Bikes in Cocoons, Adventure on Boats
Have you ever wanted to see The Mighty Amazon River? Ever wondered what life is like there? In this segment of our journal we get to Lima, meet with friends then fly to Iquitos, Peru and the head waters of the Amazon. Cajun music in Iquitos? A Cajun from Crowley, Louisiana? Meet an ExPAt who first came to South America in 1957 ON A MOTORCYCLE! He's carved out a wonderful Tour Company from this wilderness and operates a 104 year old boat, up and down the Amazon. Meet modern day Natives of the Amazona and witness a step back in time. The Bora Natives dress and dance as in the olden days. (Caution there are bare breasts showing, now as there were then.) Meet our Aussie Pal Peter, Michael and Jeannie from Ventura County, a boat load of Mid-Westerners and some wonderful new Brazilian friends. Meet Grippa and enjoy his outstanding ART! Oh yes, hear about the "Rumble in the Jungle" when Pat gets into it with Jungle Jim. Let's not forget the Piranha, those little fish with the BIG teeth. All this and MORE, here for your reading and viewing pleasure.
Galapagos to The Amazon
May 10, 2005
Off The Bikes Yet, ON the Move, Again!
A Fractured Trip to Lima
An early breakfast then the staff arranged for transportation to the Airport in the Hotel Shuttle. They got the bikes in the back and we stacked our three big bags on the seats. As we drove through the streets a crowd surged out, in front of a Church. Lester had told us of a famous local Soccer player that was killed in a car crash Sunday. Apparently he dropped his wife at her parent's home and was driving to see his Mother when he lost control of the car. Our driver thinks that this is his funeral. There are so many people that we were locked into the overflow crowd for about 5 minutes.
No Buses to Lima?
Though they don't usually stop at the Bus Terminal, our friendly driver got us around and very close to the door. He helped unload then accepted a small tip, wished us well and drove away. We struggled getting the bags onto the curb and then to the door of the Bus Company. The clerk was busy but when he finished he said, "No bus today"? Struggling to understand, because we'd already purchased tickets, he got the point across. There is a Paro, a strike against the government and the strikers have blocked both roads our of here, north and south. He thinks it'll last 3 days but is unsure.
Rather than sit here for another 3 days we decided to get to the airport and try to catch a flight to Lima. After lugging the bikes and bags back outside I flagged a taxi. The driver was pretty resourceful, we got the bikes into his trunk and the bags in the rear seat. It's not too far to the Airport so Cat and I crammed into the front with him. Although he remained straight faced we think he enjoyed rubbing Cat's leg each time he shifted gears.
A Flight to Lima
At the Airport door we were accosted by a couple of guys with carts. Annoying, the sign says "do not pay for cart". Yet the guys wouldn't allow us use of them. They demanded that we pay them 2 Soles each. Tired of arguing, we gave in just as a guy that spoke English told us that these guys work here and only for tips. Silly, why not pay them enough that they can survive without tips? Well maybe because some people don't need a cart?
There are 2 flights to Lima this afternoon. However one is coming from Madrid, Spain and is 4 hours late, at this time. The other will depart at 4:40 PM. We can't even buy a ticket for another hour. When the office finally opened the staff were friendly. They ticketed us then weighed our bags. After considerable discussion they told us that we were over weight but they would not charge. We really appreciated and thanked them, profusely. Now the tough part for Cat, a 4 ½ hour wait and we all know how Cat hates to wait..
No Room in the Inn, Again!
Using the Internet service in a Café, we got bad news from Casa Andina. Once again, there is no room in the Inn. They are so busy and our request may have languished on someone's desk as we'd sent it to the business center. A panic e-mail to friends, Joan and Dr. Jorge led to a reservation at Hotel San Antonio Abad. The e-mails flew and after straightening out the fact that we would arrive today, Paul, the Manager, said that he'd pick us up at the Airport. Another good deal for tiring World Travelers.
Suspicions about the funeral were confirmed during our wait. The TV screen was full of weeping mourners for the Soccer player, Otilino Tenorio, whose funeral we'd driven through earlier..
The flight was smooth, the plane looked almost new. We were seated in an Exit Row thus plenty of leg room. They even served a sandwich and best of all, they poured wine for us during the 1 ½ hour flight. Then, to top it off, Paul was there to meet us. He drives a LandRover with plenty of room for our excessive bags and the bikes. He worked his way through the darkening streets of Lima and up to the door of San Antonio Abad. The Hotel isn't as fresh as Andina but it surely will do in a pinch. And, Paul is a treasure.
Dinner just around the corner, Trattoria Don Vito. A wonderful way to end a fractured day. As we toasted our success we thought about where we might be if we were on the bus. Right now, 8:30 PM, we'd just have completed 10 hours. That sounds tough then, add another 10 hours and we'd be getting into Lima tomorrow morning. So, the flight cost 4 times more than a bus but tomorrow, when we arise, we'll feel great. No telling how we'd feel after 20 hours on a bus. So we've justified the cost, a good nights sleep is worth a lot!
Our meal was superb. Cat had Salmon, I Osso Bucco. That and a nice bottle of wine and we were in heaven until they brought the check. Cat caught a 9 Sole ($3.00) charge and asked. They charge for the little plate of olives, dip and bread. She was pretty upset. I wrote it off to experience but she couldn't? Then, when I tipped the waiter she admitted, she was angry. Cat doesn't get angry often but when she does, she's angry. It was a quiet walk back to San Antonio Abad.
May 11, 2005
Bad News at DHL, Good News at the End of the Day
Breakfast was coffee and bread. We could have ordered eggs but decided to start our diet today. The toughest part of life off the bikes is slowing down the consumption of calories. Internet is included so we checked messages, read and answered the log jam.
Paul (pronounced Pa-ule) came in and decided to help us with our DHL problem. He made calls to them, then to the Aduana. After spending a frustrating hour he suggested that we take the Hotel Car and Driver out there to see if we can straighten our the mess. They charge $8.00 per hour for car and driver. Jaime, the driver is a nice guy but not of much help. He only speaks a little English and our Spanish is proving to be less than affective.
Finding the DHL Office was no small feat. Then, after another long and frustrating attempt at discussion I asked for copies of the paperwork to take to the Aduana. The bad news, they charged us $20.00 for the 6 copies. Jaime drove to the Aduana just in time to see the gates slam shut, they 1 ½ hours for lunch. So, we drove up the street and found a place, not a very nice place, to have a bite of food. Jaime speaks so little English that conversation is tough.
Back to the Aduana, they were nice enough and did make it clear that there is no import tax on educational items. The problem is that they can't release the package without a letter from Bob, witnessed and notarized. The trip was a total waste of time and at the cost of $53.00. The books only cost $49.00 and w spent $97.00 having them shipped. A very irritating learning experience. DHL has actually been confrontational rather than helpful?
An e-mail to Bob brought a curt reply, he is busy and heading for the mine tomorrow. We don't really blame him, he doesn't actually know us or what the package contains.
Yes, There is Room In the Inn
Another problem, the Hotel San Antonio Abad is booked tomorrow. So, we went shopping for a room this afternoon. First stop, Casa Andina. Thinking that they must be booked we were just going to ask for their help. It was like old home week. Marite called our manager friend, Diego, he found a room though it's only available for 2 days unless they have a cancellation. Then he called another place and booked a room there, just n case.
That and dinner were the best of today. Mexican food in a sort of fast food place. They did let us bring a bottle of wine. We love that, it cuts the cost way down and we get a wine that we like.
Back at Hotel San Antonio Abad by 7:30 PM. A little English language TV, the CNN news then SLEEP.
May 12, 2005
Moving Back Home
We did partake of the eggs this morning, there goes the diet. Packed and ready to go, we caught a Taxi to Casa Andina. The staff was busy checking people out. The room wasn't ready yet. After supervising stacking of the bags and bikes we walked to the nearby Travel Office to check on schedule and cost for flights to Iquitos. A very inexpensive flight, $75 US each. We didn't book as we're not sure when we'll get our problems with expected packages completed. We're beginning to plan on a May 19th or 20th departure.
Back to Andina and our new room. Not as nice as our previous but very nice, quiet and cheerfully decorated. There's a Kodak Store nearby so we dropped our disposable camera off to have the pics developed then walked to Wong Supermarket for wine and happy hour goodies. We lunched in our new room.
Diego volunteered to accompany me on the quest for a computer. Sure that we'd be able to find a laptop with English language keyboard, he directed the Taxi to several big department stores. Our findings, the prices are 30% more than the same machine in the US. And, there are no English language keyboards available, anywhere. Diego even called the Sony Center on his cell phone, no deal. Cat rode to the big shopping area with us then dropped off in her own quest. She would like to find a pair of Cargo Pants, the kind with zip off legs, to take to the Amazon. We'll need long legs for any jungle walks, just to ward off the mosquitoes. She struck out, too.
A Lightly Attended But Very Happy, Happy Hour
We began trying to plan a Happy Hour and invite several friends living here in Lima. Tonight's the night. All too many of our friends are out of town or tied up tonight. Victor, the Kayaker/Cyclist we met at Ancon Beach and his wife, Pilar, were the first to show up. What an interesting couple. He rides with a group called "The Bad Boys" on an annual 7-day grind. Paul from San Antonio came then Joan and her friend Mary stopped in after choir practice. Joan has done so much for us, we're glad she could come by. The staff of Andina ate a little of our food but wouldn't drink while in the Hotel. For us, it was a great time with new friends. As it turns out, it's too late to go out so we ate the left over pizza for dinner.
A bad food day but a great friend's day.
Friday, May 13, 2005
A Trip to the Dentist
Another wonderful Andina Breakfast including the French Toast. Then, off to the Dentist at 9:00 AM. Jorge Jr recommended them and made the appointment for us. It's a husband and wife partnership. W drew the wife, she did a wonderful and pain free job of check and clean. An area of concern, I have material impacted down in my gums at one of my rear teeth. She suggested digging it out and injected Novocain. I didn't feel a thing even after the Novocain wore off.
Next stop, the US Embassy. Hoping for help with our package problem and to check on our missing Social Security Checks, we got neither. The lead guy, Charlie, was less than helpful. We decided that he's been doing the job for too many years. He listened then said, "There's nothing we can do". I asked about a contact at the Aduana but he insisted that they have little contact with them. Then, as I continued to question he turned and said, "We can't help you".
After filling out the US Citizens Registration form we handed it to a young guy we'd spoken with earlier. He asked if Charlie had been helpful, we were honest. He then suggested that we get in touch with the Tourist Policia. He didn't understand why Charlie hadn't at least suggested at least that? As for the Social Security, the gal told us that the computer is down and asked us to come back later. Pretty much with the exception of the young guy's advice, another futile day.
Lunch at Norky's then we picked up the Sports Camera pictures. Only a couple of fairly good ones that may make the web site. I had some fun with the staff at Andina. We wanted a picture of the 3 who weren't in our group photo when we set off for the Galapagos. After a posed shot by the fireplace they went back to work, I walked behind the desk to use the telephone and pretended like I was working there. Good for a real laugh. What nice people/kids they are. An afternoon at the Cyber Café then a quite evening at home with our Chinese food. A movie then news and snooze.
May 14, 2005
A Day With Doctors
The last breakfast, the last French Toast. Oh and did we enjoy. We're off to the Doctors this morning. Bags packed and racked downstairs then off to the Clinic. Cat has been having trouble hearing, again. We assume its wax buildup and, we want to have our blemishes checked. The sun in altitude and now along the coast is really tough on the skin.
A Rock In The Ear?
Paperwork then sit and wait, just like at home. First stop, the ear Doctor. He checked then flushed Cat's ears. She had a big buildup of dust from Ruta Cuarenta. Then my turn, I felt it was more a checkup than cleansing but the Doctor had a surprise for us. He clicked his lips and tried to explain in Spanish with a smattering of English. When he said, "Piedra" we couldn't believe we heard properly? Yes, there's a stone in my right ear. Doctor had to get a special tool from his kit. A sort of lasso of wire on the end of a metal tube. Once he had it attached to the rock he began to twist and pull. Wincing, I stood the pain until he yanked and pulled it loose. I yelped out in pain and anger. The pain brought tears to my eyes. The anger was directed toward the bus or truck that had sent the little stone flying in my direction. My body's reaction to the foreign object was to become infected. Doctor made it clear that there is danger in being infected in the ear, near the brain. He prescribed an anti-biotic and ear drops. He required that we visit the Pharmacy here then return so that he can describe how the drops are to be used.
The Pharmacy needed time to put the order together so we headed for the Dermatologist. Another wait in the hallway but good people watching. Then in and I disrobed first. He looked me up and down, I pointed out a scaly spot on my nose and he made some comment about my nose? He sees no problems, just harmless blotches. I rushed back to the Pharmacy while he examined The Cat. Let me preface the next story by telling you that there is a female nurse in attendance. He indicated that Cat should take off her t-shirt. Then we did the same glance around and touch a couple of spots. At that point he did sign language to let Cat know that he wanted her to take her bra off. As she dropped it he lost his professional composure and said, "Aye que bonito"! Yes, this beyond middle aged geek with dark dyed hair actually said, "Aye, how pretty"! Back home that would have meant a lawsuit to many. Here, he and the nurse both laughed as Cat blushed and covered her body with her shirt. The Ear Doctor demonstrated the drops and again urged me to take the full course of antibiotics.
Back to Andina, they were checking in the big group that has left us on the move, again. Not too busy to stop and bid us adieu, they all shook our hands, wished us well and urged us to come back, again. Taxi to Hotel, La Paz and a drag of bags to the elevator, up to floor 4 then down the hallway. The room next to us is packed with guys on computers. They all acknowledged us which actually made us a little nervous. What can they be doing here?
After a short walk to the nearby main street we found a sandwich shop for lunch. Then, the camping store just down the street. They had almost everything we need to complete our ability to camp, if necessary. A very cool set of pots and pans, a Swiss army knife, a compass and best of all, sleeping sheet bags. Since we will be in warm from now until California we loved these. Blue sheets sewn like sleeping bags with a zipper on the side.
Unfortunately we weren't able to reach Bob. Retrieving the DHL package is looking less and less possible. His last e-mail was to the point, he's really busy and headed for the mine on Monday. We did try to find a Notary that works on Saturday. No luck there either.
A little happy hour glass of wine then off to dinner. Hungry for Pizza we walked until we found Restaurante San Francisco. Well, the sign said Pizza but the menu didn't. The only other customer turns out to be the owners Sister. She was sipping a beer, in fact they both were. No, no Pizza, just typical foods. Okay, we can adjust, the Sis is fun to talk with. We ordered a bottle of dry white wine. The Brother lurched across the room and returned with a bottle of terrible looking wine. In fact anything but dry, the label clearly said, "Semi Sweet"! We asked if he had Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc? Yes, he disappeared again for quite a while them came back with an open bottle. The label did say Sauvignon but Cat notice the foil on the neck of the bottle was red? Geez, the guy must think we're really STUPID? He poured to show us that it was white wine. We stood up, said good night to the Sister and walked!
A Super Senior and her Daughter
A renewed quest for food led us to a Hotel, usually our least favorite. However, they actually had a nice bottle of wine and Cabrito. (Young Goat) The top of the evening goes to Edith, the Mom and Barb, the daughter. They're from Montana/Oregon and as we talked we found that we have several commonalities. When we told him that Sister Joan and Bro-in-Law Bill live in Jefferson, Oregon they chuckled and told us that Edith's Uncle and cousin owned the Auto Repair Shop in Jefferson for years. Then, when they heard that I was born in Bonners Ferry, Idaho they really laughed. One of their family members used to own the Chevy Garage in my old home town. Really nice gals, sorry we didn't carry the camera and they're out of here at 6:00 AM tomorrow, headed to Machu Picchu then down the Amazon. You've gotta love it, 2 gals traveling alone AND, Edith is in her mid 70s.
Sunday, May 15, 2005
A Day in Lima
Dinner with Victor and Pilar
The breakfast here is okay, it ain't Casa Andina but, it's okay. Cat set off immediately on a quest for cargo pants. Another keyboard day for me. The computer here is okay, so I've begun typing again. The difficulty is that it's tucked under the stairwell. Tight and close.
Cat opened a dialog with the guys in the room next to us. They're from Chile, doing some kind of computer advertising? Spammin' we think! They are nice guys and know a lot about computers. They all agree, there won't be an English language keyboard to be found, here. One of them did e-mail his buddy and they thought there might be a used machine for sale. Turns out its Spanish keyboard, too.
Cat's quest for pantalones was without success. She did swing by Bob's house and found the packages at the Gate Guard House as he's promised. We now have the spare parts sent by LandRider so we're now one step closer to having necessities of for the road. Todd, the guy in charge of Producing the Infomercials for LandRider sent us a copy of the most recent presentation. The Hotel La Paz has a meeting room with TV and VCR. We sat and watched and liked what we saw. Some of it made us laugh, some brought poignant memories. All in all, it's well done and we're proud of our part in it.
Victor picked us up at 7:00 PM. He and Pilar live in her parent's home with her 80 year old Mom. We, the 5 of us, had dinner and wine. A very nice evening, life is so much easier when conversations are 2 way.
They have a wonderful bedroom/sitting room with VCR and TV. Victor has ridden a tough 7 day mountain bike ride for the past few years. There are about 40 guys in the club, they call themselves "The Bad Boys". Fun to watch but more fun to watch Victor pointing out the high points and the parts where he appears in the video. At one point he swims across a river. Pilar said that the first time she saw it she asked where he got the white swim suit. Pretty funny, he was buck naked and his tan looked like a swim suit. We watched the LandRider video again with them. Victor was most interested in how the shifter works.
Hugs and cheek kisses for Pilar then Victor drove us back to the La Paz. Another parting of such sweet sorrow. How fortunate that Jose Daniel introduced us that day in Ancon. A long day, a late night, we went directly to bed.
Letter From Malawi
what an adventure! but before I get carried away, how
are you fox & were are you right now? am fine and am
at school doing mechanical engineering, my country
is fine as well as we enter the cold weather.Now i can
claim i've been to Bolivia, ask me why i'll say people
there are poor but warm & friendly.the 14,288 feet
Altiplano is some plateau weth climbing.sorry, i'll
write more in my next mail i have to hand in my
assignment. Always remember that when you ride, you
are riding with Malawi.
We received this e-mail today. After copying it because we loved it so much, we let our friend's name get away. We can only hope that he'll see it and send again.
May 16, 2005
A Day With the Tourist Policia and Aduana
A fresh fruit, croissant and coffee start and we met Christina, Sister of the groom whose wedding will be held here on Saturday. Another guy from the States, Robert, is from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He's here doing computer consulting work with a local University.
Back under the stairs and a check on the progress of our packages coming to us via FedEx. Good news, they're both in Peru. Miguel, our friend at the front desk, called FedEx, they will deliver tomorrow but there is a $27.00 tax fee. He tried to explain that it was only clothing to replace Cat's that were lost in the robbery. To no avail, FedEx has no control over the tax.
The other is at Serpost, the office where the Aduana will decide how much tax we'll have to pay for the new bags. Yes, Ortlieb USA has sent replacement bags at their cost to replace those lost to the banditos. Very kind of them! However, it appears that the Aduana may tag us for 40% tax. And, they can dispute the value and add more tax if they feel it's needed?
Taking the advice of the young guy at the Embassy, we decided to find the Policia Tourist before going the Serpost. Our taxi driver had to ask several times. The office isn't in an easy to find neighborhood. We almost gave it up as time was fleeting. Oh how glad we are now that we didn't.
Jose, Knows How to Make Things Happen!
A girl tried to talk with us but her English and our Spanish were so limited that there was no communication. Then, she called a guy, Jose, and he did know English. He also knew how to make tings happen. After listening to our sad story he called the Aduana. There was a bit of shouting involved in the several calls. He was proud of his English and loved introducing us to the Chief.
Jose took pains in showing us where the Serpost was located and making sure that we had the correct address. It's near the Airport, of course. We're getting to know that road well. Each time we go out we remember places and things we saw when we cycled this road. The taxi driver confidently dropped us and took our money as he pointed toward the door. He was wrong, of course. The lady inside indicated that we must go to the Aduana. She made it sound like a long distance from here so we hailed another taxi. He went around the corner and down a small street about a block. There it was, ah the difficulty in deciphering two languages.
The place was jammed with others waiting for packages. We took #5 and waited our turn. After a half hour they called our number. At the window they had us watch as they opened the box. Pulling each bag out they checked inside them then asked if they were for bicycles. Our "Si", must have been loud and clear. They told us to sit and wait. We waited and waited then went to a window where people were being called to pay. The lady ignored us then finally acknowledged us and waived a paper indicating we were up next. The couple ahead of us had to fork over a real wad of money. It looked to us like she was moving here from Japan and bringing her household along. So, we ere ready to whip out the wallet as she called us over then she handed us our paperwork without a word about money. Thank you Jose! We stood behind the couple who'd just paid as they retrieved her tings then the guy taped our box back up and handed it to us. Whew!
Outside, in the backstreet there were no taxis. A guy nearby with an old clunker car yelled out, "Taxi"? We questioned whether he really was a taxi. Another guy there had him show us some paperwork? We asked the price, it was fair, we took the deal.
He took a few back streets unfamiliar to us but finally pulled into Miraflores. As we passed the "Govindra" the Hari Krishna Restaurant Cat had seen we had him stop. Hungry, she has wanted to try the place. It's vegetarian, we chose soup to cut the chill in the air and veggie torts to fill the void. Pretty good. I think I like the fact that the Hari Krishna people are now working for money rather than standing at Airports begging.
Another surprise, when we walked into the Hotel Miguel handed us the other package. It was a day early. I asked if he's paid the $27.00 tax? He smiled and said, "They charge no tax". Thank you again Jose!
A little Internet for Cat, more journal for me then for dinner we revisited La Tranquera, the Argentinean Restaurant. We missed the company of friends from Seattle and San Diego. The food was good but not great like we remembered.
A little TV, the news, much of it from Iraq, not much of it good.
May 17, 2005
Pondering the Computer Problem
Robert hurried his breakfast as he chat with us, his ride was waiting. The wedding party continues to assemble. Today we met the groom, Ken, from Hawaii. A US Army Doctor, he's done his time in Iraq and now will be stationed in Hawaii for the next 2 years. Like his sister Christina, he's a great young person. His bride is from here in Peru.
Sometime, during the night, I had an idea. Why pay the Aduana $1,000 or more in import Tax? Why not offer to fly Dave and Lori down and they bring the computer with them? We shot off an e-mail with the details about the computer we want, a couple of things for the camera and the idea. Dave sent an e-mail right back and said that he'd just ordered the things fro Sony. He didn't mention the smuggling idea. Well, not really smuggling, you are allowed to carry a personal computer into Peru. We called them from the room but only got their answering machine. So, we left a compelling message.
I was destined to spend more time at the computer, trying to do some more journal catch up. It is difficult and for some reason the machine has started acting up, not allowing me to save to floppy disc?
Another e-mail from Lori. She is immersed in business. A new listing, in her neighborhood and, a real boost from her company. She is in the top 10 producers and has been invited to Las Vegas with the owners. In fact they're leaving tomorrow. She asked if we could wait 12 days but that is pretty much out of the question. He have been sitting way too long already. Dave remains sort of interested but he too is pressed to finish the work on their house. They just told us today that he has to have surgery on his wrist, soon.
Another idea from our Tourist Police buddy, Jose. Have the sender of the books, Charlie, change the recipient to us. He's sure that DHL will have to accept an order from Charlie. So, we e-mailed the idea to him.
We had lunch in, an on the bed picnic. Then, at the time of dinner we sat and talked about places and food. We're getting real tired of the cold, the fog and the food of Lima. It really is time for a change. So, we trekked back to Wong's Market and picked up Spinach Torte and lasagna. Then we combined those with the left over Chinese food and it was dinner in, too.
A movie, the news and goodnight.
May 18, 2005
Disgruntled DHL Customers
Breakfast and another hurried conversation with Robert. His wife is here with him but we've yet to see her. He mentioned that she has a rare disease and has to be extremely careful about her food. Diarrhea cold put her right into the hospital.
No news from Dave and Lori. Good news from Charlie, DHL has faxed an order changing the recipient from Bob to us. So, right after breakfast we headed back to the Airport area and the now all too familiar route to the DHL Office. The waiting room is full of disgruntled DHL customers. Each of us seems to have a horror story of some sort? Ours continued as the plot unfolded. At first they said that it was impossible, then it was maybe? Finally after a long wait they told us that we could have the package after paying a $50.00 fee for the name change. Of course I went ballistic!
Ready to Roll Down The River
I demanded an audience with the Boss. They sent a woman to handle my ire. Patricia is the Customer Service Manager and the first sensible person we've met here. She hasn't been involved with "our case" so she listened then went back behind the glass wall. After a wait that began to feel like another stalling tactic? However, when she reappeared she told us that she was getting our package released but asked us to wait, again. Another half hour and she brought the package to us. Another surprise, she said that there would be no charge for the name change. Then, a final surprise. I asked for our papers back and she said that they had to keep them? I told her that we'd paid $20.00 for the copies. That seemed to astound Patricia. Another wait then when she returned she had a $20.00 bill in he hand. What a jewel she turns out to be. Between Patricia and Jose, we now have all our things, we're ready to roll down the river!
By now its 6:00 PM and dark outside. One of our disgruntled friends told us that we'd have to walk to the Pan Pacifico to find a taxi. That was not a good sounding idea to us. A guy picking up some friends out front called a taxi on his Cell Phone. You see, both Peru and the world are full of good people.
The driver headed toward Hotel La Paz but we pulled him over as we passed Wong Super Market. Yes, another meal in. This time, meat, fried rice and a couple of meat pies. That and left over lasagna and we had a real meal.
More movies, a little news then to bed.
May 19, 2005
Father of The Groom
The South American Explorers Club
Conrad, the Father of the Groom was at breakfast and interested in talking. What a nice guy, works with Ford Motor Company in Detroit. A very proud family man. He introduced us to Steve, uncle of the groom from Texas. As we chatted Conrad asked if we'd been to the South American Explorers Club? Actually, we've not even heard of it. He saw it in his Lonely Planet. We check our South America on a Shoe String but it wasn't there. As we ate Conrad disappeared then came back with his LPGB, open to a page with the info.
It sounded so great that we set off immediately. The taxi dropped us in front of a wonderful looking old house with a small sign on the gate. The Club is a membership driven non-profit. They create a home atmosphere, here in Lima, in Cuzco and Quito, Ecuador. They're under construction in Buenos Aires, too. If you're coming to South America this could be the best $50.00 you'll ever spend. The gals there, Megan from Michigan and the Manager, Tanilee from California greeted us and allowed us to peruse maps and books. They were really interested in our Odyssey. We exchanged website addresses and promised to link, each to the other. We agree that our site is a valuable info source for their members. I also promised to send pictures and a story for their SAExplorers News Letter. Check their site at www.SAExplorers.org they have it all if you're headed south!
The girls suggested a store nearby that would have some of the things we need to replace items lost. We found it and they were right. Sleeping sacks, (Sheets sewn like bags with a zipper up the side. They'll work great now that we're headed into the warmer climate,) A Swiss Army Knife, cooking pots and pans, even a compass. Then just across the street we went into a Music Store seeking another Peruvian Flute CD. Raul, the clerk suggested a couple of progressive disks. We told him of our journey and how we like to have traditional music in our collection. He became interested as we told him about our loss and the beauty of our journey. There's a poster of Queen, the Rock Group that was formed by Freddy Mercury. Raul likes Queens's music and was astounded to here that he was from Africa. He was excited to hear that he can take a look at our site and see Mercury's, the restaurant named for Freddy, in Zanzibar. (He will later send an e-mail to us that we used to open the pages of our Lima to Galapagos journal.)
We had empanadas in, for lunch then headed for the Fer Tur Peru Travel around the corner. Yolanda, the girl who helped us, was completely cute and knew what to do. We were booked and ticketed in no time. The flight is scheduled for 1:00 PM, tomorrow and boy are we ready.
Back at La Paz, I worked at the computer until it completely crashed. Then I went to the Cyber Café down the street to complete the text and add e-mails received from Raul and a guy from Malawi. Oh, I also copied a report from Zimbabwe. Remember the Plane full of mercenary soldiers from South Africa that were held when they landed in Harari? Later Margaret Thatcher's son, Peter I think, was implicated in the plot? Well they were released or at least, sent back to South Africa. They're still in trouble but not in danger of being executed.
Yolanda called and told Cat that our flight has been moved up to 11:15 AM tomorrow. Okay with us, we're really ready to go.
We spent part of the afternoon searching for a copy of the Mountain Biking book written by our friend, Omar Zarzar. You remember Omar, he's the Guide that helped us cycle out of Lima. Victor gave us the address of the publisher but when I found it, I found only Attorneys. The Publisher has moved on without a forwarding address? The Attorneys were drawn in to our story because one is a skier but used to race bicycles.
Cat spent the afternoon catching up on her hand written journal pages.
There's a place around the corner that has been recommended, Pardo's. A chain, they specialize in Rotisserie Chicken. So, chicken and fries and lots of tourists. A table full of Brits but they were into their own conversations. Maybe we were just lazy?
May 20, 2005
Lima to Iquitos
A complete re-pack of the bags before breakfast. They only allow 15 kilos each or about 33 pounds for each of us. Our 3 bags and the bikes will weigh about 200 pounds or about 90 kilos so we need to carry on some of the weight. I'll take the red bag with the tent and camping things, Cat will carry the yellow bag with our toiletries and some other heavy things. We'll still be overweight but every little bit helps when they're charging $1.75 per kilo for excess.
Conrad was already down fro breakfast. He told us that he got up early just to see us off and get a picture. He is an avid amateur photographer. We thanked him for the tip about the South American Explorers Club. He may try to get there before they leave for Cuzco, after the wedding. Breakfast, the 3 of us then we hailed a taxi, got the bags inside then tied the bikes on the roof. They looked pretty precarious, Conrad got our pic looking worried about the arrangement then Miguel took one of the 3 of us. Funny how we hadn't even met Conrad 2 days ago yet now we feel a connection and that old Parting Sorrow. What a nice guy, and terrific kids, too.
Off loaded the bags and bikes onto the dolly of a Sky Cap and he took us directly to the check-in window. We were next up when suddenly a bus unloaded and there were a hundred of more people in line behind us. Most were from the States, a Church Group from Colorado. The counter people weighed us in and took several side glances at our carry-ons. Yes, there would be an extra charge. We had to follow an employee to a counter upstairs and present the paper with the excess on it. The charge, $13.00. Wow, with the other bags it might have ballooned up to $70.00 or more. Oh yes, then they tag you for and extra $5.00 per person, Airport Fee, as you wind your way to the departure gate.
A couple we'd seen at the Hotel stopped to say hello as we waited. They were staying at Hotel La Paz and we recognized each other. They're from Mexico, She, Queta, speaks English, he doesn't so we only got her name. The group of young people are from Littleton, Colorado. Yes, several are students at Columbine High School. In fact a couple of them were in the Cafeteria when the shooting started. They lead group sessions, teaching about tolerance and understanding.
The Airline, TANS, is operated by the Peruvian Air Force. We've heard varying accounts, tales ranging from terrible to great. The flight was packed, not an open seat by the time they finally got the doors closed. Take off, about ½ hour late but a smooth flight, muffins and juice on the way then, best f all, a very smooth landing.
Inside the Iquitos Airport, several of the Colorado kids lay in a group while waiting for their luggage. I call the picture a Colorado Dog Pile. Three of them, Sara, Doug and Andres were so interested in our trip that we stood and talked while our bags went round the carousel twice. What a group of terrific kids.
Bikes and bags made the flight fine. We got them onto 2 carts and pushed into the parking lot. The Hotel we've booked, The Dorado Plaza, sent a van. They threw the bikes and bags on top, we waved to the Colorado kids and we were off to Iquitos and the next leg of our Adventure.
The Dorado is located on Plaza de Armas, the main square in town. Easy walking to almost everything. The restaurant down made a pretty good hamburger for lunch. The rest of the afternoon was a walk around the area and an hour at the Internet Café.
Muslims and Gays, The Greatest Threat?
Dinner just around the corner at a Pizza place. Ceiling fans stirred the warm humid air around but didn't cool much. There were 3 young people seated next to us. They were speaking English so we said hello. Yes, they're Missionaries. The couple seem to be in their early to mid 20s. The other was an outspoken and narrow minded. He expressed his dislike for Muslims. I asked how many Muslims he knew, none of course. Then he threw out the blockbuster, "Muslims aren't the greatest threat to America, the Homosexuals are"!
That one I couldn't resist, I shot back the Q word. "What's the threat? Most Gay people I know live a quiet life and aren't a threat? Oh, I get it, they can't breed so the population will go into decline? He was slightly overwhelmed. We did a couple of minutes of discussion about God's Children and whether they were created, too? He's so young and so indoctrinated that nothing gets through. I told him and his friends the theory, "When you lock in on one thing, you lock out all other possibilities". How can you judge if you know nothing about Muslims or Gays? I left the boy from Arkansas shaking his head with a parting shot. Using my best Southern Preacher voice I spouted, "Judge not lest ye be judged my friend. Judgment is mine, sayeth the Lord". Then, I looked him in the eye and said, "You know what you need to learn my young friend"? He sort of shook his head then I stood in front of him and said, "You need to learn the big T word, TOLERANCE"!
Yikes, enough preaching for one night. The older, more experienced guy agreed that the world would be a better place if we were all more tolerant. He and his wife are here teaching at a Missionary School. She's pregnant with their first baby. They seem pretty well centered but they need to work on their young friend.
The Satellite TV has system is broken and won't be fixed until Monday? Darn that was one of the reasons we booked at this place.
May 21, 2005
Michael & Jeannie From Simi Valley, CA
The included breakfast is pretty good, once you ask beyond the sparse offering they set out. Yes, they will do eggs and bacon or sausage if asked. Look at us, remember when Cat was a vegetarian and I wouldn't eat an egg or red meat. How things have changed.
A nice guy, Steve from Texas, struck up a conversation. He's here with his Church, doing auditing, making sure the money they send is used properly. Nice guy who, in real life is a New York Life Insurance Agent. He knows his way around and offered to help us in any way he could.
A young couple walked in, Steve said "hello" and they answered in English. Sure that they were Missionaries, too we smiled and introduced ourselves. They say that 90 percent of foreign visitors and 90 percent of foreigners living in Iquitos are Missionaries. Bad guess on our part and unfortunately, a bit judgmental.
Michael and Jeannie have bought a home and are living in Buenos Aires, Argentina for a year. They're from Southern California, he grew up in Simi Valley, a town in east Ventura County. We're practically neighbors. They've just returned from a grueling 5 day rough out trip to Reserva National Pacaya-Samiria. It' a huge unspoiled area. They had two guys and a boy with them as guides. They endured heat, mosquitoes and a 20 hour boat ride out. They're so tired that they're going to sleep today but we made a date for dinner at The Yellow Rose of Texas. Funny but we've been hearing about the place from people as far away as Lima and Guayaquil.
After another session at Internet we took a long hot walk to Explorama. They operate several Jungle Lodges, one with a Canopy Walk. That's all we're interested in but they only sell packages. The 4 night deal is $1,200. They also have a 2 night package for only $300 but the Canopy Walk is an extra $150 per person. YIKES, they must have more business than they can handle? The guy, Alex, was less than personable So, we'll have to think about that one.
The Eiffel Tower in Iquitos?
There's a building here, quite famous, called the Eiffel Iron Building. Worth noting because it was designed and manufactured in France by, yes, the one and only Eiffel. The same guy that designed and built the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Not as famous as the Tower, the locals say that it's here by mistake. They say that it was intended for Quito, Ecuador. The packages were miss marked, or the shipping company made a mistake and it ended up here, in Iquitos.
After a hot dog and burrito for lunch we walked onward, to Amazon Tours, a company that operates a couple of excursion boats. The owner wasn't in but the guy there, Guillermo, tempted us by telling how Paul, the owner, came from California on a motorcycle in 1957. We asked to meet him, he was out but will return on Monday. The big boat, built in 1896, was being repaired and wouldn't leave this week, it only departs on Mondays. The normal price for a round trip is $750, Guillermo says he can book a one way for only $2.50, if they have room. We'll be back!
I went back to Internet, Cat shopped for long pants. They're beyond necessary, they're required at most Lodges because of mosquitoes.
A Cajun in Iquitos?
Dinner at The Yellow Rose. What a wonderful time we had. Michael and Jeannie are just great to sit and talk with. She's a children's clothing designer, he started, like me, in the Grocery Business. He's a jock and sales came naturally to him, he began by selling work out equipment. Then with a couple of partners he helped design a line of weight machines and Athletic Club furnishings. The Company grew and prospered, they sold it and are now enjoying the rewards they've earned. We really hit it off.
As we chatted Cajun music filled the place. Though Gerald was raised in Texas, he's a Cajun, born in Crowley, Louisiana. Cat and I jumped up and did our best imitation of Jimmy and Carey, the dance instructors with our band, Acadiana. We spun around the room as Gerald, the owner, his wife Pamela and others of the staff yelped and clapped. Geez, we love to be a spectacle.
What a wonderful evening, what wonderful company. What great music!
Sunday, May 22, 2005
The Belen Market and a Canoe Around the Floating Village
Breakfast down then we watched the Flag Ceremony in the Plaza. Similar in a small sort of way to that of Cuzco. Michael and Jeannie went to the place next to The Yellow Rose because they have pancakes and maple syrup. We met them there then walked through the strange and incredible Belen Market. Good similar to any Super Market and other things found only here. Turtle meat, smelly dried fish, snake meat and skins, even an illegal Jaguar Pelt with head. The crowds were so thick it was oppressive at times. We kept a tight reign on our wallets.
Walking away from the market toward the River, we passed through the village on stilts. These homes, now high and dry, were only available by boat just a few weeks ago. Everyone is telling us that the river level is dropping daily as they enter the dry season. At the river we made a deal with a persistent young guy to tour the floating village in his canoe. Funny several guys were pushing and shouting out prices. The guy we chose was likable and competitively priced. After we made our deal one of the others tried to undercut the price. Disculpe, sorry, we already have a canoe.
The homes float on balsa wood logs. There are whole neighborhoods with stores, even Doctor's Offices. Young kids ply the waters selling good to the occupants. The homes move up and down with the level of the river. They even have out houses attached. You can see them, a plastic curtain for privacy, in our pictures. A great afternoon and an enlightening visit to a unique place as well as the joy of just hanging around with Michael and Jeannie.
Back at Hotel Dorado, we sat in the shade, near the pool, ate burgers and talked about our joint loves for life. We're really going to miss them, they have to pack up and head for the Airport. Of course we have promised to get together, sometime, someplace.
Another trip to the Internet Café then a relaxing hour in our air conditioned room. Our decision to walk to the riverfront for dinner was thwarted by the huge crowds and lack of tables. We ended up at a brightly lit Burger Joint. They did have a Cabrito Stew, it was good and inexpensive. Fine food without ambiance. We were almost sorry that we didn't go back to The Yellow Rose.
May 23, 2005
Yep, today we started our twice a week regimen of Chloraquine, the anti-malaria drug. We hate it but feel we'd better do it. There is malaria in some of the areas of the Amazon and we don't want to take chances.
At breakfast we met a group of Nurses from Virginia. They're here as volunteers with a non-profit called "Helping Hands". They have more than 60 people lined up for surgeries but the Peruvian Government, the Aduana, is holding up their supplies and equipment. They're inn the same Catch 22 that stifled Ron the Ophthalmologist's group in Piura. It has to be maddening.
Gerald, who was Director of Tourism here in Iquitos, outlined the best Jungle Lodges, and which ones would deal on their prices. He recommended against Explorama for the very reason we have decided not to take the Canopy Walk. Beyond price, he says that the walk is now 20 years old and needs to be upgraded. We went to the offices of a couple then sat down with Clever of Heliconia Lodge and heard their deal. He's a nice guy and seems like they work hard to insure a good experience. Decided to wait until after tomorrow since we may book the boat downriver tomorrow.
Back to The Yellow Rose for Dinner. Another Cajun dance or two, too. The Doctors and Nurses came in for a drink. They're still in limbo.
Good fun and good meal.
May 24, 2005
A Visit to Pilpintuwasi, A Butterfly Farm
Yes, the MotoTaxi driver quoted 5 Soles but as Gerald had written, he took 3. Heading toward the little marina we saw the results of the Paro that started at 2:00 AM this morning. Gerald had warned us that the MotoTaxi Drivers were going to strike but he said that they don't have official sanction so it won't be too dramatic. He was slightly wrong, as we Motoed the driver had to make a quick trip down a side street. A crowd was marching up the main road, blocking traffic. We pulled into an alley, he went back to the street leaving us sitting in the sun. We could hear the march as it passed then he came back, fired up and we went back to the street. There were rocks strewn around, lots of broken glass and smoldering wood and garbage in the way. He had to swerve and drive over big logs to make the trip. In the end I paid him the 6 Soles he'd asked for. A brave guy, braving the wrath of his fellows.
The aluminum boats that Gerald had warned us of were aggressive, they offer their trip for 10 Soles. We persevered, made our way around to the public Water Taxi and did the Gerald recommended, 1 Sole each boa trip with the locals. The Water Taxi dropped us at the base of steep river bank. It was a hot walk through the village, down again toward the river then through a jungle trail. A young guy, Angel, greeted us and led us across a bridge and into the Pilpintuwasi Butterfly Farm.
He gave us a little introductory information then took us on his Guided Tour. The farm was started by an Austrian woman, Gudrun. She is teaching classes at the University today. Her husband, Robler, a Peruvian, did stop and say hello to us. It's a project of love, of animals and nature. Their Mission Statement is, "Teaching the children adequately and awakening their interest in nature, we can help to respect and protect wild life…that's our duty as responsible citizens".
They have constructed a series of cages to control the breeding and safety for the butterflies. Angel took us through the process, step by step, from eggs to beautiful butterflies. The female lays eggs, each species on a specific leaf. The eggs hatch in just a few days into tiny caterpillars. Their only aim is to eat and grow. Depending on the species it take 2 to 10 weeks to reach final size. Then they all go through a phenomenal process. They find a place to attach then cover themselves in a silk pupa or chrysalis. Then amazingly, a chemical process takes place and it's reconstructed into a completely different animal. The life span of this wondrous and beautiful feat of nature is only 1 to 2 weeks.
Just as Gerald promised, there's more to this place than butterflies. As we walked we were shadowed by two Huacary Monkeys. They climbed in the trees and across the cages, showing off for us. Another even more exotic looking monkey, a red faced Huacary began following us, even challenging the others. Cat made friends with him but not after a few tenuous moments.
They also have a Jaguar, rescued from a village family and nursed back to health as well as a Tapir, anteater and some little relatives of the Capybara. All in all, a great tour for little money, just as Gerald had predicted.
An Artful Message
Back in town, we had lunch and decided to book the tour to Heliconia Lodge. Clever was there and made the reservations. We'll leave tomorrow at 11:00 AM. There's a painting in the Lobby of Hotel Victoria Regia that caught my eye. The color is extraordinary but the story is even more so. The Artist, Christine Moritz, made a visit to Heliconia in 1998 and was inspired to paint. If you look closely you can see hand prints around the Blue Earth. They are of Bora Indians form the area around Heliconia. The prints around the sun are those of Explorers, Teachers and Conservationists, concerned and protecting this fragile environment. Wonderful use of art to send a crucial message.
An American's Motorcycle Diary
Having heard some of Paul's story, we walked back to Amazon Tours, hoping to get to meet him. He left California on a Motorcycle in 1957 and spent 2 years exploring South America. The experience led to a career in travel then a strange quirk of fate, the opportunity to Chair a South American Travel Show, brought him back. The guy running the show was one of the friends he traveled with back in his Motorcycle days. With his focus here, it was an easy transition into the Boat Excursion Business. He owns 2 boats, the Rio Amazona, built in Scotland in 1896 and El Arca, a 50 year old riverboat.
Grippa's In LA, He Can Bring a Computer
Paul is easy to get to know and it's easy to see that he's used to taking control. As we chatted we told he and Scott, his partner, that we couldn't book for next Sunday until we knew that we would have our computer. We told them that Lori and Dave are sending it today and we hoped it would get here before next Saturday. Paul instantly asked, "Where is it now"? Probably in the process of delivery, Lori was going to get it to FedEx today. He grabbed his phone as he said, "Isn't Grippa in LA"? Scott confirmed then Paul insisted that we call Lori, see if she's sent yet. What a treat, we got on the telephone, Lori answered, we talked then when she said that she was just leaving to send the computer we made a snap decision, we had her send the package to the address of the place where the Artist, Francisco Grippa was staying while delivering paintings.
Wow, we don't know these guys from Adam and we don't know whether Grippa will agree to bring the computer. Based on a good gut feeling we put the plan into action. Paul did try to call Grippa but was only able to leave a message. What have we got to lose? Maybe an0other Computer? Keep the faith!
Then, the best, among Adventurers, Paul offered us a very good price for the down river excursion. If you're thinking of exploring the Amazon take a look at this web-site, www.AmazonTours.net you'll find a wonderful adventure as well as a trip back in time on one of the World's Great Rivers!
Back at Hotel Dorado Plaza we took photos of Grippa's work. Paul had told us that the paintings we have enjoyed in the lobby are typical Grippa. Even a newspaper article with his picture. Okay, now we feel as though we know him!
Our Helping Hands Friends have been told that they will receive their equipment tomorrow. They are heartened but not betting on it.
Dinner at El Carbon, Parrilla. A very good mixed grill and very inexpensive, too.
May 25, 2005
Up and at em' early. Packing, breakfast then dragging the bags down, we're making a move. The Hotel Victoria Regia is owned by the same family that has the Lodge. It's not quite as nice as the Dorado but only slightly more than half the price. A little begging on our part and they agreed to pick us up first and drop the bikes and bags at the V. Regia.
I spent an hour rushing to copy pictures and get them on a CD. Most of our Memory Sticks are full. We'll need them for the Jungle Experience. Cat ran up and down the street finally finding a can of Green Mosquito Repellent. The first bus came, the 21 Brits filed on board as I continued to work pictures next door. Then, the van for us and a couple from Switzerland, Claudia and Pius arrived. Cat was nervous, I was holding them and the boat. Nothing I could do, the pics were cooking and that takes time.
Nobody seemed too upset, we got to the boat just a little behind the Brits. They're a kind of "stick together" group. Funny, too, the tour company has separated us from them. Our guide is Oscar, Clever will guide the Brits.
Our little group of 5 left after the Brits but arrived at Isla de Monos (Monkey Island) ahead of them. This Island is sort of stocked with several monkeys and birds. They serve some fresh local fruits and explain life here, on the river. A nice respite from the bouncing boat.
Spider Monk on Board
As we boarded our boat the Spider Monkey that had been lounging on the porch took a running leap, careened off my back and took a seat near the stern. The guys tried to get it out with little result. It came to me, took a seat and clung to my arm. A young boy came aboard and chased it to the bow then it took a leap across water and landed on the dock. Then, as if to say goodbye, he stood up and watched us pull away.
Arriving at the Lodge at 12:45, we settled into our rooms then into the Café for lunch. Really funny, they even separated us from the Swiss couple? They served chicken, rice, beans, watermelon and bananas on a buffet. Not bad, just that we've had so much rice and beans in our lives.
They split the British group in two, half went fishing for piranha, the others and our little 5-some went for a jungle walk. After donning our long pants and boots we headed off down a trail into the thick jungle. (I wore my hiking boots, Cat rented Wellies, high rubber boots) Clever was guiding the Brits and Oscar took us along behind. Oscar was raised in the jungle and knows a lot about living and surviving here. His Father was a hunting guide so he was out in the bush as a young boy.
The best of it is seeing and learning about the plants and how locals use them to live. The worst, it was steamy hot, dripping rain and, the mosquitoes were having a field day. Cat says the only way to describe the 3 hours was, "Miserable". There are few if any animals around, a footprint or two as evidence of their passing but no animals. Most of the afternoon was spent viewing vines, trees and stepping into or across mud. I even tried to swing from a vine like Tarzan but failed, my right arm has little strength due to the rotor cuff. Cat got blisters from her rubber boots. She says the best thing about the experience was the shower, back at the Lodge.
Good planning on our part, we brought 6 bottles of white wine, just in case. Dinner was pretty good, Amazon fish with, yea you guessed it, more beans and rice. Again, we were seated at a separate table but did strike up a conversation with Courtney and his wife, Vicky. They're from London but Courtney was born and raised in Barbados. Surprise, there are 2 in the group from the States. Nancy is from New York and comes along because this is a hiking club. The other, Shannon, is from Arizona and is the guide for the group. They've been up to Cuzco and Machu Picchu and hiked the Inca Trail.
May 26, 2005
Pink & Gray Dolphin, Piranha,
We both have some pretty bad bug bites on our ankles. Learned that they aren't mosquito, they're Chiggers. I have only heard of them from people who've lived in the Southern States. They bite right through the pant legs and socks. Itchy and sore. Speaking of pants, we pulled the same muddy, sweaty pants, socks and boots on for today's adventure.
As we walked to breakfast there was a stir among our fellow adventurers. A tarantula is crawling across one of the tables. Some are scared spitless, some are intrigued, and some want to touch it, even hold it. Pat & Cat passed on that one.
Breakfast then off on a speed boat to visit the fresh water dolphin. Yes, they come in pinks and grays but you can't prove that by us. Oh sure, we saw them breach and breath but only a disturbance on the muddy river and the wound of their breath as they blew. I tried hard for a picture to no avail. They're fast and private. They have little or no vision as the water is too muddy. They rely strictly on their sonar systems to get around.
|003 Bird Nest
Our Piranha fishing expedition took us to some back water areas. Pablo pulled the boat up under trees for shade and we through in a line that he and Oscar had prepared for us. Both he and Pablo caught Piranha. They swish their fishing sticks to make the sound of a feeding frenzy then wait. Pius caught on and soon caught a small Piranha. Both he and I had several other bites but couldn't get them into the boat. Kind of fun but we began to feel sorry for the fish. Yes, even the flesh eating Piranha have a place in this world, too.
Snakes, Sloths and Blow Guns
Back to the Lodge for lunch then off to Yanamono, a nearby village. You walk through the village as life is today before stepping back in time. One family has a couple of Boa Constrictors, a little girl a sloth, and a boy with a monkey add to the menagerie. Also a 3 toed sloth is hanging on a tree branch like decoration. So, there are animals but like most places we've visited, they're in captivity.
Our step back was a step into the Tribal Community House. There are several locals selling hand made crafts. The Chief and several other men and women are dressed in traditional garb. He gives a blow gun demonstration then invites others to give it a try. Cat did her best but her aim was not like that of the chief. Courtney also gave it a shot with about the same affect. It started to rain, we donned our old Iguazu Falls ponchos.
Yo Ho Ho and A Bottle of RUM
The next little adventure was too a local Rum Distillery. Oscar played the part of the horse as he and Clever demonstrated how the 200 year old machine is used to press the juice out of sugar cane. They place it in an old wooden canoe along with left over starter, like we do with sour dough. Then they distill in an old copper kettle. They also make Molasses in a large copper bowl with fire under. Interesting process.
Now the tasting, not exactly like a visit to a winery but interesting, too. They pass around glasses of different rums, from white to dark. Even one called 7 roots, said to be an aphrodisiac. We all sip from the same glass, hoping that everyone in the group is healthy or that the Rum kills all germs? Obviously popular with the locals, they sell the stuff for 1 Sole or about 33 cents for a liter. We're hoping that the local men stay away from 7 Roots, seems to us that most local families have more than enough kids. Cat says the taste reminds her of Pisco. Remember, the distilled grapes of Ica, Peru?
Back and another hot shower. It's tough to know how great it feels until you've been there and done that. After, Cat relaxed with a glass of wine and wrote in her journal.
With the permission Pius and Claudia we had the staff serve our dinner at the same table. We've gotten to know them, at least slightly. There is a language problem. He's been traveling for 3 months, she joined him and they'll spend a month together. After our meal several gathered in the bar. Oscar crooned, he has a very unique voice and is an accomplished guitarist. Quite enjoyable.
Dispelling The Myth of the Bloodthirsty Piranha
As Told By Oscar
True to legend, a school of hungry Piranha can devour a large animal or, even one of us in just minutes. But they won't. Locals swim with schools of them all the time.
The typical diet of Piranha is other fish but they don't kill them, or any other animal, for that matter. Usually Morojaras, small Catfish, take bites off the tail of living fish. That slows them then they eat at their fins. When the fish is immobilized a larger Catfish will bite into the carcass. After the fish, animal or human dies, or stops struggling the Piranha move in for their feast.
Tomorrow the Brits, Nancy and Shannon leave at 6:00 AM. So we said our goodbyes. They'll be on the airplane and headed toward London before we even get back to Iquitos. Shannon has another group waiting. He doesn't usually do two back to back but "that's show biz".
May 27, 2005
Up a Creek in A Canoe then Back to Iquitos
After breakfast Oscar led the 4 of us down a path to another village. A nice looking school but the teachers of Peru are on Strike so all was quiet. He told us of the trees along the path and how locals use each of them. Nothing goes to waste here.
The homes are much more modern, some even have diesel generated electricity for a few hours each day. At the edge of the village is a small creek and waiting there for us was Pablo with 2 canoes. The trip was beautiful. They paddled and explained, we watched and enjoyed. Lots of local people fishing, several women washing cloths along the bank. Pablo lives here and knows all his neighbors. No Cayman, not even many birds but it was so quiet and peaceful that we were lulled into a jungle malaise.
Lunch at the Lodge then at our request, we showered and prepared to leave early. The new guests, Niki and Aaron from Utah and Mike from Colorado came in on the boat that will whisk us back to civilization. We had a few minutes after their orientation to chat. Niki and Aaron are here celebrating their 4th anniversary. Due to a screw up, they will only have today and tomorrow morning here as their plane to Cuzco leaves the next morning. Our trip back up river only took 1 ½ hours.
They delivered us to the door of Hotel Victoria Regia, our new home. We settle in, relaxed and watched TV to catch up on the news. Checking the e-mails we learned that Lori and Dave had sent the Computer to Grippa so, it's on its way!
Back to The Yellow Rose for dinner. Gerald was in and out. The place wasn't as busy as it had been. We think he needs the rest, he and Pamela really work, long and hard. Cat spoke to a quiet guy in the corner, Peter from Australia. He too is looking for a boat down river. He too is going around the world but flying which is much faster. Part of his trip is to boat down the Amazon and Nile. We told him about the Amazon Tours but he's looking for a less expensive ride and isn't too interested in an excursion.
Dinner was great, as usual.
May 28, 2005
Booking the Boat
Breakfast at Victoria Regia is okay. Nothing like Casa Andina but, okay. Then to the Internet. More copying pictures from the Jungle Experience so we'll have Memory Sticks for our River Adventure for me. Wally finally got our Peru Journal pages up so Cat spent much of the day working through the 250 e-mail messages.
After lunch we took MotoTaxi to Amazon Tours, both Paul and Scott were there. They had great news for us, Grippa was flying into Lima, as we speak, and he has the Computer with him. He will get in tomorrow, too late to get the boat but will take a "Fast Boat" and catch us on the river. What fantastic news for us. What a stroke of good luck to have met Paul and Scott.
Bad news, the big and beautiful old Rio Amazona is out of commission. So, our dream of an historic cruise is out but Paul and Scott guarantee that we'll enjoy El Arca. She's a 50 year old river boat that hauled freight and passengers before they got he, modernized her a bit and put her to work. Scott says the Arca is the best trip, it gets in closer to places of interest. We'll take his word for it.
Another Yellow Rose of Texas night. Great food, Cajun music, even another dance. Peter was there, he's now considering Amazon Tours, the regular boat won't leave for 3 days. The cost of staying is greater than going on the Excursion. He may be joining us?
Poignant goodbyes to Gerald, Pamela and the staff of the Yellow Rose then off to bed.
We did watch a little TV, a show called The Contender. Our friends, Michael and Jeannie mentioned that they know the guy who composes the music for it and Survivor. Survivor has been a winning Reality TV Show, The Contender hasn't. However, it does put a human face on an otherwise fairly brutal sport. Cat usually hates Boxing but found herself glued to the set as the stories of the Boxers and their families unfolded. She actually shed a tear for the loser.
Sunday, May 29, 2005
Let the Amazon Adventure Begin
Up early to a packing frenzy. Breakfast then I hustled next door to the Internet Café. More photos to copy, more memory Sticks to free up. Still working at it, I had to give up with only partial copies at 10:00. Clever has agreed to let us ride to Amazon Tours as they leave with the next group to Heliconia. They dropped us, we went inside and talked with Paul and Scott. More great stories of Paul's Motorcycle Travels. I urged him to work on the journal. He has notes but they need a lot of work. Plenty of pictures but, like most of us, they are stored in out of the way places or scattered around between here and Glendale, California.
Peter from Australia came in carrying his backpack. He bought a one way ticket so, we'll be sharing the Amazon Adventure. It started here, as the Porters piled bags on their heads and backs then struggled down the long, steep stairway to the boat. I mentioned that the guys at the Hotel had broken the front Pannier rack on Cat' bike. Scott took us into the street to a welder but the shop was closed. Then he got a roll of packing tape and had a guy really wrap it so that it won't break off during our boat trip.
Our fellow Adventurers began to assemble. Surprise, they appear to be mid-westerners. That's the US mid-west. They're concerned with baggage so we'll leave introductions for later.
The rooms are small, the beds bunked. However, for a step back in time adventure they're more than adequate. Even a shower and flushing toilet. We arranged our things, the guys put the bikes and our other bags in a room below. Those guys struggled so hard that we felt compelled to tip. We think that the other passengers have paid for transfers and probably won't. One of the gals was quit unhappy with he room. The group leader took her to see others. She soon saw that what she had, we all had. Awe, expectations.
Lunch, Chicken, salad, melon and rice, at 1:00. A time to begin getting to know each other. Introductions around but we can't remember many of their names. They range from age 40 to 81. All nice folks from Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois. Maybe because they have mosquitoes, several have nets on hats that drop down, over their faces. Funny looking but functional.
Later, El Arca pulled up and we visited another Rum Distillery. This group is fun, talkative and interested. After a demo similar to the one we had earlier, they all tried the product. Some actually bought. One guy, Bill, loves rum. He bought, not to take home but to enjoy on the trip.
The Jungle Expedition Cast of Characters
Bill, a Traveling Salesman from Minnesota, he and I traded jokes.
Warren, the un-identical brother of Bill. A Newspaper Reporter from Chicago. He listens intently and records much of the lectures.
Jayne, a Rancher from Minnesota?
Cheryl, a Professor with the University of Minnesota.
Ed and Carol from Florida. He's had a kidney transplant and hip replacement. She is active, involved and reminds us of our friend, Gale, who met us in Santiago, Chile. They were wearing mosquito nets, he can't afford to get an infection.
Stephen and Lynn from Iowa, He's also a Professor.
Glenna, originally fro Hawaii, she to is a Professor and specializes in Native American studies. Her Hawaiian name means "Setting Sun Woman".
Jack, a 73 year young School Administrator, retired, from Florida. He got tired of retirement and is now teaching elementary school.
Alan, an octogenarian and elder of the group. He travels and says that he will until they put hi underground. He and Cat compared notes, they've both had heart attacks. His was major!
Peter, from Australia, of course. He feels a little left out amongst the Statesiders.
Rick, Ph.D. Professor of Biology, Wisconsin. He's the "American" Guide, hired by the US Tour Operator.
Segundo, Native American, Peruvian, Guide with Amazon Tours.
A gorgeous sunset, while we sat on the aft deck and talked. Warren and we were the last to go. What a nice guy. This is going to be a fun group, a fun excursion and a fun 3 days.
A rumor circulated that the Artist was on board. I ventured down and found him seated, sipping a beer. Nice guy, tired from his travel, he assured me that he had the computer and it was in good shape.
May 30, 2005
Bird Watching at Sun Up
Wake up call, 5:30 AM for bird watching. Yes, we got up this early to look for birds. We missed the opportunity at Heliconia and the others said that it was worthwhile. The sun was just coming up as we all climbed down into a power launch and headed toward a tributary. All but one, that is, Ed is not feeling well, his wife Carol thought he'd be fine, just a little of what she said they call the Shaky shakes. They feel that he got a little dehydrated yesterday and that may have set them off?
Cool and quiet, the boat slowly slipped up the small creek sheltered between walls of trees. The jungle is quite alive at this hour. Segundo has eyes of an animal, he spots birds and identifies them before we even get a bearing on the direction that he's pointing. The Piece de Resistance, he spotted a Sloth, high in a tree. We had to move back and forth several times before all in the group got a glimpse. There were a couple of huge Wasp nests, Cat was the first to spot them.
Breakfast was great, scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, fruit, juice and good strong coffee. Ed made it to the table but was having a lot of trouble. He would be fine then have a spasm, almost threw his fork across the room at one point. Then as he stood to go his legs buckled, just for a moment. We think he may be having little seizures? With his medical history this could be a bad sign?
As we finished breakfast El Arca nosed into a cove and the crew threw the gangway out. Not the type of gangway we'd see up north, its just 2 planks nailed together, less than 2 meters (1 ½ feet) wide. All of us except Ed made the precarious crossing then climbed the bank and stairs to a Village.
Song and Dance of the Bora
These are the Bora People. The Village is fairly modern. They do have electricity from a diesel generator in the evenings. The homes, scattered around an open area, are well kept and the families seem to be less interested in us than we are in them. A walk around to the far side of the square into the Community House and a step back in time. The Chief, Vincent, welcomed us. The people are all dressed in tree bark material. The women have little skirts but no tops. The children are completely bare. This, of course, is a show, the way it was. Paul pays the Bora People to portray the early life and it has a two fold affect. Tourists enjoy and the Bora have a chance to re-live the old days and teach the dance and songs to the children.
During the introduction Segundo mentioned something about the Chief's son having been granted a scholarship for his art. He went to school in Lima but was found dead on the beach? Robbery, they think? We noticed 2 DVDs behind an artist who was displaying his wares. I asked, they handed us the English version. It's called "Searching for Blue". When we paid the Chiefs wife came to us with tears in her eyes. She said, "Esta mi hijo, muerte". (It's my son, he died.) That moment alone made the $10.00 investment worthwhile.
The dancing was spirited and functional, asking for good crops and good hunting. A couple of our boat people, Carol and Jayne joined in. Also, two young guys form the boat, Sergio and Franz danced. As they exited one said, "I stepped on her feet". Embarrassed but snickering. The final dance on a long log that represents the Anaconda, the men and boys bounced, struck the ground with their staffs and chanted. Really well done and we didn't feel that we were exploiting. Between the monetary advantage and the learning experience for the kids, it was a really good show.
Back across the precarious gangway and we were off to Grippa's house of art. More than a house or studio, it dominates the village from it's vantage point above. El Arca pulled up to a small log dock and we all went up the stairway. All but Ed and Carol. Rick told us that Ed was really sick and they're sending an airplane to take them back to a hospital.
Francisco Grippa is the epitome of Artist. He is flamboyant, out going and as colorful as his work. He insisted that we all have a seat, and a beer. Cat told him that we preferred wine and it was quickly in front of us. He did a little explanation of his work and career as he sipped his beer. The work ranges from huge pieces to small and from color to black and white. One piece is a political cartoon that was published in a Peruvian Magazine.
None of our group bought, we would have if we were on vacation. I loved the piece, The Beast. Parrots flying left and a Beast and woman flying to the right. Priced at $4,200, it would be a bargain if only we were working, earning and had a wall large enough for it.
After the little program we met his current wife who is 40 years younger than he and their daughter. (Grippa is 64 and looking good.) He lived in California and owned restaurants for more than 20 years. His background in business combined with art has led to the success he enjoys. We share nearly the same age and exactly the same number of marriages. What a wonderful character.
As the others browsed Grippa brought the computer out. Lori had it in a backpack. We got it out, turned it on and viola, we're back in business. Grippa asked about buying the backpack, of course we gave it to him along with a couple of bottles of red wine. What a grand gesture, bringing a replacement, even though he didn't think of it that way. We assured hi that he now has another place in California to stay when we get back home.
A Hasty Hop Home
Back on board, we all stood and wished Ed and Carol well as they boarded a launch. They crossed the little lagoon and the crew helped them board the small plane. They were off and on the way home before we sat down for lunch. What a shame, they were so looking forward to this trip and Carol was really enjoying it. A couple of others felt, with his health history, it was a mistake for them to have come. We disagree, as Alan, the 81 year young Elder of our group said, "I'll travel until they put me underground".
After a fine lunch of beef stew and fried bananas the generator gave out. The crew began working feverously as it left us with our air conditioning and water. They have plenty of drinking water but the sinks and showers are down. El Arca remained docked below Grippa's house. We just sat around on the upper deck, in the shade and chatted. The Jungle Walk scheduled for this afternoon has been cancelled. A few went on a boat trip down river. We stayed and talked with Bill and Warren.
As evening drew nigh the group discussed our plight. Rick told them that he and his Company would demand a partial refund. We felt it was a little premature since we haven't lost anything and the rest of the group seemed resigned to having the best time possible. Rick and Bill had a discussion about how they'd carry an extra generator if it was their boat. I had to pipe up and defend Paul. He's been in business for a long time and knows what you can and can not afford. Though we're a long way from any City we're only a few hours away from Iquitos by boat. The crew would get the generator running but only for minutes at a time. Finally Rick announced that they're sending parts now. They will arrive sometime during the night.
Fish dinner, the group continued to discuss our shipwreck condition but none was upset. I heard Rick talking with his wife on his satellite phone. He told her that this was the trip from HELL. One guy hade to be flown our because he was so sick, and the others completely upset because the boat had broken down. Maybe just the perspective of a leader? Beyond the normal responsibilities.
The sun begins to set about 6:30 PM. By 6:45 it's completely dark. We sat on the upper deck, laughing, talking and listening to the jungle sounds. Then drifted off in pairs, toward the bunks.
May 31, 2005
A Rescheduled Jungle Walk
Another early wakeup call for breakfast. Fried eggs and banana balls, very good. The big news, the generator is genning. We had running water to wash up. Yesterdays cancelled Jungle walk is on for this morning. After suffering the heat, mud and mosquitoes, Cat was adamant that she's never go on another. However, this morning she decided to give it another try. The difference, the positive attitude of the group and the fact that it's cool this morning.
After a 40 minute upstream boat ride we set off down a wide, slightly muddy trail. Both Rick and Segundo really know their stuff about plants and animals here in the Jungle. Peter decided not to come along. He prefers to relax and write. As we walked and learned we talked about how we wished he'd joined us. It was and easy walk through wondrous plants and huge old trees. Rick talked about how each tree evolves it's own eco system. They discovered that each has different plants, animals and insects when they enclosed some in plastic envelopes, similar to the way they tent a house to kill termites. All the insects and animals that died were counted and cataloged. Two trees near each other had quite different life forms on them.
Surprise, they pulled El Arca up to where we had come ashore. Another walk across the plank then we removed our boots. The crew cleaned them then set them in the engine room to dry.
Lunch then Piranha Fishing
Fried fish then off to catch some of our own. Most of the catch was Catfish. Several of our shipmates including Cat, caught them. It was Peter who landed the only Piranha. We were pulled up under a tree fishing when the sky opened up and it poured. After waiting for it to let up they decided to make a dash for the boat. We were all soaked with the exception of Bill. He says that he always includes an umbrella in his pack.
Back aboard, we all changed to dry things then hung the wet clothing in the engine room to dry. It gives a whole new feeling for the crew who work down there, it's so hot and steamy.
Later that afternoon we all went ashore at another village. This one is life as it is on the Amazon. The Chief was there to greet us. Then Segundo told us that most of the people had been drinking. Some were drunk. It was a real life visit, one older lady was making Farinha, the root of casaba is pounded then soaked. She was in the soaking phase. Nest they will dry and flatten it to a dough and bake it. Several families stood around and stared as we walked through, past their homes. Our fellow adventurers had come prepared with gifts, pencils and paper for the kids. Make up for the women. The people lined up and scooped up the goodies. One guy got a handful of things then asked for a Soccer Ball. He was serious and almost forceful in his semi drunken state. Segundo promised to bring him one next time.
The night Jungle Excursion was cancelled, everyone is tired from the long day's adventures. So, it was dinner, fish and for Peter, his Piranha, then a movie. We did run the DVD, Searching for Blue. It was produced to highlight the jungle lifestyle and how the Student's work was done with natural colors on the bark paper. Great photography and of course we were all drawn in to the story, the scenes of dancing that we'd experienced yesterday then a sad ending. We knew the ending would be the end of a life but it still brought lumps to throats and tears to eyes.
The movie was interesting, a fiction about a lost tribe of Native Americans. Cat conked out early. I made it almost to the end then started to nod out..
June 1, 2005
Goodbye Jungle Adventure Shipmates
Hello to Columbia and Brazil
Another early morning wake up call for Pat, Cat and Peter. The three one way adventurers have to get checked out by Peruvian Immigration. El Arca is moored at the Border Checkpoint. Segundo took us ashore and we walked to the Immigration building. Closed but Segundo soon had them awake with his pounding. They were extremely nice and had us checked out and stamped in no time. Then Segundo introduced us to the Immigration Officer and told us that she is going back to Iquitos with them next week. She is really excited, to be gong on vacation. We think that Paul probably gives here the trip or gives her a big discount. He's a great businessman and knows how to grease the skids.
Paul and a 400 Year Old Tree
Our shipmates were deep into pancakes, ham and discussion about Paul when we returned. After filling our plates and listening to our fill of Paul discussion I spoke up. "Paul is like the 300 year old trees we visited yesterday, I said. He has been here a long time and is a huge benefit to life along the river and those who visit here. His being here has changed things along the river and lives that he's touched both locals and visitors like us. When he decides to quit or his health makes that decision for him, like the trees, how much time will it take to replace him"? Suddenly Rick spoke up and said, "You're right, we talk a lot about what we'll do if Paul retires". Truthfully, it will be tough to find a person willing to take the risks that go along with the business. To put up the money it takes to keep the boats running and hope that Adventurers like us keep coming. Paul had told us and I repeated for them, "Business dropped a lot after 911 and still hasn't recovered".
Bikes on board the launch, we all boarded and took our final voyage together, at least for now. The rest of the group will explore Leticia, Columbia. We'll try to find Hotel rooms then book a boat for this next leg of this Amazon Adventure. The Hotel Amazona was recommended by Paul, he thought the rooms would be about $60.00. The new low price is $85.00 and doesn't include breakfast. Cat took a look at the room and found it to be very basic with twin beds. Peter had already gone in search of less expensive lodging. Cat walked around the block and did find another place but it wasn't that much less except in condition.
She and Peter returned then we walked two doors down to visit Max, a guy Paul had recommended. He had been looking for us, Paul had called. He informed us that there are two boats leaving this afternoon then it will be 3 days before another sets off down river. He insisted that I jump behind him on his motor scooter and we go to the dock. Along the way he decided that we should stop at the Aduana to make sure we'll not have a problem taking the bikes in. As he talked with the young guy there the heavens opened again and it poured. The guy thinks we won't have a problem but wants me to come back when the boss gets in.
Forget Hotels, Get on Board Another Boat
Max and I stood under the eave, talking and watching the rain pelt down. Finally he decided to just go for it. We ran to the Scooter and he set of in driving rain. It let up a little, he pulled into an auto shop and talked with the guys there. They're working on his car and he hoped it was ready. Not, so we set off into the storm, again.
The 2 boats are tied up next to each other. Max is trying to work a tour deal with the owner of the one on the left. We went aboard and he introduced me to Anderson. His Father, Manuel, owns the boat and Anderson is Captain. A look at the cabins then Max negotiated. Anderson kept saying 750 Reals and Max played as though he couldn't hear, saying, "600"? Finally Anderson agreed to 600 for us and 300 for Peter. We made a deal but I was short of cash. No problem, just get back here by 2:00 PM. It's only 12:00 Noon now, that should be plenty of time.
The 3 Borders, The 3 Moneys
A friend of Max's suggested that we get Columbian Pesos here then change it to Brazilian Real on the other side of the border. We talked it over and decided that it seemed foolish to make change twice so we hailed a Taxi and headed for Brazil. They say there's a place here where you can stand in 3 countries at one time. The corners of Peru, Columbia and Brazil merge there. We the missed that and a few other small tourist spots but we didn't miss out on excitement. The Brazilian Bank in Tabatinga, wouldn't take either our ATM or Visa Card. They echoed the suggestion of the friend of Max. Go back, get Pesos then change at one of the Money Exchangers. Damn, just as warned, the cost of Taxi was going to exceed the cost of exchange.
A quick stop at Brazilian Immigration and another disappointment, they're closed until 2:00 PM. How will we ever make the boat? We went back to Leticia, Columbia, and at the second cash machine we tried, we got a hand full of Pesos. Back on the Brazilian side, we found an Exchange Office. So we now have Reals and an hour before the Immigration Office opens. Lunch, we made a deal with the Taxi Driver and bought his. A fast trip to the boat, I spoke or should we say, Communicated with Captain Anderson. He assured me that if we are on board before 3 we'll be okay. At the gate of Immigration by 2:00 PM, we waited patiently, watching our watches while the Officer made an unhurried journey through our Passports. He would turn each page then look up at us as if to say, "You went to Russia, you went to Kenya"? At last he stamped with authority and we headed for the Aduana. Somehow we missed their office, time was fleeting, we had the driver take us to the boat. It was 2:50 PM as we drug the bags and bikes on board. We made it! If there are problems with Customs, we'll face ‘em' later.
AS we came aboard they were carrying another couple's luggage to our Cabin. Anderson came round the corner and pointed to the stairway up the other side of the boat. Similar except Peter will have to use the common toilet. He seemed to take it well, took a look and said that they were okay. He has bunk beds and a fan. Our cost is double but, we have AC, a TV and Refrigerator. Both rooms are tiny but then that's boat life. Way ahead of the hammock section. They're tightly slung together and the people store their things underneath. There's a small boy who sits or lies on the deck. His legs look okay but he can't walk?
The horn blared at 3:00 PM and we were off, down river. In just a few minutes the boat made a left and pulled into tributary then into a dock. Our first stop and we've just started.
Settled in, we had just opened our Happy Hour wine when they came by to tell us that it was time for dinner at 5:00 PM. It's a line up affair for about 15 of us. Last call, we and other cabin people wait as the others finish then we file in. A steel table occupies the middle of the room and the metal benches are attached to the floor for seating.
Dinner, soup with meat, pretty good. Peter sat with us and chatted as we finished our wine. He was going to get a beer but all they have is Skol and he can't stand the taste. The TV is pretty much useless, we did get a glimpse of World News in Portuguese. Peter drifted off at 8:30 and we soon drifted off to street.
June 2, 2005
1:30 AM - Open Up, National Police
Sound sleep stopped with a bang. Someone began pounding on our metal door and yelling. Just awakening like this is fearful, we were sure that it was some of the Hammock people. They had been watching us or we thought our camera, with interest. The more the guy yelled and pounded, the tighter I held the door closed. He was demanding that we open in the name of the National Police. I was demanding that he get Captain Anderson. He hit the door so hard that it bent and the lock popped open. Then it was just my strength against his. He was slowly winning the battle when I heard Peter's voice. I yelled to him that we feared they were robbers. He tried to explain as I released the door. The guy demanded our Passports, I demanded to see his ID papers and badge. He flipped a little plastic wallet open flashed a badge then pulled back his plaid shirt to expose a badge, ironed onto his t-shirt. Peter stuck his head around the corner and said they were Police. We handed over our Passports, he looked at the pictures then our faces. Suddenly he softened.
"Open bags, please". I picked up a plastic bag and showed him our batteries and mini CDs. I think he was a little shocked that I was a gray hair. Another little bag and then, surprisingly, he said, "Okay, no more"! Geez, we were off the hook but the door had major damage. There had been a couple of other guys with guns, scary looking when we first looked out. One of them was now going through the bags, one at a time, of the two women in the next cabin. We did get off easy.
3:00AM – Things that Go CRUNCH in the NIGHT
So, the excitement over, we climbed back into bed and tried to get some sleep. Dozing, we heard a huge crunching sound and the boat lurched to a stop. Pandemonium, sounds of panic then another bang on our door and a voice, "Gringos, agua"!
We didn't get it? Were we into another Police raid or being Shanghaied by bandits? I slowly opened the door a crack and peeked out. One of the gals next door was standing nearby wearing a life vest? She looked over then indicated that we should get our vests off the wall and onto our bodies. We grabbed them, wondering how cold the water would be and what would happen to our things. The wind was howling and full of huge drops of rain. We stepped out and into a rush of people trying to see what was going on. The bow of the ship was up and into the trees. We have gone ashore. They were making announcements on the loud speaker. The women near us were trying to tell us what was going on.
Captain Anderson was hard at work trying to back her off. She wallowed a bit as he applied power then slowly slipped back into the dark wet night and muddy waters. Everyone stood, waiting for word. Was there damage? Were we taking on water? Conversations slowed, Peter peaked out his door. He's pretty much slept through the excitement. The Purser came by and assured us that all was well. Another SPIKE of adrenalin, would we get any sleep at all, tonight? The sound of the loud engine pushing us on down stream, the calm of the crew, we were convinced that the excitement was over. Back to the bed, we lay and talked a bit, listened to the wind and the sound of rain on the steel hull then exhaustion drew us into the void.
5:00 AM – Things that go Din Dong in the Early Morning Dawn
Ding Dong, Ding Dong, call to breakfast. Then in half an hour the gal, Victoria, came and knocked. "Coffee is on", she said through the bent door. When we went out one of the crew tried to pound and straighten it. He shook his head, sort of in disgust. Don't know whether he's disgusted with us or the Policia?
The coffee is sweet. You can take it black or with milk mixed in but both are already sweetened, really sweetened. Food, a hot dog type bun with a little cheese. Another in-and-out in 15 minutes.
So, at 6:00 AM we're left with the rest of the day. Well, we've gone through a time change so it's actually now 7:00. After a long slow walk around the decks we went back to our AC. I played with the new computer, getting to know it. Cat worked with the TV and never got past the single channel and it's in Portuguese. Ultimately she gave it up and studied the Lonely Planet, looking for things of interest on the Amazon and in Manaus.
Lunch, another lineup, another group session. Chicken, beans, spaghetti and rice. Another 15 minute meal. The fast food here is in the eating.
We sat on the front deck, talked with Peter and watched the river run. Cat is really glad that we're headed down stream. The upriver boats take twice the time to go from Manaus to Tabatinga. She's pretty bored, she'd be nuts after 7 days.
Dinner at 6:00 PM. Same line, same people, even the very same food. In and out then a chit chat session with Peter. We drank wine while talking. The purser was dressed in white uniform when we shoved off but has been wearing shorts and an open shirt since an hour after we were underway. He has an interesting collection of shells, teeth and antlers around his neck. I got the picture.
The young boy on the deck definitely has a health problem. He just lays, listlessly. WE smile at him and his father as we pass. Peter felt so moved that he gave him a couple of sheets of paper and a pen. That brought a big smile to his face. He took them then Peter showed him how to mark the paper. That really made him happy. He began scribbling and almost laughing.
It has rained off and on all day. In bed by 9:00 PM.
June 3, 2005
More Amazon River
No Policia and they kept the boat off the shore last night. Pretty boring.
Same routine today except as we entered the room for breakfast the girls were setting up for the crew. They had banana and a sweet roll. When I looked at the plates she smiled and offered us some. We accepted.
Several stops and loading/unloading of passengers and freight.
Lunch, the same ol' stuff, chicken, rice and spaghetti. Another long day. I did do a little work on the computer but it's tough since we can't back anything up. Cat read then she and Peter took chairs on the top deck and watched the river slide by. He is perfectly content, she is not.
Dinner, Ground beef with onions but the same spaghetti and rice.
Another stroll around the decks, another bull session over wine. Then lights out, early.
June 4, 2005
Breakfast after the Gong. Same, same. Then it was packing time. Reworked the bags and made sure the bikes were ready to go then, just waited.
Lunch, a meat dish that was quite good. Where have they been hiding it for the past 3 days?
The skyline began to show as we rounded the corner at the confluence of the Amazon and Black Rivers. We were at the dock by 3:00. As Anderson and crew tied her up a dozen guys stormed aboard intent on helping with bags. Cat was in her usual saving mode. She went down ahead of me, I waited then started toward the stairs. They were crowded with passengers and crew headed up. A guy literally ripped the bag out of my hand, another took control of the one on the deck. I was pushed aside. I ran down, after them. They started to sweep right past Cat but I yelled. They stopped, I demanded that they put the stuff down on the dock. They wanted to take it directly to their friends Taxi. Back up, I carried a bag, one carried the last bag the other, one of the bikes. The most aggressive went back aboard for the second bike.
Once all piled near Cat and Peter, he and I went to look at Taxis. Their friend's was to small, too bad. We found a van, Peter threw his backpack in and waited. Back at the dock, the two guys grabbed bags and the 3 of us headed back. Then another trip, bikes and a bag and we were aboard the van. Then all hell broke loose about the cost of their service. I gave Mr. Aggressor 10 real (about $3.00) they both complained loudly. So in an appeasement move I handed the other guy 5 Real. He almost rejected it so I grabbed it back. Then they really howled. I gave it to Mr. Aggressor and walked to the van. He followed and jumped in with us? He wanted to come with us and help unload. I demanded that he get out. I guess he thought we had adopted him?
Peter had a medium priced Hotel in mind. We had the driver take us there then Peter and Cat took a look while I guarded the goods. They came back and we headed toward The Taj Mahal. Again the Taxi waited. This time it was my turn to check the price and room. The clerk quoted $110 US per night. I told him it was above our budget, he dropped it to $95 if we stay 5 nights. I told them I'd have to check with Cat and Peter.
They had been looking at his Lonely Planet. The book quotes $58 for a single and $65 for a double. We walked back inside with the book open to the page. When I told the clerk that we came here because of the book a man, the owner, stepped up, looked at the page then said, "We will honor this but it is the lowest we can go". We were elated but acted reserved. I had been ready to tell them that we could let L.P. know if they have had a change of rates but didn't need to.
For us, a trip to the Carrefour, the French Supermarket for essentials, Peter headed for an ATM and cash. We met in our room for Happy Hour. An extremely Happy Hour for Cat, she really is tired of the boats.
The Pizza place nearby had caught our eye so we went there for dinner. A guy in drag greeted us with a smile, no she didn't work there just seated at a table. Waiting for a client? Maybe he did work there. Several other interesting folks, some women with very short skirts and see through blouses seemed to be waiting for clients, too?
This is the Restaurant of the Hotel Brazil. We asked for a menu, the waiter told us that they didn't have one but he could tell us about their selection. Cat let him know that we wanted Pizza. He said they had them but when asked he couldn't figure out the toppings. His eyes brightened and he rushed into the kitchen. Back in seconds, he had a box with frozen Pizza and pointed to the ingredients. We tried not to laugh and were as respectful as possible as we exited.
Just up the street, we found great Pizza and music. We had chicken, Peter chose Ham and Pineapple. The singer, a guy, has a bosanovo-ish or Samba-ish sound. We worked on our HUGE Pizzas then moved out in front and enjoyed his voice and guitar. Of course he did Girl From Ipanema.
They charged a 3 Real cover, Cat liked the music but hated that. We do have CNN, so a little Larry and Aaron then off to sleep.
Sunday, June 5, 2005
A Day of Rest for us and the Rest
After a good, included breakfast we went searching for Tourist Info, a laundry and Internet. We did find a laundry and a small shop with CDs but Tourist Info, the Internet Shops and almost everything else were closed.
Later the Hotel told us of an Internet Shop nearby. They were expensive so we decided to just copy the pictures of our journey from Lima to Galapagos. After a half hour we had it, we thought. Back in the room, we discovered that the CD was blank. They were trying to tell us something, now we think it was that they don't have CD burning capabilities.
Another place, they all seem to open but late in the day on Sunday, great price, good Internet connection, no CD burner.
A walk to pick up the Laundry, late lunch then a little rest. Happy Hour with Peter at 6:00 PM Dinner up the street, chicken and fish, pretty good.
Larry and Aaron and sleep.
June 6, 2005
Tourist Info but not much Info
Another pretty good breakfast then the Three Musketeers, Cat , Pat and Peter went in search of Info. We've walked most of the street and know Manaus pretty well now. The office is cute, the girl is cute and very nice but they have very little info. She did give us a City map and directions to the Boat Docks. We walked, down sidewalks lined with little booths selling every thing, of every size and color.
Confusion is the only way to describe the ticket sales for our 3rd boat trip. Walking down the sidewalk toward the Boat Terminal we were smothered in a swarm of "Touts". Each had a picture book of boats and prices. Some were similar, some more or less? Tough to decide what to do. Inside, there are windows selling tickets, too. Standing in line, we listened to those in front of us and fended of "Touts" with better prices. The girl was quite nice but couldn't explain why everyone has a different deal. The straight forward price at the window is 450 Rs. The price quoted by most independent peddlers is 350 Rs.
After listening to all deals we decided to wait and talk to the Hotel and Mark, a name given to us by Paul at Amazon Tours. Back at the Hotel we found that they had little or no info for us. Called Mark and made an appointment to see him tomorrow.
Off to the Carrefour, hungry, we bought sandwiches to take back. The wine shelf is getting depleted. When we asked for a particular bottle of wine the young man said he would check in the back. He disappeared, we were starving, we sat on a Coca Cola display shelf and ate. Yes, we did get some strange stares. Finally the guy returned with bad news. We bought our 2nd choice.
More Internet time then 6:00 PM Happy Hour with Peter. Dinner, we took the elevator up and dined in the revolving restaurant. Great view, good food, Pasta and Steak. Peter, who has been suffering from an upset stomach, ordered only Ice Cream, 3 different kinds.
We did get a call in to Steve, another Ex-Pat connection from Paul and Scott. He is pretty sure that there is a boat to Macapa, at least there used to be. It will be smaller and definitely wood hull. Probably hammock only though they may have a cabin or two. Though he didn't know much about Macapa he thinks it's at least as nice as Santarem, where he lives and where we'll leave the big boat. With this small amount of info, we're beginning to lean toward down river to Belem and decisions there.
A little Larry and Aaron then, sleep.
June 7, 2005
Carlos Mesa, President of Bolivia has resigned. La Paz is completely blocked from the rest of the world. No trucks, buses, cars or airplanes getting in or out. This is the continuing drama over the privatization of Gas and Water. The locals only see that the prices have doubled since private companies have taken over. Crazy, to take utilities and resources out of government subsidy and try to serve without raising prices.
After our really pretty nice breakfast we walked to Mark's office. He and his wife, Tania, run a wonderful company, Swallows & Amazons. They have a small boat and lodge. They operate on the Rio Negro. Mark's story is fun and interesting. He was hanging around South America with a Colombian girl. They were preparing to go mountain climbing when he met Tania. Love at first sight, they were soon married and in business. Their Lodge is in the village where Tania was raised. It is operated by her family. Check out their web site at www.SwallowsAndAmazonsTours.com .
Mark was a wealth of info. He knows the River and most of the operators here. He doesn't know whether there is a boat to Macapa. We made a quick field decision, we'll book to Belem and make decisions there about our continuation. We need to know more about that area, the roads and people there.
So, as we made our final decision, we'll go the distance on the Amazon. We think Peter was happy with the decision, he's beginning to like our company. We've talked about how lonely his trip must be, although he admits he's a loner. Mark decided that he would ask hi Brother-in-Law, John, to accompany us. He knows some of the Boat People and Portuguese. The 4 of us walked back down to the Port. Wading through the "Touts", John talked with several. He found that most of them have the same price, 350 Rs per person, for what they call Suite Accommodations. He couldn't explain why they are able to give a discount and finally decided that we should talk with the people at the window.
The cost there is still 450 Rs and neither he nor we understand why but we think we should buy and pay the extra to be sure we're getting what we're paying for. The gal, Caroline, was very nice, even suggested that we could go aboard now, even sleep there tonight if we want to.
A Porter, Jose, latched onto us at the bus. He was taking bags out to a boat, for a woman but was more interested in us. Nice guy, he held the bus and rushed her bags aboard then jumped back on and took us to the Amazon Star. It's bigger than the Monteiro. Jose found a little short woman, Victoria, who was the keeper of the keys. She opened several doors for our inspection. The "Suites" are all bunk beds. We chose #10, closest to the wheel house. Peter took the Suite next door, #8. There is no refrigerator or TV but we do have private bath and AC. We will not be sleeping here tonight our room is a bit dowdy but grand compared to this little cell. Victoria had us sign for then gave us the keys.
Our left over food and feeling of burning hunger brought us to the tables amid ship. They were cleaning, hosing down the decks but allowed us to eat as they worked around us.
Walked back to Carrefour for wine. Secondary choices but necessary for the next 4 boat days. Oh, we also got cookies and crackers. Cat made a Pharmacy stop and loaded up on her meds.
The rest of the afternoon was packing and taping our bags and the bikes. We're ready, at least physically if not mentally.
After a quiet Happy Hour we walked to dinner down the street, the same place that w ate Pizza the first night here. No music tonight but very good food. We all had steak, good steak with baked potato and vegetables.
A guy we've seen and spoken with in passing, Luke, came in. We invited him to sit as we finished eating. He sipped a beer and told us his story. From New Jersey, he's a student at Penn State University. He's a Linguistic Anthropologist, he submitted a project, study of several tribes on the Rio Negro that live in close proximity but have different languages. So, he's here and trying to prepare. He talks of dangers, here and everywhere in Brazil. Cat didn't need to hear that, or my stories that she's heard many times before. She decided to head home. Peter and I stayed for a bit and chatted. We think Luke's pretty nervous about living up river, away from civilization and English speaking compatriots.
Larry King was interviewing Nancy Grace, the host of Court TV. She's outspoken and locked in to one point of view. Cat likes her, I wish she'd open her eyes to the world.
Aaron did apiece on Ann Bancroft, the actress. She died yesterday. We had no idea that she and Mel Brooks, the comedian, were married, much less married for 40 years.
June 8, 2005
The Battle For Possession!
Last breakfast in Manaus, then with the help of a Porter we go the bikes and bags down. We'd asked them to find a Van Taxi but they have failed. The Porter, a nice young guy, ran up and down the street looking for one. Finally he flagged down a Volkswagen pickup. The guys had some air conditioning parts aboard, we had to work around them as we loaded the bikes and bags. Then the 4 of us jammed into the cab designed for 3. As we rounded the corner on the loop to the Harbor the driver missed the turn. We were doomed to have to go around and work our way back through the one-way streets. Peter jumped out, grabbed his backpack and went ahead to get Jose ready to carry our things. Somehow, our driver missed another turn and we ended up almost back at the Hotel. Finally as we approached the Harbor and he began making the same mistake we got him into the right lane. (Right and Correct)
Jose enlisted a buddy to help. They decided that the bus wasn't a good option so convinced a Port worker to let us ride in his truck. They hustled our things up the gangway, up the stairs and into our rooms. Peter let us stash the bikes in his Suite, hoping that it would deter any other that might want to move in with him. That is a hazard of traveling alone, too. You may have to share your Suite? He hates that idea but remember, he gets it for half the price we're paying.
Jose and his Buddy were less than happy with the 10 Rs I handed them. They began to demand 30 Rs or more than $10.00. I refused and got the point across that we only hired Jose, he brought his pal into the deal. Finally, I put another 5 Rs into Jose's shirt pocket. The other guy complained so I told him, "Jose son el jefe, you deal with him". They walked away, more complacent than angry. We think that they were putting on an act.
The Rumble In The Jungle
We'd just gotten settled in when a couple came through the hatch with their bags. They sat them near the door and told Peter that they'd reserved Suite #8? The woman was being very forceful, the guy left but came back with little Victoria in tow. She agreed with him? The 3 of us stood our ground. We feared that if he prevailed we too would be moved to lesser quarters. The guy was becoming loud in his demands and threats. Of course the language problem that was helping build a bigger wall between them and us.
The guy disappeared again then we saw him walking down the dock. He returned with 3 Policemen. Then a Paddy Wagon, the kind designed to take rioters away, pulled up and another 3 Police jumped out. They swarmed up the stairs and out onto the deck in front of our doorways. They all spoke Portuguese and none of it made sense to us. The called for more re-enforcements, one who could speak some English.
So, the crowd of Police began demanding that Peter give them the key? He continued to resist as we asked why. The guy with a few English words told us that they had purchased their tickets a day before we and therefore had priority? BS! When I joined into the fray the guy, Peter was calling him "Jungle Jim" by now due to hid khaki short and shirt, turned on me. I wanted to see his ticket, he grabbed my hand and we began dancing around I the pack of Police. I noticed that they had paid 350 Rs each and pointed that out to the Police. Jim tore one of our tickets as we struggled then brought a swift knee up, into my groin. Only a glancing blow but close enough to hurt. I started to punch him then thought better and did a stiff arm to his face dislodging his glasses. The Cop behind grabbed me in a choke hold. I protested, asking if they'd seen him kick me? They didn't seem to have or didn't care. He said, "We arrest, you go to jail"! Cat was almost hysterical by now. She pictures them dragging me to jail. Jungle Jims Glasses had been bent in the scuffle. He was now claiming that I'd punched him and broken them. .
The Police finally got control of the situation and separated us. The English speaker was talking with Peter. The Purser who'd been there as we signed for the rooms showed up. He made promises that if Peter would move he'd have the Suite all to himself. Peter liked that but questioned where he'd have to move to. They led him to the other side and to a smaller room. He complained that he'd paid for a Suite and wanted a Suite. Back around, they opened the door to #10. He looked then came over and said, "I think 10 is actually larger". He took the deal after the Police confirmed that he'd have the Suite to himself and Jungle Jim wouldn't charge me with assault. He had threatened that at one point in our tussle.
Things settled down, the English speaker pulled Peter and I aside and warned us to avoid Jungle Jim and not harass him during the trip. He said that Jim was worried we'd gang up on him once we got underway. We promised, but asked him why the Suite #8 was so important to them? He either didn't know or didn't understand the question. So, we'll probably never know?
Jim and his pudgy wife watched as Peter moved the bikes and his bags. The lesson, it's tough to argue or defend when you don't speak the language. Made us think of the Court Interpreters assigned to people who don't speak English, back home. Lots of people think it a great waste of money, now we know how important it is. We went to our cabin, sat under the AC and tried to calm down. Cat really had the shakes.
The scheduled cast off was supposed to be noon? Time drug on, then another confrontation began to well up. Another couple came aboard and brought their bags to Suite #10. They complained to Peter but he just shrugged, partly due to language but more to his resolve to stand his ground. Off they marched and back they came with the Purser and little Victoria. She told Peter that he had to move. He yelled, "Get the Police, Policia, Policia"! They backed off and began talking with the couple. They were less aggressive than Jungle Jim and Plumpy. Finally they grudgingly carried bags around the corner and took the room that the crew had tried to foist off on Peter, earlier. They weren't happy. This crew needs a better system for assigning rooms.
They pulled a truck with small crane up and loaded two large sheets of plate steel and a couple dozen long pieces of bent bars. Quite a show, the crew was protecting the boat and the truckers were trying to get the things on board and get out of there. It was after 6:00 PM by the time the ships horn sounded and we pushed off.
Our cast of characters, aside from Jungle Jim and Pudgy, includes two guys, Evandro and Marcos from Brazil, who are on a Motorcycle Adventure. Also Carlos Eduardo, an Accountant from Foz Iguaçu who speaks English. Another couple, Carlos and Coralia, also from Brazil were really nice. She speaks pretty good English. The other couple who had wanted Peter's Suite avoided us as did Jim and Pudg, for the rest of the days of our voyage.
Evandro is our favorite, he speaks a little English and is a great character. His enthusiasm and accent reminds us of the Italian film director of The Postman, Berlini. He and Marcos are friends and have been on the road, on huge BMW Motorcycles for more than a month. Marcos is in Real Estate, more managing his own properties than selling. Evandro is an Optometrist. .
Cat, the Peace Maker, talked with Jungle Jim and Ms. Pudge. They were civil but not friendly. Neither Peter nor I feel compelled to even acknowledge them.
The feeding schedule is similar to that of the Monteiro, Hammocks first then cabins and lastly, Suites. So, we'll be seated with our pals, the silent ones and our anti-pals, Jim and Pudge. Dinner was a soup with meat. Very tasty. After dining we got plastic chairs and sat on the deck near our Suites. Cat and I have started on a course of Malaria pills and won of their idiosyncrasies is that we can't lie down for 2 hours after ingestion. So, we sat and talked with Peter until 9:30 PM. A long, interesting and exciting day!
June 9, 2005
Rollin' on the River
Breakfast is great, fresh fruit, papaya, pineapple and melon, along with bread, cheese and ham. The coffee comes with or without sugar which made Cat happy. The food overall is a lot better on the Amazon Star.
I locked myself in our Suite, set up shop and typed journal pages. Cat sat, chatted with Peter and watched the river run until our call to lunch at 11:30 AM. A braised meat, spaghetti, rice, beans and potato salad. Very satisfying.
African Soil in South America?
One of our fellow passengers, Carlos Eduardo, is an Accountant from Foz Iguasu. He's also an amateur geologist/anthropologist. As we talked he noted that the Amazon originally flowed east to west. That all changed when the Pacific plate put on the pressure and created the Andes. Once they were thrust upward it was all down hill, to the east, for Amazona. He also told us that they find the same dirt and rocks here and Africa. Remember in Rio de Janeiro, we learned that the two continents were, at one time, Siamese Twins? So, the world is really quite a smaller place, isn't it?
More river watching for Cat and typing for me. Peter went to his bunk and worked on crossword puzzles.
Our wine has stayed fairly cool, we just lay it our on the floor. Happy Hour at 6:00 then down to dinner at 6:30 PM. We took our wine along. At first we thought they were scolding us then they told Evandro to tell us that they have wine glasses. They wanted to change them out for our plastics. We stayed with the plastic, for tonight. More good food but all is pretty similar to that we had at lunch.
Peter joined us to preview the latest pictures. I got them downloaded onto the new computer. The screen is smaller than we're used to but the process and quality is the same. Fun to share because Peter is in many of them.
||Mpeg 023 Dolphin?
Early to bed.
June 10, 2005
Before we talk about today we need to remember our Pal, our Bandleader and our Partner, Terry Tintorri. You know, the one that we apologize to when we take the rubber off the road. He left this dimension and moved onto that big Cajun Dance Hall in the sky, 3 years ago, today. He is the reason for our only trip back home in these past 3 years and 2 months. He was a great guy and good friend, we miss him, still!
Mo River and a Couple of Californians
We sort of slept through a huge storm last night. There was a persistent rattle that awoke us from time to time. At one point I opened our doorway and tried to see through the rain. They sweep a powerful light around occasionally like they did on the Monteiro but for the most part they operate in the dark. Remember our journey from Sweden into Finland? We were invited into the wheelhouse where they keep it pitch black. The difference is that they had sonar and radar, these guys feel their way through the darkness using the brail system. As I gandered a guy leaned out the door of the wheelhouse. He yelled something, I thought he was talking to someone in the at the wheel. He shouted again and pounded on the hull. Then I got it, I was blocking his already limited view.
A peek out the doorway at 5:00 AM and an eyeful of sunshine. Cat says, "Oh boy, another day of Fun in the Sun! We'd pulled into Santarem sometime during the night. A hand full of passengers disembarked. Evandro told us that we'd probably be her fir about 5 hours.
Another good fruit, bread and coffee breakfast. On the way w met a couple of guys from California in Hammock Class. Steve is from San Diego and Brian from San Francisco. They were roommates in college and have just begun a 2 month adventure in South America. Nice young guys. Brian is like Cat, always on the move. Steve seems perfectly content to swing in his hammock and read. They're pretty much on the same course as Peter, down south in Brazil but they‘ll go on into Argentina and across to Chile. They are both already tired of Hammock Class. Both have back aches and complain about the condition of the toilets. I likened it to the way toilets fill up on a 10 hour flight. They laughed and said, "Maybe a 2 day flight"!
Lunch while still tied up in Santarem, at 12:30. Finally back on the river at 1:30 PM. I again locked myself into our tiny suite and pecked away at the journal. Cat went back to her port to starboard trips and watching the water flow.
I lock the door to avoid having uninvited company spot the computer. A knock on the door caused slight panic. We're so paranoid since the robbery. I called out, "Just a minute" and stuffed the machine into the bag. It was Brian. He stood shifting from foot to foot and talking small talk then asked the big question. "Can I use your toilet"?
Peter ways that Happy Hour is the best thing we have to look forward to every day. He has beers bought and brought aboard in Manaus. Dinner, same crowd, same pretty good food.
Another deck side chat until long after dark, the 5 of us..
June 11, 2005
Last Day On the Amazon
A Time Change, "One Less Hour On This Boat"
A knock on the door and cheery call, "Coffee". Geez, it's only 6:00 AM? When we asked why so early the cheery answer, "Time change". Cat says, "That's a good thing, one less hour to have to be on board this boat".
Even thought the food is better we're getting real tired of it. Same ol' breakfast. I have the sweetened coffee, Cat takes it black. More short stops in small villages. At one, Gurupa, Marcos, Carlos and Jungle Jim took a walk into town. Cat and I took a short stroll and a walk around town. There's a promenade walkway and lots of boats of varying size and condition. El Capitan sounded the 5 minute warning blast. We hustled back and watched as the following scenario unfolded. The Captain began sounding short blasts then had the guys begin taking the lines on the bow in. Coralia panicked, she ran off the boat as And began yelling for Carlos. No answer so she ran down the promenade and behind the buildings. Then she and Carlos re-appeared, jogging toward the boat.
Just when we thought Jungle Jim and Marcos would be left behind, they came strolling nonchalantly down the promenade. The Captain was visibly angry and let them know with a series of short blasts. They laughed, obviously they'd had a few. Evandro looked down at them and said, "This is arrogant, I no like it".
More of the same food and company for lunch. There are lots of small rivers pouring into the Amazon now. The river is still muddy but wider and moving faster now. WE took a short jog into black water as we stopped at still another village. Little homes on stilts line the banks.
Back on the Big One, women with children in canoes began paddling out. They must know when the Amazon Star passes. Some of the passengers in the know, began throwing plastic bags with bread and other food to them. The kids sit in the bow of the canoe and wave both hands, hoping for a parcel. We're amazed at how many come out to meet us as we pass. Even some with just kids aboard. Then, a young couple threw a hook out and caught one of the huge tires used for bumpers on the boat. They pulled up, hand over hand then tied up and climbed aboard. They were selling fruits. In minutes they were joined by two more boats and more people climbing up the side of our Amazon Star. They sell Cocoa and palmitos. An amazing lineup of canoes sits waiting as we move downstream.
What a Way to Earn a Few Coins!
Then, a moment of suspense and fear. A young boy climbed up and onto one of the big tires. His sister went through the crowd collecting money as he taunted. Then, she climbed back into their canoe and let it down, into the water. When she cut it loose the boy let out a war hoop and jumped straight up in the air. He hit the water and was immediately sucked up to the boat then under. We all stood, holding our breaths. Coralia had tears in her eyes. What a way to try to make a few coins. What a risk to take. Then, his blonde head bobbed up in the froth following our big boat. His sister paddled over and grabbed him, he's cheated death once again.
Dinner came early tonight. That same great stew we'd had on our first night aboard. Afterward Cat and I stood at the bar area and talked with Evandro. He says that he's not interested in partying. We feel as though we've known him for years. What a nice guy.
WE were in the room and in the bunks by 8:30 PM.
Sunday, June 12, 2005
Last Day on THE BOAT
Cat says, halleluiah, last day on the river, last day on board the Star and last breakfast. The selection of fruit has slowly swindled and is down to pineapple only today. The hot dog buns are hardening, the cheese and meat are long lost memories.
Packed and excited to exit, we took up watch near the bow. The river is so wide here that at times it's hard to see both shorelines. Now there are islands, lots of islands covered with jungle growth. One very colorful setting with row upon row of chase lounges was, at one time, a prison. Now, as we round the point we see the skyline of Belem. It's a lot more impressive than we'd thought it would be. High rises line the shore.
We prepared and made a plan. I would stay aboard with our things while Cat and Peter go searching for lodging. Marcos has deserted Evandro in favor of a girl friend. They have to wait, too because the tide is out and the boat sits too low for them to get the Motorcycles onto the dock. So, he and I played the waiting game.
Meanwhile, Cat and Peter went to a Hotel he has read about. It sounds good and the price is right. Cat said it looked good, too, until they walked inside and ran face to face with Jungle Jim. Peter spun on his heel and they made a hasty exit. No way Peter was going to stay anywhere close top those guys. They walked a long way but finally found Hotel Grao Para. Not bad and even less money than the Jungle Jim hangout.
Meanwhile, back at the boat. The tide is in and Evandro has mode the move with the bikes. He sat in the shade near them and dialed then re-dialed Marco. Finally the love struck Marco answered and said he would be right down. We did our goodbyes then I got pictures and video as the headed out.
So, I began the process of moving things ashore. Hugo, the guy that has served us food these past 4 ½ days, grabbed a bag and began helping. We got all bags and both bikes down and into the shade. I was getting worried about The Cat and Peter when they finally showed up. Now, another hurdle. The Port area is closed for lunch and won't open until 1:00 PM. So, they stood around for a half hour out front. I began moving the things closer to the door with Hugo's help. When the gate was opened we quickly moved them in. I grabbed a bike and started toward the street. I was going to lean them and set the bags closer to where we'd find a taxi. Hugo hollered and made it clear that it's safer not to be too close to the door. Then, he watched as we tried to hail a cab. Finally he said, "I'll call a friend".
Hugo's friend said that he'd be here in 15 minutes. We waited then what had been billed as a Big Car by Hugo turned out to be small but, it did have a roof rack. So, with Hugo's help we piled the bags into the trunk and back seat then lashed the bikes to the roof. He shook our hands and wished us well. I pressed 10 Rs into his palm as we shook. He smiled and accepted. Nice guy!
The Bellman brought his cart to the car then gasp at the load we had for him. It took three carts and a lot of work but he finally got everything inside, up the elevator and into our room. A quick straightening up and settling in then we 3 headed for the Super Market, Loja Americana, just down the street. It's Valentines Day here. Hearts and flowers everywhere. We found wine, they only had one white and it was a cheapy but then, beggars can't be choosers, right?
Starving, we thought about looking for a restaurant then spotted a Burger Counter up front in the store. The lady had a tough time understanding the 3 gringos. We finally got a sandwich for Cat and Cheeseburgers for the boys. The Internet shops are all closed on Sunday. No messages to family who have probably been worried.
Big Party in the Park
From the window of our room we could here a band throbbing in the trees. The music was like a magnet. We had to go see. Walking through the park in a crowd seems dangerous to us. Paranoia? Maybe so but we have a tough time pulling our camera out in this type of crowd. The music and dancers were jumping and swaying. We had to have a picture.
A little relaxing, a jovial Happy Hour then off to dinner. A little language misunderstanding led the taxi driver to a completely different restaurant. A great looking Parrilla but we want Pizza. He looked at the paper we'd written the address on then spun around and headed back. In minutes we were in front of the Pizza place whose name has escaped us. It's a chain but really well decorated and the food is great. Pizza of course. The place is full of young lovers celebrating VD by eating, laughing and kissing.
Peter, who has already had a beer, decided on wine. He got a bottle of Beaujolais. Dinner was an event, full of our own laughing and sharing memories of the past 2 weeks. We've come the distance, more than 3,800 kilometers, almost 2,400 miles.
Peter was so happy that he insisted on buying dinner. We have really enjoyed our time with him. At first we wondered how we'd handle a 3rd wheel but he was a good one. Easy going and open minded.
Yes, we have CNN, so a little Larry King but too tired to stay up for Aaron.
June 13, 2005
A Double Dutch Dilemma
Breakfast is really good, here. Lots of fresh fruit, eggs and ham, cheese and bread. The coffee is good and strong, too. A guy walked in, Edwin, a Dutchman from Suriname, and introduced himself. He sat across from us and told us stories about Suriname. He's a Real Estate Broker but like Marco, he pretty much just manages his own account. He was joined by another Dutchman, Willem. Now Willem has a real problem. Edwin has just loaned him money to continue his stay here, waiting for money from the forced sale of his ship.
At times he sounds like a conman and at others an almost defeated guy. He was part owner of a 75 meter freighter. (About 165 feet) It's old but he says, in good shape. When they entered the harbor here the Coast Guard boarded and began a tough inspection. The first and worst violation, 7 of his crew didn't have Yellow Fever Inoculation Certificates. He claims that they had been sent to a Doctor elsewhere but he thinks they pocketed the money. The Brazilian Coast Guard quarantined the ship then really tore it apart looking for violations. One hatch from the engine room was too small. They asked the heaviest crewman aboard to pass through. He couldn't but Willem says that he's a cook. The firemen, the ones that run the engines, are all small. It's too hot below to keep weight on. He has an answer for all the charges. Brazil levied fines of more than $63,000 US against the ship. Then the story goes from bad to worse. The Government put the boat up for sale as confiscated property. Then, Willem's financial partner began having problems thinking straight. Dizzy at times, he flew to Holland and found that he had an inoperable brain tumor. He died within 2 weeks. Now, Willem is here, penniless, waiting for excess money from the sale. The new owner thought he would put the boat out and begin earning right away but he didn't have cash. They won't release it until he's paid the complete sale price.
As Willem waits his Hotel bill mounts. Enter Edwin, he hears the sad story and decides to finance Willem's wait. Geez, we hope that he knows what he's doing and that both parties are being honest, one with the other. Edwin is about my age, Willem is a big guy, bulky and muscular. Tough luck Willem, good luck Edwin!
Cat and Peter took laundry in then walked around looking for food and wine. The found a fantastic shopping center and a great Super Market. They had latitude 33 Chardonnay. Remember our Argentinean favorite, our carrot to Mendoza?
Meanwhile, back in our room, a knock at the door and I was host to Brian and Steve, our fellow Californians. They're headed toward the Bus Depot and wanted to say Adios. The Cat and Peter came in as we talked. They're headed to the Bus Station to buy tickets. They're going to San Luis and the bus leaves at 6:00 PM. They were uncertain about which local bus to take. Peter decided to go along and check out the Station.
For us, a trip to the French Consulate hoping to find info about French Guyane and the road conditions between Macapa and Cayenne. The lady was unilingual, Cat had to practice her French. The gist, no info.
Back to the room, we lunched on picnic supplies picked up earlier then spent the afternoon at the Internet Café. Then back to our computer for me and the Laundry for Cat. The cloths were hot as heck and still a little wet. Cat struggled with the over heated pack, all the way back to Grao.
Our last Happy Hour, the 3 Musketeers. Another fun meeting around the table as we sipped and traded stories. Yes, we'll miss Peter and we're sure he'll miss us, too.
Dinner at a place on the River. We took taxi then enjoyed a great meal. Lamb chops for me, fish for Cat and the Buffet for Peter. There was a guitar vocalist moving on an old crane track above us. Great music, food and talk of travel.
Larry King is all about Michael Jackson. He was finally found not guilty today. Not just not guilty but, not guilty on all 10 counts. Now that's news. Of course the comments on TV differ from commentator to commentator. Nancy Grace had him guilty and incarcerated as a Sex Offender. She was full of venom, others like Geraldo Rivera who had sworn he'd shave his signature mustache if Michael was found guilty, was strutting his stuff. We hate Child Abusers but we also have great problems with over zealous prosecutors. The law is the law, none of us should abuse it or the power we possess due to it!
HEALTH REPORT, I am still suffering from the Guff Guff. It seems to be chronic and I don't feel that well. We decided that I should start taking Cipro, tomorrow. Enough is enough.
June 14, 2005
Cat's Mom and Dad's 64th Anniversary
After breakfast Cat returned to the French Consulate hoping to speak with the "Consul". The woman yesterday said that Madam speaks English. Not in yet so Cat got a haircut. When she returned to the Consulate she found Madam and found that Madam doesn't speak English. A guy there, who also spoke no English, drew a map of the road from Macapa to the border of French Guiana. It turned out that he has never been on the road and really knew nothing about the road conditions. Well, we can say that he tried.
The 3 of us, we and Peter, walked to the RiverFront. Quite a nice looking promenade, old River Front Industrial buildings that have been developed into restaurants and shops. After walking the entire we backtracked to an upstairs Italian place. They sell food by the kilo. We found several things to our liking, weighed in and took our fill of kilos.
Then, a walk to the "Old Town" and waterfront. There are fishing boats lined up and off loading their catch. Between the smell of fish and the stagnant water in the gutters it was very pungent to say the least.
Peter went for a nap, Cat to the Internet Café and I, back to the pages of the journal.
6:00 PM, our usual, yet this time our last Happy Hour with Peter. It has become a nice habit, one we will miss. Off to dinner, a place recommended in our L.P. Guide Book, La Em Casa. The food was as good as the book said it would be but Cat had a conniption fit when they tried to charge us $5.00 Cover. They reluctantly backed off and we decided to buy the dinner and drinks, a return of Peter's generosity and a parting gift to him.
We caught the end of Larry King and the beginning of Aaron Brown. I began a course of Pepto Bismol this afternoon, the Guff Guff is getting me down. .
Looking Back, Up River
Cat says, "Too many days on Boats"! We both agree that the best way to see and experience the Amazon is to call on Paul & Scott. See their web site at www.AmazonTours.net, the best of the Amazon. They run down and back, a 7 day voyage of Exploration. You'll even get to meet Grippa and his art. Peter has moved south but soon ran into thieves. He lost his Passport so is sitting in cold winter weather in Santiago Chile. Poor Peter.
Coming attractions? Out of Brazil and Portuguese. Into French Guyane, French language and Suriname where Dutch is Spoken. Guyana, formerly British Guyana is a bus trip then flight to Trinidad, A big Bomb in London then a Copy Cat in Port of Spain. Danger lurks everywhere. We'll pass through Venezuela and Colombia on the way to Central America.
Stay Tuned and SEND US A NOTE.