Day 4 Monday
We woke up early to do a nature trip into one of the tributaries. The guide, Juanito, hoped to see a monkey that was 5 inches long. We were'nt able to locate one but we were able to see a few more birds. The interesting thing about this trip was that the tributary we had entered was dry only 5 weeks ago but now that the Amazon has entered the rainy season, it rose 7 ft and was navigable for about 1/2 mile.
We came back to the boat and again, had an excellent breakfast that had a Peruvian flare. I was noticing a pattern. Many times the local fare was pretty....local .. and should remain that way. But most of the dishes were quite good and would complement any dining table.
After breakfast we had a naturalist talk about the indigeous people. Ucil, having grown up in a village simalar to these, told us the certain customs of the people. They will shake your hand hard and if you didn't respond the same way this would draw suspicion. Additionally, it was imperative that you looked them in the eye when speaking with them or you would also be regarded as suspect. These people are proud of what they have and are willing to share. There are no locks on doors so if a neighbor needed something, it was acceptable to just go in and get it. That's trust!
As we entered the village of Nuevo York, ( you guessed it, New York), we were met by four young boys, ranging from about 5 to 8, as we walked up about 20 carved out steps to the terra firma. We then proceeded to a shade tree at the edge of the village to wait for the village mayor to come and welcome us. A few of the children regarded us with curiousity but kept they're distance. Once the mayor arrived we were welcomed into the village. His name was Andre. He gave a warm and welcoming speech and guided us to our first stop, one of the villagers homes. All of the homes were on stilts in the event of flooding. We were welcomed in this home by Roberto. He was 61 years old and had married for the second time. Between him and his second wife, their children numbered 15. He had 8,, his second wife had 5, and together they had 2. He impressed me in his demeanor as he was proud of his family, his home, and his lifestyle. In a kettle on an open fire, was boiling dinner which consisted of a whole catfish. I was surprised that, when cleaning the fish, they removed the stomach and intestines, leaving the rest of the fish, head, gills, whiskers and all to be simmered into a broth. His home consisted of a large gathering room, and 2 bedrooms. The boards were all hewn by chainsaw, the roof was thatched with the leaves and reeds from plants that had to be harvested and carried from a distance of 3-4 hours. There were no motorized anything, except for the pump for the well water, so everything had to be done by hand. The well water pump was a product of government improvement which didn't work most of the time, ( go figure).
There was a mile long cement sidewalk down the middle of the village. We were told that all villages had this improvement. We wondered why, since improvements were scare and they said that it was neccessary in reducing deaths from snake bites. Since visability was restricted in walking through the grasses, it was dangerous to walk. With the sidewalk, it was clear if and when a snake was venturing across it.
We were treated to an enjoyable encounter with the grade school children at the one room schoolhouse. There were about 25 children between the ages of 5 and 10. boys and girls were close to equally represented. Juanito, one of our guides, was allowed to take over the instruction of these kids for about an hour while we sat on wooden chairs of which, in America, were the norm in kindergarten. Here's the disconnect. We were handed cold wash clothes via tongs as we enterred the warm classroom while these children were presenting themselve with the very best they had, school uniform and shoes. There were no desks or tables around except for the teachers desk so I wondered where they were able to do their schoolwork.
Juanito endeared himself to us by his interaction with the kids. They loved him. He had them singing songs to us, counting to us in English and speaking all of our names as we said, "Mi llamo es ( our name), and they would reply, "Hola, ______".
Many of us had brought school supplies and at that moment Hans and I deeply regretted that we hadn't brought more.
We returned to the boat and again had a fabulous lunch. I couldn't help but wonder what those kids were having for lunch.
After a rest period (siesta) we were given a presentation by Dr. Leslie Souza about her studies on the Arapaima While that may seem like a real snoozer to you, you'd have to meet Dr. Souza. She is now just Leslie to us. A 36 year old scientist studying an endangered species that can only be found in the Amazon Basin. Leslie is from Brazil but was transplanted to northern New York state by her academic father. She shared her passion in understanding the arapaima which is an obligate fish ( Ok I had no idea what obligate was until today). This is a ancient fish that, although it has gills, it has to come up for air approx. every 20 minutes. It lives in stagnant and muddy waters . It is harvested for food as it's quite tasty. She showed pictures of capturing these fish and tagging them along with inserting a gps to follow them. This entails enterring waters that have cayman (crocodile) pirahna, leeches and any number of parasites. Hats Off to you, Dr. Leslie.
After the talk we took another skiff ride to the confluence of three rivers. Here we were treated to numerous sightings of pink and gray dolphins, one of which emerged right along side our skiff.
Returning we again were treated to another wonderful Peruvian meal. But here's where it goes from great to awesome. As dinner was winding down and dessert was next, the crew turned off the lights to the dining room and entered singing and carrying a cake. We were all clapping as they winded through the tables and all of us sudden they stopped at our table, placing the cake between Hans and I, and guess what it said....... Happy 40th anniversary! Cheryl Mell, the director at the Shedd Aquarium and the head of this trip had arranged this surprise after she heard the details of why we were taking this trip.
The celebration continued on the lounge deck with dancing to a boom box with the South American guides that really know how to move. What a memorable day!