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The Amazon
March 2015
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First stop, a walking tour of the center of Lima, Peru, a city of over 9 million. I believe the banner says, "God was my copilot, but we crashed in the Andes and I had to eat him."
The Iglesia de Santo Domingo.
An ornate covered marketplace.
The marketplace.
The entryway of the residence of the Aliaga family, now open to the public by appointment.
The Aliaga residence.
Stained glass in a cupola in the Aliaga residence.
The courtyard of the Aliaga residence.
The Aliaga residence.
Lima's Plaza Mayor.
The Catedral de Lima.
A mosaic of Francisco Pizarro in the cathedral.
The cathedral.
The cathedral.
The Basilica de San Francisco, a monastery complete with bone-filled catacombs. No photos allowed, alas.
After a short flight over the Andes to Iquitos, we boarded La Estrella Amazonica, our home for the next week, and headed up the Amazon. Quickly reaching the confluence of the Ucayalli and Marañon, we motored up the former.
In this high water season, ninety percent of the territory between the Ucayalli and Marañon Rivers, the Pacaya-Samiria Reserve, is under water. What looks like a shoreline is just the demarcation between river without trees, and river with trees.
With two skiffs, we explored the flooded jungle.
Lily pads over six feet across.
Flooded forest along the Ucayalli.
A small frog shelters in the aquatic vegetation.
Flooded jungle. The tall trees are laced with bromeliads.
A Green Tree Iguana lounges overhead.
With no hills, this is "big sky" country, and the river, even this far inland, is enormous.
A small settlement and a typical local ferry boat.
In this watery world, the kids learn how to handle boats at a young age. This kind of dugout is called a "peki-peki," for the sound its little engine makes.
Rain showers are always a possibility, though we never got drenched.
The topmost stern deck is an observation platform, best for star-gazing. The next deck down has a conference room at the stern, and a covered bar area forward, the site of nightly performances by the ship's band. The glassed-in dining room is aft on the next deck, with cabins and the wheelhouse forward. My cabin is the furthest forward on the lowest deck.
Houses are built on stilts. In low water season, Yarapa Creek would be much smaller, and this would all be dry land.
A Great Egret takes flight.
A Slate-Colored Hawk scouts for prey along Yarapa Creek.
Yarapa Creek.
An eco-lodge along the Yarapa.
In a high tree, nests of the Russet-Backed Oropendola.
Oropendola nests.
Sunset on the Ucayalli River. Virtually every evening, the sunsets were spectacular.
Sunset on the Ucayalli.
Sunset on the Ucayalli.
We visited bustling Nueva York, where the village kids gathered in the schoolhouse to play name games with us. Naturalist Julio does the introductions.
Little Amazonian faces.
A fearless hunter, slingshot at the ready.
In the late afternoon light, flocks find a place to roost.
Law enforcement.
A Fork-Tailed Flycatcher. Though we saw over 140 bird species, this was a "binoculars" trip rather than a "camera" trip. Most of the birds were a bit too far away for my lens.
A pair of Blue and Yellow Macaws.
The Macaws take wing.
Did I mention the sunsets?
Along the Zapote River, twins Pedro and Pablo check out the pasty tourists.
A Common Squirrel Monkey in search of fruit.
Frog and grasshoppers. Most of the frogs are tiny, no bigger than the end of your thumb.
A frog on the heel of someone's hand.
The frog back in his natural habitat.
A Clown Tree Frog, Giraffe Phase.
A lagoon along the Pacaya River.
Did I mention the sunsets?
A small White Caiman.
Naturalist Julio managed to grab the White Caiman, which was small enough to wrestle into the skiff for a closer look.
Yet another little amphibian visitor in the skiff.
A Horned Screamer, also known as a Donkey Bird for its raucous call.
The Horned Screamer is about the size of a Wild Turkey.
Navigating through the flooded jungle can be tricky, and often involves a lot of propellor-clearing.
A little village along Dorado Creek.
Naturalist Segundo is the first to catch a Red-Bellied Piraña.
The spiky crest of a Hoatzin.
What's for dinner? Piraña, of course!
Did I mention the sunsets?
A Monk Saki Monkey peers down at us.
Night Monkeys are curious about our skiff...
...but are more interested in something overhead.
There are no caves in the Amazon Basin, so the bats roost where they can, lining up neatly along a tree trunk, though often with one outlier.
Is there someone home in the nest of the Chestnut Woodpecker along Yanallpa Creek? Yes.
A Caiman Lizard (no relation to the White Caiman) finds a comfortable tree trunk.
A Tamandua Anteater chows down on an arboreal termite nest.
One afternoon we piled into small kayaks to explore Iracahua Creek.
Kayaking along Iracahua Creek.
If your ball field is under water, what do you do for fun? Mess around in boats, of course.
A flooded village. The tower contains a water tank.
Kids in San Jose.
The paddle salesman.
If you're going to buy a paddle, make sure you get a shot of the guy who sold it to you.
Did I mention the sunsets? This one, from the little balcony of my cabin.
And you thought there was only one Titanic. This proves that there have been at least seven. Along the Marañon River, above Nauta.
A lizard sits for his portrait.
A Red-Backed Poison Frog, whose secretions are used to coat the lethal ends of darts.
An Anaconda wraps itself around a Walking Palm Tree.
A Barred Monkey Frog.
A Red-Tailed Boa considers grabbing me...
...but decides to go in search of tastier prey.
A type of ginger.
Typical transport, carrying a load of dugout canoes and passengers. On these ferries, you bring your own hammock and food.
Even here, over 2200 miles from the Atlantic, the Amazon River is about two miles wide.
Late afternoon.
A Ferruginous Pygmy Owl keeps an eye on us.
Palm tree in full fruit.
The local boat-builder, with multiple craft in progress.
A Green Tree Iguana.
Parrots find a good perch.
Another late afternoon show.
A ferry with mixed cargo.
Mixed cargo, indeed. At the bow, a small truck. In the middle of everything else, a single-engine float plane, complete with pontoons.
One of the crewmen has a friend.
The only way to get a good picture of a Scarlet Macaw is to find one at a wildlife sanctuary.
Diego, an orphaned Squirrel Monkey, and Hugo, his young handler.
Manatees at a rescue center. Once healthy, they're released back into the wild.
Manatee feeding time.
Yes, we can all feed the Manatees.
You can even pet them - they have remarkably smooth skin.
Our expedition leader, Dennis Osorio, making new friends.
Church at the corner of the Plaza de Armas in Iquitos.
Street scene in Iquitos. The population is about 500,000, and there are roughly 60,000 Motokars in town, three-wheeled motorcycle-based contraptions.
Over a century ago, rubber barons constructed elaborate homes in Iquitos.
Elaborately tiled walls were the mark of the rubber barons' lodgings.
Along the waterfront in Iquitos, the rusting hulk of a once-grand vessel.
Along the waterfront in Iquitos.
Where macaw souvenirs come from, here in the pre-paint stage.
It's a tough life on the river.
Along the Iquitos waterfront.
Pizzeria in Iquitos...
...with the best pizza delivery vehicle I've ever seen. Notice the rear tires - that oven must weigh a ton.
Time to head for home, and a few more weeks of winter. Did I mention the sunsets?