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The Amazon, Manatees, and Good-bye
Peru Part Deux!

The Aqua Band!The Aqua Band! (Andrea Edwards)
One of my favorite things about the Aqua is the wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling windows that are in every room. Each morning you wake up not knowing what your view is going to be. After breakfast we boarded the skiffs and headed out to where the Ucayali and Maranon Rivers meet. This is the precise spot where the river changes names and the capital A, Amazon River officially begins. You could see a clear line in the water where the two rivers met. I swung my legs over the side and dipped my feet in the Amazon. And then Victor yelled at me to get fully back in the boat because he had no intention of diving in after me when I fell. I'm so glad Lee felt well enough this morning to come with us. To make a perfect morning somehow even more perfect, another big group of pink dolphins came to say goodbye. Saying goodbye to the dolphins was hard, but saying goodbye to the crew and friends we made on the Aqua was even harder. That's one thing I've discovered about Peru. The hellos are joyous but the goodbyes are painful. Disembarking, we got on these hilarious little moto-taxis (tut-tuts) and drove through Nauta. Although our driver didn't speak English, he quickly caught on to my hand signals that we wanted to pass the others and lead the procession. As we started passing everyone, Julio, my favorite guide, started shaking his head and laughing. He was trying to yell to our driver to slow down, but he was laughing too hard to be any kind of credible threat. At the edge of Nauta, we got back on the buses and headed back to Iquitos for our flights. On the way, we stopped at a manatee rescue center. This non-profit group rescues manatees that villagers have captured. They rehabilitate them with the goal of returning them to the wild. What a lot of people don’t realize is that manatees drink their mother's milk until the age of 2, so when villagers capture a baby and try to feed it vegetables, the baby dies. The rescue center bottle feeds the manatees and gradually teaches them to feed themselves. In one of the tanks they had three manatees between the ages of 18- and 24-months and you could touch them. Their skin was smoother and harder than I would have imagined, and their faces are so sweet. In another tank were some older manatees, 3- and 4-year-olds, and the biologist gave us all some plants to feed them. It was hilarious to watch them crowd around to get the food. Then he gave me a bottle of milk and showed me how to support their chin with one hand while holding the bottle with the other. Let me tell you one thing, a manatee can drain a bottle of milk faster than you would think! Another incredible experience in this great country. Another round of goodbyes at the airport. Big hugs from Juan and Julio, but Victor was nowhere to be seen. I think he was done with us! I will miss the wonderful team from the Aqua! From Iquitos to Lima and then to Miami.

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