The Amazon River



Roughly one century after former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt adventured along the Amazon River’s Madeira Tributary, I spent a week in the same river basin on another tributary called the Madre De Dios.  He was in Brazil, I was in Peru.


Although he was an experienced wildlife enthusiast and an accomplished and robust man, Roosevelt’s trip through the Amazon rainforests was harrowing and life-threatening.  Several of his expedition colleagues perished.  And only five years after the trip, he died too, from a fever he contracted there.


Admittedly, I did not almost die from my trip.  But it was easily the most physically uncomfortable travel experience I had ever had then, or since.


A large rat falling into our room from the thatched ceiling; huge cockroaches skittering through our quarters every night; an ant bite that ballooned instantly; body covered with mosquito bites (279 at one time); the list goes on.  But although there were many challenges, there were infinitely more delights.


I'm on this boat. Photo: B. Page

I’m on this boat. Photo: B. Page

For a week we ventured down this river in motorized canoes, stopping at night to camp.  Our group had two boats and we carried with us all our water, food, and gear.


Outside of the many incredible wildlife adventures we enjoyed, one of my favorite things to do was cruise down the river.


In the early mornings the river would be foggy and chilly, during the day it would inevitably rain, and in the evening the mosquitoes were fierce.  But as long as the boat kept moving, the bugs weren’t too bad, and our perpetually soggy clothes dried out from the breeze.


Peru Village on Madre de Dios Tributary of Amazon

Peru Village on Madre de Dios Tributary of Amazon

Sometimes we passed small villages, but mostly we saw nothing but trees, clouds, and wildlife.  Flocks of macaws could be heard and barely seen, for they were so high up.


Groups of capybara, the largest rodent in the world, hunted on the shoreline.  The pungent odor of peccaries, also known as javelins or skunk pigs, wrinkled our noses as we cruised on by.  Caiman rested on nearby sand.


Nights were rough because it was so hot and wet, and the camps were very muddy.  Howler monkeys woke us at dawn, daylight would eventually come, and I always looked forward to climbing back into the boat for another wild day.


The Amazon River carries more water and has more tributaries than any other river in the world.  At 4,000 miles long, it is the second longest river in the world (after the Nile).  And it’s one on which both Theodore Roosevelt and I had the trip of a lifetime.  But it’s not for the faint of heart, and I hope it always stays that way.


Photo credit:  Athena Alexander


49 thoughts on “The Amazon River

  1. Remarkable travel it must be to sail Amazon River. Glad that you are doing well after the trip, it is always tricky when traveling to an isolated area..What an adventure it must be Jet!

  2. Thanks Jet. I’m glad you had a better trip than Roosevelt. I’ve read all about that trip and I can’t imagine such a harrowing experience. But since I read about it, I have remained much impressed with Roosevelt’s co-leader, General Rondon. Quite the remarkable man who explored that remarkable region!! 🙂 Thanks again.

    • Your comment made me laugh, Jim–I’m glad I had a better trip than Roosevelt too. I wasn’t working so hard to prove myself, didn’t have a failed election to overcome, just a few nasty bug bites. lol. I was hoping someone here would have read about his travels, and appreciate knowing that Rondon was a remarkable man. Many, many thanks for your input Jim. 😀

    • I like knowing that you and I have been to many of the same places, Cindy. Once when I was on my way to Fla., changing planes in St. Louis, I ran into my sister who was on her way to NYC. Perhaps some day I will run into you too! Thanks so much. 😀

    • Oh you know how that is Amy, we stay focused on the good parts, and the not-so-good parts fade quickly. I have very much enjoyed your Grand Canyon adventures! 😀

  3. I’m with the faint of heart. I’ve reached an age where I tend to like a bit more comfort thus making the armchair travel you provide so much more appreciated! 😉

  4. Thank you for your post. You and Athena are so adventurous. I went to school with a girl who lived with her missionary parents on the Amazon for several years. She had piranha bite scars on her wrists.

    • Piranha bite scars! whoa, that’s a good one! I acquired 287 mosquito bites on that trip (yes, I counted), but fortunately they all eventually vanished. I can imagine your school friend had a lot of good stories to share. Thanks so much Sharon. 😀

      • Oh my, the Mosquitos loved you. It’s been so long ago that I don’t remember the stories but she did live with indigenous people on the river. Have a great day.

  5. Jet, I read every word you wrote here with an incredible admiration for your sense of adventure! It sounds like you had an amazing trip down the Amazon despite the bugs, bites and unwelcome bathroom visitors!
    Your blog never fails to transport me to the far-reaches of the world…each post you share with us makes me realize that our world is such a beautiful and fascinating place..sometimes I forget that when I’m stuck riding the grayish, dark subways of NYC! (which I suppose has its own charm though!)
    Thanks again!

    • How very nice to receive your kind comments, Lia, and to know you earnestly read my post. This is a great honor for me. I love knowing that my blog opens up your world and gives you an opportunity to see more of it. I am sure you enjoy many daily adventures living in NYC, and I am in awe of your strength and independence in living in this well-loved, fast-paced and delightfully diverse city. Thanks so much Lia. 😀

    • So glad you enjoyed the Amazon boat ride Bill! There are many scary snakes in the Amazon, like the Anaconda (yikes). But the black mamba is not one, they live in Africa. We had a guide in Africa once, a bit of a hot dog (but likeable), he had been bitten years earlier by a black mamba. The back of his hand was misshapen where new skin had been grafted on over the snake bite. Not everyone survives a black mamba bite, but he did. BTW, he grabbed a spitting cobra for us! 😀

    • Oh yeah, those biting insects can be tricky. We were told repeatedly not to touch any trees because ants are everywhere and they can wield a wicked bite. I carefully complied, but one day an ant dropped off of an overhead limb and onto my hand. Bit me. But I took a Benadryl and it was fine by the next day, and as that ant bite turned out to be the day of my favorite bird siting ever, the ant bite was not the focus. The bird was a harpy eagle, an astounding and rare bird. Glad you enjoyed the post Val! 😀

  6. I had my fair share of the Amazon river and jungle years ago but not as a photographer though. In the rainforest every day is an adventure and the only way to enjoy it is being resilient and careful. Great post Jet, as always! 🙂

    • I thought of you when I wrote this, HJ; because you, too, have some colorful Amazon experiences. Your advice is great: be resilient and careful. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post! 😀

  7. That was some adventure! I like how you focus on the positives, because there really were some shudder inducing moments there…I am not sure I have what it takes for that journey! Wonderful to read!

  8. This looks like a great adventure! Did you make a new camp every night? And how did you sleep, in hammocks? I would agree visiting the Amazon is not for the faint of heart:)

    • As we made our way deeper into the rainforest we stopped every night in a new designated spot. Tents were on wooden platforms off the ground. When we got to our destination on the third day, we stayed there for 3 nights, in Manu, and we had private huts with thatched roofs. We always slept on cots with mosquito nets. We had been looking so forward to the private hut with private bath on our third night, and the first night we were there a large rat fell out of the thatched ceiling onto our toilet. That freaked us out, but even worse, the rat disappeared and we never did see it. lol. It’s funny now but it wasn’t then. lol. Thanks so much, Inger, for your interest. 😀

  9. What an adventure…… I am not sure how I could have stood getting bitten and surprised by things that dropped in on you. Beautiful story. felt the heat and almost the bites! 🙂 Thanks for the journey Jet . Very much enjoyed xxxxx

    • Oh Gill, it’s always a joy to have you along on the journey. But I am glad you didn’t have to be bitten or surprised by the rat dropping from the ceiling. lol. Many thanks my dear friend. 😀

    • That’s right Jo. The hard part was being so far away from civilization; the beautiful part was being so far away from civilization. Thanks so much for stopping by! 😀

  10. I know how it is – the difficulty of traveling down rivers that wind through jungles. I journeyed to the Upper Sepik (Papua New Guinea) in a dugout canoe back in 1995. While I will never regret the experience, I don’t need to experience that discomfort ever again. 🙂

    • Oh, those are some dense rainforests, I hear, in Papua NG — memories that last a lifetime, which is good because it’s not to be repeated. Many thanks for your comment~ 😀

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