Where and why to buy a machete in the Amazon

Every Amazon man needs a machete for every day life.  Most of the women and several of the older children also have their own too.  Whenever a hunter leaves for the jungle, he will carry but one thing, his trusty machete.  It will help blaze trails and  cut the heads of snakes.  It will be used to cut through bark for sap that might be used for medicinal purposes or for thirst.  The machete is in the hands of nearly every local who leaves the village.

machete store on the amazon river
machete store on the amazon river

While walking, there is a likely chance that medicinal and cooking herbs will be spotted and collected.  A poisonous critter may need to be moved from the path and a large animal, such as a jaguar, is also a very real threat.

While fishing, the machete is used for cutting fishing nets from debris or branches as well as for opening coconuts for a cool drink.  It might be used to help manage that spear caught in a fish or to take a splinter out of a finger.

In the village, the machete is a constant companion, used for preparing meals, collecting palm leaves that are used as the dinner table on the floor, or for cleaning the cooking fire area.

A machete can be purchased in one of the major towns along the Amazon River.  These larger towns are generally found every two to three days away from each other by small boat .  It is likely that someone from the village will need to go into town about once per week for supplies of some sort, including machetes and newspapers.  The picture below was taken in Nauta, where the Ucayali and Maranon Rivers meet.  This was our last stop on our Amazon River cruise.  As tempting as it was to have a machete for my wall, I wasn’t sure TSA would have a sense of humor when I returned to the states with it.

Call to learn more about river cruising. 603-434-8100

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How children live along the Amazon River

Children caring for children in Las Palmas village along the Amazon River
Children caring for children in Las Palmas village along the Amazon River

On our Amazon River Cruise, we sometime stopped in villages to learn about their culture and life styles. The children spend their time much differently than American kids.  It never seized to amaze me how responsible the children of the Amazon River were for their younger siblings.  They were gentle at all times and seemed to be happy to be together.  The boy in this picture carried his little brother around on his shoulders for hours.  When he tired, another kid took the little guy and carried him everywhere.

These families don’t have the pleasure of a “child safe” area that will allow Mom to get any of her work done.  Both parents are busy during the day with basic chores like fishing, hunting or working the fields.  The kids take on the caregiver role during the day.

On a visit to a school house, the teacher asked all the children to sit on the desks that were lined up along the wall.  Immediately, the older kids, who were 8-12 took the younger ones to their places.  Some were lifted to the desks to sit with the older kids, and the little ones just naturally took their seats at the other kids feet.

When one kid fell, his older brother came and picked him up and took him outside.  One of my fellow passengers felt bad for the little kid, so he gave him a t-shirt on his way out.  The kid took it and wiped his tears with it; I guess it never occurred to him that he was receiving a gift.

I felt the loss of community life in our world as I watched these kids interact with each other.  They shared everything, not that they had much and they took care of each other.  Kids came and went from different family huts without a thought or invitation.

After school was out, the kids all went into the field to play soccer, their favorite pastime.  Kids as small at 3 were out there and everyone who ran on the field just played.  No one worried about team jerseys or referees they just played the game.

For a while, some of us went on the “field” to play with the kids.  This field was just a spot where the weeds were a bit shorter than other places.  It was probably shorter because the kids play there each afternoon.  Somehow, in this world of villagers who work so hard just to survive, they find time to have inter village games each Sunday on these fields.

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Fly into Iquitos Peru to take an Amazon River Cruise

In emergency cut here. Air Peru aircraft safety feature.
In emergency cut here. Air Peru aircraft safety feature.

To get to the Amazon River cruise departure point, we had to fly from Lima to Iquitos, with one stop.  These flights took a total of about two hours to accomplish, once we were underway.

The Peruvians know their weather changes rapidly and they all just took it in stride when, after finally finally finally boarding the aircraft and getting settled in, we were asked to deplane because of weather en route.  We just went back inside and waited.

There really aren’t a lot of options when traveling to Iquitos, an isolated land locked city in the northeast of Peru at the entrance to the Amazon River.  You can arrive there by plane or by boat.  There are no roads linking this area to the rest of the country.  In many ways, that’s what makes it special.

When we were finally ready to depart for the second time, I boarded and noticed this sign.  I just prayed that my seat wasn’t on the other side of that window.  It says “Cut here in case of emergency”.  It even gave the emergency crew guidelines of where to place their machete.

Our flight was actually very comfortable.  One word to the wise: don’t book your return flight to the states expecting to actually arrive back in Lima on schedule.  We allowed an extra 3 hours, we were still 2 hours later than that.  In this case, those midnight flights departing for the USA were actually a godsend.

This map of Peru shows just how remote Iquitos in, located in the northeastern part of the country.
This map of Peru shows just how remote Iquitos in, located in the northeastern part of the country.
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Ten benefits of a cruise vacation

Ten benefits of a cruise vacation:

The Norwegian Getaway
Norwegian Cruise Lines newest ship the Getaway.

1. Unpack your suitcase once and see several different destinations.  Once you enter your stateroom, you will feel like you are at home.  At each port of call, you have the excitement of a new destination without the hassle of getting there or repacking.

2. No wasted time getting from place to place.  While the ship is moving, you are sleeping or enjoying the activities on board, there is no need to arrange your day to catch flights or trains.  Spend the days in port and let the ship captain and crew take care of the rest.

3. Choose from a large ship with 4000 people to a small intimate ship with 16 people depending on your preferences.  Think of it as city vs. country or large resort vs. boutique hotel.  A small intimate gathering in the main dining room is perfect for some, while others prefer to have several restaurant options and seating times to choose from.

4. Know your budget and costs before you travel.  The all inclusive dining feature is featured on all ships.  Many upscale cruise lines also include drink packages, excursions, and internet in their pricing.  The cabin categories allow guests to choose the stateroom that best fits their needs: choose from an inside cabin, a window view, a balcony, mini suites and more exclusive larger suites with butler services and more.

5. Design a vacation that centers around your interests.  Theme cruises are a great way to meet people with similar interests (music, quilting, lifestyle, sports and learning, to name a few).  My personal favorites offer cultural experiences such as those that have ports of call along the ancient Mediterranean coasts.

6. Gamble or shop duty free on board.  Once the ship is in international waters, the casino is open and the tables are hot.

7. Be entertained with non stop activities and shows on larger ships.  From pools to spas  and ziplines to outdoor movie theatres, the variety of pastimes on board will keep every guest busy and happy.  On a smaller ship, such as an Uncruise Adventure to Alaska, enjoy wildlife viewing, nature talks and beautiful scenery.

8. Learn about different cultures on shore excursions with an English speaking guide.  Choose the excursions that interest you, from scuba and snorkeling trips to cooking lessons and walking photography tours.

9. Family reunions and multigenerational travel are the latest trends in vacationing. Enjoy meals together at a designated time, treasure one on one time at other times, there is something for absolutely every age range on a large ship.

10. Relax and unwind.

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Fishing for Catfish on the Amazon River

This is one of the many fishermen who paddles the Amazon River each morning in search of catfish.  Villagers are dependent on fishing for their livelihood.
This is one of the many fishermen who paddles the Amazon River each morning in search of catfish. Villagers are dependent on fishing for their livelihood.

In December, Eric and I went on an Amazon River Cruise.  On one of our excursions in a skiff, we came upon some local fishermen who had a stuck net.  They were in a dug out canoe, about 4 guys, and we stopped and watched as they tried about everything to get their catch out of the water.

At one point, another dug out canoe, this one with a bigger motor, tied up and tried to help get this massive net out of the water. Another guy jumped in the water and tried to free the net. They all worked tirelessly to bring in the catch.

Eventually, they asked us our native guide we could help them out with our powerful boat.  We tied up to their canoe and pulled them this way and that until the net came loose, netting them hundreds of catfish into their tiny canoe.

We passed them all bottles of cold water from our cooler before setting off in search of more excitement.

This catfish was caught with a spear from a canoe that paddles along the river's edge.
This catfish was caught with a spear from a canoe that paddles along the river’s edge.

A short time later, we saw someone fishing for catfish with a spear.  That man let me hold one of his fish for this picture.  The other passengers got such a laugh over the catfish that the fisherman passed his spear in for me to pose with too.

In the Amazon villages, catfish is one of the main sources of food.  It only made sense for us to experience the local dishes, so catfish was served almost every day as one of many options on the buffet. It was cooked up differently each time and each distinct flavor was exciting to try.

 

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Spotting the Caiman Alligator on the Amazon River

A caiman alligator is spotted in the underbrush along the Amazon River waters edge.
A caiman alligator is spotted in the underbrush along the Amazon River waters edge.

Some would say it was pure luck that we spotted a caiman alligator while cruising on the Amazon River.  Our expedition skiff is gliding along at about 10 knots on an Amazon River inlet, when a fellow passenger, Vic, shouts out that he spotted a Caiman.  Caezar, the native driving our skiff, slows and turns the boat back to a wall of green jungle.  At the same time, our naturalist guide, Lois, works his magic with his binoculars to find the exact spot where the elusive caiman waits for his prey.  The dozen voyagers look in the branches for a Caiman Lizard but see nothing, and Vic points to the water where the Caiman Alligator is lazing on the water’s edge, eyeing us for breakfast.  Vic is a hunter at his home in Vancouver, and has developed an eagle eye for spotting wildlife during our Amazon River Cruise.

I was able to snap a few pictures and imagine the size of this beast for a minute or so before he dives and disappears with a big splash.  Only then do I realize the size of this creature and the damage he could do to an unaware swimmer or hiker.  I’m glad that my naturalist, Lois, is escorting us through his homeland while we search for birds, reptiles and fish during our Amazon River Cruise.

The reward for sighting a creature before the guide is 20 points this time.  Most points have been awarded for bird sightings until now.  The first guest to reach 50 points will receive a complimentary piranha pedicure.

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Spotting birds and wildlife during Amazon River cruise

Spotting Wildlife

Each morning, we began the day at sunrise with a skiff exploration.  The birds were particularly active in the early morning, with parakeets and toucan often flying overhead.  A number of species, new to North Americans, were spotted each day.  One of our guides carried a birding book and could easily identify and locate descriptions for us.

Heron on the shore of the Amazon River
Heron on the Amazon River

The white heron, no matter how often I see it in my backyard at home or in the Amazon River will always be the most beautiful and graceful creature in my mind.  Most mornings, I was able to spot at least one and enjoy it’s tranquility.

We normally got back to the ship at about 8 a.m. for breakfast.  Sometimes,we had another expedition, either on the skiffs or on shore, later in the morning.  As much as I loved coming upon colonies of monkeys, I was also obsessed with the sounds of these creatures playing and squawking in the trees.  They moved so quickly that it was likely the first evidence of their whereabouts, after the sound, was the tree branches flailing from their jumps.

If there could possibly be a slower animal than the turtle, it has to be the three toed sloth.  We saw them again and again in the trees and they always just looked like blobs.  Only once did we see one on the move, but we saw dozens just hanging out.

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