Our small group of 16 left the landing at Manaus, Brazil in the early morning hours via a small boat that took us up the Rio Negro River to Guedes Lake, where we met our survival-trained jungle hiking guide and 2 soldiers armed with machetes. After a short stop to pick up bottled water, we climbed the 42 steps of a rickety wooden staircase and stepped into the Amazon rainforest.
We’re Not in Texas Anymore
The humidity and hot sun combined to make the air unpleasantly thick. Whenever we paused, mosquitoes swarmed. We made our way one by one along the narrow path, stepping occasionally over huge, downed trees. Movement was everywhere – in the thick underbrush, along the trunks of plants and trees, up in the canopy of leaves. One time our guide stopped to point out a bullet ant, the largest ant in the world. One bite from a bullet ant will leave you with 24 hours of excruciating pain.
After a two-hour trek, during which our guide would occasionally pause to give us basic jungle survival tips, we returned to the hut. When the sun goes down, we were told that Brazilian wandering spiders, bullet ants, poison dart frogs, snakes, giant centipedes, jaguars, anacondas, and black caimans come out. I believed our guide when he said none of us would get out alive if we had to spend a night in the jungle. Fortunately, we did not have to find out if that was true, because we were only there for the morning. Our jungle hike was just one excursion in our 21-day Amazon cruise.
You’re Only as Old as You Feel
At 65 I was, incredibly, the youngest in our group of intrepid jungle hikers. The most senior was an 84-year-old semi-retired professor of nuclear chemistry, who was there with his 82-year-old wife, also a chemistry professor. They, like the others, were undaunted by the specter of strenuous activity, personal discomfort, and threat of being exposed to malaria and yellow fever.
It was a similar story with the rest of the 600 cruise passengers. Most were older than me. Although some had physical or health limitations and were dependent upon canes or walkers, not one had shied away from taking a lengthy cruise through uncertain waters to a third-world country.
They were there for the adventure. That did not mean that they were fool hardy; just the opposite. Every passenger assumed only those risks that were within their comfort zone. Only the most able signed up for the jungle excursion, and those who did took precautions. They wore mosquito-repellent clothing, were up to date on their vaccinations for typhoid and hepatitis A and did not stray far from the group.
Preparation Will Never Prevent Adventure
Everyone I spoke to had invested time planning for worst case scenarios. They had purchased trip insurance that covered medical expenses and emergency evacuation. Most had used a travel agent so they would have a ready resource if something went south. The passengers who were US citizens had registered for Global Check and signed up for State Department alerts. A few carried satellite phones. Everyone had left instructions, and estate planning documents, in their wake.
The common bond among all the passengers was a spirit of adventure. There was excited conversation throughout the ship about the next trip on the horizon, the next country to be visited.
Perception can be limiting. Not one of the passengers on that ship perceived their age as a limitation. Therefore, it was not.
As you get older, where will your perception take you?