Milt Abel is a stand-up comedian traveling the world, and places closer.

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The Amazon

By Milt Abel | March 25, 2010

| March 25, 2010

The Amazon March 6 – 11, 2010

“You’re not taking malaria Pills?”
You can hear that question, delivered with astonished worry, only so many times before you start to think, ‘I should be taking malaria pills.’
Whenever the subject of preventative medications came up; yellow fever shots, and hepatitis shots, malaria pills, hand-washing for the Norwalk, I was always hesitant to join the conversation amongst the other entertainers onboard the Prinsendam. They had all taken the precautions while I, very un-Keith Richard-like, avoided taking anything. The big one was the yellow fever shot, which until recently wasn’t even up for debate when it came to getting into Brazil; you wouldn’t be allowed in unless you could produce proof that you had the inoculation. It had been reduced to a recommendation from a requirement for entry, and I had spend so much time, money, and energy getting just the visa, I opted to travel au natural -so to speak.
But after hearing a few medical horror stories, and the kind of laughter that comes only from pity, a traveller like myself starts to think they may have packed too light. The clincher was the captain’s ship-wide announcement that, while we were on the Amazon, he recommended that we keep the all the windows and doors closed because there we so many bugs and we didn’t want them flying in “especially the moths that can be the size of bats” Yes, especially those. Moths were always a threat to devour your clothes, but to rip them off your back and begin munching while staring you in the eye, that’s another thing altogether.
It tickled me, that we were entering the Amazon, in a fairly modern cruise ship, with a hundred years of research and medical progress on jungle fevers and their abatement, and the captain suggest we do the same thing I do when driving past a particularly smelly diary; roll up our windows.
We entered the Amazon at the end of the rainy season, so the river was as big as it gets -which is no trickle. If the guest lecturer on board was correct, if you take the next eight biggest rivers in the world and add their flow volume together, the amazon is still bigger. There are points on the amazon where you can’t see either side of the shore, even from ten stories up at the highest point of the ship.
And it was humid. Hot and humid. The ship’s air-conditioning system was going full tilt to keep us comfortable, and it did, but our beloved cruise director announce that the ship engineer and his air-conditioning system were pulling eight thousand gallons of water a day out of the equatorial air. Go outside and you and your clothes got squishy in a matter of minutes.
Despite all these lovely conditions I still had to say I touched the Amazon River, like saying you licked the North Pole. This is a photo of me sticking my finger into the river from a dock that was nothing more than a fallen log with some 2 X 4’s laid across the top. I dipped my finger in for just a second, a ritual the locals call ‘fishing for piranha.’
Almost every straw market along the river had various species and sizes of piranha dipped in some kind of acrylic and spiked to a piece of wood. I wonder if below the muddy surface of the river piranha had fingers and toes mounted for sale to visiting fish. All locals said there was no fatality ever attributed to piranha but that didn’t mean I was going swimming. I was actually more frightened of the ‘Uh-oh’ fish; a fish that is attracted to humane urine and will swim its narrow body up a urethra with no way to back out. Very messy business, that.

me putting my finger into the Amazon

me putting my finger into the Amazon


Our guest lecturer said that one third of all known varieties of life can be found in the amazon, and if I was to camp out there I’m sure most would find a way to crawl into my sleeping bag.

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