International Expeditions Amazon River Cruise Part 2

International Expeditions Amazon River Cruise Part 2


This week we continue our journey along the Amazon with International Expeditions. We visited a local village, got a spiritual blessing from a shaman,walked through a market like we’ve never experienced and even got an aerial view of this amazing place.

Here are a few of the  surprising  facts about the Amazon River basin.

  • It contains over 2/3 of all the unfrozen fresh water on earth.
  • The water level fluctuates as much as 40 feet between the wet & dry seasons
  • It produces over 20% of the earth’s oxygen

Our typical day started with an old fashioned wake up call as early as 6AM… no alarms, no phones, just a knock on the door to get us going….old school.

IMG_4190This early in the morning, the weather is cooler and the animals are just getting their day started, so their is a lot of activity at this hour.  The number and variety of wildlife we saw was incredible, and thanks to our guides and our check lists, we were able to keep a running tab on what we saw, and where. Five species of monkeys, sloths, pink and gray dolphins ,reptiles, fish…and more birds than we thought possible…. we saw 112 different kinds of birds. The coolest was a prehistoric bird called the Hoatzin. It’s part of the oldest living line of birds dating back to around the time of the dinosaur extinction.

The Amazon river cruise wasn’t just about seeing the rainforest and all the wildlife. It was also about immersing ourselves.

Our guides are experts regarding the local culture and it was very humbling to not only learn how people live along the river, but to actually get invited into their homes where we could here their stories first hand.  It was impressive to see how they lived in houses that are basically raised platforms on stilts, with a thatched roof, and no electricity.  Cooking on hot coals and surviving on just what they can grow and trade for, truly makes you appreciate the comforts that we take for granted every day.

It was  very common to see villagers of all ages going about their business and traveling along the river…including boys as young as 10 or 12 that were justifiably proud of their hand carved canoes as they paddled by on their way to their favorite fishing spots.

One of the most memorable visits was to a local school. It was incredible to see how excited the kids were about simple gifts like crayons and other school supplies that we often don’t think about because we can go to the local office depot whenever we need something.

Because there are few if any mirrors around, the kids aren’t used to seeing themselves, and were amazed that we could take a picture or video of them, and they could see themselves instantly.

The most important ingredient in the local diet is salt.  With no electricity or refrigeration, it’s the only way they can preserve food and keep it from going bad. This is very obvious when we visited the market later in our trip.

In today’s modern world, it may be hard to understand the role that the local shaman plays in the daily lives of villages for miles around.  He is their doctor, priest, and spiritual advisor all rolled into one person.

It was truly an honor to participate in a traditional blessing.

IMG_4838We can’t thank IE enough for introducing us to the Amazon River. The crew on board here is amazing. Special thanks to our guide the naturalists Ucile and Cliver and to the incredible expedition leader Dennis Osorio.

And on a cruise this small, the crew makes all the different. Not only did we catch some piranha with nothing more than a stick as a fishing pole…  it’s what’s for dinner.

The food was authentic and very tasty on Estrella Amazonica… they  even have their own version of “Top Chef”

and at the end of every day there was a relaxing happy hour with our complimentary “drink of the day” before dinner with authentic music from the Chunky Monkeys… these talented musicians pull double duty as members of the crew.

The person that keeps us all safe here on the Estrella Amazonica is the captain. And unlike a lot of the big ships there’s not a charter plotter and autopilot he is steering manually all the time because the Amazon is so dynamic you never know how deep the water is going to be so you can’t just set it on auto pilot, kick back and enjoy a cup of coffee, you have to constantly monitor the depth so

When I was offered a chance to steer the ship myself, I was totally psyched until I realized that there is no power steering on this ship.  The captains arms were huge because auto pilot just doesn’t exist here and it’s harder to steer than it looks

IMG_4699Something that we were excited for the whole cruise was the chance to kayak on the Amazon River.  What added to the excitement was knowing all of the different kinds of fish and reptiles that we were learning about, could  be a just few feet from us as we paddled down the waterways

On the last day before returning to Iquitos we ventured ashore in the town of Nauta, which is by far the largest town in the area, and it’s a commercial hub.  People come, mostly by boat, from all over the region to buy and sell their goods, and to get fuel for anything that needs it.

Because there is no way to keep food fresh, other than salt, the locals shop at the market just about every day.  Not like the 1-2 times per week like we do here in the states.

Cars are few and far between here, but motorized 3 wheeled cabs everywhere commonly call tuk tuk’s are everywhere. Check out how we were chauffeured back to the dock.

The excursion that really put things into perspective was a float plane flight high above the river. Every single place that you look, is part of the Amazon basin

You can’t travel along the Amazon river and not have it change you. We have complete admiration of how the people along the river not only survive but thrive. Completely off the grid, self-sufficient and happy.

Until next time, life short travel often.

If you would like to travel to the Amazon, contact your travel professional and ask them about International Expeditions.