Rafting the Amazon: Whirlpools
Steering the raft
At sunrise we got up and continued the journey. I was tired and my lips were swollen and numb from mosquito bites. Pali’s legs were covered with bites from the day before. We had no idea how far we had gone but we hoped that we were near our destination.
At midday the wind picked up as we approached a bend in the river. At the arch of the bend I could see a large whirlpool that had collected a swirl of debris. As we approached the bend we were on the far side of the whirlpool. We paddled hard to try and stay in the main river current but the wind quickly forced the raft towards the whirlpool. I had seen smaller whirlpools earlier in the trip. But, this was the largest whirlpool I had seen and I was scared that we would get caught and not be able to break away from its current. We paddled harder but it was useless. The whirlpool grabbed the raft and added it to its collection of debris. At one point we were actually moving upriver with the swirling current of the whirlpool.
Pali recuperating after escaping the whirlpool
We tried to make the best of the situation. We knew that we could not escape the current until the winds died down so we made lunch. After about an hour the winds began to subside and we took another stab at breaking free from the current. Pali and I paddled hard. At one point I heard a snap and realized that I broke my paddle. Fortunately, I was still able to use the bottom portion of the paddle. We finally broke away from the whirlpool’s current. I was so tired I could not stand.
We rested as we floated down the river. During the day, when the bugs were less prevalent and the current and winds were good, it was an incredibly relaxing and scenic experience.
Chatting with the villagers
We eventually saw a small village along the shoreline and paddled towards it. We reached the village, and a group of villagers came out to see the strangers. A villager threw us a line and we pulled up along the shore. One yelled, “Hey Mister”. The speaker of the village, I assumed, talked to us, asked where we were from and where we were going. I was so tired that I could barely speak. His Spanish was mixed with a strange accent so I had a hard time understanding him. Luckily, Pali managed the conversation. As we talked the villagers and ourselves swatted at the mosquitoes. I was surprised to see that not even the locals are immune to the pests. I wondered how anybody could live his or her life around such a constant annoyance.
That evening they invited us to dinner. We had platano, a hard banana, and a fish that was charred over the fire. It was an ugly fish, with long scales, black and cooked with its head and tail. Luckily, it was dark so I could not get a good look at it. It tasted good.
We rented a mosquito net from one of the villagers. We slept in one of their shelters, a thatch roofed structure built on poles about three feet above the ground. I finally had a good night’s sleep.