South America

October, 2013

Oi! Tu do bem? (Hi! Howz it goin'?)

 

We are aboard the National Geographic Explorer on a Lindblad organized trip called "Epic South America." It is Nat Geo's 125th anniversary so they are thinking big. We have 107 passengers and about 20 Naturalist-Lecturers with us for the 35 day trip from Trinidad to Buenos Aires. You can check their website online if you want to see Daily Expedition Reports and updates on our activities. Start at the bottom of the page, 21 September, 2013:  http://www.expeditions.com/daily-expedition-reports/south-american-east-coast/september-2013/  

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We saw a fair amount of Trinidad before we boarded the ship on September 20, particularly on the drive to, and at, the Asa Wright Nature Reserve, where they have a lot of bird feeders and some nice jungle. We finished that day with a cruise through the mangroves to watch hundreds of scarlet ibis return to their roosts in the Caroni Swamp. There was a wonderful Trinidadian musician, Drew Gonsalves, of the band Kobo Town on board the ship with us for a few days He played and lectured several times. Really good guy with a great depth of knowledge, who is writing some remarkable songs in the Calypso-Rap style. In contrast, we also heard some terribly sappy steel drum music, which our fabulous on-board ethnomusicologist Jacob Edgar excoriated on his blog, only to be swamped with angry responses from Trinidadians on social media. Read his post and his response here.

The trip got off to a somewhat slow start due to immigration clearances, etc. Venezuelan officials made it particularly difficult, so we ended up doing only a couple of zodiac cruises on the Orinoco. Didn't even touch land there, though we spent several hours at a dock while they had divers inspect our hull for drug caches. That took about two minutes. The rest of the time they seemed to be looking for an envelope stuffed with cash, which did not appear. This was particularly ironic, as the infamous plane loaded with a couple of tons of Venezuelan cocaine had landed in Paris just a day or two before. They were, of course, obviously concerned that WE might be smuggling drugs into their country.


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The early part of the trip could be called "Jungle Rivers." We first went up the Orinoco River in Venezuela. Then on to the Essequibo River in Guyana, where we flew inland for an hour over pristine jungles, theoretically protected, but dotted with illegal gold mines draining toxic runoff into the rivers. We hiked in to see the 700' high Kaieteur Falls. The Tourism Minister of Guyana came on board to welcome us, and extolled the environmental awareness of their government, and their focus on protecting their extensive virgin forest. He also treated us to an array of local foods and generous amounts of their excellent prize-winning El Dorado Rum and beer. Quite a good party!

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