So, you are thinking about going to the Amazon?
You are going to love it!!
This trip is going to be nothing like you are expecting, and it is going to be sooo much more! Hollywood has really lied to us about the Amazon! But if you think trees and water everywhere, you won’t go wrong. So, here are some tips that might make your planning easier.
Sometimes, over-night stays are required in Miami or Manaus because of airline connections. Typically, we fly into Manaus, a city of one and a half million people in the heart of the Amazon, go to the boat, and spend 7 to 10 days traveling on the Amazon River and its tributaries providing medical clinics for different villages or doing construction projects.
LIFE ON THE BARCO: You will live on the boat (unless you get put off into one of the villages with a construction crew). You will eat, sleep, bath, go to the bathroom, lounge around, treat patients, entertain guests, be entertained, have devotions, laugh, and cry on the boat. You can get off the boat and walk around in the villages, and we might have church service in the village, but most of your time will be on board the “CBM Amazonia”. Don’t worry though, very few people get sea sick!
WORK ON THE TRIP: What you will be doing on this trip depends on whether you are doing construction or medical/dental work. The construction crew might be building a church or house in one of the villages, and stay on another smaller boat. They might be staying in
São Sebastião working at the Green House or another project, and stay in a house of one of the CBM staff families or the mission house. The workers on the “CBM Amazonia” will welcome patients aboard, take weights and vital signs, play with the many children, pass out medications, give out toys and candy, clean dental equipment, give haircuts or use lice shampoo, participate in worship
services, and have a lot of fun. There is something for everyone! Where ever you are, you will develop an appreciation for the beautiful Brazilian people and God’s amazing creation.
FOOD: It ain’t McDonalds, but the food is very good! You will have rice and/or pasta most meals, but also fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and chicken, beef, or fish. Maybe you want to try some turtle,
piranha, or alligator. Breakfast is different in that you can have ham & cheese sandwiches, peanut butter, or sweet breads with fresh tropical fruit juices. Bring some snacks for traveling and down times, but you won’t go hungry by any means. Be sure and try the many
home-made Brazilian delicacies. Bottled water to drink is provided on the boat, but most of the larger towns on the river and the cities have clean water supplies. Don’t drink the river water.(The water from your sink and shower is from the river.) It is not uncommon to get some traveler’s GI problems for a day or two, but if you are half-way careful, true food poisoning is extremely rare. If you are worried about an upset GI system, I would recommend taking Pepto-
Bismol tablets 2 tabs, 4 times a day while traveling. Also, having some Cipro or similar antibiotic handy, just in case, is a good idea.
ELECTRICITY: The Brazilian current is 220 volts, but the boat is on 110 (American). Don’t bring a lot of electrical appliances. You won’t need them or have room for them, but you can charge cameras and cell phones. Surprisingly, there is cell phone service in some, more than you might think, of the Amazon region. Check with your phone service provider if you want to get an international plan. Wi-Fi is available on the boat when in larger towns or cities, but internet access is limited when traveling, so don’t expect it 24/7.
SLEEPING: Whether on the boat or in the village, you can sleep in your rede (hammock- pronounced “hed-gy”) or grab a foam rubber mattress to put on the floor. For “wimps” the new boat has multiple air-conditioned bedrooms with bunk beds and individual bathrooms! For the real “Amazon experience” though, sleep outside at least one night!
BATHING & HYGENE: Think of it as church camp! You don’t have to change your clothes or shower all week if you don’t want too! (However, this is not recommended at church camp or in the Amazon!) The boat crew will do laundry every day, and towels are provided. Multiple bathrooms are available on the boat, but the bathroom showers use the river water. Be sure to use bottled water to drink and to brush your teeth.
CHORES: You will be expected to help wash dishes, hang up clothes to dry, put the rain flaps up or down, etc. Make yourself useful! The boat crew will take care of you, but don’t let them!
ANIMALS & INSECTS: No, you probably won’t see an anaconda (how many rattlesnakes have you seen in the wild here?), but if you keep your eyes open you can see wildlife. I have seen monkeys, parrots, macaws, toucans, water buffalo, capybara, pink dolphins, piranha, alligators, and things I don’t know what they were! The bats are fun to watch at night! The bugs in the Amazon are not nearly as bad as you think! I get more mosquito bites sitting on my back porch, than I do on these trips. Having said that, you still need to be diligent taking malaria medicine and wearing insect repellant, because you don’t want to risk getting malaria or Dengue Fever,
which do occur in Brazil. Similar to the states, some villages have more mosquitoes than others, so use caution and be alert. The one menace I personally hate is the biting red ants, having experienced them first hand stepping on an ant hill in one village. I now wear socks in the villages, or am very careful where I step.
PACKING: You will want to be prepared for every possible
contingency, but resist the urge to over pack! You won’t need nearly as many clothes as you think. They wash clothes every day on the boat, so 3 outfits (shorts and tops) can get you thru the 10 days. You will receive a team shirt from CBM on the boat, and many groups design a second team shirt for their trip. Pack a light jacket or
raincoat, and maybe long pants if you are cold natured, but the temperatures usually are in the 70’s at night, and high 80’s to low 90’s during the day. Traveling on the boat at night or if it is raining can be chilly. Usually, it doesn’t rain a whole lot, but you never know (it is not called rainy season and rain forest for nothing), so plan on getting wet sometime, and thank God for the clean water! Print your initials somewhere inside your boat clothes so they can be easily identified in the laundry. You should pack your city clothes (or returning to USA clothes) separately to keep them dry and clean on the boat. Towels and sheets are provided. There is not a lot of storage room on the boat, the bunk areas can get crowded, so the less you take the less you have to take care of! Regardless of what you want to take, you will need to limit yourself to ONE checked bag (and a carryon bag) for your clothes and personal items.
Your second checked bag will need to be saved for supplies the group will take into the country for your trip, such as medications, vitamins, tooth brushes, soaps, etc. Over the counter medicines such as antifungal creams, antibacterial ointments, Pepto-Bismol, GI meds, Tylenol, Advil, Aleve, cold and cough meds, etc. are very useful on the boat for adults and children both. The mission will give you a list of supplies to bring with you, but be thinking of what kind of medical supplies, etc., you might be able to obtain beforehand. Buy some children or adult vitamins (gummy ones are a BIG no-no as they melt) for the trip every time you shop. Ask your Sunday school class, small group, or people you work with to help you collect
medicines and vitamins.
GIFTS: It is customary to take small, appreciation gifts to give to the boat crew. Examples would be souvenirs from your hometown, USA products that you use and want to share, something from your work place, things you have made, unusual foods, etc. Eight to ten small
things should be adequate. This is totally voluntary and between you and your recipients.
SAFETY: This has never been a problem, but use common sense. Don’t take things you will go crazy over losing. Stay with someone else while sight-seeing. Use a credit card instead of carrying a lot of cash. You will need some cash for airport meals and souvenirs, but you can use credit cards in most stores in Manaus. Make 2 copies of your passport, give one to your group leader, and keep the other one safe with you somewhere besides in your passport.
One additional important safety warning. Although these trips are not usually strenuous, there are obstacles and challenges you will face. Just getting on board a boat which is bobbing up and down in the waves can be a daunting task. The stairways on the boat are steep and narrow, the hallways can be crowded, the decks get slippery when wet, and some of the doorways have elevated thresholds which you have to step over. These are not very challenging for most people, but if you have mobility issues, balance
difficulty, or particularly if you need the use of a cane, crutches, walker, etc., then this is not the mission trip for you!
I am sure you have a lot more questions, but hopefully this answered some.
Hope to see you aboard! See how God can use you!
Karen’s additional tips for women: