Upper Amazon Travels: Trip To Tabatinga

Mario Cohn-Haft - May 1997

    We’d worked the south bank for the last week and were running out of time to do the north bank. Our guides took forever to get organized, with problems getting drinking water and fuel, changing the boat we would use and, consequently, the price of the trip, and so on. These annoyances set the tone for our arrival at nightfall at the chosen spot on THE WRONG BANK OF THE RIVER!

"What do you mean the other side of the river?" they asked, as we floated downstream under clouds of mosquitoes and a darkening sky. After re-explaining the importance of which bank we were on and insisting that even in a pinch this spot wasn’t good enough, our guide said that the other side had no terra firme, only flooded forest. We cut our losses and told them to take us back to Tabatinga, where we’d keep the food and whatever gas was left and do something else the next day—on our own, thanks.

So, at dawn on our next to last day, I rushed to the docks at Leticia to wait for our Colombian boatman who’d taken us to a good river island earlier. He finally arrived and agreed to accompany us to Amacayacu National Park, an area of virgin terra firme on the north bank of the river in Colombia. We’d be able to bird our last morning there, and, although we couldn’t collect specimens, we could at least tape and sample what was there, to be able to compare with the birds found in what ought to be similar woods on the Brazilian side.

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