Nancy's Travel Journal
Peruvian Amazon--October 1998

Bill and Nancy traveled to the Peruvian Amazon and Machu Picchu during October 1998. Following is a speech Nancy wrote of our adventures in the Amazon. We don't have a journal for the Machu Picchu part of the trip.


In the spring of ‘98, Bill asked me – “Where do you want to go on vacation this year?” Most often we travel in October and since October is my birthday month, I usually get to pick the destination. For some reason, the words “THE AMAZON” came out. So, the following October, we were off to explore the Amazon and what an adventure it was.

In the middle of the night, our plane from Miami arrived in humid, tropical Iguitos, a little Peruvian border town that sits on the mouth of the Amazon. Early the following morning, we loaded into a boat to explore that great river with eight fellow adventurers like ourselves. For the next week, we would travel about 400 miles down the river and stay in three different Jungle Camps.

Our two guides were Daniel, an ornithologist and professor from the University of Houston and Lucio, a native Amazonian who knew every inch of the jungle and found joy in sharing his homeland with us Gringos.

Lucio, a stocky man in his mid-30’s, was quiet, thoughtful and very serious. He commanded great respect from Daniel and the rest of the crew. We knew we were safe with Lucio.

On our early morning, pre-breakfast jungle hikes Lucio was always the first to spot rare birds and other exotic animals. Once Lucio pointed out a 2-toed sloth in some far away tree (over 100 yards away). We all strained with our high-powered binoculars and sure enough there was a sloth – However none of us could tell if it had 2 or a 3 toes. The next day, he’d point out iguana from a great distance and sure enough, our binoculars always confirmed his sightings.

Lucio, with a limited education, knew the common names of all the plants, birds, animals and insects as well as their official Latin names. He knew the medicinal affects of the plants because of his Shaman-in-training background. He participated in many scientific studies conducted deep in the Amazon. In one study, Lucio helped confirm that an area near our camp had the greatest bio diversity ever recorded on the planet. He spoke 7 languages – learned from guiding people from all over the world into his jungle. And I do think of it as Lucio’s jungle.


Amazon Kids

One night, after dinner, Lucio took us to see something very special that only occurred in one small area in the jungle. We trailed behind him carrying our flashlights until we came to this spot that looked like all the rest of the jungle. Then Lucio instructed us to turn off our flashlights. Everything was completely black – Then he said, “Look down at the ground.” To my amazement, I saw tiny twinkling lights. I felt like I was standing in the middle of a great constellation. Lucio told us these were rare mushrooms that gave off light, a big mystery to all of us.

On another night outing, this time along the banks of the Amazon, Lucio caught a caiman with his bare hands and brought it into the boat for us to examine. Bill, the bravest of our group, held the frightened creature and then released it back into the water.

Later that night, Lucio took us way out into the middle of the Amazon. He told us stories he heard as a child and stories he tells his children. I looked up at the bright stars in the heavens and wondered where the heck is the Big Dipper? Then I remembered, oh yeah, the southern hemisphere – everything’s different here – a different world and a different sky.

When we headed back to our camp for dinner, the boat’s motor stalled. It was completely flooded. With no paddles on board, we used our wooden seats to paddle our way back. But, it was really Lucio and his young assistant who had the skill and strength to fight against a fierce current and get us to our jungle camp. I pretended to be Katherine Hepburn in the African Queen. With so much fun and silliness and laughter onboard, we had no fear in that dark night in those dark, dark currents of the Amazon.

One late afternoon, Lucio took us to his favorite fishing hole tucked away in a tributary of the Amazon. He supplied us with crude fishing poles, hooks and some bait to fish for Piranha. Everyone caught Piranha, except for me – I caught one big ole catfish.

The most amazing part of the evening was not really fishing, but seeing the people in their little dugout canoes going about their everyday lives -- heading home to their villages at sundown, bringing the goods they caught or captured for that day. Going home to prepare dinner and to be with their families, talking and laughing and sleeping together through the dark night.

I’m sure they found us a most unusual sight struggling with our poles and bait. One little lady in her canoe paddled up to our boat and I handed her my catfish and she returned a big smile. How good it felt to make a connection.

Another canoe came by with two teenage boys and what appeared to be a sleeping dog in the bottom of the boat. We all thought it was a family pet. On closer inspection, we saw that it was a dead anteater that had been killed by a blow to the head. We re-adjusted our thinking -- That anteater would make a great dinner for some family.

We saw young mothers out in the water, washing their babies. Everyone was happy to see us. Little children would run to the edge of the shore to wave to us. One little boy, about eight years old, ran down to our boat to hand us a huge piece of fruit – it looked like some prehistoric papaya. He was so proud to share his treasure. Such generous people, beautiful people.

Going fishing for Piranha

Father and Son in their Dugout

One day Lucio took us to the resident village shaman. The shaman treated us with his magic. With Lucio as my translator, I requested a cure for insomnia. The shaman whistled and hummed a hypnotic tune all the while brushing me with some sort of herb feather duster. Then he cupped his hands and blew into the top of my head to seal in the spirits. What fun – but I still had those sleepless-in-the-Amazon nights – maybe it was the bats overhead or the rats below or the wonder of the whole place.

On another day, we visited a school. We found the kids learning how to garden. They were all barefooted, out behind the school, chopping at the ground with machetes. They took us into their little schoolhouse and sang songs for us and showed off their schoolwork. We were treated like honored diplomats.

Lucio took us to a home – a little bamboo hut up on stilts. We were served a special reddish, pink drink (which I pretended to drink because I read where salvia was part of the ingredients to help the fermentation). We were invited to sit on a bench along the wall and chat awhile or go for a swim in the Amazon to cool off. One woman picked me out and placed a simple necklace of seeds and shells around my neck. I thought I should pay her – but, here in the Amazon, money is not in their vocabulary – only giving and sharing.

Nancy with the Shaman

Amazon House

Lucio took us to a clinic where we met Dr. Linnore Smith, an incredible woman from Wisconsin. She told us she came to the Amazon just like us, with Lucio as her guide. She fell in love with the place and with the people and saw what a difference she could make. She returned to the Wisconsin to sell her home and quit her job, and then came back here to serve as a doctor. Seven years later, with funds she raised, she established a remarkable clinic. She wrote a book, “La Doctora,” – an excellent book, which, appropriately, I purchased from I highly recommend it.

So many wonderful memories – parrots, monkeys and warthogs hanging around our camp, hammocks for those hot and humid afternoons, heavy rains pounding on the grass roofs, kerosene lamps lighting the pathways through our camp, 6 foot lily pads, pink dolphins, beautiful varieties of butterflies decorating the outhouse and Lucio wearing a t-shirt that read, “I survived the Winter of ‘87”. Lucio had never been to the U.S., like the other Amazonians, he just wore t-shirts that travelers leave behind. On our last day in the Amazon, Lucio took us to an old, crumbling two-story Rum Factory. Downstairs, we saw how rum was made in crude vats and stored in old wooden barrels. Upstairs was the open-aired bamboo bar.

I remember the ill-tempered water buffalo snorting at us from their mud holes as we climbed the outside stairs to the bar. At the bar, we drank bottles of rum made in the factory below. We laughed and sing along with another Amazon guide who played old John Denver songs. When the farewell party really got going, the John Denver tunes were replaced by unusual sounds and beats of the Amazon. And there was Lucio, our hero, drumming out incredible rhythms with two simple spoons banging across his knee.

Amazon Water Buffalo

Waiting to Vote
 visit © Bill and Nancy Interactive, 2005-08. All Rights Reserved