And again I woke up before the alarm! Since we were inside the fence I figured I may as well enjoy it a bit – the grounds were pretty – so I walked around checking out the plants and flowers. We then wandered over to the restaurant for breakfast. I thought it was just the items out along the bar – “continental buffet”, but it turned out there was a menu as well! OK then, don’t mind if I do.
After breakfast we packed up and made our escape – er, checked out from all-inclusiveness – and walked over to meet up with the gringo gang at the Anaconda. From that hotel it was another short walk through a market area down to the docks for our three-hour tour.
Which may have been longer. Or shorter. I didn’t really pay attention to the time – it wasn’t like I had anywhere else to be! The first part was through town, along a channel with buildings and docks along the sides, then we were out into the main river, which was so wide across it seemed more like a lake.
We could see big riverboats. Our guide told us it was a 3-day trip to Manaus, a major town in Brazil about halfway to the ocean. Supplies coming that way from Brazil were cheaper than those from Colombia, which had to come by air.
He also told us the Amazon was second widest, to the Rio Plata, and second deepest, to the Congo. Leticia’s elevation of 96 m, about 315 feet, was a bit mind-boggling to consider in light of the distance the river still had to travel to reach the Atlantic Ocean. The water is either “white” – from the mountains (actually often brown from sediment) – or “black” – out of the jungle.
We were going to be travelling on the Javari River (AKA Yavarí or Javary), a tributary of the Amazon that goes into Peru, so we had to check in with the Peruvian Navy. Paperwork taken care of, we continued on into a medium-sized channel, which narrowed, and then we met a boat coming the other way that told us we couldn’t get through. Apparently the rainy season was over, water levels were dropping, and what had been navigable channels by boat no longer were.
There was, of course, some joking that it was a ruse to trick us into an ambush, especially when the “right” way became very narrow, and then we didn’t see the second boat for a while. Divide and conquer, it’s the oldest trick in the book.
It turned out they had been stuck. Rather than reading the channel and steering in anticipation of turns and obstructions, as our boat’s pilot did, the other pilot seemed to be of the school of point and hit the gas. The other boat was larger, but when they switched, our pilot did not seem to have a problem with the large boat, even in the narrow channel, where the other managed to rip the pilot’s shade structure off the smaller boat. Eric came to the rescue and helped him pull it back on board, and also noticed we were taking on water and did some bailing. Once a responsible boater…
Being on the boat was pretty cool though, being low to the water and then in the narrow channel with so much green all around. Trees and vines and flashes of butterflies and birds, and a sloth! overhead. Other boats, almost all much smaller – two or three passengers – glided by the opposite direction. The propellers were on long poles, and could be lifted out when necessary to avoid logs or masses of plants.
After a while it did start to seem like you’ve seen one tree you’ve seen them all … are we going around in circles? and if we were going slowly and there was no breeze the diesel fumes were a bit much, but, yeah. Eventually we got to the lodge where we’d be spending the night, sorted people into rooms, and hung out for a bit. As we watched from the porch an egret caught a fish, right near where the sewage pipe drained out.
The lodge was on stilts, with the current water level about a story down. It sounded like not that long ago they had been docking boats almost at floor level, and in another few weeks you wouldn’t be able to get there by boat. It was hard to get my head around that amount of water.
It turned out it going to be a while until lunch, so one of the boats went off to a “lake” (wide spot in the river) where folks could swim. Angela in particular was very eager and delighted to be swimming. The others had various degrees of excitement, but eventually got in. Being so nearsighted and not having bothered to put my swimsuit on, I just put my feet in the water. It was quite pleasant, and I did not get nibbled on by anything. Well, not anything that I felt anyway.
When we got back lunch was ready, simple but filling fare: lentils, rice, chicken and potatoes. And it turned out there had been a hitchhiker on one of the boats! Snake!!! Must have fallen out of some vegetation we brushed through. The guide had a firm hold on him, but I just looked.
After eating it was back on the boats – this time all hands – for dolphin hunting. and me without my harpoon… OK OK. It was dolphin spotting. And not just dolphins, but PINK RIVER DOLPHINS. I saw some water swirls, some fins, and one for sure where more of the back came out of the water and it was very definitely PINK. Which, I’m generally not so much a fan of pink, but exception was made in this case. I couldn’t really tell from what we saw, but our guide said they can get quite big – at largest they approach 3 m long, and 200 Kg!
Beside the dolphins there was quite a bit of bird life: terns, night herons, swallows, kingfisher, some bright yellow bird (not Big Bird), egrets, and the most ginormous hummingbird I’ve ever seen. It was interesting how same same but different – many of the birds we also have in Northern California, but seeing them somewhere else was pretty neat. Ohand the vultures had black heads! We were also treated to some very dramatical skies, with piles of clouds and a bit of rain.
Back at the lodge I got in some hammock time. I’d always figured you’re to get in along the axis of hanging, but apparently if you go off axis it’s possible to get more horizontal. Hmn. A few of us played some cards, and then it was dinner time. Someone said it was rice-a-roni – actually pasta, which seemed bit short when we get there, so I just went with the rice and sausage.
After dinner there was another boat ride, in search of nocturnal creatures, but I felt like I’d fulfilled my RDA of boat rides and forewent that one for a nice time playing cards and chatting with Eric and Braxton. After our game Eric and I went out to the back to look at the stars. We could see a glow on the horizon – ah, Luz de Leticia? we guessed, there was also lightning from the remnants of the storm, and I did see a shooting star.
We were drenched in DEET, but it was nice to see the bats out doing their part. A man came up from the river carrying a Very Large Fish – holding the head about his waist, the fish stretched nearly to the floor! Whoa. I wondered what it was. And whether it might show up on the menu the next day.
Ah yes, the serenity of a generator. And the incongruity of the locals watching DirecTV. Modern technology, for better and worse.
Even off boat I was still feeling the motion of it a bit, but it stopped before I went to bed. But then the whole structure we were staying in did move when people walked around. Not alarmingly, but enough to remind you weren’t in a building with a concrete foundation on solid, dry ground.
We cocooned ourselves in the mosquito nets. I wondered when the generator would go off, and if I’ll be able to fall asleep – which apparently I did – since when I woke it was profoundly dark and the only sounds were of the night creatures. Well and the snoring (although I guess that’s a night creature noise too, haha). Then there was some light show on the ceiling (the walls did not go all the way up) as someone went to the bathroom, but I was able to fall back to sleep.
June 14, 2018
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