Courtesy of Delfin Amazon Cruises
Courtesy of Delfin River Cruise
One of Delfin Amazon Cruise’s three ships
A smartphone addict finds out what happens when she’s forced to disconnect deep in the Amazon rain forest.
As a travel writer, I often have the chance to visit amazing places. But it’s rare that I take an actual work-free vacation, unbound by the compulsion to answer emails, post photos to Instagram, or scroll through Facebook. That’s why, for the past few years, my August birthday has been an excuse to take a no-work trip with Beth, my best friend from college who has summers off. Last year, for my 30th birthday, we decided to truly get off the grid and go somewhere that would really give us a chance to reconnect: the Amazon.
Specifically, a cruise on the Amazon. A five-day voyage aboard Delfin Amazon Cruises was set to depart a few days before my birthday, so Beth and I booked our flights to Iquitos, Peru, and planned a two-day layover in Lima on the way back. According to the information packet we received in advance, there would be excursions into the protected Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, a guided hike in the rain forest, a visit to the local community of San Francisco—and no Wi-Fi or cell service.
The lack of connectivity was going to be hard. I check social media and refresh my email pretty compulsively, usually at least once or twice an hour. Instagram is my favorite, but I've definitely gotten caught spiraling down a Facebook black hole. After setting up email auto-replies, I braced myself for Internet deprivation.
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It took three flights and a 90-minute drive in Delfin’s van before we arrived at the embarkation center in Nauta, where a gaggle of kids ran up to greet us and watched through the glass door as we received a welcome drink and checked in. That’s when we saw the ship for the first time. It was anchored by the river’s muddy embankment, with three levels of pale wood decks and floor-to-ceiling windows for surveying the landscape.
“Having just a few days without [Wi-Fi] makes you realize that in this vastness you are just one more soul that needs to connect to nature and escape the pressures of everyday life.”
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Sure enough, she was right. The first evening at sunset, the crew loaded the cruise passengers onto three small motorized skiffs and boated us over to the confluence of the three rivers: the Amazon, the Marañon, and the Samiria. When all three vessels puttered to the center of this vast aquatic place with nothing but smooth, glassy water below, rain forest on the shoreline, the sky turning a cotton-candy shade of pink, and birds flying overhead, they passed around pitchers of pisco sours, played guitars, and sang folk songs.
I looked around. Our fellow passengers were a mix of Americans and Peruvians, young and old, couples and families. The crew members were Peruvian, some from the Amazon, and some from larger cities. There we were, 40 souls on three small skiffs in the middle of the Earth’s largest reserve of biological resources, raising a toast. Beth and I locked eyes and smiled as we clinked our glasses, hardly believing we had managed to put our busy lives on hold and make it to this incredible place thousands of miles from home together.
After the first day, we got into a natural rhythm, waking up to the sunlight streaming in, heading up to the dining room for breakfast, and boarding the skiff for excursions with our guide, Reni, who regaled us with tales about jaguars preying on villagers’ pets and the time his father got lost for four days in the jungle and nearly died of dehydration. He led us on two or three excursions per day: one in the morning, another in the afternoon, and sometimes one in the evening. In between, we returned to the ship for meals and pisco sours, and found time to relax in the pool on the upper deck, where I chatted with the members of a three-generation family from Lima, a conversation I might have missed if my nose were in my phone.
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