During a river tour in the Bolivian Amazon, a troop of squirrel monkeys spotted Elise’s bananas and sprung into our boat. In a flash, the adorable, agile, little creatures were everywhere – hanging from our clothes, sitting on Elise’s hat, and grabbing food with their tiny hands. A number of them had babies clinging to their backs. As soon as the bananas and apples were gone, they sprung back into the trees. It was awesome!
Seeing crocodiles up close, exotic birds, turtles, and the occasional flash of pink dolphins was also fantastic!
I enjoyed observing how the boat operators served as unofficial delivery men of food and fuel to communities along the river. Someone would wave a canister and the boat operator would pull up along the shore to pick up or drop off, whistling a happy tune all the while. It struck me that the work was leisurely compared to that of the delivery men I’d seen in the Himalayas who lugged everything from bags of rice to cages of chickens on their backs to remote Nepalese villages.
The animals, our happy guide, the sunshine, and spectacular greenery made for some glorious moments out on the water. When the the boat zipped along at a good clip, the breeze kept the mosquitoes at bay. However, whenever we slowed down or got close to the shore, I could feel a constellation of bites all over my body – even on my butt since the seats were made of nylon strands, which produced protrusions of flesh perfect for mosquitos. This was despite 4 layers of protection including natural bug spray, Skin so Soft from our friends in Berlin, clothing impregnated with repellant – and even DEET. It was so bad that we had to forego fishing for piranha since they were in an area surrounded by dense vegetation. (Bummer! As a lapsed vegetarian, it’s the only creature I relish catching and eating!)
Even worse than the bugs, however, was the ubiquitous stench of mold at the riverside camp. In the dining room and cabins, it burned the nostrils like nail polish remover. When I mentioned the stench to the staff, they seemed not to know what I was talking about. Proof positive that humans can adapt to just about any living conditions.
That said, Elise made the best of it by befriending a kitten which had apparently just lost its mother to a crocodile. Without meaning to be ironic, she named her Alli.
In the end, although the trip was challenging, I am very glad we did it. And after having seen the movie “Jungle” in which Daniel Radcliffe pulls a squirming full-grown worm out of a boil on his forehead at a location not far from where we were, it’s clear that our discomforts were miniscule.