Travel Blogues

10 April 2013 Cape Town, South Africa

We embark on the Queen Mary 2 and overnight on ship in Cape Town, before sailing out the next evening.

The Peninsula  Hotel  in Sea  Point runs a complimentary shuttle, and six of us booked transfers to the Queen Mary 2 on the shuttle.  Because the ship is so big it has to dock in the container port and there are currently no facilities for the check-in and embarkation procedures. So after an abortive attempt to enter the dock area, our shuttle driver finally landed us at the Good Hope Centre, where the embarking passengers were checked-in. Shuttle buses then drove us through the dock area where we could board the ship.

During our week-long journey on the waters of the Peruvian Amazon on the river boat, La Turmalina, our group was treated each evening, to musical entertainment by crew members. They sang and played a variety of instruments, wind, string and percussion. And also played quite a range of music.

Among the instruments that they played were a  guitar and a smaller stringed instrument, charango, a traditional instrument of Peru, that is a member of the lute family. As well as drums they also used a box drum and maracas, and a pan flute or zampona. The three main members of the group were our cabin stewards Oscar and Blumer, and the dining room steward, Edgar. But other crew members also joined in from time to time. 


 It’s 23:40 according to my glow-in –the dark, battery operated alarm clock. I have been sleeping fitfully since around 10 PM, tossing and turning under a thin sheet on the narrow camp bed in my tent in the Kapok Camp. The tent is square, approximately 12-x 12 ft., and is covered with a thatched roof.

In the cabin to which I was assigned there are two camp beds against each side with a low wooden table made out of segments of tree trunk separating them at the head of the bed. At the foot of each bed is a wooden block the width of the bed, so there is somewhere to put your things. The entrance to the tent is an inverted T zipper system. I have it tightly closed to prevent any creepy crawlies paying me a visit in the night.

In the afternoon of the third day of our Amazon adventure, we made our first actual foray on foot into the jungle. Rather than viewing the vegetation and the birds and critters from the boats, we were actually going to hike to the Kapok Camp where we going to spend the night.

From the time we arrived at the airport in Iquitos and were taken to our coach for the ride to Nauta, we were in the capable and highly organized hands of the naturalist team who were leading our Amazon explorations. In my professional career I have encountered many people who were experts in their field, but Juan-Carlos Palomino and Robinson Rodriguez have made an indelible impression on me that I will never forget. How they could spot a tiny black dot high in a tree as we were speeding down river in our motorized skiff, and instantly identify the type of bird, simply blew my mind. Specially when our skiff driver, Darwin, would stop the boat so we could see the bird. Even through my very powerful binoculars I could often barely make out the shape of the black dot- which now just looked like a big bird-like blob to me. But they could point in the bird guide to the exact type of bird. And then when I zeroed in on the image captured (usually by Robinson, for me) on my camera, and zoomed in on the image - there it was. No longer a black blob.

Before supper each night, we were entertained on the upper deck by the ship’s band of whom the mainstays were brothers, Oscar and Edgar Rachi, and Blumer Arica, all of whom sang as well as playing multiple musical instruments. We danced lots of salsa and merengue with the occasional rumba for variation. It was quite a surreal experience to  be dancing on a river boat in the Amazon jungle!

We were originally scheduled to travel on La Amatista but two weeks before the trip I received an express letter saying that we were now traveling on La Turmalina. I love the jewel names, amethyst and tourmaline. The two ships are part of a fleet of four, built in the style of 19th century river boats, in the ship yard in Iquitos. La Amatista and La Turmalina can take 30 passengers and the other two, La Esmeralda and La Aquamarina take 17 and 24 passengers respectively. La Turmalina, our expedition riverboat is registered in Peru and operated by English speaking Peruvian Officers and crew. There can be up to 14 crew members. Our group of passengers numbered only 16 which was great for us - never rushed or crowded.

One of my sensible and pragmatic daughters-in-law, on hearing my plan to cruise the Amazon into the jungles of Peru, looked at me bemused and said "why?" Since heat and humidity, bugs and butterflies, moths and mosquitoes rank so far below the bottom of the list of my favorite things - comfortable bed, hot showers, flush toilets  and a temperate insect-free environment all placing quite high up - I could understand her bewilderment. But this is my year for breaking thorough the boundaries of my - until recently- very conventional urban professional and family life.

Being this luxury-loving urbanite I had nothing that would be of any use in rainforest terrain, so I had to acquire a few items. Here's what I got, and what did and did not work well for me.

 This is the INDEX of posts for the travelblogue of my trip to Peru for a week-long cruise on the Amazon River.  I signed up for the Amazon River Expedition travel program sponsored by the University of British Columbia Alumni Association.

 From Lima we flew to Iquitos in Northern Peru, took a coach to Nauta and boarded our riverboat, La Turmalina. During this trip we traveled beyond the confluence of the Ucayali and Marañón rivers, visiting the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve (the largest wetland reserve in the world), Pacama village and spending a night in the Kapok Camp.

A small skiff took us on several excursions. They are numbered 1 to 14 on the map which is the key to upcoming posts. Along the way we saw birds, monkeys,  river dolphins and a fascinating variety of medicinal plants and trees

From a health perspective, a seven day journey up the Amazon River into the jungle, even on a luxury river boat, is nothing like the luxury cruise in the Mediterranean or Caribbean, that I have taken thus far. The rain forest environment is hot and humid, and vicious little mosquitoes carry nasty organisms that cause malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever and other diseases. The first reminder of the isolation and primitive nature of the area into which we will be traveling, came from the disclaimers and advice in the information package from the travel agent through whom we booked this cruise. Then I did some serious reading and decided I needed to speak with a medical travel expert who would be current on what precautions would be needed to keep us fit and healthy.

My travels start with a flight to Los Angeles where I spend the day with my family visiting the Science Centre and the shuttle Endeavour exhibit. Then I join up with my fellow-voyager at LAX to board a flight to Athens. After a brief two day visit to Athens we cruise from the Port of Piraeus through the Aegean, Adriatic and Eastern Mediterranean seas, visiting ports in the Greek Islands, Turkey and Croatia before returning to Athens and flying back to Vancouver.

INDEX to Travelblogue

Aegean Odyssey: Dancing from Greece to Turkey and Croatia. The beginning

Aegean Odyssey: Athens: Day 1.  I walk through the Plaka, take a Hop On Hop Off Bus tour, stroll on the Acropolis and dine at Kuzina.

Athens: Day 2. An encounter with Post Office bureaucracy, a walk through Athen's Central Meat Market.


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