns. We see Anacondas, giant rodents, a vine snake, spiders, frogs, wooly and spider monkeys, iguanas, sloth, caiman, and pink dolphins. All too soon it’s time to pack up and head back to the states. What a wonderful, educational experience.
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