Published: April 4th 2011April 4th 2011
Peggy, Tarjei and Kate
Hanging out at the Lima airport getting ready for the flight to Iquitos in the Amazon basin.
KF: A wall of warm, humid, fragrant jungle air hit us when we stepped off the plane in Iquitos, in the Peruvian Amazon. After the Andes, where we stayed at almost 12,000 feet, it was like being under water. We were whisked off by bus to the Delfin II, a boat which holds 28 passengers and our home for five days.
We were in the upper region of the largest river in the world (or second largest depending on how you measure it), which flows across the entire South American continent to the Atlantic ocean. Amazingly, we were only 180 meters above sea level -- South America is quite flat East of the Andes -- not tilted like North America.
The Delfin II river adventure was fantastic! The only problem with our trip is that I am running out of superlatives. My favorite breakfast was fresh tropical fruit with home-made granola & nuts, followed by an avocado omelette and Peruvian coffee. The days were filled with bird and nature watching with local guides in small skiffs (starting at 6 AM), yoga, (thanks Carolyn), eating, drinking, and evening music provided by an enthusiastic talented crew (our housekeeper, Wilson, was a
The flagship of the Amazon cruise line in Peru. An absolutely wonderful place to spend a few days.
dynamite guitar & Andean flute player -- simultaneously!).
The Amazon was in its yearly flood mode, so the local villages (each village consisted of ten or twenty wooden houses built on stilts, with thatched roofs) had water almost up to the floor level. The only transportation was dugout canoe and even small children paddled around competently. Our guide, Juan Luis, was born and raised in this kind of village and had empathy and also intimate knowledge of the village life. He told us about birth (in the village with local midwives), education (a teacher comes to the village for a month at a time and teaches grades one to six, then a few children carry on with school in a larger town), marriage (usually at age 13 to 17, and the whole village would build a new house, while the couple's families provided good lunches), sickness (treated initially by a local shaman who, Juan Luis said, was quite skilled with medicine from local plants and also exorcism of demons/evil spells; if that was not successful, a trip by canoe and then ferry to the nearest town with a modern hospital), and death (commemorated by a village ceremony followed by
View from the bar deck
A breeze on the river kept things comfortable yet tropical
bearing the body on a canoe to the cemetery which is on high ground and never floods).
Juan Luis' grandmother fed him the cooked brains of the yellow-rumped cacique bird (a bird with a great ability to mimic other birds) -- they are supposed to make children very smart. It must have worked. He spoke fluent Spanish and English in addition to the local indigenous dialect. He could identify every bird and tree and flower in each language plus Latin, and describe the behavior and the ecological niche they occupied. He could also navigate the skiff through the dizzying tangle of creeks, lakes, swamps, and cul-de-sacs with no GPS, map, or compass --and get us back to the Delfin II in time for the chilled fresh tropical juice presented as we stepped onto the bigger boat!
We were encouraged to keep a Birder's List, but Tarjei and I did not. We saw lots & lots of beautiful birds. However, my favorite bird was the HORNED SCREAMER, so named for the feather protruding off the top of its head at a cocky angle, and the fact that it has a loud call which can sound like a howler monkey
The upper rear deck of the Delfin II
Not a bad place to spend an hour or two
or a gorilla (sometimes it's called a donkey bird).
TT: Farm animals along the river included chickens (all imaginable colours and sizes), ducks (the Muscovy duck was domesticated here) and water buffalo (which are probably much better suited to this environment than cattle).
One really neat thing about being here in the wet season is that we could actually leave the rivers and creeks in our motorized skiffs and travel into the jungle to get better looks at things. We came upon a drama of a tayra (a fisher-like animal) chasing some saddle-backed tamarins through the trees. The tamarins were much faster and escaped.
We have just flown out of Iquitos and are overnighting at a kind of fleabag hotel near the Lima airport before tomorrow morning's flight to Santiago, Chile.
There are more photos below