Rafting the Amazon #5: Pink Dolphins – Peru

Rafting the Amazon #5: Pink Dolphins

Pali reading

Pali reading inside the raft

The sun finally came up. We untied the ropes, pushed off, and continued our adventure down the river. It took a while to get away from the cloud of mosquitoes. They followed us for most of the early morning. As the day warmed, other bugs came to enjoy the foreign food that was floating down their river. A small black bug, about the size of a head of a pin, was prevalent. It would not puncture the skin to suck your blood like a mosquito, it would chew at the skin to create a bleeding wound. These bites were 10 times more irritating than a mosquito bite. Another pest was a green, metallic fly-like bug that would land on my back and take big bites of my skin. I did not mind the heat, or the fruitless paddling, but the bugs drove me crazy.

As we floated down the river we saw small villages along the rivershore. Villages were not as common as I hoped. My expectation was we would easily find villages for supplies and maybe lodging. We would see maybe two or three a day.

The river did not flow along one straight channel. It constantly curved and split into networks of smaller channels. We did not have maps so we had no idea which channel to take. At midday we took one of the smaller channels and the water current slowed to a frustrating pace. Abruptly, I heard a whoosh of air and turned to see where it came from but saw nothing. I heard it again and out of the corner of my eye I saw a pinkish, white hump arch out of the water and then disappear. It was large and my first thought was that I had witnessed some type of strange, Amazon River creature. Two more of the creatures breached the water and I got a better look. They were pink, freshwater dolphins. Their size was impressive and the sound they made when they let out air was very distinct from the typical buzzing and chirping I usually heard. The dolphins did not follow us for long, only a few minutes. I would later see a stuffed, pink dolphin at a museum. They are the strangest looking animals that I have ever seen, an apparent remnant of the dinosaur ages.

Super Oarman

Super Oar Man!

That evening we found a low shore along the river where we decided to camp. We tied the raft and I entered the forest to look for firewood. I was surprised that the forest was so open. There was little undergrowth and the trees were far apart. I’m sure that the tree canopy allowed only the hardiest plants to survive. I saw trees with spines, red trees and a tree with dark, black bark. I wanted to spend more time exploring the forest. However, the mosquitoes began swarming around my head and forced me back to the raft.

I tried to make my bed more mosquito proof. I hung a sheet on lines over my bed in hopes that it would serve as a mosquito net. The thick sheet was hot, I felt like I was suffocating. I made the mistake of trying to let some fresh air in and the mosquitoes took advantage of the opportunity. They zoomed in underneath the sheet and found their victim. My homemade mosquito net was useless.

To escape the mosquitoes, I once again got into my sleeping bag. I also put on a sweater, pants and covered my face with clothes. Only my mouth was exposed. I was hot and sweaty but I slept a little better that night, probably because I was so tired.