Thursday, August 15, 2019

Tales From My Travels

I am back to reality, back on the grid. I thought I would share my travel journal. Come along . . . 

1 - The Journey Begins

Of all my travels, I have never started an adventure at 1 in the morning until now. The group was to meet at Miami airport for the final (flight) leg to Manaus, Brazil. However for some reason all our  flights were late. I arrived at my gate just as the flight was starting to board. Sitting toward the front of the plane, I could see everyone as they boarded. Well, that was everyone except my travel companions. As the plane filled up they were no where to be seen.

Now I have no issue traveling alone, even overseas. However, not knowing who was going to pick us up at the airport or exactly where we were going once we arrived, I was a bit concerned. (Oh, and that I am not well versed in Portuguese - a minor detail.) Thankfully I saw them come down the aisle. As they stood, waiting to find their seats, Michael said they had barely made the flight. 

Once everyone was seated, and the door was closed, Michael came forward. He said the entire group had all made the flight with the exception of 1 couple who did not make the connection. Then by some miraculous intervention, the door opened and the couple made their way down the aisle. We were off.

Off to Manuas, Brazil for a 2 week trip, starting with 8 days on the Amazon. Our trip down the river would be on-board a research vessel. The ship was owned by a world renown naturalist and his institute. For purposes of this chronicle, I will refer to him as "Dick". (Best not to use real names.)

Part of our group of 17 were 5 we traveled with to the Galapagos Islands several years ago. The others I had never met. Micheal, the group organizer said he was not very familiar with them either. As an aside, when we arrived in Santa Rosa on the Galapagos years ago to board our boat, we learned that the boat we had arranged to be on was not available. The one sent instead was a larger version of the African Queen. But, that was years ago. Lesson learned. Michael had sent us pictures of the ship for this trip, assuring us it was much better.

So here we are, at 1:30 in the morning, standing outside the Manaus airport, in the stifling Amazon heat waiting to be transported to the ship. It was 45 minutes before the van showed up . . . not a good sign, but I was optimistic. All of us and our luggage were loaded onto the van. And, we were off, making our way through a city, in the wee hours of the morning, in the middle of a third world country.

We turned into, what looked to be, a farmer's market that led to the mariner. It took a while for all of us and our luggage to get out the van. But where was the boat? Dick arrived and said we would be tendered out to the boat since it was on the other side of the mariner.

Given all I had going on in the months leading up to our trip - finding a place to live, moving, getting settled in, and preparing for a new job (I would start the week after we returned) I had done little research. I knew Dick was a world renown naturalist who specialized in turtles (not tortoises - but turtles). For some reason I imagined a tall, nice looking weather worn, man. When I met him I was a little taken aback, here was this man of medium height, unshaven, over weight, with shaggy hair, and dressed in a t-shirt and shorts. But, my Daddy always taught me not "to judge a book by its cover".

Out of the dark slowly appeared 3 pangas (basically long jon boats). They loaded the boats up with us and our luggage. As we made our way through the mariner, all I could think of was  how I wished I had camera in hand and it was daylight. The combination of very nice yachts and smaller fishing boats of various conditions, styles, and colors is hard to describe.

Finally we pulled up behind a boat - the , the Tortugas de Amazonia. We got aboard. Even in the darkness and poor light, I could tell this was not the boat of the pictures. But, by this time it was 3:30, I had been travelling almost 16 hours, and I was exhausted. I found my cabin and was shortly asleep.

I awoke to find the boat was moving, the light coming through the porthole told me I had missed the sunrise I had (optimistically) planned to  photograph. On deck, I was amazed at the width of the river. It seemed vast. A combination of thick green jungle and red clay banks lined the edge of the river. 

The boat neared the bank and a mate appeared on the bow, and tied the boat to a tree. Very soon, I heard a panga leave. I learned later that the mechanic was being taken to shore. Seems he had gotten drunk and sick the previous night. We would pick up another at our next "port". And, so the adventure begins.

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