Monday, May 12, 2014

Arrival in Brazil -- Leticia and Tabatinga

The beautiful cashew tree at the Policia Federal Tabatinga (photo by Caryn)
We made it!

Today we finally made it to Brazil.  We left our hotel in Bogota obscenely early and returned to El Dorado airport, where we met the rest of our travel group.  Then we all flew on to Leticia, Colombia where our travel guide, Junior, was waiting for us.  Junior quickly led us through customs in Leticia and we were driven over the border to Tabatinga, Brazil.
Me and Deb, arriving in Leticia.  The airport was even smaller than the Bangor airport.

Junior overseeing the loading of our luggage.  Can you spot my suitcase?
Waiting to go through Brazilian customs.

Then we headed to the port where we met our boat, the Iracema.  We boarded the boat, found our cabins (and our luggage!) and gathered for our first group meeting.  Junior introduced the crew and explained the plans for the day, including an afternoon tour of Leticia.  The crew includes: Junior himself (Amazon expert and biologist), Francisco (our guide to the Rio Javari and local tribes of that area), Bia and Eugenia (in charge of food, drinks, and taking care of all the odds and ends), "Moustache", "Canta Galo", Delfran, Valdo, James, and Elias (a professional artistic photographer).  The traveling group includes Cindy (our organizer and expert from UHCL), Mike, George, Nancy and Dave, Mauri and David, Barbara, Deb and Phil, Caryn, four UHCL students: Mary, Nikki, Savannah, and Samantha, and Charlie and Annette.  Plus Kari and me!

Leticia is a relatively small town, but very busy and colorful.  Everyone rides motorbikes, so the smell of exhaust is everywhere.  Junior led us through souvenir shops (full of tribal crafts) and markets, including food markets full of tropical fruits and fish and manioc flour and non-food markets full of random clothes and sandals, odds and ends, and household goods.  There were stray dogs and cats everywhere, most of them not looking great.
The Iracema arrives!
It's the end of the rainy season, so water levels are high.  Obviously this town is used to living on the water.
Two gentlemen just watching the streets of Leticia
Picking up some fruit.  See the manioc flour in the foreground?
Sunset around 6pm, since we're close to the equator
Then, back to the boat for the evening.  We settled into our rooms (Kari and I sharing a bunk bed) and did some basic unpacking.  The boat is really nice -- finished in 2011, all nice wood paneling and cabinetry.  Tomorrow, we plan to explore Tabatinga and Santa Rosa, Peru and then depart for our expedition along the river.  Basic itinerary: travel downriver along the Amazon (in the direction of Manaus) to visit some Ticuna tribes, then back upriver towards Tabatinga/Leticia and a town called Benjamin Constant, where we will pick up the final member of our group (Caryn's husband, Peter) and reconnect with Francisco.  Then continue upriver along the Rio Javari with the hope of visiting some Matis villages (with help from Francisco).
Kari's happy in her top bunk
Ready for an adventure

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