By Patti Pietchmann with photos by Richard Pietschmann
Cruising the mighty Amazon on the oh so stylish Seabourn Quest was one of the highlights of my travel writing career. It was my husband Richard’s idea (that’s him in the photo). That’s me on the balcony watching the muddy river). Richard had been to the area before and always wanted me to see it, too. So two years ago we set out on an Amazon cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Manaus, Brazil. What a trip. I will post a full article about it at a later date. But for now I wanted to share a special memory. Read on.
A half an hour before sunset, Seabourn Quest slowly pivots her way in the river in order to reach the Amazon’s main channel while departing Santarem. The lowering sun is huge, red and beautiful over the tangled waterways and jungle to the west. A small grass and brush fire smoldered on an unreachable island immediately off our port side, sending a column of dark smoke into the light breeze.
An awe-inspiring experience
^he extraordinary Amazon is like no other tributary in the world and a must do for all bucket lists. We have encountered pockets of smoky air that smells exactly like a wood fire. Inland, we’ve seen smoke rising in the distance. But these are nothing compared to those that have raged for decades deep in the vast rainforest that covers an area the size of Europe and is estimated to have already been reduced by one-fifth. This is no isolated statistic when the Amazonian rainforest contributes perhaps one-third of the planet’s oxygen and absorbs an equal amount of its carbon dioxide.
Saving the rainforest
Logging of tropical hardwoods like mahogany, most of it illegal, is always the first step in the process of this toxic deforestation. Ancient slash and burn, the source of much of the Basin’s air pollution, is then used clear land for temporary agriculture. It is temporary because the thin rainforest soil cannot support growing crops or grass for grazing for more than a year or two. That land may never return to original rainforest, even after hundreds of years. Tourism, including our cruise on the Amazon and others like it, help focus world attention on this catastrophic cycle.
During the night as we sailed up the river passengers were awakened by smoke infiltrating their suites, and this morning when we anchored in the middle of the river off the small city of Parintins, the atmosphere was thick, oppressive and flavored with smoke for the first time. Insects, which we were warned about, were still not much of a problem, but there was no doubt that we had reached the steamy hell of the tropics.
This is just one vivignette from an amazing Amazon River journey on the glorious Seabourn Quest. We certainly picked the right ship for this destination. Stay tune for more about that Amazon cruise. In the meantime if you’re interested in cruising the Amazon cruise, just ask Pavlus to find it and book it, leave the arrangements to them.