When traveling the world, there’s a great deal that can inspire one’s soul. The Pyramids, the Great Wall, the Eiffel Tower, the list is lengthy. Once in a while, I’ve stumbled upon some interactions with the locals that really stand out in my memory more clearly than the pictures I’ve forgotten about in the photo albums.
My wife and I were on a seven day boat tour of the Amazon River aboard the M.V. Aqua, all the way over on the western side of South America, in Peru. Yes, the Amazon is so great, it spans the continent across Brazil and Peru. At Iquitos, (coincidentally a launching point in the adventure movie “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull“), the river is over a mile wide.
The first few days on the 12 cabin luxury cruiser we met many travelers, mostly Americans, who were only spending 3 days on the River then going on to Machu Picchu, leaving the whole ship to just the two of us for
the remaining 4 days. Of course, there were a dozen crew and the Captain who took that opportunity to do maintenance, but the skiffs and the tour guides were all ours and they gave us experiences of a lifetime! Every day the boat would tie up along the river. Then we’d get in a 20 foot skiff and explore the narrow tributaries where the trees and wildlife were close, sometimes directly overhead. We go deep into the rainforest jungle until we literally ran out of water. We fished for Piranah and tossed our catch to huge birds of prey waiting in nearby trees. We met an Anaconda, a baby sloth, a tarantula and went hunting for Caimans at night with a flashlight!
A few times we’d stop by a village where we’d get to see how the people lived. Dozens of children clad in shorts, western tee-shirts and bare feet would follow us around. Much of the clothing came from visitors such as ourselves and my wife had purchased an assortment of kids clothes to bring along. The villagers would let us look inside a home, tour the one room school, see where the cooking was done, glimpses into daily life. At the end, the villagers set out blankets with handmade trinkets they’d sell to us.
I now have a very cool dart blower complete with fiber wrapped darts intended to dip in poision!
One day after all the others had left the boat, my wife and I were scheduled to tour another village. It was pouring rain that day, and we didn’t really feel like getting soaked and walking around in the mud. The boat had already pulled up and tied up at the steep river bank. A dozen or so children stood on the bank in the rain, excited for visitors, not trying to cover up or hide under umbrellas. They just stood there as torrential rain was a common occurrence.
My wife and I felt like we’d let the village down. It was just us two, and we weren’t venturing out. Then, after a brief discussion with my wife, we asked the ship’s captain if it would be okay to have the children come aboard the M.V. Aqua. He looked puzzled at the irregularity, discussed it with the tour director, then agreed. They sent the skiff to the shore, relayed the invitation. The children seemed in disbelief, looking to their parents for permission. We suggested that some of the parents come too.
They loaded up the skiff, made the journey of 15 feet, then came aboard. We collaborated with the tour director
to offer the cookies, snacks, and neon green soda, Inca Cola to the kids. They sat around the upper deck under the large canopy out of the rain. The ship’s captain made sure they stayed topside, so as to not muddy the guest areas they had just cleaned and painted. They stayed aboard around twenty minutes, all very shy, and extremely well behaved. All the while they were there having this rare treat, you could see their eyes darting around, taking in their elegant surroundings, their first up close look at one of the ships they run to the shore to wave at every few days. Later, they rode the skiffs back to their village and we departed on the big ship as well.
A next day, our tour guide was on the skiff telling us that he grew up in a small village just like that.
He and his friends would see the river cruises come by every week, run to the shore to watch and wave. He dreamed that some day he would work on one and ride up and down the river. Well, obviously he did.
I suspect that those kids we met often think the same thing. Who knew that one day, they’d get a first hand look aboard one of those ships, to see their homes from this different point of view. Maybe some day…I still ask myself, who is inspiring whom?