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A Journey to the Amazon
17-25 September 1999

It’s almost a surreal memory now–a week in a world of riverboats, tropical rainforests, scenic rivers, exotic flora and fauna, with perfect weather and memorable
friendships. What an amazing journey we had to the Amazon Basin.

Friday, September 17, 1999
Depart Maryland for Miami, Florida

After a tense Thursday waiting for Hurricane Floyd to cancel our trip altogether, we awoke to a perfect morning. Floyd managed to make a mess of the yard with
leaves and branches strewn about, but thoughts of the storm passed quickly in anticipation of our departure this evening for Miami, Florida. Arriving in Miami
quite late, we proceeded to the Oceanside area of Miami Beach where we had made reservations at the Park Central Hotel. This art deco building is on the
National Register of Historic Places.

Saturday, September 18
Miami to Lima, Peru

The next morning we walked across the street to the beach and enjoyed a swim in the warm waters of the Atlantic before checking out and proceeding on to the
airport where we would board an American Airlines flight to Lima, Peru. Arriving in Lima at 11:30 PM after a really comfortable flight, we were met by
representatives of International Expeditions, our tour company. Some of our tour group had come from Miami and some from Dallas. Now all 23 of us were
together on a bus that would take us from the airport to the first class Sheraton Hotel and Towers where we would spend the night. The view from the bus
window proved to us that we were definitely in a foreign country, and a poor one at that.
Exhausted from the anticipation, the flight, customs and immigration, and the bus ride, we all assembled in the lobby of the hotel and met our tour leader, Eldon
Greij. As some of you know, Eldon is the founder and former editor of "Birder’s World" magazine which sponsored this tour. After some discussion of the next
day’s activities, we were given our room keys and then gladly fell into bed.

Sunday, September 19
Lima and Iquitos, Peru

After a tasty buffet breakfast in the hotel, our first adventure began. We boarded a tour bus and headed south to the marshes at the Pantanos de Villa Preserve. On the way, we drove a fair distance through Lima and several of its suburbs, which afforded us a good opportunity to view the city and surrounding area. This is a city in a desert, even though it is located right on the Pacific Coast. Despite relatively high humidity, there is less than 2 inches of annual rainfall in this area and the dry, barren hills reflected that fact. The day was overcast and cool and the marine climate vaguely reminded us of San Francisco.

The marsh was beautiful; more so because it was full of birds that were mostly new to us: Puna Ibis, Andean Gull, Gray-hooded Gull, Kelp Gull, Wren-like Rushbird, White-cheeked Pintail, White-tufted Grebe, Great Grebe, Many-colored Rush Tyrant, Striated Heron, Andean Coot, Groove-billed Ani, Blue and White Swallow, Neotropic Cormorant and the most amazing Peruvian Red-breasted Meadowlark. Some old friends were there too: Common Moorhen, Black-necked Stilt, White-winged Dove, Osprey, Shiny Cowbird, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Pied-billed Grebe, Vermilion Flycatcher, Cattle Egret, Black Vulture, Cinnamon Teal, and Neotropic Cormorant. After viewing the birds we were taken to a modern Visitor’s Center where we were shown an excellent video that told the story of the marsh and the efforts being made to create awareness of this fragile area and hopefully preserve it forever.

For lunch we were taken to a perfectly wonderful restaurant in the Miraflores district of Lima called Brujas de Cachiche (Witches Brooms) where we enjoyed a virtual feast of Peruvian dishes. It didn’t take long to discover that we were extremely fond of Peruvian cooking!

Back to the airport for the next phase of our journey - the flight over the Andes to Iquitos where we would board our riverboat for our Amazon Basin adventure cruise. Although cloudy much of the way, a few glimpses of the snow-capped Andes were possible on the flight to Iquitos. Soon we were looking down on vast expanses of rainforest interrupted only by meandering rivers and oxbow lakes. The prospect of what lay ahead was very exhilarating.

Iquitos, a large city of 400,000 inhabitants, is unique in that it is accessible only by boat or airplane. Cars are uncommon here but motorcycles and motorized carts are abundant. In Iquitos representatives of JungleX, the company that owns and runs the riverboat on which we would take our journey into the Peruvian wilderness, met us. Here we were introduced to the two Peruvian guides, Edgar and Juan, who would be our teachers, companions and good friends for the next week. Both grew up in the rainforest and have great knowledge of the culture and natural history of the area.

On the way to the dock, we were given a quick bus tour of Iquitos. The quick tour turned into a longer tour and then even longer and it soon became dark. We wondered why we were not on our boat yet? As it turned out, the river is at its shallowest at this particular time of the year and the riverboat, despite having a shallow draft, was not able to navigate directly up to the city dock. The solution was to transport us in two groups in the small boats that are carried by the riverboat that are normally used for day excursions. So in pitch darkness, we boarded these small boats and headed up the river to our waiting riverboat, La Amatista. As we motored upriver, we watched lightning strikes in the distance and observed small fish jumping out of the water. An occasional raindrop fell. At last, like a glowing apparition, La Amatista loomed ahead. She was all decked out in lights with the crew waiting to greet us as we boarded her. No sooner did we all get aboard than the skies opened. Tired yet elated, we went to our assigned cabins, unpacked and then met in the dining room to enjoy the first of many delicious meals served on the riverboat. Our cabins were charming, constructed from beautiful hardwoods and decorated with local crafts, mostly bird carvings. The next day, we were told, would be a relaxing one, as La Amatista would travel up the Amazon River to its headwaters at the confluence of the Ucayali and Maranon Rivers. We could hardly wait for dawn.

Monday, September 20
Up the Amazon

No trouble rising this morning – we were anxious to see the river on which we would be traveling for the next week. It was slightly overcast but pleasantly warm and by 6:15 AM we were on the upper deck joined by one of the guides, Edgar, who was eager to show us lots of new birds (and most all of them were new). Like kids in a candy store we began racking up life birds - as is always the case when one visits a new and unique area. Thirty-five species of birds were observed just standing on the upper deck of the riverboat! Of the thirty-five, twenty-seven were new to us - such as Horned Screamer, Black-collared Hawk, Lettered Aracari, Plumbeous Kite, Yellow-rumped Cacique, Roadside Hawk and Swallow-winged Puffbird. The ubiquitous, but never seen, Buff-breasted Wren sang from the underbrush along the shore, while White-winged Swallows and Brown-chested Martins joined Yellow-billed and Large-billed Terns sailing over the Amazon River. The brilliant Yellow-hooded Blackbird hunted for insects along the shoreline, while ubiquitous Yellow-headed Caracaras and Great Hawks sat placidly on tree limbs waiting for some unsuspecting prey to come their way.

One of the most memorable events, which occurred every morning, was the raucous movement of macaws, parrots and parakeets back and forth across the river. Despite their brilliant colors, these are birds that manage to appear black in silhouette when they are flying. When they reach the treetops their green feathers provide just enough camouflage so that it becomes virtually impossible to find them. This is where our guides were so helpful since they could identify many of these birds by their calls. Occasionally the light was just right so that a key feature could be observed and we added Canary-winged, Cobalt-winged and White-eyed Parakeet to our list. An added treat to our journey upriver was the appearance of both Pink and Gray River Dolphins that seemed to accompany us wherever we traveled on the river. Along the river’s edge, we noticed the occasional village of simple houses on stilts occupied by the "Riberenos" or River People. Later in the week we would to visit several of these villages.

After a fine breakfast and lunch where we became better acquainted with our fellow passengers, we boarded the "small boats" for our first of many river excursions. I can only say that there was no down-side to the bell curve on this trip! Each and every day was filled with wonders that we shall never forget. This afternoon was particularly exciting as we watched a thunderstorm move quickly in and out during "siesta time." Fortunately it didn’t interfere with our 3 PM excursion.

Highlights of our boat tour this afternoon were: Ringed Kingfisher, one of the most common birds along the banks of all the rivers we traveled; Fork-tailed Palm Swift, Red-capped Cardinal, Amazon Kingfisher, Smooth-billed Ani, Silver-beaked Tanager, Wattled Jacana, Drab Water-tyrant, Bare-necked Fruit Crow, Blue-gray Tanager and the uncommon Laughing Falcon. More members of the parrot family were added to our list: Dusky-headed and Yellow-lored Parakeet, Orange-winged and Festive Parrot. I found it fascinating seeing birds familiar to me in this exotic place: Vermilion Flycatcher, Great Blue Heron, Spotted Sandpiper, and Great and Snowy Egret. The most abundant flycatcher observed was the Tropical Kingbird that was so ubiquitous it was simply referred to as a "TK" whenever we saw one.

In the evening, after dinner, our tour leader, Dr. Eldon Greij, reviewed the birds we had seen that day and then spoke to us about the natural and cultural features of the Amazon River.

A brief stop on deck to listen to the Pauraques calling and we turned in early in anticipation of our next day’s adventures.

  Listen to the Pauraques(176K).

Tuesday, September 21
To the Headwaters of the Amazon, a Visit to a River Village and Up the Ucayali River

We were awakened during the night by a severe thunderstorm and torrential rain but by morning, the weather had cleared and we were able to depart on schedule at 6 AM in the two small boats. Each boat consisted of half of the group, a guide and a driver. A typical day on La Amatista was: Rise at 5:30 AM to get ready for a pre-breakfast small boat birding trip, return after approximately two hours for breakfast; another small boat trip after breakfast, return for lunch, siesta-time until 2:30 and another small boat excursion at 3 PM. On this day we skipped the afternoon excursion in lieu of a night excursion in the small boats from 8 until 10 PM in order to observe the night creatures.

Cruising along the shore of the Amazon River we saw birds both familiar and new: Black Skimmer, Oriole Blackbird, Turkey Vulture, Yellow-headed Caracara (an extremely common falcon in these waters); Great Black Hawk (also quite common); Snowy and Great Egret, Great Blue Heron (rare here except at this time of the year); Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Crowned Slaty-flycatcher, Lesser Kiskadee, a brilliant and common riverside denizen; Slate-colored Hawk, Black Caracara, Masked Tityra and the amazing Jabiru -- a huge member of the stork family native to Central and South America. Some members of our group were particularly elated to see these strange-looking birds, related to our Wood Storks.

Today was the first of our village visits. We weren't sure what to expect and had been told that the villagers were now making things to sell, so we went prepared and somewhat apprehensive as to the nature of our visit. In other countries we've encountered begging and aggressive pestering to buy goods which we did not want. That didn't happen here and it turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip.

The village, Nuevo Tarma, was located on the edge of the river and accessible only by climbing stairs crudely cut into the steep silt bank. As usual, our guides and drivers helped those in need navigate the climb. Once on top, we were met by some of the village people (known as "Riberenos"). One member of our group, who spoke fluent Spanish, asked some of the children to sing. After shy hesitation and a few false starts, they began to sing the Peruvian National Anthem with gusto. Don (another group member) and I both had our small tape recorders with us and we taped as the children sang. When they were finished, we played the recording back to them. Talk about an "ice-breaker." For the rest of the tour, I was like the "Pied Piper!" One peep from my recorder and I was surrounded by the children.

Listen to the children of Nuevo Tarma sing the Peruvian National Anthem (200K).

We were shown a typical dwelling, usually on stilts because in the Amazon there are really only two seasons -- high water and low water. We were here at the low water time and the river seemed incredibly wide to us. It's hard to imagine what it must be like when the water lever is so high that the steep bank to the village is underwater. One of the village women was preparing a meal on an open fire that was sitting right on the floor of the wooden hut! Apparently a clay-bed is made on which to set the fire and this provides enough insulation to prevent the wooden floor from catching fire. We were also shown a large stone and told of its value. Since there are no stones in this area, they are as precious as gold and are necessary for the Riberenos to sharpen their knives and tools. Modest agriculture and fishing are the occupations of these endearing people.

Next we found ourselves inside of the schoolhouse, where the children were prepared to sing once again for us. We reciprocated with a hearty rendition of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," making a huge impression, I'm sure. Eldon and his wife Maxine gave the schoolteacher some school supplies for the children. We were told that in the interest of keeping these people genuine, we should not give them things that might encourage begging. They were just as happy to have the plastic bag which held the school supplies! Eldon also had the great idea of bringing along a Polaroid camera and was the hit of the party, taking photos of adults and children alike, including mothers with new babies. What a great idea!

I have to mention that for just a moment I sneaked off with Juan and we found two new lifebirds on the edge of the village Chestnut-bellied Seedeater and Yellow-browed Sparrow. Once a birder, always a birder!

This afternoon we didn't go out on the small boats but continued our travel upriver and finally reached the headwaters of the Amazon where the Ucayali and Maranon Rivers converge. Bearing to the left we headed up the Ucayali River anticipating many more adventures.

It didn't take long for the adventures to begin. After dinner this evening we boarded the small boats for a few hours of night birding. In pitch darkness we experienced the sounds of the river and rainforest edge. Each boat was equipped with a strong light which, with incredible skill, our guides managed to use to find such night creatures as the Common Potoo, doing its best to blend in with the top of a stick but given away by its glowing red eyes and another goatsucker, the Pauraque. The incredible Boat-billed Heron, and then a group of feeding Rufescent-tiger Herons eerily flew off from our path. A small Caiman was captured and brought onto the boats for our inspection and then released. One of the groups (not ours) got a quick glimpse of a Capybara escaping into the rainforest. For some time we just sat in silence and listened to the night sounds of the rainforest. What a way to spend a night in the Amazon!

Wednesday, September 22
The Rio Pacaya and the Pacaya-Samiria Reserve

On Wednesday the riverboat left the Ucayali River, turned up the Canal Puinahua that connects to the Rio Pacaya. Along this river is located the equivalent of one of our national parks – the pristine Pacaya-Samiria Reserve. Since the Pacaya River is quite shallow, La Amatista would be tied up to the riverbank overnight while we made all of our explorations of this area with the small boats. While in the Reserve, we would experience much of the diverse flora and fauna of the Amazonian floodplain.

At dawn I was awakened by the buzzy calling of the Yellow-browed Sparrows which were nervously darting along the bank in pursuit of breakfast. Even though I was going to "sleep in," I found myself on deck at 5:30 AM observing both the sparrows and a handsome River Tyrannulet, which perched nearby. As always, the early morning flocks of parrots noisily flew over the river. Today we would take an all-day excursion into the Reserve.

After breakfast we boarded the small boats and began our journey up the Rio Pacaya. We traveled at a good clip for about three hours up the narrowing river making numerous stops whenever something of interest was spotted. In the Reserve we not only saw many new birds, but also were treated to sightings of  Tree Iguana, Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth, and Red-throated Howler, Squirrel and Capuchin Monkeys. The sloths required special skills to locate, as they are, well, slothful and don’t move a lot. Sloth detection was compounded by the presence of many termite nests on the trees that are easily mistaken for sloths.

As we motored up the Rio Pacaya, we were "escorted" by the abundant Neotropical Cormorants that flew along the river at approximately the same speed as the boat. The smooth ride on the quiet, glassy waters was mesmerizing and we occasionally slowed down to view birds such as Black-collared Hawk, White-necked Heron, Wattled Jacana, Anhinga, Yellow-rumped Cacique, and Pearl Kite, Black-capped Donacobius, Lesser Yellow-headed, Black and Turkey Vultures, Black Caracara, various parakeets, kingfishers and kiskadees. Enormous white Jabirus and Wood Storks rode the thermals overhead while Pink and Gray river dolphins cavorted in the waters near the boats.

At one point we pulled over to the bank and were told to look up into the trees that hung low over the river. Hoatzins! More than a dozen perched in the lower branches of the trees. Primitive looking birds with blue faces and a punk hairdo greeted us as we approached. Cameras clicking, we floated right under the trees and were actually looking up at the birds that were now very close. So close that one of our passengers found that an Hoatzin had "christened" her hat and shirt! We all had a good giggle over that and asked her how many people could say they had such a close encounter with an Hoatzin!

Today we had the opportunity to take a short trail walk in the Reserve through the low, seasonally flooded rainforest. An amazing sound greeted us on this walk – the call of Howler Monkeys. I can only describe it as a distant, violent windstorm! The monkeys remained secreted in the trees despite many eyes searching for them. Along the trail we were introduced to the growth habits of some of the rainforest flora such as the massive members of the fig family (Moraceae) with their huge buttressed trunks, and the lianas which climbed the trunks of most trees. It was interesting to see rubber trees, Hevea brasiliensis, still scarred from the days when rubber was an important commodity in the Amazon. Perhaps late morning was not the best time to observe birds in the rainforest, as we didn’t see many species but highlights were White-tailed Trogon, White-shouldered Antbird, and Straight-billed Woodcreeper.

Listen to the White-shouldered Antbird.

Lunch was served to us in a former research building, now used as a ranger station. Exploring the grounds around the building turned up some nice birds – Smooth-billed Ani, a gorgeous pair of Scarlet-crowned Barbets, and an immature Rufescent-tiger Heron skulking under a shrub. On the return trip we found nesting Jabiru storks and a rare Black-and-White Hawk-Eagle.

Enjoying an exhilarating boat ride, we returned to La Amatista around 4 PM. After dinner, Eldon presented us with a lecture on the mechanics of bird flight and we had our nightly ritual of updating our checklist of the birds and other animals we had seen that day. Then we enjoyed, as we did every evening, the great entertainment provided by the talented crew of La Amatista. We were also treated to the singing and guitar playing of two of our fellow passengers, Ken and Molly Nealson. Most of our competent crew were excellent musicians and singers including our multitalented guides Edgar and Juan. Their enthusiasm for both Peruvian and North American music was quite infectious and we always had a hard time leaving the festivities, however 5:30 AM rolls around rather quickly after a long day on the river, so we retired to our cabin.

Thursday, September 23
Breakfast in the Pacaya-Samiria Reserve, Birding and Piranha Fishing

Breakfast with the dolphins! A 6:00 AM departure this morning took us up the Pacaya River to a black water lake where the Pink and Grey River Dolphins are abundant. Not only would we observe these lovely creatures but our amazing crew also managed to bring along a delicious breakfast served to us on trays with cloth doilies! The mirror-like water reflected the deep blue sky scattered with fluffy white clouds. Numerous Black Vultures dotted the banks of the Pacaya River.

We actually ate our breakfast a bit on the late side because we made so many stops along the river this morning – as usual, birding was excellent. A pair of brilliant and usually elusive orange Troupials were spotted by one of us (we were beginning to get good at finding birds ourselves by now) and a Black-tailed Trogon gave us killer views. A Black-throated Mango hummingbird worked the Heliconias along the shoreline while Undulated Tinamous called from the forest floor. While commonly heard, these birds were never seen so I was glad that it was one of the few bird songs I had learned before coming to the Amazon. Occasionally as we traveled the rivers in the small boats we would observe gorgeous Blue-and-Yellow Macaws in flight. One of the highlights this morning was discovering some trees along the shoreline where at least a dozen of these magnificent birds were perching and occasionally flying across the river. Unfortunately photography was difficult due to the density of the tree canopy; nevertheless lots of cameras began clicking away.

Other notable birds seen along the river this morning were Greater Ani, Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Black-capped Donacobius, Cobalt-winged Parakeet, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, White-chinned Jacamar, White-eyed Tody Tyrant, Squirrel Cuckoo, Sungrebe, Black-necked Stilt, Solitary and White-rumped Sandpiper, Blue-and-white Swallow, Capped Heron, Gray Headed Kite, Chestnut-bellied Seedeater, and White-tipped Dove. We also had the opportunity to view Jabirus on a huge nest with one young bird visible. A particular highlight was finding a magnificent Black and White Hawk Eagle perched sedately on a tree limb right along the river’s edge. Late morning is a good time to observe and hear Black-fronted Nunbirds and today was no exception.

After our pleasant breakfast with the dolphins we returned to La Amatista for a lunch lecture by Eldon on bird navigation. Then after siesta time (usually the warmest part of the day), we once again boarded the small boats for our afternoon excursion.

While most of our outings concentrated on finding birds, this afternoon’s journey would have a new twist. Diverting up a narrow tributary (Rio Zapote) of the Pacaya River, we entered very still waters, bordered by grassy banks and marshes. It was in these areas that we found the handsome Sunbittern, and Collared Plover. The Sunbittern graciously cooperated by taking flight, revealing the stunning wing-pattern that we had heretofore only seen in books. As the river narrowed, we came to a stop and those who wished to fish, were given simple bamboo poles with a short line and a hook baited with a chunk of raw meat. Can you guess what we were fishing for? The famous Piranha, of course! It took but seconds to hook a fish and we were impressed with how handsome they were, despite the fierce demeanor of their mouthparts. We were warned not to try to release them from the hooks but to let our guides do it and probably for good reason. I wondered what would happen if someone fell overboard…but not to worry as we were in very sturdy boats.

This bit of excitement over, we went back to birding as we returned to La Amatista. Not far down the river a beautiful Black-collared Hawk sat perched on a snag over the water. Juan stopped the boat, pulled a Piranha out of the basket and tossed it into the water. To our delight and amazement, the hawk instantly flew to the river and neatly plucked the fish from the water. Then another hawk joined it as more fish were tossed. What a show!

Birds seen along this route included Pied Lapwing, White-eared Jacamar, Chestnut-eared Aracari, Gray-necked Wood Rail, Velvet-fronted Grackle, Scarlet-crowned Barbet, Bat Falcon, Purple-throated Fruit Crow and Red-bellied Macaw.

In the evening after dinner and discussing the day’s activities we were once again treated to the fine entertainment provided by the crew of La Amatista. A special added treat was provided by fellow passengers Ken and Molly Nealson who entertained both crew and passengers with their professional renditions of popular American songs. Our Peruvian friends were just as enthusiastic about our folk songs as we were about their music. But all good things must end and this evening we began working our way down river and back to Iquitos.

Friday, September 24
Requena, Yarina, Swimming in the Amazon and Giant Waterlilies

The day began with the usual morning excursion, but this time we were not alone on the river but had docked the night before near the large river town of Requena. In the small boats we visited the bustling market where we could watch many of the river people conduct their daily business. We followed the shoreline and reveled one last time in the great flocks of parrots moving across the river to their feeding areas. Along the riverbank we noticed many Yellow-hooded Blackbirds, White-headed Marsh Tyrant, Yellow-browed Sparrows, White-shouldered Antshrike, many Wattled Jacanas and hundreds of Canary-winged Parakeets.

After breakfast we were to visit another river village, Yarina. Here, for those of us who were adventurous, there would be an opportunity to try our luck paddling a native dugout canoe and swim in the Amazon! Hey, what about those piranhas we caught yesterday?

The village was much larger than the first village that we visited and we found some good habitat for birds. So while the others went to the main part of the village, Juan and I held back and poked around the agricultural areas in search of manakins or anything else we could add to our list. We were rewarded with Orange-bellied Euphonia, Silver-beaked and Blue-gray Tanager, Chestnut-bellied Seedeater, and killer views of a pair of Chestnut-collared Aracaris. I looked up to see a darkish bird with an iridescent magenta throat land in the treetop and Juan went ballistic when he realized it was a Plum-throated Cotinga. What a stunningly beautiful bird! Despite our gesturing, jumping up and down, and dancing around in circles, the rest of the group was too engrossed in shopping to notice us and we ended up being the only two to see this gorgeous specimen.

Despite the very shallow draft of the dugout canoes, we didn’t capsize as we thought we might. A few minutes later, with great abandon, we found ourselves swimming in the muddy waters of the Amazon. Great thrill indeed and the day was not yet over!

After lunch, arrangements had been made for us to visit a farm with a large pond where the giant waterlily (Victoria amazonica) can be seen. The family that owned this farm was most gracious to let us traipse through their rice and manioc fields in order to see these amazing plants. Several of the children tagged along and I decided to ask them to tell me their names. I turned on my recorder and they immediately warmed up when I plated the recording back to them. I knew I had made a friend when Janina followed me around, crushing mosquitoes as they landed on my hands as I was looking at birds.

Listen to Jaimito (#1), Magala (#2) and Janina (#3) say their names.

Doug and one of the other members of our group had wandered ahead and were gesticulating wildly for us to come to where they were standing. A Scarlet Macaw had flown over them and landed in the field. They couldn’t believe their eyes, that is, until one of the farmers casually walked over and picked the bird up and put it on his shoulder – a pet!

Besides enjoying the waterlilies with their 6-foot leaves and beautiful flowers, we saw Cream-colored and Red-breasted Woodpecker, Mealy Parrot, White-eyed Jacamar. Then Juan called in a beautiful Tawny-breasted Owl to add to our lists.

At dusk, as we stood on the deck of La Amatista for our last evening aboard. I noticed that the air was full of Sand-colored Nightjars -- one last lifer to add to one amazing week on the river.


Saturday, September 25
Iquitos, Lima and Home Again!

It took us most of the morning to travel down the Amazon and return to our starting point, Iquitos. As we traveled down river for the last time, we all gathered on deck to thank our crew and take some group photos. We reflected on all that we had done and seen and wondered how all this had been accomplished in just one week. We concluded it was, in large part, due to the impeccable planning on the part of the crew and the guides as well as the itinerary set up for us by International Expeditions. A few were continuing on to Machu Picchu, while most of us would be flying back to Lima this evening for the red-eye home. We ALL vowed we’d return!

Back in Iquitos, with as much enthusiasm as if we’d just begun our journey, Juan and Edgar made it possible for us to be taken to the colorful (and sometimes eye-opening) marketplace. Next stop was the Indian Crafts Market for souvenirs (finally!) and then on to a wonderful meal with Peruvian entertainment before we had to be at the airport to fly back over the Andes to Lima.

We arrived in Lima around 10:00 PM and departed a few hours later. With the adventures of the past week still fresh in our minds, we couldn’t even find it in ourselves to be crabby about the long wait in line to check our luggage and get our boarding passes. It gave us time to reflect on the trip of a lifetime, probably never to be repeated in the same way, but which will remain in our memories forever.

In our week on the rivers, we tallied up 155 species of birds, 116 of which were life birds. A bird list is available here.



We can't say enough good things about our experience with International Expeditions. The whole trip was almost flawless. Eldon Greij, our Tour Host, fretted about us constantly, wanting us to have the best time we could possibly have. Eldon, you did a great job!

To our fellow passengers of La Amatista: We could not have asked for a more congenial group of people. It was a pleasure sharing our time on the river with each and every one of you.

©1999 Arlene Ripley and Doug Ripley