By guest blogger, Allison Quattrocchi
If you’re not afraid of heights, are in reasonably good shape, would enjoy a view of the rainforest from a bird’s perspective, and perhaps be eye to eye with a few vultures, this may be an adventure for you.
I am in Manaus, Brazil, at the end of a trip to the Amazon and have a day before I fly out of Manaus at the ungodly hour of 4:00 a.m. on the last leg of my journey home. Plenty of time to fit in another adventure.
Manaus, a city with a population of over 1,500,000, is situated on the expansive banks of the Rio Negro River (Black River). It’s a bustling business center, a major port and transportation gateway for most Amazon traffic. The city was chosen to host the Soccer World Cup in 2014. Soccer is the lifeblood of Brazil and the city’s ranks will swell by thousands for that event.
The Rio Negro River merges with the Amazon River, forming a river system that serves as a major highway for the region. Large riverboats with row upon row of colorful hammocks carry passengers and goods to and from the more remote areas of the Amazon. Smaller motorboats zip about transporting tourists or locals to destinations along the river, and fishermen in their pirogues head for their favorite fishing spots. People, animals and shanties line the shore.
On the outskirts of Manaus, the Rio Negro and the muddy Amazon River flow side by side for a few miles like ribbons of dark and milk chocolate. Eventually, the mighty Amazon prevails and swallows up the Rio Negro. The point where the two rivers meet is a tourist attraction called “The Meeting of the Waters.” Tourists generally view it from the ground. I unwittingly choose a more adventurous perspective and will have a perfect view of it from a tree limb high above the rainforest floor.
After checking out the options available in the time we have, three of us sign up for this tree climbing adventure. Without thinking much about the “how,” we visualize some sort of experience with steps, elevated walkways and a platform or two in the treetops. Imagine our surprise when we find ourselves standing at the base of a gigantic kapok tree in the rainforest and watch as a guide scales the tree and hangs a set of ropes for each of us from a high branch.
One of the guides, a very young, strapping stud, begins to explain the technique of using harness, ropes, carabineers and gears to get to the top. Grandmothers all, astonishment and disbelief register on each of our faces.
After overcoming the initial shock, we don helmets and climb into our harnesses. Age has not diminished our intrepid spirits. Our guide gives us further instructions. You pull on the left rope with your left hand, lean your body backwards, rock forward while thrusting your legs downward, then pull on the rope by your right hand.
Miraculously, this moves you upward about 6-8 inches at a time. I eye the remote branch above and reckon I might get there sometime the next day. But, after a fitful, frustrating 15 minutes, I begin to get the hang of it. The task, I discover, is more a matter of coordination than strength.
Aided by grim determination and after what seems like forever, I make it to the top. Exhilarated by my accomplishment, I perch on top of a limb 90-feet off the ground and admire the view, trying to relax and adjust my senses to this new perspective. I’ve entered a different world. Treetops to the front, back and left of me are so dense I can’t see the forest floor except by looking straight down. And I avoid that out of fear of a slight panic attack. A pair of wings would certainly be helpful.
To my right, the vast Rio Negro River basin dominates the landscape for miles. High enough to see the pattern of the river twisting and turning, expanding and contracting through its wide channel, I marvel at the scope of my view and the detail of the land that’s visible. This is better than seeing it from a plane.
In the distance, I notice the black and brown ribbons of water, which mark the spot where the Rio Negro joins the Amazon. Two vultures sit in a tree opposite me. Eyeing them suspiciously, I wonder if they’re looking at me and thinking, “This might be an easy meal.” I aim to disappoint them.
The treetop guide scampers about like a monkey, obviously very comfortable in this leafy environment. My only camera, a full-size DSLR, has ascended with me in a pouch hooked to my waist. Taking the guide up on his offer to help me take photographs, I gingerly remove the bulky camera from its pouch. One slip and camera and lens will lie in smithereens on the rainforest floor.
Photos taken, camera safely stowed, views fixed in my memory bank, terra firma beckons. I close my eyes, hold my breath, and roll backward off the limb. I know intellectually that the equipment will hold me but that knowledge makes the move no less gut wrenching. The instruction is to descend slowly. Going down is much easier than going up. More than ready to be on the ground, I get stuck a few times by going too fast. Each time I look to the guide somewhat helplessly and he soon gets me on my way again. A larger tip is in order.
At last my feet touch solid ground. Happily exhausted, I free myself from the constraints of my equipment, flop down flat on a tarp, and sense the comfort of Mother Earth against my entire body. Smiling contentedly, I’m feeling fairly certain my adventure entitles me to some bragging rights. Experiences like this remind me of the satisfaction that comes from approaching challenges within reason, daunting though they may be, with an “I can” attitude and stretching my horizons. Age is not a barrier.
And, what of my two companions? They made it to 27-feet, but are just as thrilled as I am by having taken up the challenge of the tree climbing experience.
If you are inspired by supersenior Allison’s great adventure, check-out the following:
www.amazondestinations.com Contact: email@example.com, phone number in Amazonas: 92 9154 2389. Allow about four hours for this adventure.
Allison Quattrocchi’s Bio:
Allison is an attorney, mediator, author, photographer and world traveler. Among the books Allison has authored and co-authored on divorce topics (order on DivorceinaNutshell and azfamilymediationcenter) is bestseller “How to Talk to Your Children About Divorce, which is available on Amazon. Allison and a couple who were her clients were featured on an ABC TV PrimeTime Live Family Secrets documentary (click here to see short video). Allison is available to groups as a speaker and to individuals and businesses as a conflict coach.
Allison has raised three children, indulges four grandchildren and has a high sense of adventure and making her life count. You can learn more about Allison’s rich life at www.dancewitheagles.com.