Thursday, October 31, 2013

Amazon Dreams - The Last of the Adventure

Hey all,

This is the last of the blogs about our trip into the Amazon.  I could take weeks to really tell you everything we did, but I figure you all can just take so many home movie type blogs before you start pulling your hair out and run screaming into the street.

Anyway, this blog is to show pictures of all the animals, reptiles, birds and insects we saw on our trip, but while my camera takes pretty good scenery pics, anything moving is a challenge.  I did get a few though, so I'll share them, then, add a few pics from the internet of critters I saw.

Looking for fauna (the fancy name for critters and such) was one of the high points of our trip.  We each had our binoculars, and by the time the journey was over, I felt like they were a part of me, I'd worn them around my neck so much.  In fact, when we got back to "civilization" I kept reaching for them whenever I saw a bird fly by.  I felt naked when I realized they weren't there.  LOL  As you can see in the picture above, I'm totally stylin'!  *snort*

From day one we saw things.  We hadn't been on the boat an hour when we saw our first pink dolphins breach next to the boat.  Sixteen people rushed to the side of the boat excited to see the famous denizen of the river.  (I almost freaked, thinking the boat was going to tip over.)

But it was only one of dozens of sightings.  A day didn't go by when the beautiful animals didn't show themselves.  One morning we even saw a mother and baby playing around the canoes.  Awesome!  And when we traversed the meeting of the waters--where the sand-colored Amazon and the dark tea-colored Rio Negro run side by side and do not mix--we were joined by several grey dolphins leaping at the bow of the ship.  What an experience!

We also saw birds by the hundreds.  Parrots of all kinds, scarlet macaws, toucans, herons--including the tiger rufescent (an absolutely beautiful bird), hummingbirds, woodpeckers and creepers, hawks and kingfishers just to name a few.  (See below for some of those pics)

A Flock of Hoatzin, one of the prettiest birds we saw in the jungle.
Whenever we saw a scarlet macaw they were always flying.

These are Rufescent Tiger Heron.  Another gorgeous bird.

A bird we saw many, many times.  The Amazon Kingfisher.

Another bird we saw several times a day.  The festive parrot.  We always knew when they were around.  You could hear them for miles!

I loved the canoe rides and birds were everywhere.  I got whiplash most days just looking at them.  We were even fortunate to see the endangered Harpy eagle sitting in a tree over one of the smaller rivers.  So majestic and lofty.

We saw our share of reptiles, too.  Both black and speckled cayman (kinda like alligators), a beautiful tree boa (or anaconda) curled up in the branches of a low hanging tree over the water, and also a Northern cayman lizard, which is similar to an iguana, but blends in well amongst the green and brown of the trees.

This was a small speckled cayman, one of about a dozen we saw during our trip.

This beautiful snake just hung in the tree as we drifted by.  A remarkable sight.

The Northern cayman lizard.  It may look like an iguana, but once you get close you can see the differences.  It looks even more like a dinosaur.

Insects were also everywhere.  Beautiful butterflies, dragonflies, ants--bullet, soldier, and leaf cutters, tarantulas, moths (some that were as lovely as butterflies), and some insects I still am not sure exactly what they were.

The Morpho butterfly, one of many we saw over the week.  The vibrant color is beyond amazing.

These leaf cutter ants are one of my favorite insects.  They carry bits of leaves, flower, and fruit sometimes five times bigger than themselves.

This insect showed up on the boat one night.  According to our insect book, it was a grasshopper, but a different order called Pyrgomorph.

The guides even had a "pet" tarantula who'd lived in the same hole for years.  They'd tap at the entrance and he'd come out to play. *shudder*  I DID NOT get a good pic of him.  This is courtesy of a friend who was NOT afraid.  LOL

We saw monkeys swinging through the trees, whole troops of them.  They'd stop and stare at us, before disappearing into the leaves again.  Every morning as we headed out in canoes, we were greeted by the howler monkeys hooting and hollering to wake the jungle up.  The noise they make is amazing.  Totally freaky and worthy of every zombie movie written.

This common spider monkey was a hoot to watch.  They are really amazing acrobats.  Cirque people could learn a lot by watching them!

Listen to the howler monkeys.  You'll see why I think the sounds are perfect for a horror movie.

And of course there were the sloths, so cute and sleepy looking, but they can move pretty quickly when they wanted to.  We saw quite a few of them on different days, but it was the last day where we got the really good look.  The one we saw the most of was the three toed, brown throated variety.  Both male and female.  I was so jazzed to see them in the wild.

But, as I promised, it's time to share the animal I was most excited to see.  I was so completely tickled about it, I wanted to dance.  (Not good when you're in a tiny little canoe!) It happened one morning as we were sliding quietly up a small channel.  We always try to be silent, waiting for anything that might appear.  When suddenly we heard this small yip.  Almost a bark.  Then, out of nowhere up popped the head of a giant Amazon river otter.   He saw us and stopped dead in the water, staring.  All around us we heard more otters as they chattered and barked and yipped at each other.  Then the otter sank back into the water and disappeared.

As you can imagine, we were all really jazzed.  But it still wasn't over.  We sat for about ten minutes in dead silence.  And it paid off when the rest of the otters made their way across the river in front of us.  I don't remember how many there were, but once they saw us, most of them dropped out of sight.  Just a few kept watch, rising almost to their back legs out of the water.  That was pretty cool.  When the rest of the family had gotten safely across, the larger otters took one last look at us, flipped us a tail and sank out of sight.
The one critter I'd really wanted to see, and I saw it!  A real dream come true.

I could go on and on.  I could tell you about the bats that came to visit each evening, and the invasion of the flying ants that attacked us our second night out and literally blanketed the whole deck of the boat. *creepy*  Or Rocket, the pet frog that lived in our bathroom.

Then there was the cane toad that was as big as a grapefruit and sounded like Lou Rawls with a head cold.  Add the screeching of the Amazon Bamboo Rat and the squealing vocalization of Peckeries, and we had quite an orchestra!

And go to these links for the last two...

Bamboo Rat -
Peckeries -

If you're into reptiles I could tell you about the Jesus Christ lizard who waved as he sprinted across the water next to our canoe.  Or the skipping fish, who--you guessed it--skipped instead of swam around the boat. 
Or, if you like adventure stories, I could tell you about one of our boatmen who, for a treat, decided to go catch a speckled cayman for us. 

In the swamp.


True story!!!!!

As you can see, if you love nature and all it's possibilities, this is a once in a lifetime trip.  We'd go back in a heartbeat, even stay upriver in one of the villages for awhile.  I'd never run out of inspiration, that I can promise you!

Anyway, I'll be back next Thursday with a fun blog about toilet seats, or the lack thereof.  

Have an awesome rest of your week!


CJ England

Follow Your Dreams

Friday, October 25, 2013

What Were They Thinkin'?

Oh, I knew there'd be hell to pay
But that crossed my mind a little too late...
What was I thinkin', oh what was I thinkin'
~~~Dierks Bentley

Hey all,

I was going to do a final post about the Amazon River Trip, but our internet was sucky this week, so I couldn't upload the pics I wanted.  I'll try and do it next week. 

But I wanted to do something, and when I was surfing FB last night, it came to me.  Though I'm not sure I'm grateful for it.  :-)

As you know, I'm a demon for research.  I love finding out new things--and a lot of times I discover really cool things I wasn't even searching for.  But I also learn some things I would rather have gone a lifetime NOT knowing.

I'm totally and constantly surprised at what people will put online.  I often wonder if they're on drugs or doing shots of Tequila when playing on the internet.  It's the only explanation.

For example...

I saw this on Facebook, and after my eyes stopped bleeding, I wondered if he thought he was being macho, attractive or if he even cared how weird and scary freaky he looked.

I wondered just why in HELL anyone would do this to those they loved...  I mean what kind of therapy are these kids going to need later in their life?

I'm positive there is a story here, but I'm just as sure I DO NOT want to read it!  LOL

 OMG.  One of my personal pet peeves.  Bathing suit pics that shouldn't be.  I wonder if this guy weeps every time he sees this.

Really?  And what did this guy drink to decide this was in ANY WAY appropriate?  Little Bo Peep, he ain't!!!!

Well, I guess this dude is really in touch with his feminine side.  Maybe a little too much!

So there you have it.  A few of the weirdest, worst and ultimately unexplainable photos on the web.  And each of them beg the question...

What Were They Thinkin'?

I'll be back next week.  Not sure with what, but I'll be here!

Hugs to all,

CJ England

Follow Your Dreams

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Into the Depths Of the Earth

Hey all,

As promised, today's blog is about the wonderful caves we visited on our last weekend.  Belo Horizonte has quite a few mines and caves in the vicinity, and while many aren't set up for tourists, we found a circuit nearby with some amazing and beautiful places.  
Holes in the ground?  I guess some people may see them that way, but for me it's a step into the depths where art and beauty is all around you.  I've been to caves all over the world and each time I step inside, I'm never sure what exactly I'll find.  It's like walking into a room and being totally surprised how it's decorated.

And since I believe in a little less talk and a lot more action, let's just head straight to the pictures, shall we?

This first few are from the Gruta Rei do Mato, (Cave of the Forest King) a cave less than an hour away from Belo Horizonte.  It was a beautiful place with some of the most interesting formations I've seen in a cave.  Stalactites, stalagmites and columns clumped together in some amazing ways.  Check them out below.

This formation is called, as you may guess, The Ice Cream Cone.  The guide and I giggled about it, and decided we'd have a sweet once we were done with the tour.  But she told me to go ahead and give it a taste now and tell her what it was like.  LOL

The second cave is called Gruta de Maquiné.  This cave, a little less than a half hour away from the first one, was one of the biggest cave complexes I've ever investigated.It's known for formations in the shapes of different animals, and while it was fun for our guide to tell us about them (he spoke only Portuguese, so his telling included a lot of charades and sign language) we felt he was reaching on several of them.  LOL  Ready to see?  Enjoy!

The Cave Entrance

The following are some of the formations found in the cave.  There were so many I couldn't add them all.  Just know each and every one of them was beyond amazing.

This one is known as The Pachyderm.  Can you tell why?  :-)

Another cool thing.  This area of the cave, some of the formations were so thin you could shine a light through them.  But right next to this piece of rock would be an area you couldn't see through.  

This formation (above the guide) carries the name, Niagara Falls and it's easy to see why.

This was one of the most beautiful cave lakes I've ever seen.

You can see how big this main chamber is.  Our guide looks so tiny in this huge room.

This cave is also known for it's cave paintings, thought to be done by indigenous people dated 4,000 to 6,000 years ago.

But overall, it was one of the prettiest caves we've ever been in, plus the guide showed us some really cool tricks.  In one area he'd knock on the wall in different places and the tones would be completely different.  Sounded like a beautiful xylophone.  I was amazed.  And apparently in this cave they found bones of prehistoric animals.  Very cool. 

Anyway, I hope you liked the pics.  If you want to know more about these caves, go read up one them at the following sites.

Gruta Rei do Mato -
Gruta do Maquine -

Take care and I'll see you again on Thursday for the last installment of our Amazon trip.


CJ England

Follow Your Dreams