Day 13: Monkey Day
Chirp! Chirp! Chirp! Well that probably doesn’t do the jungle sounds justice but at 5 am it makes the point that I am not the only one up. This is our last day to explore and coffee and crackers ––someone(s) ate all the Oreos— get me started.
McCaws, vultures, parakeets and parrots accompany us as the sun comes up and we head for Monkey Island. There appears to be a lot of action in the forest this morning.
Not far from where the Delfin I is moored, there is an island populated by free range monkeys that could entertain for hours. Spider, Squirrel, Capuchin and Howler monkeys look like they are having out of control fun. The black spider monkey stretches from limb to limb exhibiting a full range of facial expressions that were meant to scare us off or entertain….I’m not sure which. A particularly large orangey-brown Howler calls the tune.
Our watchful interaction with nature is abruptly interrupted by the arrival of a boat from Delfin II. It’s not their presence that is so disconcerting but rather the fact they begin to feed the monkeys by placing bananas on a stick. This is way too much for the creatures to ignore and before you know it one little guy is perched on the gunnel of the Delfin II skiff. Now, wouldn’t you think that the guides for a National Geographic adventure would know not to feed the animals! We are disappointed that the company would allow this infringement on the wild in the hope of keeping the animals “handy” for viewing. Despite my delight in seeing the monkeys in their natural habitat, this experience was probably the low point of the trip.
Time is getting short so as we wait for breakfast all cameras are scanning the water in the hope of getting “the” picture of a pink dolphin. Sea creatures do provide a different photographic challenge and these ones provide little warning of their intent to break the surface or as to where they will resurface. You just wait it out and hope for the best. There are a lot of muddy water pictures and critter footprints to be deleted from my cards. As I head down for breakfast I’m thinking that the expression ”Leave only Footprints” was coined by these creatures.
At nine we are off again. We are looking for Morpho butterflys and the illusive but dead slow sloth.The water is noticeably higher today and strangely enough its presence makes the landscape seem more jungle like to me. Marks on the trees show that there are many feet yet to go before high water will be reached.
The most incredible blue Morpho butterfly moves by quickly. He or she is not hanging around for a bunch of photographers to get their act together. There are numerous species and subspecies of these magnificent creatures. Their five to six inch wingspans and their iridescent blue colour is striking and helps me see them as they flash through the canopy.
Our patience is rewarded as a sloth is spotted high on a tree.
We are back on board the Delfin I in about an hour and we continue down stream to the confluence of the Maranon, the Ucayali and the Amazon. Over a thousand tributaries will join in as the river makes its 4000k journey to the Atlantic. More species of animals live in the Amazonian Rainforest than in any other place on earth. National Reserves protect the flora and the fauna and provide inaccessible areas where indigenous tribes still live untouched. The Amazon covers over half of Peru but only 5% of its people live here.
As I stare down the river, the fact that I am actually here, stuns me. I can’t help but wonder why I have been afforded this opportunity. Life, here, is so different from what I have experienced in Canada. Terrorists set off bombs in Paris this week. Innocent people were randomly killed. In my daily life I am bombarded by news of horrific world events. At this moment, I wonder whether the people along this river know that the carnage in Paris happened? I surmise that many do not and that says volumes about how I live my normal (non-travelling) life. From the security of my living room, I would have known. It makes me question how I live and how each of us spends our time on earth.
This whole place is a metaphor for life. Some of the logs that bounce off the hull in the night will reach the sea. Others will sink. Some will get hopelessly snagged while others after a time, will float free and become part of something that is changing and that is bigger than themselves. Life is here, but its scale and touch points are unique. I have to figure out what this opportunity to experience Peru means to me and my life. What have I learned? What difference will it make?
In due time, the Delfin I turns upstream. What is below the confluence is not for me to experience on this journey. We are headed back towards Nauta where tomorrow we will disembark.
Clouds are gathering as we pull ashore at San Francisco. We are ahead of schedule and remain on board for awhile. Villagers come down to the shore and watch us as we watch them. Then the rain comes. Buckets and buckets of rain. I take cover in our cabin while the residents gather under the thatched roof of a large pavilion. When the cloudburst subsides, out come the mops to clear away the puddles in the reception area. We are now in a steam bath. The sky is very grey.
At exactly 3:30 we go ashore and are greeted by warm smiles and hearty handshakes. The village is set back from the water and so we are escorted up a broad flight of cement stairs to an incongruous pillared piazza where chickens roam, children play and the Peruvian flag flies proudly.
I watch as villagers demonstrate how juice is extracted from sugar cane, beans are husked and rice separated from its chaff. On the main street, heads pop out of doorways and we all stop to see a rain drenched baby sloth who is being cared for by a loving grandmother.
As the rain comes again, we don our company issue green ponchos. Inside a building on the main street we are entertained with dancing and singing. Heads appear at windows and little ones gather at the door. We are a curiosity but Nelson, the Mayor’s son, steals the show with his enthusiasm and winning smile. It gets him warm applauses and multiple suckers.
The main street has one long cement sidewalk with paths leading to the buildings that line the way. At one end a church stands out against the sky and the forest. At the other, the walk passes the school and homes until it disappears at the top of a knoll. Some of the buildings have metal roofs thanks to the generosity of others. Cement floors and thatched roofs predominate. This village has hydro. As we start our return to the boat we are shown lovely baskets and straw animals and jewelry. Hundreds of hours have been spent creating these beautiful things. Bright, cheery colours predominate.
Gabriella, a girl of about 8, grabs my hand as I start to descend the slippery path. She has the biggest most beautiful smile and absolutely, no fear of strangers.
I am still struggling with what it means to have been here as I board the tender and head back to our ship which is a mere twenty feet away. The thoughts continue to circulate in my head as I shower and prepare for dinner. I don the last of my clean clothes confident in the knowledge that washers and dryers live where I live. This is a different world. Tomorrow I leave the Amazon. I am sad. There is so much more here to learn.