My "Amazon Moment"

January 25, 2011
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IE employees LOVE getting out of the office and traveling. Creative Services Editor Emily Harley shares memories from her Amazon River expedition aboard La Amatista.

Throughout my life I’ve been blessed with many “once in a lifetime” moments. Camping out underneath an inky sky in the Australian Outback — with the night lit as brightly as the day by brilliant stars. Running past Titan Stadium in Nashville to complete my first half-marathon. Snorkeling just feet from six hammerhead sharks as the Humboldt Current swirled around me in the Pacific.

Each of these memories is accompanied by a host of emotions, smells and sights that keep them living in my mind. Perhaps none of these memories is more surreal than night five of my Amazon River cruise aboard La Amatista.

Night in the Peruvian Amazon is all encompassing. Drifting down a tributary, it’s not hard to imagine that my 24 fellow travelers and our small crew of 14 are the last remaining people on Earth. The symphony of sound — rising from unseen creatures in the surrounding jungle — is indication that we are clearly outnumbered by the birds, primates and predators that call the Amazon home.

A storm is building. Not the brief downpours that are as natural as the heat in the rainforest, but a bone-jarring thunderstorm punctuated by streaking lightening. For long stretches of time, the joyous lights from La Amatista’s upper deck bar are the only lights for a hundred miles. Then, with a startling clap, nature’s floodlights snap on to bathe the river, jungle and our traveling party in a bright flash.

It’s against this backdrop that I spend “Happy Hour” sipping a frosty Amazonica beer while listening to an energetic Peruvian rendition of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” Playing traditional instruments, along with naturalists Robinson on lead vocals and George on tambourine, with a beat being laid down on a box by our Amazon Expedition Leader Hernando Vallenas, La Amatista’s “house band” is entertaining my newfound friends. It is Beatles Night in the jungle.

Anytime I’ve met International Expeditions’ guests they are always complimentary of the depth of what they learn on our journeys — the knowledge of wildlife and history that our native naturalists share with visitors to their homelands. But in this moment, surrounded by lush wilderness, none of us are thinking about the breeding habits of sloths or history of the Peruvian rubber boom. From the 80 year-old college professor to the 31-year-old traveling with her mother we’re having FUN. Dancing-with-the-crew and singing-along-as-Robinson-does-his-best-John-Lennon fun!

During our week on the river, I saw monkeys, met a shaman and began to actually tell the difference between a black-collared hawk and a roadside hawk; however, it is this frivolous “Happy Hour” spent singing Beatles music in a storm that will forever be my “Amazon moment.”