An Amazon Cruise to the Curaray River, How Could it Have Gone So Wrong?

by Captain Bill

An Amazon Cruise to the Curaray River, How Could it Have Gone So Wrong?

Our Amazon Cruise to the Curaray River was in June. We were full of excitement and anticipation to explore a different wilder river system. I take responsibility for most of what went wrong. This is a different type of blog post. I don’t like writing about my failure but it is near the end of the year, and I hope this self examination will help me wipe the shit off of the slate of my memory and to start the New Year on a more positive note. The only good that can come of this is if you conclude this is another honest evaluation of my life, and that I am a normal, flawed human, trying to learn from my mistakes, and do the best I can.

One other good thing is I got some great photos to show you at the Dawn on the Amazon Photo Gallery.

It began when a woman emailed me about a cruise. She had read some of my blog and web site and knew that I did not go on every cruise. She asked me to choose a cruise for her and her husband that would be so interesting I would feel compelled to go along as their guide. That was the beginning of the trouble.

I have explored most interesting places within a few days cruise of Iquitos, so I thought about expanding my range and suggested the Curaray River. I researched with my friends and peers and determined it would take 8 to 10 days minimum to get to and do justice exploring the Rio Curaray.

We exchanged over 20 emails, most of them long, and full of details. It seemed like we were on the same page, but it is hard to imagine from the mid-west being on a boat, cruising long distances, on a dangerous river through the middle of the jungle.

I believe our guests would have been happy on our normal cruises to one of the three great nature reserves nearer to Iquitos, stopping frequently to canoe or use the excursion boats to discover what was up the small streams or lakes, having intimate contact with the rainforest.

Instead we had to make slow progress up the Napo River. The stretch of the Napo River to the Curaray River is wide and not particularly interesting for nature observation. The river is dangerous, with sand bars and logs. The water level could have been higher and safer in June, but it wasn’t. We had to be very cautious during the day and could not run at night. So it took an extra day to arrive at the confluence of the Curaray River, and would take an extra half day to get back. Everyone agreed the safety of the boat comes before the schedule or itinerary, but the extra day and a half did not help any of our moods.

Our woman guest was apparently a gourmet chef. She did not like a lot of the meals, or the preparation or presentation. One meal made her very sick.She was smart. She asked a lot of questions. I did not always know the answers. I frequently called Marmelita or Edson or got a book out of the library. She was irritated I did not have all the answers. I still do not have all the answers. I will never have all the answers.

I am a little rough around the edges. My mom tried to make me a gentleman, but failed. My grandma told me a thousand times pride cometh before the fall, but I am a proud man. We had a personality conflict on board. I only blame myself. She could not help herself. I could have and should have been more humble.

The Rio Curaray is wild and wonderful. We did not have time to explore up the river near as far as I would have liked. Exploring is not for everyone. Not knowing what is around the next bend can be good or bad.

Our guests were kind enough to bring school supplies to remote jungle village school children. This was new territory for me and my crew so we chose a village at random to attempt to deliver the school supplies. In keeping with the rest of our expedition, this was the most unfriendly village I have ever been to, and one of the best supplied schools. They were uninterested and unappreciative. I wanted to stop at another village later to deliver supplies, but my guests had enough.

I am not going to catalog everything that went wrong, there is lots more. Everything really. I am feeling sad trying to explain this short version, but there is one more episode that I need to touch on. I need to because it hurts the worst.

We had planned to stop at the Canopy Walkway on the way back to Iquitos. When we arrived Explorama Lodges would not allow us access to the Canopy Walkway because we had not signed legal disclaimer waiver forms before we left Iquitos. They did not have the forms at the walkway. I hope I never again see a look like that woman shot me when she found out we were not allowed on the Canopy Walkway. Marmelita burst out in tears. I thought we could surely talk or pay our way onto that Canopy Walkway. I insisted the guards contact Peter Jensen, owner of Explorama Lodge by HF radio to ask special permission for my two guests. The guards called him twice at my insistence. He refused both times. Thanks Mr. Jensen. You would fit right in with this bunch.

Marmelita was crying, I was responsible for a miserable failure. We are a small company. Maybe a big tour company does not take these things so personally, but for us, even one guest that is not happy is very traumatic.

I guess in some ways it is a blessing we only had two guests on the Amazon Cruise to the Curaray River, but we went over 1,000 kilometers, and Dawn on the Amazon lost $1 per kilometer. How could it have gone so wrong?

An Amazon Cruise to the Curaray River, How Could It Have Gone So Wrong?

Bill Grimes

PS: Since then we had a couple that were not happy because they thought it would be more of a dangerous adventure. My guides basically saved their lives, but they did not appreciate the potential danger. I do not take responsibility for their being unhappy.

Most recently we had a woman that should not be allowed to travel. She made my tough cook and young guide cry. If I had been on board I would have removed her from the boat and escorted her back to Iquitos in the excursion boat to ensure the rest of the passengers could enjoy their cruise. I do not take responsibility for her displeasure.

Don’t make my crew cry. You will piss me off.

I know we can not please everyone. Nearly all of our guests appreciate us, most like us, a few love us. I am happy with the percentage that like us.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dottie Bonnett December 29, 2008 at 11:04 pm

How could anyone not love everyone on Dawn on the Amazon? And how could anyone ever complain about the fabulous food???

2 Bill December 30, 2008 at 12:15 am

Thanks Dottie, we know you love us and that it is mutual. Marmelita is guiding a group of 8 to Pacaya Samiria National Reserve right now, and I was just thinking how lucky they are.

Bill Grimes

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