It’s common to be asked by the airlines to show your flight itinerary out of the country you will be entering.
At the Copa counter in Lima we were asked just that. “Where are you going after Panama City, Panama?” To which I promptly whipped open my Expedia app and showed the gal we would be heading to Georgetown, Guyana. “Por favor. May I please see proof that you had yellow fever shots? It is necesario to travel to Guyana.”
“No podemos!” declared a stunned Paige.
Ok, ok…… so we were supposed to get yellow fever shots but the thing is there were none in Charleston. They had been out for over a year.
Bill thought we needed the shots and when he couldn’t find them he went back on the internet and searched until he found an article that said we didn’t need them. The power of the internet right. You can find any answer you want!
Well, you don’t need them if you’re flying from the USA. Not the case if you’re coming from South America!
You see Bill’s original plan was to fly to Guyana first from the USA but oh no Paige needed her Panama hat first….
So…. we have two non-refundable airplanes flights. One to Guyana and one leaving Suriname and we’re not allowed in either country.
Get shots in Panama you say? The vaccine takes 10 days to be effective and we leave on the 14th. You do the math.
So plan B is in the works. Columbia? Nicaragua? El Salvador? Suggestions?
Once again I contacted my mother to asked her to call Suriname Airlines (our flight home) and beg for a refund.
So much for having to show where you are going next. We’re currently flying to Panama with unusable tickets out of the country. Perhaps we’ll be staying at the Panama City Immigration Hotel.
I sit on the top deck of our river boat typing and glimpse the pink dolphins frocking in the muddy water as white birds dance in the sky. Rising and falling to the sounds of nature. It’s a sight to behold.A two hour flight from the coastal region of Lima had us flying over the Andes mountains and landing in the jungle, Iquitos.Iquitos is the largest city in the world not accessible by road.
Our boat awaited one and a half hours away. The bus ride ended in Nauta where we boarded the Amazon’s only wooden river boat, the Amatista, for a seven day cruise.Before the road was paved in 2005 the journey from Iquitos to Nauta took 12 hours.15 Germans, 4 Canadians and 5 Americans filled 13 of the 15 cabins.
The Amazon’s wet season officially begins in November.
Clear skies on the first evening showed stars so abundant they seemed to be growing out of the tree tops. The Milky Way floated above our heads and the moon looked like it slipped – a U shaped sliver instead of a C shape.The abundance of flora and fauna was staggering.
Here’s a partial list of what we’ve seen: pink dolphins, manatees, a kinkajou, a coatimundi, butterflies, an ajouti, pigmy marmoset, bats, a black caiman, monkeys, frogs of all colors, a red tail boa, an anaconda, 3 sloths, birds too numerous to count, piglets (special Amazonian variety – HA), a tarantula, gray dolphins, turtles, household pets, ducks, chickens, roosters, piranhas and gazillions of unwanted bugs/mosquitos.
Every day we took two skiff boat trips – one before lunch and the other later in the day. The naturalists pointed out wildlife while cruising through either muddy brown waters or sleek black water tributaries. Jungle walks gave us the opportunity to get up close and personal with nature and it’s critters.We visted the small community of Pampacaño – 192 people strong and not in possession of clean water.
A pipe pulls their drinking water from the dirty Amazon. To make it safe as possible to drink the captured water stands for several days so that the contaminates can settle and then they use the water from the top. Oil and lead are amongst the carcinogens.
That day lunch was served from the floor in Maria’s home – we ate with our fingers. One of the items on the menu was paca – a huge two foot rat that lives in the jungle. There too we saw the 15 foot anaconda that crept into their village five days prior.
Amazonians are so used to the rain that they go about their daily routines immune to the drops continuing on as if the sun was shining.
Chicken and catfish are the main sources of meat in the Amazon. Fish and chicken farms are abundant. In the villages people also fish out of their lagoons instead of the unhealthy river.
However, we did go piranha fishing in the black water and dined on them for dinner. Fishing for those infamous people-eating machines (lore) with tiny vicious teeth is quite basic. Take a four foot stick with fishing line tied to one end, a hook on the other and a little bit of beef for bait. You splash the water with the end of the pole and wait to set the hook. Bill successfully caught one flinging it with excitement right on the bag in front of me! They were served deep fried – had a tiny amount of meat, lots of bones and tasted like the grease they were cooked in.We visited a shaman/midwife. This calm woman all of five feet tall with hair past her bottom and bare footed, studied deep in the jungle for eight years to learn how to use plants to heal. Part of her spiritual therapy is using the hallucinogenic ayahuasca plant. Nine villages are dependent on her to cure aliments and deliver babies.Our crew was the best. The two naturalists were informative and have worked on the boat since it’s inception 23 years ago. The chef could make pollo and pescado in so many different ways you barely knew you were eating it twice a day.It only rained for a short period of time on a couple of days.
Soon it will be raining everyday and the Amazon will swallow the shores – rising as much as forty feet by the end of the rainy season. Homes on stilts will become islands and life goes on.Look at the waterline on the trees!
Morales, the incumbent, won the Bolivian presidential election by the needed 10% margin. From what we learned that was a given.
A week or so after the decision the strike in Bolivia is still alive and well.
Our first stop in Lima was to our favorite cevicheria restaurant called La Mar.Our good friend turned us on to the La Mar restaurant in San Francisco. Over the years we’ve frequented this place many times. They’re famous for savory ceviche dishes and Piso cocktails.
It has a fun backstory – the Peruvian owner told his father he was going to law school in Spain while actually attending culinary school. Eventually opening his super successful first restaurant in Lima. Rumor is, the dad got over the betrayal.
Considering it’s popularity, taking no reservations and only opened from noon to 5:30, five years ago, con suerte, we were able to get a table in Lima.We were lucky again this time. There were two seats at the bar. With stuffed bellies and two Pisco Sours we staggered back to our hotel and slept after having been awake for 25 hours.
Peru has three regions. The coast, the mountains and the jungle.
Lima is on the coast.We stayed in Miraflores a few blocks from the Pacific. Foggy until noon, clear for a couple hours and then foggy again.
Bustling everywhere – from Miraflores to the historic downtown region.
Precipitation in this capital city is one of the lowest in the world – following Cairo, Egypt and the middle of the Sahara. The buildings suffer from the effects of exhaust and no rain.The historic district has grand buildings and big parks.
The catacomb tour of the Monastery of San Francisco (UNESO World Heritage site) was interesting. Archeologists have uncovered the bones of 25,000 people and discovered tunnels that connected the Cathedral to the Tribunal of the Holy Inquisition.The best part was the library containing 25,000 books dating back to the 14th century.
We had our ears lowered at a barbershop run by a young guy who lived in California for 25 years and came back to Lima to go to art school and live a more laid back life. He and his partner hired barbers who fled Venezuela.
Unplugged – that’s what we are. The first day was hard – a few anxious moments – a nagging urge to connect – a smoker without a cigarette – a singer without a voice – okay a person without a cell phone but hey it could be “that” bad.
“I’ll be damned to pay caviar prices for ship time wifi.” “Let the the withdrawals begin.” or NOT!
Reading, playing cards, sunbathing, watching movies under the stars, yoga, gym time and copious treks around the boats occupy our time.
The boat’s first stop was Cabo San Lucas where we chose to stay on board – nothing like stopping in your own backyard. Images of shopping lists danced in our heads – Home Depot, Costco and Mega – that’s the only reason one goes to Cabo. Right?
In Puntarenas, Costa Rica we hired a driver to take us to the small town of Sarchi – home to colorful handcrafted oxen carts. To our dismay the craftsman opened a huge store and filled it with tourist….
The highlight of the day was a field of delicious blooming sugar cane.
Crossing the Equator at 7:50 am December 11th was cause for a big cruise celebration or so we’ve heard.
Today we go in search for the best pisco sour in Lima, Peru…