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  • Writer's pictureMarcia Seligson

Journey to Peru

Updated: 6 days ago



I’ve always had a fantasy about traveling down the Amazon River.  I don’t exactly know why, except I’m enthralled by animals, birds, jungle scenery and calm water.  I also remember vividly the old movie, THE AFRICAN QUEEN, with Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn.  It took place in Africa of course, not anywhere near the Amazon, but I hope you remember it and get my point. I’ve never forgotten this film. So, in March we flew to Peru to begin our three-week adventure, one week of which was on the Aria Amazon small cruise ship on the river.

 

The Country Club Hotel in Lima, where the Uniworld tour booked our group, is gorgeous, elegant, huge.  After a whole day, I still can’t find the elevator or our room with the giant bed.  We go two days earlier than the tour begins to have extra time to wander around the city.

 

We sleep ten hours, then cab to a vast market, battle our language deficit and buy me an alpaca sweater.   You can’t go to Peru without buying alpaca, and by the end of the three weeks, our suitcases will be crammed with the soft, yummy things, scarves, silly hats and gorgeous sweaters.

 

The food:  Lots of fish freshly caught, always ceviche (raw sea bass or halibut) always potatoes with every dish, in differing looks and tastes. A thrilling factoid:  Peru grows 400 types of potatoes, except for the kind used in French fries, which are imported from America.  Nobody could explain why, but everybody knows the information.  We see potato fields all over, eat one or two kinds with every meal, and the fries are on every menu.

 

One day we take a food tour, which we always do in a new city.  We are the only ones on the tour, so we have the charming local guide to ourselves.  We walk around an area crammed with markets, restaurants and food stalls, where everything is planned for us ahead of time. First we drink corn juice, apparently a staple, then at another spot we nibble stir fried beef hearts, which I have never eaten at home and never will.  Fries are served with every snack, we eat a brunch of empanadas (pastry filled with meat), more corn juice, ceviche prepared in front of us, always delicious but don’t think sashimi.  Then the national alcoholic drink, pisco sours.  (I can’t count the number of these I’ve downed during the next three weeks, but it’s my nightly cocktail, with a  few interspersed during daylight).  The gelato is almost Italian, perfect.

 

That afternoon we visit a few art galleries, entirely female sculptors.  The colors are bold, the work large and humorous. I see this distinctive art throughout the country, in the galleries and on the street.

 

Two more highlights:  The pyramids, 3000 years old which took 300 years to build after the contractors promised 200.  Isn’t that of course what contractors still do? And the catacombs, about a million ancient bones and skulls of local Catholic men.  The paintings and sculptures are all men. Where did the women get buried I wonder?

 

Two days later the group arrives, a total of twenty people on our entire Amazon cruise and beyond.  There are eight friends from Ft. Myers, Florida who play pickleball together at home.  I fear they may be Trumpies but I know better than to discuss politics in an environment like this.  I only talk politics with Ric and Leon, the two young artist types from Amsterdam.  It’s safe, and they agree with us. But I worry at our first group meeting:  Will this gang talk to us or ignore us?  It turns out to be a little of both, but they rarely invite us to join their dinner tables on the ship. I think we’re the oldest travelers, and everybody is eerily kind to us, helping us onto busses, up and down stairs, carting our luggage in airports, caring for us unnecessarily. It seems very strange, but we don’t fight it.

 

After an exhausting Friday travel day on a plane from Lima to the port of Iquitos, then a bus and boat ride, we finally board the Aria Amazon, our ship and home for the next week.  It is small, thank you dear God, elegant, our cabin has wall to wall glass windows and a giant bed.  The restaurant is thirty-five steps away and upstairs is the deck and grand space with bar and sofas.  It is the space for much of our entertainment, lectures and group gatherings. And of course, my Pisco sours. Outside is the hot tub, the space where the fabulous band consisting of our guide in chief Carlos and the crew band, somehow named the Funky Monkeys, play wildly, sing rock and inspire us to dance.

 

Our first excursion is on Saturday, rising time 5:30 a.m. We skip the next 5:30 trip, but this one is an amazing entry to the Amazon and the jungle. We transfer from the ship to small open skiffs, like motorized canoes, each seating about 4 to 6 of us plus a driver and guide. We move slowly, quietly on the river. Journeying into the Amazon is exactly what I’ve always imagined and wanted in my travel fantasies. It’s narrow so we can see the life on both sides of the river, it’s covered with lush foliage, plantain and papaya trees. More and more.  It’s what is still here in this lush world before it probably disappears sometime in the future. 

 

Our Peruvian skiff guide, George, goes crazy with excitement when he spots and identifies birds that I couldn’t even see in the trees.  Along with sloths, vultures, parrots, baby alligators, and dolphins leaping in the shallows. It suddenly starts to pour but nobody cares, it seems like a part of the adventure and they give us heavy ponchos.  We do another late afternoon skiff ride in sunny weather, move slowly into the jungle waters, see the life again on the shore and in the trees.  I am in heaven.



The next day we travel into a village where the locals have been reserved for us, the rich American tourists.  They are cooking three kinds of catfish, all luscious, they present fruits I’ve never heard of, they draw designs on some our faces with the fruit. They’re almost impossible to wash off completely. They create bowls from colored stems, leaves and roots. They sell us plates, napkin rings, purses, all made by hand in the village.  It’s fascinating and eye-opening to see how the whole small community lives, farms, fishes and makes stuff to sell together.


In the afternoon we hike through the jungle where the guides spot monkeys, bats, lizards, and anacondas.  I’m always amazed by the guides’ eyes able to recognize the million bird types, his uncanny ability to spot an ant at five hundred feet.  Only a slight exaggeration.  I know they go to school to hone this gift, but still, it’s always unbelievable.

 

 


The next day we spend a long four hours on the Amazon in our skiffs, having a gourmet picnic lunch with local foods and our wildly enthusiastic expert guides.


One night we have an after-dark excursion, my favorite journey of the cruise.  It’s mostly silent, I guess the river creatures sleep at night as we do.  A guide in one of the skiffs catches a small alligator which many of us hold and pet.  Carlos, our chief guide, asks everybody to sit silently for five minutes, just listening to the sounds of the black jungle and its life.  It is a precious time, a sense of the overwhelming life surrounding us, where we humans are irrelevant.  My head, after these rare and joyous few moments, goes to my fears about the destruction we humans are creating around us.  It’s true in Peru as it is all over the world.

 

Thursday, our last day on the ship, we go piranha fishing.  We use little bits of filet mignon for bait, the fish are plentiful even with our primitive wood rods and lack of ability.  I catch a 3-pound ugly critter. They serve them as a small treat at dinner, very bony and not flavorful.

 

We’re getting ready to leave the glorious Amazon for the mountains, Machu Picchu and some rural life.  The trip is half over.  I could happily spend much more time on the ship, with its daily adventures and relaxation time.  Our last celebration is a fabulous rock concert with the Funky Monkeys, the Peruvian rock music is riveting.  I will really miss all this beauty and magic on the Amazon.


MY MOTHER WOULD HATE THIS BOOK is now available in hardcover, paperback & eBook on AmazonBarnes & Noble, or order through your local bookstore. https://www.amazon.com/Mother-Would-Hate-This-Book

Check out my website and blog for stories and more: www.marciaseligson.com


“Marcia Seligson is one of the funniest, most original, and irreverent people I know, and her book carries all those qualities. She can make anything funny, from a Peloton bike to a 40-hour brisket cookery. And she can be touching, deep, and bracingly honest. My advice to readers is make sure you have unbroken time ahead when you pick up this book. Each time I did, intending to read for ten minutes, an hour went by before I looked up. And I’d laughed out loud at least twice.” Sara Davidson, Writer NY Times bestseller Loose Change, Head writer for Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman

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5 Comments


Laurie Pessemier
Laurie Pessemier
Apr 05

Great, Marcia...it makes me want to go.

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Guest
Apr 03

Definitely not Trump supporters. We truly enjoyed getting to know you and Tom and all our fellow travelers. It was an incredible trip in so many ways.

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Guest
Apr 03

I can't speak for all in my group but most of us are not Trumpies. We loved getting to know you on this amazing trip.

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Guest
Apr 02

I'm so jealous, I can't stand it. Wonderful and evocative words and that Picasso lizard--seemingly two eyes on one side of face. Ain't Nature grand and amazing.

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Guest
Apr 02

Fabulously descriptive reporting, Marcia! Thank you. ~Paul Schneider

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