Kayakers David Midgley, Darcy Gaetcher and Don Beveridge are embarking on an expedition to paddle the Amazon river from its source in the Peruvian Andes, through the rainforest of the Amazon Basin to the Atlantic Coast in Brazil.

Expedition Complete!

On 22nd December 2013 team Kayak The Amazon finally reached the Atlantic Ocean. After starting in the Peruvian Andes on 28th July the expedition took 148 days. The Amazon never let up right to the end and we did spend several hours on the penultimate night holding on to tree branches in the dark as the tide rose relentlessly!

Team Kayak The Amazon on the beach just after reaching the Atlantic Ocean

Team Kayak The Amazon on the beach just after reaching the Atlantic Ocean

We’re currently in Belem and are off to Rio tomorrow. We’ll write a more substantial blog post once we’ve had some R&R.

Merry Christmas!

Kayakers in Manaus! Now for the Final Leg of the Journey

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It’s a big sky here on the Amazon, and usually very interesting clouds.

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Well now I’ve done it.  I have thoroughly embarrassed myself on the blog.  My blog posts are rife with spelling errors and my most recent English Language transgression is that I confused the word “boarder” with “border.”   Thankfully Midge was able to harness the stars (well the satellites at least) and fix my errors with his BGAN terminal after only 2 weeks of them being online…

Team Kayak the Amazon leaving Peru behind on October 14th.

Team Kayak the Amazon leaving Peru behind on October 14th.

Luckily, I’ve never let a little embarrassment slow me down.

For you few readers out there, I do have 3 excuses for my mistakes which will hopefully render them forgiveable in your minds.  They are as follows:
1.)  The spell check function of Word Press does not work on the Spanish and Portuguese speaking computers I am using here along the Amazon.  This, sadly, is exposing to the world (or at least to the 5 people who actually read  the blog) my pathetic spelling prowess.

Plants will grow anywhere in the Amazon Basin.  I wonder if this little guy will make it to the Atlantic with us?

Plants will grow anywhere in the Amazon Basin. I wonder if this little guy will make it to the Atlantic with us?

Many of you computer gurus out there might say, “why don’t you copy and paste your blog into Microsoft Word (or write the bog in Word and copy to Word Press afterwards), which will then recognize that I am writing in English and I can spell check from there.”  Well for all you people, see excuse #2.
2.). Amazonian Internet cafes are places that I would like to spend the least amount of time possible–and yes, even seconds matter here.  They are all terribly, hot, crowded and loud.  Typically they are have both computers and phone booths.  Most Peruvians and Brazilians, it seems, like to stand outside the phone booth and yell as loudly as possible into their end of the phone receiver.  So, this excuse makes both the Word spell check not plausible and it means that, irregardless of any spelling errors, typos, and any other bad form of writing that I may make, I just “can’t be bothered” and want to get the f outta there ASAP.
The sun shines on Midge even when it's raining...

The sun shines on Midge even when it’s raining…

3.). I am just a big dumby–as evidenced by my decision-making process which lead me to be here doing, and blogging about, this trip to begin with…
Yet, having laid out all my very legitimate excuses, I still do want to offer my most sincere apologies.  In the past, I have been intolerant of other people’s similar mistakes in their websites, blogs, and even emails.  And now, I realize that I have been being too hard on the world at large, for surely each and every one of these mistake-makers must have valid excuses of their own.  So I thank the Amazon for helping me to see the error in my hypocritical ways and for teaching me to be more tolerant.
Now, onto an update (and just for consistency’s sake, I am not going to spel chek this blog either):

We have made another major milestone in our trip—Manaus!

Little Anaconda that Edgine found swimming around the Perolita.  Don't worry, no snakes were harmed in the production of this blog

Little Anaconda that Edgine found swimming around the Perolita. Don’t worry, no snakes were harmed in the production of this blog

We made it to the confluence of the Rio Solimoes (what Brazilians call the Amazon) and the Rio Negro on November 6th a little after 6pm, just as it was getting really dark.  We could not see the black water of the Rio Negro from our kayaks because it was so dark, but once we loaded onto the Perolita and added a little height to our perspective, we could very clearly see the brown versus black line in the waters, even at total darkness.  It was very impressive and the Rio Negro is HUGE.  We are looking forward to seeing it in the daylight on Monday when we hope to start the final leg to the sea.
Our arrival to the Perolita was a little tumultuous.  It was great because there was a big storm approaching and so we got really nice sunset colors and the pink dolphins were very active just before dark.  But then it started raining like crazy and got very windy.  Because of a shallow sand bar, we had to land on the Perolita out “at sea” (obiously not really at sea, but it felt that way because the 2 rivers are so big and the line between them so rowdy).  There were huge waves, rain and wind which made the whole process a little tricky.  I almost lost a Croc—yes, Crocs are my Amazon footware of choice–but luckily it was recovered!

Mark Twain might of enjoyed certain aspects of the "River Life" here on the Amazon.

Mark Twain might of enjoyed certain aspects of the “River Life” here on the Amazon.

That was day 103 of our trip.  We plan to spend 4 days in Manaus.  If we can pull it off logistically, we hope to leave Manaus on Monday, Nov. 11th and then will have about 30-35 days left to the ocean.  So, the goal is actually within sight now!

We hope that our departure from Manaus will be a little bit smoother than our departure from Tabatinga was.

 

Actually, we left Tabatinga with no real issues on October 14th.  It took a while for the paperwork to be finished and for the Federal Police to come search our boat, but at 5pm they told us we could start paddling, and so off we went.  The late start was fine with me as I was still recovering from a very violent stomach illness.  We only got in about 1 hour of paddling before it got dark; but still we were happy to be on our way again.   But alas, we woke up the next morning to find out that the Marines had missed one piece of paper and that we had to motor back up to the border to complete our “departure papers.”

"Retrieve floating fish" was a very important objective this day...

“Retrieve floating fish” was a very important objective this day…

So, off we go, motoring back to Tabatinga.  Amazingly, even though we were in a hurry to get this done, about 20 minutes into the journey back upstream, the Perolita cut its engines and the launch (skiff) zoomed off behind us.  Originally we thought maybe something fell off the Perolita, but oh were we ever mistaken!  Edgine came back after about 5 minutes with a comparatively small fish (maybe 10 inches long).  When we asked him what he was doing he said, “I saw this fish and had to go get it!”  When I asked how it saw it, if it was caught in a net or something he replied, “Oh no, it was floating belly up.”  When Don asked if it wasn’t bad to eat fish that had died of some unknown cause, he said, “look it’s not dead” showing us it still moved a little bit, and then added, “and I’m going to give it to my friend when we get back to Tabatinga.”  What can one say to that?  Hence the updated whiteboard.  And if you want to know, I did successfully NOT puke this day.

A little friend who rode with me for a while one day.

A little friend who rode with me for a while one day.

Yet, despite all the oddities, for a trip of this magnitude, things are going surprisingly smoothly.  We are making pretty good progress these days and, still, at least one interesting thing happens every day!  Some examples of “interesting things” are:  Dragon fly passengers on our kayaks or clothing, more exciting dolphin sightings, seeing a new and very impractical kind of motor boat where they have a hole in the middle of the dougout canoe in which they set a motor (think a lawn mower moter) that propels the boat and then a “steerer” sits in the front with a wooden paddle and acts as a human rudder.  It’s the little things that keep us going!

The evening colors are always amazing here on the Amazon

The evening colors are always amazing here on the Amazon

When I am a feeling bored or grumpy I am sometimes tempted to write in my trip journel “nothing notable happened today.”  But each time I try to write this, I remember something of note that did happen.  So, in 103 days, I still have not made this journel entry.  Let’s hope I can make it to the ocean without writing that phrase.

Once we leave Manaus we will find some new challenges.  The wind has steadily incresed over our last week of paddling which means there are bigger and bigger waves in the river.  So far, they haven’t been difficult to kayak in (expect that they do slow us down a bit) but they do splash over our spray skirt tunnels and cause us to have to sponge out much more often.

This was our last camp before entering Brazil.  The kids were great, and we gave them a run for their money both at futbol and volley this night.  Don only pushed one or two over...

This was our last camp before entering Brazil. The kids were great, and we gave them a run for their money both at futbol and volley this night. Don only pushed one or two over…

Soon we will start feeling the effects of the tides as well.  Hopefully we can paddle through the incoming tide at first, but eventually we will have to start waiting out the incoming tide and paddling only during the outgoing tide.

The river is getting so big that it is becoming a major undertaking to go to shore each night for camp.  Just to give you an idea of how big it is, last week we were paddling about 100 feet from the right bank when the Perolita discovered that the right channel was too shallow for them and that we would have to cross all the way over to the far left channel.  The ferry to the left channel took us 45 minutes!

Daily fish delivery

Daily fish delivery

But I’m sure that with every kilometer that we paddle our excitment about hitting the ocean will only grow and our new found trials won’t bother us much!

I don’t think we will get internet again until landing in Belem hopefully AFTER we have drank salt water out of the Atlantic Ocean.  So until then, follow our Spot Tracks and wish us luck!

 

Bird's eye view of the Manaus Opera House

Bird’s eye view of the Manaus Opera House

Oh, and PS, Rachel–Midge’s better half–was here visiting us from London–thanks for bringing us gloves Rachel!  Thanks for your contribution to all of us not losing our fingernails!  While she was in Manaus we did a little sightseeing.  We took a tour of the Opera House–Teatro Amazonas–and then got a bird’s eye view of it from the “girating” bar (rotating bar) on the top floor of the Taj Majal Hotel (yes, we are in Brazil, not India, and I have no idea about the name, but their spinning bar is cool).  And my personal favorite of the day was that our tour ended with the model of the Opera House built out of LEGOs.  Classy!

Lego model of the world famous Opera House

Lego model of the world famous Opera House

 

Made it to the Border!

Amazonian Internet cafes have successfully killed my will to write long, verbose blogs and run on sentences. So I’m limiting this blog to a few bullet points and a bird list.

• We made it to the Brasil! Don now pauses frequently to scan the banks for the famed g-string clad Brasilian beauty. So far, he hasn’t spotted one, but I will update this status once we get to Manaus.

• The river dolphins continue to evade our photographic efforts, although we still see them frequently.

• A few days before arriving at the Brasil/Peru/Colombia border, we hit the confluence with the Rio Napo. For those of you who are a little rusty on your Amazon Basin geography, the Napo comes from Ecuador. Every river on the Eastern Slope of the Andes that Don and I used to guide on in Ecuador flows into the Napo, so it was special for us to see the terminus. We also particularly enjoyed the Napo because it had very good flow and help to carry us downriver.

• Peruvian bird list for all you bird nerds out there. The birds are listed in no particular order.

Neotropic cormorant
Great egret
Striated heron
Fasciated tiger heron
Jabiru (stork)
Roseate spoonbill
Andean swift
Swallow tailed kite
Horned screamer
Andean goose
Andean condor
Black vulture
Turkey vulture
Black collared hawk
Black chested buzzard eagle
Spix’s guan
Sunbittern
Salvin’s curassow
Chilean flamingo
Common nighthawk
White throated toucan
Lots of terns…just not sure which ones
Torrent duck
Cattle egret
Snowy egret
Black crowned night heron
Puna ibis
Yellow headed caracara
Osprey
Red throated caracara
Collared plover
Sandpipers–not sure which ones
Blue and yellow macaw
Blue headed macaw
White eyed parakeet
Parrots and parrotlets–tons of them, but very hard to identify which ones
Greater ani
Swifts–not sure which ones
Ringed kingfisher
Aracaris…again, not sure which ones
Emerald toucanet
Andean coot
Green jay (aka inca jay)
Crested oropendola
Yellow rumped cacique
Martins. Lots! Don’t know which
White-capped dipper

Ok, that is it until we hit Manaus. Bye bye Peru, viva Brasil!

Kayak the Amazon in Photos

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The team at the source of the Amazon back on July 28th. High altitude and cold weather!

As many of you have noted, and pointed out to me, we have really sucked at updating our blog especially with photos.  The internet in the upper reaches of the Amazon hasn’t been all we had hoped for.  But I have a bit of time and good internet on my hands, so here is a photo tour of our last 65 days.  Enjoy!  We probably won’t be able to update again until Manaus which will be in a month or so.

 

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Don and Midge on Lago Acucocha. We paddled across this lake and then hiked up the valley behind it to reach to source of the Amazon.

 

 

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The kayaking was intermittent the first few days. Sometimes we could float down the narrow river bed or through irrigation canals, but other times we took to walking.

It was really cold back then, but we definitely do NOT have that problem now.  The outdoor thermometer in Iquitos read 45 degrees celcius when we arrived.

It was really cold back then, but we definitely do NOT have that problem now. The outdoor thermometer in Iquitos read 45 degrees celcius when we arrived.

enjoying a sunny evening before the sun sets and temps plummet.

enjoying a sunny evening before the sun sets and temps plummet.

 

Midge getting some whitewater (brownwater) early on.  We are on the Rio San Juan here near the San Juan Mine.

Midge getting some whitewater (brownwater) early on. We are on the Rio San Juan here near the San Juan Mine.

D and D camping in the highlands--yep, still cold up here!  This is just below the Upamayo dam

D and D camping in the highlands–yep, still cold up here! This is just below the Upamayo dam

Ah, finally some whitewater and canyons!  This is the first section of serious whitewater below Huancayo.

Ah, finally some whitewater and canyons! This is the first section of serious whitewater below Huancayo.

Tablachaca dam, safety first.

Tablachaca dam, safety first.

Being a team of 3, we didn't get any real whitewater shots (safety reasons) so you'll have to wait for GOPRO footage on that one.  But here is Don in a calm, but impressive (geologically speaking) canyon.

Being a team of 3, we didn’t get any real whitewater shots (safety reasons) so you’ll have to wait for GOPRO footage on that one. But here is Don in a calm, but impressive (geologically speaking) canyon.

Don and Midge with some more nice scenery.  This is approaching the Sala De Machinas of Tablachaca dam

Don and Midge with some more nice scenery. This is approaching the Sala De Machinas of Tablachaca dam

This cow was VERY unhappy to cross this bridge.  I can't blame her, I didn't want to cross it either!

This cow was VERY unhappy to cross this bridge. I can’t blame her, I didn’t want to cross it either!

As we passed a huge mine between Tablachaca Sala De Machinas and the new dam going in on the Mantaro, we were flagged down and told to stop.  The mining engineers drove down in their Hilux trucks and brought us water and presents--we are showing off the presents here--hats and scarves.  EXTREMELY thoughtful of them, but not so useful as we had already gotten into catus land and hot temps.  But here we are showing off our wares.

As we passed a huge mine between Tablachaca Sala De Machinas and the new dam going in on the Mantaro, we were flagged down and told to stop. The mining engineers drove down in their Hilux trucks and brought us water and presents–we are showing off the presents here–hats and scarves. EXTREMELY thoughtful of them, but not so useful as we had already gotten into catus land and hot temps. But here we are showing off our wares. They will be very useful when we returned to the northern hemisphere in the middle of winter!

Great camping spots in the canyons of the Mantaro.

Great camping spots in the canyons of the Mantaro.

Another whitewater shot.  This section we named the "crucible."  It was full of CA-style granite and made for some great whitewater.

Another whitewater shot. This section we named the “crucible.” It was full of CA-style granite and made for some great whitewater.

Malpaso dam, this portage was a bit tricky but we successfully navigated the concertina wire with only one puncture wound (to Darcy's hand)

Malpaso dam, this portage was a bit tricky but we successfully navigated the concertina wire with only one puncture wound (to Darcy’s hand)

Not too far downstream of Hunacayo, we stopped for a little side diversion to do what we think was a 1st descent of this little gem.  Reminds me of Havasu in the Grand Canyon!

Not too far downstream of Hunacayo, we stopped for a little side diversion to do what we think was a 1st descent of this little gem. Reminds me of Havasu in the Grand Canyon!

What are the odds, kayak and kayak...

What are the odds, kayak and kayak…

But sadly, all good whitewater comes to an end and we traded our whitewater boats for these giant flat water kayaks.  You can imagine what a circus we were in Puerto Ene

But sadly, all good whitewater comes to an end and we traded our whitewater boats for these giant flat water kayaks. You can imagine what a circus we were in Puerto Ene

Ah flatwater, get used to it!

Ah flatwater, get used to it!

David keeping himself safe in the Red Zone (no one would mess with a dude drinking beer and wearing those pants)!

David keeping himself safe in the Red Zone (no one would mess with a dude drinking beer and wearing those pants)!

It's still darn pretty here on the flatwater, and the guys with guns seem quite nice!

It’s still darn pretty here on the flatwater, and the guys with guns seem quite nice! And yes, I am wearing pink crocs.

ah, luxurious lodging in Puerto Prado--end of the Ene River and start of the Tambo River

ah, luxurious lodging in Puerto Prado–end of the Ene River and start of the Tambo River

The big Amazonian sky, just below the confluence of Ucayali and Maranon Rivers, now we are on the Amazon baby!

The big Amazonian sky, just below the confluence of Ucayali and Maranon Rivers, now we are on the Amazon baby!

River Kids

River Kids

Favored mode of transport down here.

Favored mode of transport down here.

No, no, Don wasn't going to the tanning booth just for his fingers...12 hours per day in the sun plus doxycyline is NOT a good combination!

No, no, Don wasn’t going to the tanning booth just for his fingers…12 hours per day in the sun plus doxycyline is NOT a good combination!

David enjoying life on the Perolita!

David enjoying life on the Perolita!

Francisco, Perolita captain, adjusting to life with the gringos...

Francisco, Perolita captain, adjusting to life with the gringos…

Storks!

Storks!

Our navy escort!  The big boat didn't come with us on a daily basis, but we did get to tour it and it's amazing!

Our navy escort! The big boat didn’t come with us on a daily basis, but we did get to tour it and it’s amazing!

Floating houses make sense down here where the water level will raise and fall more than 10 meters each year.

Floating houses make sense down here where the water level will raise and fall more than 10 meters each year.

Don Mauro repairing the Perolita's fishing net.  The boys are getting a lot of fresh fish on this trip, way to eat locally!

Don Mauro repairing the Perolita’s fishing net. The boys are getting a lot of fresh fish on this trip, way to eat locally!

Lots of great clouds down here.

Lots of great clouds down here.

Well, that's it for now.  We hope you enjoyed the photos.  More to come someday...

Well, that’s it for now. We hope you enjoyed the photos. More to come someday…

Perolita-less in Pucallpa

 

Day 37, September 3rd, we have completed phase 2 of the trip–the Red Zone is over (more or less)!
After a big push yesterday–12 hours paddling and getting in after dark–we made it to Pucallpa!  For days now (or weeks really) we have been anticipating our arrival here because it means we get on our support boat–the Perolita!  This means no more camping in the sand, pooping with the sand flies, eating dehydrated meals, etc…it means being delivered to a relative lap of luxury…
But alas, as we arrived last night, we found out that the Perolita is not here.  They are actually quite a ways downstream and are not coming up because they are worried about security.  Not exactly the news we were hoping for as we pulled into the big city.  This is also bad news for Cesar because it means he is stuck with us for probably another week!
But, you probably aren’t reading this to listen to me whine, so on with an update.
We have had a navy escort for the past 4 days and they are coming with us for 3-5 more days below Pucallpa.  The Peruvian Navy has been amazing.  We are all astonished, and incredibly grateful, that they are willing to commit their time and resources to our expedition.  We have been with Lieutenant Caceda and a team of 16 marines the last 4 days and they are a great bunch of guys!
 It is very nice to have them with us as it has definitely lessoned my level of paranoia!  I can sleep much better at night now that I don’t have to wake up at each noise and worry that the “bad guys” are coming.
I do think 1 or 2 guards got a little more than they bargined for though.   Each night 4 marines have to stand watch.   On our last night above Pucallpa, the guards were especially attentive.  I got out of the tent to pee in the middle of the night and gaurd with a big gun came over and shined his big and very bright flashlight in my face while I was peeing and asked if everything was ok.  A bit embarrassed and at a loss for words, I said “um, yes, all good, just peeing!”
Now, onto the dolphins, they are the one good thing about the flatwater:-)  We have seen them everyday since Atalaya.  There are pink dolphins which really are pink!  And they are big and a bit ungainly looking.  Their dorsel fin is flat topped, not pointed like a normal dolphin.  More common are the grey dolphins which look like very small ocean dolphins.  There are lots of these and they are constantly jumping around.
Everytime we see the pink dolphins I think back to Joe Kane’s description of the dolphins’ farting noises in his book Running the Amazon.  At first we thought that Joe Kane must have an odd diet because clearly he did NOT know what a normal fart sounded like!  Then we realized we were hearing the grey dolphins, and when we finally did hear the pink dolphins surface and breath, we were very relieved to know that Joe can indeed properly identify a fart noise!
In other wildlife, we see storks all the time now.   We also see parrots all day everyday.    The bugs haven’t been too horrible.  There is a mosquito hour each evening and morning but other than that, they aren’t too bad.  We still have no see ums but not nearly as much as we had higher up.
On the climate, it is hotter than crap now.  After our 3 days of rain upstream of Atalaya, we have had nothing but cloudless skies.  We are all taking doxicycline for malaria which makes you more sensitive to the sun and we are in the sun 12+ hours a day and it isn’t exactly working out so well.  We all have red noses and the worst is our hands are all messed up.  Even though we have back of the hand protection (sun paws), our fingers are frying!  I am now paddling in my pogies (mittens for cold weather kayaking), Midge is paddling with socks on his hands, and Don is toughing it out but his fingers have turned a very weird red/yellow color.  It litterally looks like he put “fake tan” cream on the top half of all his fingers.
So, do the rain dance would you?
On culture, last night when we arrived to Pucallpa, Midge and I were guarding the kayaks while Don got the hotel.  We never had fewer than 30 people standing in a circle around us staring at the kayaks and at us.  It is quite funny that most people won’t talk to us, they just want to stare at us and the kayaks.  A few people talked to us and that was nicer/less awkward!  The most common question is “where is the motor?”  I also don’t think many of them believe us when our answer to their question of  “where are you going” is “the Atlantic Ocean.”