Craig Travel Tour Prompts Return to the Amazon Rainforest | Craig Travel

Craig Travel Tour Prompts Return to the Amazon Rainforest

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During our CraigTravel tour of Peru in 2007 our last stop was at Ceiba Tops Lodge on the Amazon River. A small, inconspicuous sign on the dining room wall invited contributions to an “Adopt a School Program”, sponsored by the Detroit Zoological Society. The sign aroused our curiosity. Following further investigation, we decided to support the program financially.

In the spring of 2014 we spent 11 days as volunteers delivering school supplies and 200 low tech Sawyer water filtration systems to 51 isolated rural rainforest communities along the Amazon and Napo rivers. Our travels took us about 160 km, one way, along those rivers.

It was an exhausting but also very rewarding experience as we met many children and their families in those communities. We had guides and interpreters along but wished we ourselves could speak Spanish.

We were accommodated in three different lodges. Two of the lodges had no electricity or hot water. We slept under mosquito netting. At the first lodge the pit toilets were outside. At Ceiba Tops Lodge we enjoyed “rainforest luxury” with air conditioning and a pool.

The twenty volunteers were divided into 4 groups with each group visiting about 12 schools. Each visit took 2-3 hours. The visit included a demonstration of the water filtration system.

With no roads in the region, the Amazon and its tributaries play an indispensable role in the lives of these remote rainforest communities. The people fish in the river. They wash their clothes and themselves with river water. Many children get to school by dug out canoes or large motorized planked canoes. They drink the water. They spend a great deal of time at the river and on the river.

The level of the Amazon changes up to 45 feet annually. Our visit took place at the high water season. All the homes along the river are on 4 to 7 foot stilts. Some families live on the school compound. In some of the communities the volunteers had to wade through knee deep water to reach the school building where the water was inches from the level of the floor. In other communities the children boarded our boats to receive their supplies, as their schools were flooded. In still other communities, our flat bottomed boats sailed right up to the entrance of the school.

The Amazon is the world’s largest “pharmacy”. It contains many discovered as well as yet undiscovered medicinal plants. It is also the most diverse of the world’s forests.

We spent the initial day as well as the last two days enjoying aspects of rainforest life. We crossed the 14 narrow planked segments of a “canopy walk” varying in height from 65 to 110 feet from the ground. We visited “Monkey Island” where 30 orphaned or rescued monkeys are cared for and prepared for their eventual release into the rainforest on another part of the island to join the 200 others who have learned to survive on their own. Some of the volunteers went piranha fishing.

We visited a demonstration Yagua village where we were entertained by villagers dressed in their traditional clothing, drumming and dancing. We enjoyed the opportunity to hone our blow gun skills.

A talented group of young native dancers amazed us with their dances including a dance in which one of the dancers handled a large live anaconda.

Our guide took us into the jungle in the dark looking for tarantulas in holes in the ground. A half-wild, half tame 300 pound tapir is a regular resident at Ceiba Tops Lodge. A feisty six foot rainbow boa constrictor was wandering onto the grounds during our stay. We were also fortunate to see endangered pink dolphins swim in the river.

The heat and the humidity were relentless. Clothing refused to dry. We got used to and began to enjoy showering with the cold river water.

Since our three night stay at the Ceiba Tops Lodge seven years ago with CraigTravel we had never seriously considered returning to the Amazon rainforest. But we are glad we did. This time we were volunteers rather than tourists. We were privileged to be able to participate, albeit only briefly, in the lives of those who live in the small villages in the rainforest along the Amazon. We too discovered that there is a magic and a mystery that continues to draw people to get to know and explore the Amazon.

Peeter and Carol Vanker - April 13, 2014.

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