6/2/12 - We went to the Amazon! It was 8 days on the upper part of the mighty river in Peru; it was an incredible experience & we hope some of the photos will give you a sense of the beauty of the river, the land, the animals and the people.
We spent a short day touring Lima before we embarked on our adventure. We traveled once again with Olivia Tours & the entire trip was perfectly taken care of. We toured the historic center of the city, then visited one of Lima's first colonial mansions, Casa Aliaga, a beautiful home built and inhabited by the same family since 1535. We also visited the Larco Herrera Museum, which houses the best private collection of pre-Columbian art in Peru.
We then took a 2-hour plane trip and a 2-hour bus ride to get to the port where our ship was docked. The Delfin II is a luxurious ship that has just 14 cabins. We were 22 guests, 3 naturalists & an expedition leader from National Geographic/Lindblad. The naturalists were all Peruvian and each had a different perspective & experience with the Amazon. We had almost as many crew as there were guests, and the owner, Lizzy, joined us for part of the trip. We traveled by day and by night, tying up to trees along the river. It was surprising to look out of the cabin window and be right up against the trees and vegetation.
We were on 2 major tributaries of the Amazon for most of the trip, the Marañon and the Ucayali. They flow into the Amazon at a confluence point where you can see the “black” & the “white” water mixing. The water level was higher than it has been for a long time, flooding a lot of the trails & land so most of our excursions were in 10-person skiffs. We were able to hike in the rain forest twice; the first time ended with a torrential tropical rain that soaked us all to the skin. Our second hike took us into a private reserve on the outskirts of the Pacaya-Simiria Reserve. About half a mile of the 2-mile hike was over suspension bridges in the mid-canopy of the forest! During this walk we found a seldom-seen Rainbow Boa and several tiny poisonous frogs.
Each morning we went out in the skiffs at around 6:30 to see the animals as they started their days. We returned to the ship for breakfast, then went out again on the skiff in the mid-morning and again in the late afternoon. We had a lot of birders with us & they were in birding heaven, with all the species we saw. There were macaws traveling in pairs, flocks of parrots & parakeets, toucans, kingfishers, hundreds of egrets, herons (some beautifully colored), hawks, vultures, owls, tanagers and more. A highlight was the sighting of 2 Jabirus, a type of white-bodied large stork with a completely black head & beak and a red swollen collar around its neck. That siting apparently signaled the end of the wet season for the river people. We also saw lots of sloths (yes, sloths!), several types of monkeys, iguanas & one cayman (crocodile).
One morning we took the skiffs out early and brought breakfast with us. We tied the skiffs together and then tied up to some vegetation in the shade. We had an elegant breakfast served to us by our naturalists in a magical setting.
We visited communities along the river to meet some of the river people. About 80% of the people living in the Amazon Basin are river people (ribiñeros) who farm or fish to make a living. The other 20% are Natives & Aboriginal people, who are seldom seen. We tried to support the women who make handicrafts for sale out of palm straw, nut shells, seeds and bark, so we shopped wherever we could; sometimes they would float up to our skiffs or ship with their handicrafts in hand. We had all brought supplies for the children in our luggage - school supplies like pencils & paper, toothbrushes, soccer balls, hair supplies for the girls. These were distributed in several villages. In Flor de Castaña, we toured the small village, with children trailing after us. We met the school teacher, who had the children sing a song for us. We sang a song back to them, then distributed packages of goodies to each child. It was a wonderful connection to these beautiful people.
It was an AMAZING adventure!