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…
We have made another major milestone in our trip—Manaus!
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!
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.”
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
Fasciated tiger heron
Swallow tailed kite
Black collared hawk
Black chested buzzard eagle
White throated toucan
Lots of terns…just not sure which ones
Black crowned night heron
Yellow headed caracara
Red throated caracara
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
Swifts–not sure which ones
Aracaris…again, not sure which ones
Green jay (aka inca jay)
Yellow rumped cacique
Martins. Lots! Don’t know which
Ok, that is it until we hit Manaus. Bye bye Peru, viva Brasil!
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.
It has been nearly 3 weeks since our last blog post. Internet access and time have been sparse as we have paddled the last 30 days in a row!
We are in Atalya now and, while we do have internet, it is not good enough for photo updates.
But here is a bit of an update from the past week. I realize there is a big gap which we will have to fill in later…
This is taken from emails we have sent to our friends and family who have been wondering if we are still alive.
Enjoy! Next update will be in about 7 days from Pucallpa. Please excuse all spelling errors as there is no English spell check on this computer and I suck at spelling.
We have made it to Atalaya–yeah! This means we have completed Phase 1 of the trip–The Whitewater.
We have also completed the Rio Ene y Rio Tambo. Left in our phase 2 (Red Zone) is the Rio Ucayali, which will probably take us 7 more da
SO FAR, our experience of the red zone has been quite pleasant. Most
people were very friendly and once they saw that we had all our
paperwork in order–permission letter from Ministry of Tourism and
permission letters from the Indigenous groups of the Rio Ene and Rio
Tambo–they were quite happy to have us there and pass.
We had a couple of weird things happen like a group of Asheninka
Indians were calling us over by waving at us from a far away bank. As
it was not an official check point and we weren’t 100% sure if they
were calling us or waving at us we did not stop promptly. After our
motorized canoe told us to stop we did. The Asheninkas were a little
bit drunk and yelled at our guide Cesar for not radioing ahead to
tell them we were coming. Then, very nicely, they proceeded to
appologize to us for being angry but explained that we had to
understand that they had to control the area because there have been
problems in the past with childern disapearing and gringos stealing
their organs…so, it turns out these myths really do exist down here!
Then they made Cesar do 50 push ups on the beach as his punishment
for not calling ahead.
The most logical explanation for how these stories about people
stealing their children and their children’s organs we have heard is
that often children will go swimming and end up drowning (aka
dissapearing). They say there is a “parasitic catfish” in the rivers
up here that eats its prey from the inside out. So the kids drown,
the catfish eat them (from the insides) and then people find them days
later dead with all their insides missing. I am not sure if this is
true either, but it is the best explanation we have heard…
Today as we were approaching Atalya someone yelled from shore “oye,
pela cara” (hey, peeled face) at us. But other than these 2 things,
everyone has been extremely nice and helpful to us. Let’s just hope
that this luck continues!
Today was our 30th day in a row of paddling. We are all feeling a
little wee bit tired, and so are taking a rest day tomorrow. So
please do NOT be alarmed when you don’t see any movement on the
We have seen nice scenery so far and are well into the jungle now.
But it took a while, 95% of the Mantaro was desert and catus was the
dominant plant. From the confluence with the Apurimac, up until
yesterday the rainforest looked more like New England…we were in a
part that people call the dry forest (I think) and when it is the dry
season–such as it is now–many of the trees lose their leaves. There
were places where 75% of a hillside was trees with no leaves.
But now we are into the “normal” rainforest as we know it. And, even
though it is the dry season, it has been raining for 3 days straight!
We have seen the following:
Another Deer that looked much like a N. American deer but darker brown/grey
Water Dog–an oversized otter than can swim but prefers shore
A real Otter
Cesar, our guide for the red zone, saw a Capybara, but we did not:-(
We have seen more parakeets than I can count, tons of macaws, tiger
herons, regular herons, eagles, hawks, osprey, cormorants and lots of
other birds we can not identify.
We have seen 2 billion ankle biters, but very few mosquitos so far.
In a response to this email, I also generated DAY TO DAY LIVING: