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Amazon River Cruise

Seventeen Wisconsin Alumni Association (WAA) travelers cruised up and down the Amazon River. We started out in Iquitos, Peru, where we embarked on our 600-mile journey.

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All of the travelers were thrilled with the new, custom-designed Amazon riverboat, La Estrella Amazonica. It was the fourth trip this boat has taken on the Amazon. Of course, it came with some very talented expedition leaders, as well. Each night, the crew, including our expedition leaders, would grab a microphone, a drum or a harmonica and play Peruvian music for us.

One of my favorite parts of this trip was the canopy walkway, a rope bridge that leads through the rainforest treetops. The group walked through the woods for nearly an hour to get to the first tree house. The day was warm and humid, with very little wind, but the scenery was priceless. The walkway featured 14 canopies that went from one tree to the next, some longer, some shorter. We were walking above the trees, giving the illusion that the treetops were a floor.

Another highlight of the trip was seeing Dr. Linnea Smith ’81, MD’84 and her Yanamono Clinic. Linnea had gone to the Amazon on a trip when she was younger, and she fell in love with it and wanted to move there to help the people in the villages. After she received her medical degree from UW-Madison, she opened her clinic. What a wonderful way to give back to those people so desperately in need!

We had the privilege of visiting one of the villages, Nueva York, Spanish for “New York.” Members of one of the families there let us into their home, which included a five-inch tarantula! I was beside myself wondering how they could live this way. The kids were as curious as any. They let us into their school and sang songs to us, and we sang “On, Wisconsin!” back to them. In gratitude for their hospitality, we gave them school supplies.

Clever, Sigundo and Angel — our fearless guides — bestowed their wealth of knowledge during the daily boat excursions and various lectures, and they even served us a special lunch aboard the skiff we took out one day.

There were unforgettable moments: being welcomed to villages like dear friends; watching a dance with formal dress; witnessing a shaman’s blessing ritual; and spending time up close with fascinating wildlife — sloths, caimans, monkeys, and a vast volume of bird species (more than 150!).

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