The Real Dawn on the Amazon Cruises in Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve
I’m happy. My daughter, son, and grandkids all visited with me in Iquitos Peru at the same time. I can hardly believe my family were here with me nice and close. It meant a lot to me. They traveled all this way to be with Dad. My son Matt has visited here three times, and he likes it here, but this was Dawn and her family’s first time. I enjoy living in Iquitos Peru, but I always miss my family and friends.
I wanted to show Dawn what I do, so we outfitted Dawn on the Amazon 1 and cruised up the Nanay River into one of my favorite places on earth, Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve. This is an account of our family expedition.
I want to take this opportunity to tell you about how we live on board Dawn on the Amazon 1, what we eat, how we stay clean, how we sleep, what we saw and what we did. I hope you think it is as interesting as I do. We didn’t do anything special for my family. This is how we treat everyone that joins Dawn on the Amazon on one of our cruises.
The jungle within three or four hours of Iquitos is over exploited. Too many trees cut, too much charcoal made, too many fish netted, too many animals killed. The first four hours we cruised to get away from civilization. I still find it interesting to see all of the Amazon River boats, small fishing boats, balsa rafts, canoes, and the human activity around the small villages, but the best part starts when we arrive near the border of the Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve.
Judy or Marmelita do most of the cooking on our cruises. We have a four burner gas stove and pack two coolers, plus all the pots and pans and utensils. We always carry pure water in large bottles for drinking, cooking, rinsing fruits and vegetables and washing dishes, more pure water than can be drunk or used.
Judy did the cooking this time and she created a masterpiece for lunch. It would be futile for me to try to describe the taste of the fresh Dorado fish, steamed with ginger, garlic and vegetables, but if you want to try it your self, click here for the full recipe, Sudado de Pescado, Steamed Fish. I recommend it with the freshest filleted fish you can catch or buy. Better yet, join us on an Amazon Cruise and let Judy do the cooking.
My grand children are picky mid-western eaters, but Billy and Danielle were good sports and tried most of our “exotic foreign” food, some with more success than others. Adam is only 6 years old and steamed fish with vegetables wasn’t part of the deal for him, but we filled him up on bread and peanut butter so he survived.
We have a Jungle Cabin overlooking beautiful Llanchama Lake near the border of Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve. We rent the cabin out to tourists, and spend some weekends there. If you would like to know more about the accommodations, click the following link. Our Jungle Cabin was the first stop. We have planted several species of palm, and fruit trees there and the Aguaje, Copoazu, and Guaba were ripe. A big rainstorm was blowing up so we quickly gathered and sampled some fruit, hurried back to the boat, and were soon inside the reserve.
Billy and Dan are big time fishermen, so I set a goal to get to a good fishing hole that I know by dark, and we tied up with the last light. This is the rainforest, and it lived up to its reputation by raining most of the day, sprinkling some of the night, and into the first morning.
Dan was the best at spotting Pink Dolphins. He pointed out several Pink Dolphins to us as we motored up the Nanay River.
Judy cooked a delicious Peruvian frittata full of vegetables as the main course for dinner. Marmelita is a smart woman and for Adam’s benefit, she called it a pizza which made everything all right with him. She didn’t fool Billy, but he ate most of one anyway.
After dinner, Dan and Billy started fishing from the observation bow of the boat, Judy and Marmelita cleaned up from the meal, and Edson, my “motorista”, friend, and right hand man, started organizing the boat for the night.
Our sleeping accommodations on Dawn on the Amazon 1 can be either a roll out mattress, with sheets, pillow, pillow case; or hammocks, all with mosquito nets, which ever our guests prefer. On this cruise everyone chose the roll out mattresses except me. I like to hang a hammock at the front of the boat. That is my usual place to be, part guard duty, part easy access to the front of the boat, or when I wake up early if no one else is stirring around.
A big benefit to cruising into Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve is there are the fewest mosquitoes of any place I know of in the upper Amazon Basin. I did not use insect repellent or a mosquito net and only heard one mosquito the whole trip.
In the morning I enjoyed the best three egg omelet with sweet peppers, green onions and mushrooms I have eaten since my last cruise with Judy. The rest of my family had eggs either scrambled, over easy, hard, or cereal. By the second day Adam was quite addicted to amazon honey and cereal. I am worried about Adam. Dawn, he seems to be a budding genius, but will he reach his full potential without some crunchy green, yellow, and red vegetables for a balanced diet?
Edson guided Dan and Billy fishing in our jon boat to the lake that was our goal the night before. Edson and I knew fishing was going to be difficult because the water is flooded and the fish are back in the jungle where there is plenty of fish food and they are safe from predators and fishermen.
I guided Dawn, Danielle, and Adam in our canoe into the same lake. In some ways we had more luck than the fishermen. We found a brilliant bromeliad and a small but fresh orchid and examined some interesting seeds from trees.
In the afternoon we visited a small village with no electricity or plumbing, and took a jungle hike. I have an old injury that was bothering me, so I turned back to the boat after an hour or so. The rest of the group saw two Saddle-backed Tamarins, learned about edible, and medicinal plants, and appreciated walking in the jungle.
Edson dug some worms, and organized a couple of young villagers with nets to seine some minnows for bait. They caught around 2 dozen small Lisas. When the hikers returned to the boat, Dan and Billy were very enthusiastic and confident about fishing with our new found bait. We set out upstream to another lake where we have caught lots of fish before.
For lunch, Judy cooked cecina and yellow mashed potatoes, served with a special salsa criolla. If you would like the recipe, click the link. Cecina is lean salted, smoked, and marinated ham slices. It was Danielle’s favorite meal, and I think it was Adams favorite also. He loved the mashed potatoes, and so did I.
Our bathroom is a private area separated from the rest of the boat by a wall and a door that latches. It is an attractive room, built of the tropical hardwood purple heart, and decorated with artistic wood carvings, with open windows facing out and back. There are plastic curtains that can be lowered for more privacy, but I like to think that depending on where we are stopped it is one of the best views from a toilet seat or a shower that I have ever seen.
The floor of the bathroom has three drains to allow water to escape. The shower is a large bucket, with a smaller dipper. Hang your clean cloths and towel over to one side out of the way to keep them dry. Hang your dirty clothes on the other side out of the way. Dip water out of the big bucket to pour over you. A smaller bucket with a rope attached to the handle is for dipping more river water to refill the large bucket. A large mirror, towels, soap, shampoo, and an endless supply of toilet paper are provided. Don’t laugh. All of those items are rarely found on Amazon River boats.
When Dawn and Adam took their first bucket shower in the bathroom, Adam yelled and screamed like his mom was torturing him but then he bounced out laughing and bragging that was the best shower he ever had and he wanted another one. When we got back to Iquitos we asked Adam what the best part of the cruise was and after he thought a little while and smiled…”It was the shower”.
As we cruised upstream late afternoon the clouds broke up and the light turned golden, perfect for photography. The trees looked like a golden powder was falling from the heavens and dusting the leaves with gold. We saw a toucan perched in the open, big beak silhouetted in the golden light.
We arrived at our next fishing hole an hour and a half before dark. Perfect timing. We had bait this time so Billy and Dan got right to work. Billy caught his first tropical toothy fish, a piranha. Dan caught a catfish.
Judy cooked giant snails, chopped with peppers and spices served with pasta and a light home made tomato sauce. I think that was my favorite meal. Judy babied Adam and saved him some mashed potatoes and he was happy.
The giant snail shells make interesting souvenirs. Edson saved the skull and jaw bones of the piranha and boiled the meat off leaving the skeleton and teeth. He dried it in the sun all the way back so Billy has the skull with piranha teeth in Indiana.
One of our best nature experiences occurred that night in total darkness tied up to a tree sticking out into the river. We were surrounded by two pods of dolphins, a pod of Pink Dolphins and a pod of smaller gray dolphins. They make a different noise when they sound is how I know. For at least an hour there was a stereo chorus of “bufeooo”, “phhhoooo” right next to the boat, all around us, as they fed on small fish.
The next morning at first light, and for around two hours, we had our second best nature experience. Again it was pure audio. We never saw the four troupes of Duski Titi monkeys that were communicating with each other back and forth across the river. That monkey chorus was what I imagine a rainforest movie soundtrack should sound like.
Edson, Dan and Billy got a good early start fishing. I tackled another delicious omelet. I don’t know how I got so fat. I thought jungle guides were wiry, skinny guys. Most people don’t eat this good. I blame Judy.
We had a bad nature experience. Two teenage natives paddled out of the jungle right past our boat. The only sloth we saw the whole trip was murdered in the back of their canoe. We would have probably seen that sloth alive and cute, but the young men had poached it inside the reserve, outside of their subsistence zone. That makes me mad.
After breakfast Dawn and I canoed through a narrow opening in the jungle, wound around under the canopy and came out onto a beautiful lake. The guys were not having any luck fishing but they saw a few squirrel monkeys. Dawn and I found another pretty orchid blooming, some bromeliads, and had a nice canoe ride in the rainforest.
While we were canoeing, Edson and Judy butchered the live hen we carried with us for fresh meat. We had fried chicken, french fries, and a crisp salad, washed down with fresh squeezed lemonade and mango juice. Judy added the fish Dan and Billy caught and we had another feast. That was the first time Adam put together where chicken nuggets come from.
We only had three days to enjoy and this was the third day so we headed back downstream but we took our time. Edson stopped the boat and pointed out a Plum-throated Cotinga for us to see. Dan and I relaxed sharing a Polar sweet dark beer. I took a nap. Judy and Marmelita had everything cleaned up and organized before we got near Iquitos.
I hope you got a feel for how comfortable our life is in the wilderness. We eat, live, clean, rest, and sleep better than most of the population of the world. Not as good as in your own kitchen and living room, but it sure beats camping.
Our Amazon riverboat cruise was fun and interesting. Every expedition into the rainforest is different. We didn’t see as much wildlife as I would have liked, but it was enough. Dawn’s schedule only allowed for a three day cruise. I think a five day cruise is the best number of days to give yourself time to see more, but not too long.
I enjoyed my family, and that was the most important part for me.
The Real Dawn on the Amazon Cruises in Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve
Bill Grimes, father of the real live Dawn on the Amazon
If you are interested in learning more about Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve, you could read these articles, Why Does the Sloth Swim Across the River?, Peacock Bass Fishing Trip, and The Bats of Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve and How They Could Benefit You.