I had no idea that sparkly thong panties would figure in my trip to the Upper Amazon of Peru. But, as a friend once said, “When you go places, things happen”. American Airlines canceled my flight to Lima so that was the start of it all and things went south, so to speak, from there.
You, dear readers, are probably all too familiar with indifferent airline staff, abysmal customer service and all the other trials of today’s air travel so I’ll skip the gory details of hours of frustration and fighting just to get myself to Lima.
Arriving a full 36 hours later than planned, I was able to meet up with my fellow expedition members with just one little snag. FAW-KINN-AE, NO LUGGAGE! That’s right, my bag failed to follow me and we were heading directly away from civilization almost immediately. First, fly to Iquitos, spend one night there, and then traverse to the riverside town of Nauta to meet our ship, the Amatista, for our journey up the Marañon and Ucayali rivers that feed into the Amazon.
Forget Wi-Fi, forget cell service, and don’t even think about baggage delivery. As we moved farther away from any method to communicate with American Airlines Lost Baggage folks in Lima, I decided I would have to improvise.
Our naturalist for the expedition, aptly named Robinson Crusoe Rodriguez, offered to take me to the local market in Nauta to see if we could find me some togs. Ever the good traveler, I had packed an extra pair of panties in my carryon in case I got held up somewhere. Those were by now well used. My very unique fashion advisor or, shall we say, personal shopper helped me find a pair of men’s cutoffs, a couple of t-shirts and the best find of all – 3 pair of very unique knickers. The only option was of the thong variety replete with glittery embellishments. Don’t think I have ever worn anything with mermaids or unicorns but these were strangely fun. Don’t even get me started on the thong aspect of these ditties.
Once ship board, my fellow travellers were completely empathetic to my plight and offered me anything I wanted from their various travel wardrobes. A ‘there but for the grace of god go I’ vibe. The best part of this situation was my realization that there is a marked difference between what you want and what you need to travel. I was on a lovely small ship, with marvelous companions, excellent guides and a crew that catered to our every whim. Well fed and well rested, I declared to the trip leader, “FAW-KINN-AE, I DON’T NEED NO STINKIN’ LUGGAGE!”.
No stinkin’ luggage is exactly what I had for 5 days and it really, truly didn’t matter. The Amazon tributaries were more intriguing than I had dared imagine. Lots of monkeys, travelling unexpectedly in mixed species troops, poison frogs too beautifully colored to describe, snakes, spiders, rhinoceros beetles, lichen mantis, and bats. I don’t drink so I can accurately attest that the pink dolphins are very real and seemingly plentiful in the backwaters where we traveled.
Oh the birds!! So many parrots, macaws, and parakeets. I had hoped to see the Hoatzin and indeed we saw it and more amazingly we heard the otherworldly noises it makes. I had not even hoped to see a Horned Screamer but we saw several. Oh, please look this one up. As I studied Amazonian birds before the trip I thought the Horned Screamer had a sort of topknot like a Quail. No way! It is aptly named. It actually has a horn coming out the top of its head. FAW-KINN-AE! I told you, LOOK IT UP.
Now largely forgotten, my bag arrived shipside the fifth day out. I saw it coming down stream in the middle of a small dugout between two young men. It was a sight for sore eyes and I was glad to have the sudden luxury of all my stuff. But honestly, I was more moved by these two fellows who made the journey to bring me my suitcase and the folks all along our route who worked to make the reunion happen. My awe and gratitude go to Cal Discoveries Travel, Gohagan Travel, the crew of the Amatista, and the staffs of Casa Andina Hotel in Lima and El Dorado Plaza Hotel in Iquitos. Oh, and by the way, not one single thing was missing from my suitcase – not even from the outside, unlocked pockets.
Did I mention the Piranha? During the expedition we had the option of swimming with, or fishing for, local Piranha, the Red-bellied variety. We reached for the fishing poles rather than our swimsuits. My fish was fun to catch, terrifying to take off the hook, and tasty on the plate. Best of all, the skull of this Piranha has joined my animal skull collection – it came home buried deep in my dirty laundry, nestling amongst three pair of sparkly undies.
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