Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Amazon River

We board our home for the next week, the Aquamarina.  I was taking a trip offered by OAT (Overseas Adventure Travels, which specializes in small group tours (never more than 20 on ships and 16 on land tours).   Check out their website at www.oattravels.com.  If you ever decide to take one of their trips, mention my name.  And by the way, they never charge for single supplements.
There were 18 of us on the trip plus our trip leader, a naturalist and  9 other crew members.

This is the main deck where we spent most of our time.  It has an open bar, and beyond that is the enclosed dining room.

The rooms were more spacious than I expected each room had its own bath.

This is a map our the river basin.  We left Iquitos traveling upriver to the headwaters of the Amazon, then navigated up the Maranon River almost to where it branched again.  Our excursions were in a smaller skiff along many of the tributaries of the river.

Here is our skiff we used for our excursions.  We only had to wear the life preservers the first day because we took an excursion through the harbor in Iquitos before heading up river.  Once we left the harbor proper the life jackets could be stowed underneath our seats.

Some of the government buildings in Iquitos.

This is a log raft loaded with produce and covered with palm leaves.  A small trolling type motor is used to manuever the raft.  Many of the local river people use these to bring produce to the Iquitos and the market.

This raft was loaded with bananas.

Our trip leader, Edgard, took us down into the area habitated by the River People.  OAT always uses locals for their guides and Edgard was born in one of these river homes.  As you can see, they are on stilts, located on the river itself.  The only access is by boat.  This is a regular community with numerous water ways extending as much as 1/2 mile from the shore.

The River People are some of the best boat builders.

They build both larger and smaller boats.

These boys, age 9 and 11, are already in business.  This is their version of a floating walmart.  The boys peddle everything from soap and toothpaste to snacks and staple items.  They cruise through the area, stopping when someone flags them down.  We had them stop and Edgard bought some toothpaste from them.

All types of businesses exist in this community.  Here is a local bar and grill.

If you don't have your own boat or want to travel further than your small dugout will take you, you just catch the local water taxi/bus.  These run up and down the river from Iquitos to Nauta Town and beyond.

This is their government/community building.  The light blue building behind is the school.

Even the church is on stilts.

We saw our first Amazonian wildlife, an iguana.

There is a large logging operation and sawmill nearby.
After returning to the ship, we started our journey upriver.

Along the way are numerous villages located on the banks of the river.  Many of these homes are also on stilts because of the flooding.  It was at the end of the rainy season and the river was quite flooded.  Many of these villages are small, having only about 100 people living in them.  But they always have a soccer field and a school.

This village was slightly larger, being the home of a missionary church.  It even has some concrete sidewalks.

This is another tour boat, being much larger and much fancier.  They say this boat costs $1000 a day if you want to travel with this company.  Our trip leader liked to say we were not 'tourists', we were 'travelers'.  I liked that.

Here are some of the fruits and foods we purchased this morning at the market.  We are now going to get to sample them.  This is where I had the fried grubs and actually enjoyed them.  The bread fruit I liked so well (reminded me of boiled peanuts) are in the middle.  To the left are custard apples and I believe cama cama and the Amazon tomato.  To the right are small sweet bananas and dragon fruit I think.  Behind on the right are starfruit and I can't remember what the others are.  On the left behind is a tamale in one of the bajio leaves.  

This is one of the local boat/buses.  Notice the top is loaded with bunches of bananas and other fruits and vegetables.  Most of the people in the Amazon eat fish they catch, fruits and vegetables they grow or harvest from the forest, sometimes they kill wild pigs and rodents.  They sell enough fish, fruits and vegetables so they can purchase those items they don't have locally, such as soap, toothpaste and much of their clothing.  They even grow rice, potatoes, cassava.  Most no longer bother to weave their own clothes as ready made clothes are easily available.

Here we are learning to make Pisco Sours, the national drink of Peru.  Pisco is a grape brandy made in Peru and Chile.

Sunset my first night on the Amazon River.

Before dinner we were entertained by the Chunky Monkeys.  From left to right: Victor, our naturalist; Edgard, our trip leader; Juan, one of the stewards; Manuel, the other trip steward.  They entertained us most every evening.  Sometimes it was with local music from the forests, sometimes it was traditional Peruvian music, more the style from the Andes, and sometimes it was their version of American pop music and sometimes it was their version of latin music.  The instruments were sometimes out of tune and they weren't always the best musicians and singers, but I enjoyed every minute of their entertainment.

My next blog will be on the wild life and birds on the river.

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