The Amazon

When I moved to Arizona my next-door neighbors befriended me.  Jim had a “pet” wood bee that burrowed into the roof fascia of their apartment.  And the neighborhood kids, knowing that he liked snakes, brought him any they found.  So I learned the various snakes and how to handle them. Their other indoor pets were two half moon conures who flew around the apartment.  Anyway, they live in California now, we’re still friends after 40 years, and they’ve invited me to join them on their yearly trek to Peru, where they’ve “adopted” an Amazon community.  I’ll let our recent emails tell the store.  (Jim/Mary – I hope it’s ok to publish your emails.)

Hi Lynne, 

We will be returning to Iquitos sometime in February, March, or April; Mary needs to determine the best time to be gone from her experiment for around 3 weeks. We are delighted that you will be joining us.

We have a camp cot and a two-person screened tent for you to use. Since we return every year, we invested in a large cabin tent and queen size bed for our own use. If you would like greater comfort, you could purchase a good mattress in Iquitos.  These vacations cost us less than half of the cost of staying in a tourist lodge, and our money goes directly to the villagers.

The Amazon is very rich in wildlife, but it is difficult to watch, because of the dense forest.  Every year we discover more of the wildlife. It is a wildlife paradise; the way it was when our monkey ancestors lived in the trees 20 million years ago. 

The dangers are greatly exaggerated. In the six years we have gone down, we have never once had a medical problem. We do not take anti-malaria medication.  We usually start exploring for wildlife early in the morning. The best contemporary introductory book is “Neotroprical Companion” by Krichner; and there are several excellent classics by famous early explorers.

We usual spend 3-4 days in Iquitos, eating in a restaurant and sleeping in a hostel. Usually, several guides come to meet us; I give them short seminars on tourism and help them learn how to use the internet.

On the last day, I give a small speech thanking everyone for a good time and pay each individual with a separate envelope, which includes much a appreciated tip amounting to an extra day of work. The cook’s young daughter gets a small tip too, for assisting her mother with the cooking and washing. We also employ a professional English-speaking guide for Mary, so Mary has two guides, the native and professional. When our native guides learn enough English, she will no longer need him.

The flight to Iquitos is from Lima, where our baggage is re-checked. We take LAN Airlines, which departs from LA. We start off with American Airlines in San Francisco.  American and LAN are part of the One World Alliance. We carry our laptop, binoculars, and cameras in our carry-one luggage, to avoid theft by baggage checkers.

Regards,  Jim

Jim/Mary- 
I have enough frequent flyer miles on American to get from Tucson to Iquitos, but only if I can reserve way in advance to get one of the very few seats allocated.  So I hope that you can give me a month to make reservations.
 
I can probably deal w/ the camp cot.  Always bring my own pillow ’cause of arthritis in my neck.  Am trying to make the trip very cheap (as in free flights), so I’ll skip buying a mattress.  Wish I had a better camera, but the one I took to Tanzania I had bought my son for his b’day and just borrowed it.  Oh, well. 
Hasta-
Lynne

Hi Lynne,

The latest we can leave is the first week in April, because there is no one here to water our large orchard when the hot dry season starts.

Our trips to Iquitos combine wildlife observation with Peace Corps type charity work. I suspect that you will very much enjoy it.

 I took a year of Spanish as freshman in high school, and just barely get by. Some of the guides may have learned a few words in English this year, using the Living Language CDs and disk player I left with them. They know that they cannot have a tourist business without a little proficiency in English.

You can pick out your own guide after watching them at our daily seminars. I think you’ll enjoy it enough to become a yearly visitor to Iquitos. If you are inclined to write stories, there are a vast number of interesting natural or cultural subjects to choose from.

The insect repellent we use is lemon eucalyptus. Since I am slightly allergic to it; I am going to try some other natural repellents this year. Mary is satisfied with long sleeved shirts and pants from REI. I go around in hat, shorts and sandals.

We now get free immunization shots through our Kaiser doctor. Previously we went to private travel doctor.

Because you are have a slender body type you will not suffer the heat, like the overweight tourists do. Nights are always chilly enough to need a sheet.

Regards,  Jim

Hi Lynne,
 Called home today to tell Jim that my boss is ok with my Peru dates.
 Jim bought tickets on American
 Leave SFO on Apr 9
 Get to Iquitos on Apr 10
 Leave Iquitos on May 4
 Back in SF on May 5
 
 They told him that the only way we could use our frequent flyer miles was to try at least 10 months early!
 
 I will email you our itinerary as soon as I get it.
 Mary

Mary-
I am so excited!  I got my free frequent flyer tickets and only have to pay taxes, but I have to fly one day early, so I have to book a room in Iquitos.

Thanks for inviting me!
Lynne

Great news Lynne,

We always stay in the La Pascana Hostel in Iquitos. They have a web site.

Jim will write to you and he says he will plan to have someone that we have worked with meet you at the airport to take you into La Pascana.

I hope you got my pics.  [Note: the photos here are Mary’s.]

Will plan to write again this weekend.

Mary

Mary-
Just got your photos today.  Great! 
Made reservations for La Pascana for Apr 9.
Because we’re there for < 90 day, no visa required.
Do you change money?  Do you carry that much in cash?
Lynne 

Hi  Lynne,

If you would be interested I could loan you my old panasonic, 12x zoom. I have forgotten all its specs but will send them to you tomorrow, then if you decide you would like to use it I would send it to you ahead of time and then you could return it to me at the end of the trip.

I usually take some cash. Then I use atm’s in Iquitos. Also usually have some traveler’s check. Sometimes atms don’t have cash.

Will continue working on my list tomorrow and send it along,

I think Jim is working on our expenses now.

Mary

Mary/ Jim-

  •  (Thanks for the tent and cot.)  How much would a mattress cost?  I have a 1″ thick air-filled camping “mattress” but I probably would have to pay for it as baggage.
  • What do we do with the Amazon tribe that you have “adopted”?
  • Where exactly will we be staying in tents?  Washing in the river?  (With the piranha?)
  • What about drinking water?  (What about coffee?)
  • Yes I’d love to borrow your 12x camera.  Mine is only 3x. 
  • What about electricity?  How do you recharge batteries for cameras, laptops?

Thanks-
Lynne

Hi Lynne,

 I suspect that mattresses varying greatly in cost. I do not remember how much we paid for our queen size. If think that you will return over the years, you would get a better one. All of our gear is left for them to use with any tourists who come. I act as their director.

Nuevo Jerusalen is a remote riverside community, with Achual Indians and mestizos. They no longer have a tribal system of government. They have agreed to create a reserve, if I can teach them how to live better with agriculture and tourism. Mary is preparing a website for them. I am now bringing down vegetable seeds, duck, goose, and guinea hen eggs, and teaching them English and the use of email. We started construction of a director’s lodge last year.  Mary brings down used shirts from thrift stores, and wrist watches. We spend all morning observing wildlife; I spend all afternoon working with them. Mary takes photos and reads, while I work.

We get everything we need either in Iquitos or Jeru (Nuevo Jerusalen). Our camp inside the Shaman Kumpanan’s large house is in a remote spot, about 1/2 hour from Jeru by dugout. It is complete with camp shower, toilet, kitchen, desk, dining table, book case, and storage chests. We have a 55 watt solar panel and a 12 volt storage battery for charging laptops and cameras. I only drink beer, coffee, and tea; Mary drinks some bottled water.

Best regards,  Jim

Jim-
Thanks for all of the info.  We need to bring sheets and towels?
Lynne

Hi Lynne,

Mary knows the answer; she will reply this weekend. I do know that we brought down old sheets and pillows for our queen-size mattress. We also bought inexpensive cotton sheets in Iquitos for Tritler, our house keeper.

 I do not know if Mary mentioned that you need to bring down polaroid sun glasses, to protect your eyes from the intense injurious glare off the river.

I get a rabies shot, because I befriend the pet monkeys and other wildlife. I do this to gain their trust and be able to rescue them. The vampire bats are not a problem, since the screens keep them out.   

Regards, Jim

Hi Jim-
I can’t find Nuevo Jerusalen on the map.  I don’t even know which direction from Iquitos.
http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&tab=wl
 
Thanks-
Lynne 

Hi Lynne,

 Nuevo Jerusalen is too small to appear on maps. It is a riverside community comprised of around 20 families. I just received an email from one of guides telling me that the village has 1 meter of water under it.

 But Richard Bodmer put a detailed map on-line, where I can show you the exact location of Jeru. Google: Collaborative Wildlife Management and Adaptation to Change: The Tamshiyacu-Tahuayo Reserve, Peru. Then, scroll down to the map on page 111. On that map locate the Rio Tahuayo tributary of the Rio Amazonas. Jeru is located at the bend, where it turns east. After it turns east, it splits into a fork.  Our camp is just before you get to that bend.  

Regards, Jim

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2 Responses to “The Amazon”

  1. Marje Says:

    It sounds exciting…and I remember when a couple of neighbors spent time on the Amazon and one of them fell in the river. When they got back I asked about swiming with the piranhas and he replied that he thought they were overrated…

  2. Lloyd Irvin Says:

    Hi there, You have done an incredible job. I will certainly digg it and
    personally recommend to my friends. I am sure they will
    be benefited from this site.

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