Peggy and I sat on the upper deck of the M/V Amazon Clipper, sipped a cold beer and watched the Rio Negro River hurry along on its journey to the Amazon.
Dark clouds dumped buckets of rain on the forest and threatened our cocktail hour. Thunder and lightning upped the ante. One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three… I counted to determine how close the lightning was in a ritual dating back to my childhood. Seven seconds equals a mile. When the flash and the boom arrive together, it’s time to worry. Lots.
Between watching the river and watching the storm, we scanned the rainforest for wildlife. A flock of parrots flew by heading for its evening roost. Our guide informed us that the dark blob we spotted hidden in the trees was a three-toed sloth, a creature famed for sleeping four fifths of the time and pooping once a week. He makes a rare trip to the ground to accomplish the latter and digs a hole with his short, stubby tail.
Peggy and I clinked our beer cans, toasted the sloth and toasted another adventure. Two days earlier we had been buried in work. An 18-hour day out of Sacramento California via Los Angeles and Sao Paulo had eventually deposited us at Manaus, Brazil in the heart of the Amazon. Now we were chugging up a tributary of the Amazon River on a small boat with six fellow passengers and a crew of three.
The Amazon is a world of the BIG: big rivers, big forests, big storms and big snakes. We had met the river, forest and a storm during the afternoon. That evening we met one of the snakes. Our crew took us out in a large canoe to experience the Amazonian night. An eight-foot boa went slithering by us in the river and checked out our boat.
“It’s a baby,” the guide teased. Right. The boat came equipped with a large spotlight for peering into the jungle. Bright, shiny eyes peered back at us along the shore. They were Caiman, small alligator like reptiles. The crew caught one for us to examine more closely back on the Clipper and then turned off the spotlight.
It was don’t see your hands dark. Something plopped in the water. A creature went crashing off through the brush. It wasn’t particularly scary, the guides are expected to return their guests unharmed, but it was interesting, especially the sounds our imaginations turned into bone crushing snakes and ferocious jaguars.
Back on the deck of the Clipper, the Caiman was turned loose. It dutifully whipped its head around and snapped at us before escaping back to the river.
Peggy and I retired to our small room with its bunk beds and porthole window. High humidity and heat had us sleeping on top of the covers with the porthole window open and hopes of no nighttime visitors. Fortunately our bodies had been pumped full of protection to foil disease carrying mosquitoes and other tropical maladies.
We slept fitfully and dreamed of our next adventure, fishing for the legendary sharp toothed Piranha.