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    Six Beautiful Beaches of Ilha Grande Brazil

    Beautiful Brazil

    Location: Ilha Grande Brazil

    Six Beautiful Beaches of Ilha Grande Brazil

    We have not met any other Americans here on Ilha Grande. It’s somewhat of a Brazilian secret. A weekend getaway or summer vacation for Brazilian families as well as the twenty-something backpacker set.

    A few foreigners know the secret. We hear some French being spoken. A bit of German. Perhaps some Swedish.  But mostly it’s Portuguese as we make our way with our limited language skills beyond English.

    Like us, everyone is here for the Ilha Grand beaches. Touted as Brazil’s most beautiful, the effort it takes to get to these glorious and remote beaches is worth it.

    Six most beautiful beaches of Ilha Grande

    The white sands of Lopes Mendes

    Six most beautiful beaches of Ilha Grande

    Starting the hike to Lopes Mendes

    Six most beautiful beaches of Ilha Grande

    My favorite Praia Palma

    After nine days on the island, we can report first hand our favorite Ilha Grand beaches as well as report there isn’t a lot else to do. The tiny town of Abraão has some restaurants and a hand full of shops but not even an ATM.  There are no cars here either. If you want to go you walk or take a boat. There is a bustling water taxi and boat shuttle business to remote beaches, other islands and the mainland. We walked and took the boat to discover our favorites.  Walking however involves climbing, on this hilly and often muddy tropical island.  Good footwear is a must. And for me, having my walking poles was a lifesaver.  I took one tumble, with no damage done.

    There are many more Ilha Grande beaches on the island we did not see, but here is our list of our favorite beaches of Ilha Grande;

    Praia Lopes Mendes – at 3K long, Lopes Mendes is the largest of any of the beaches we visited on the island.  Listed often as one of Brazil’s most beautiful beaches, the beach is a beautiful stretch of powdery white sand that squeaks when you walk in it.  Very limited services at this beach, just a few hardy entrepreneurs selling cold drinks out of coolers.  Getting to this beach is a challenge.  You either hike about three hours from the village of Abraao or you take a nearly hour-long boat ride through rough and choppy seas then walk another twenty minutes to reach the beach.

    Six most beautiful beaches of Ilha Grande

    Praia da Crena

    Six most beautiful beaches of Ilha Grande

    Praia Preta

    Praia do Abraazinho – walking from the village of Abraao north you can visit five different beaches through a series of trails and beach walks.  The fifth beach Abraazinho was my favorite.  We spent a wonderful morning here after a hot and sweaty hike and the warm blue waters were a perfect reward for our efforts.  This beach has a few restaurants offered and we enjoyed one of our best meals in all of Brazil here, a Fish and Banana stew that was huge, cheap and delicious.

    Six most beautiful beaches of Ilha Grande

    Abraazinho lunch

    Praia da Crena – after enjoying Abraazinho we walked back towards the village and stopped at the next beach of Praia de Crena.  Smaller than Abrazinho, Praia de Crena offered a shallow swimming area and seemed popular with families.  The water was ridiculously warm and calm.  There was some shaded areas for the late afternoon heat as well as a small restaurant and bar.

    Praia Palmas – a rigorous hike of nearly two hours on a very hot day brought us to the collection of beaches in Palmas.  This was in my opinion the most beautiful beach we saw on Ilha Grande.  A steep beach leads from the shady tree line down to the warm blue water, which on the day we were there had some good rolling surf.

    Praia de Dois Rios

    Praia de Dois Rios – What a workout getting to this beach.  Six mile hike each way from Abraão and straight up.  But the result was a spectacular beach nearly all to ourselves.  Lots of shade and really warm blue water. I loved it.  A couple of vendors selling cold drinks. There is a town here too – a former grand company town where a penitentiary was.  But now the once beautiful homes and buildings are mostly abandoned.  Just a few people left to cater to the beach visitors.

    Praia Preta

    Praia Preta – Close to town but prettier than the beach found right in town, Praia Preta has a little lagoon that is a favorite with families as well as shady area great for picnics.  This beach abuts the original settlement on the island.  Full of history, the site was originally a farmhouse, later a quarantine site for European travelers coming around the horn and suffering from cholera, and then a

    Aquaduct

    penitentiary for many years before being abandoned.  What remains of the buildings are large boulders and building blocks covered in jungle vegetation and moss. Additionally the remains of a historic aqueduct culminating here is also interesting.

    It’s easy to see why Brazilians love this place so much.  I had never even heard of it, so I am really glad Arne did his research and discovered it.  A hidden gem I highly recommend you consider when you come to beautiful Brazil.

    Fabulous!

    Adventure Travel  --  South America Travel

    Let’s Bungle in the Amazon Jungle

    A Brazilian Dream Come True

    Location: Amazon Jungle Brazil

    It’s  a gigantic place. Huge. Impossible to see it all. But the tiny piece of the Amazon Jungle we experienced was a privilege that will stay with us forever.

    Numbers

    First let’s talk numbers in the Amazon Jungle; 5.5 million square kilometers (2.1 million square miles); one fifth of the freshwater flowing into the Earth’s oceans comes from the Amazon River; there are more than 40,000 different kinds of trees and plants; 2.5 millions kinds of insects; 3000 freshwater fish; 427 mammals; 378 reptiles; 400 amphibians; and 1300 kinds of birds. It is the greatest biodiversity area on the earth.

    Multiple rivers feed the jungle emptying eventually into the giant Amazon, which can be as wide as 20 miles in some places. The Amazon is the greatest river of South America and the largest drainage system in the world in terms of the volume of its flow and the area of basin. The total length of the river from the headwaters in southern Peru, is at least 4,000 miles (6,400 km), which makes it slightly shorter than the Nile River but still the equivalent of the distance from New York City to Rome (source Britannica.com)

    Amazon Jungle

    So many birds

    The Amazon Jungle Basin can average rainfall of approximately 2300 mm (7.5 feet). In some areas of the northwest portion of the Amazon basin, yearly rainfall can exceed 6000 mm (almost 20′), often flooding the civilizations that make Amazonia their home. In 2012 the highest flood level ever recorded in Manaus reached 29.97 meters (93 feet).

    Mosquitos

    Amazon Jungle

    Golden Hawk

    A word about mosquitos.  We were prepared to take malaria meds the entire time we were in the Amazon Jungle.  We began our meds the day before arrival and immediately I suffered from stomach upset.  When we arrived at Manati Lodge we learned that this particular area of Amazonia on the Rio Negro is generally mosquito free.  Due to the decomposing material from flora (which also gives the river a coffee color thus the name) the Rio Negro is naturally acidic, with ph ranging 2.4 – 4.9,  thus preventing mosquito larvae from developing.  Although some people still may want to take the malaria meds, I chose to stop taking them as soon as I learned this information – and me and my tummy were both grateful.  Each person should make their own decision and consult with their doctor.  I did receive a handful of bug bites – unknown to me from what kind of bugs.  They have healed quickly.

    The People

    Amazon Jungle

    Colorful Chief

    Today at least 400 indigenous tribes live in the jungle, much as they have for millennia.  The Brazilian government works to protect the rights and traditions of these tribes, all while also trying to help them find diverse ways to earn and survive.  Additionally a handful of tribes still live untouched from any interference by the civilized world and they wish to remain so.

    Manati Lodge

    Amazon Jungle

    Manati Lodge

    For our visit to this fascinating place we chose to spend five days at the Manati Lodge, a simple but comfortable and very well run small lodge about two hours from the city of Manaus.

    Amazon Jungle

    Manati Lodge

    Manaus (population 1.8 million) is the major city of the state of Amazonas, and the jumping-off point for most visitors to the Amazon. From here you can begin your journey to multiple lodges and resorts inside the protected area. A variety of styles and price ranges are available for lodging. For us Manati was just what we needed. All inclusive (transport, comfortable room, all meals and all tours) for two people for five days cost $1100. We spent an additional $20 on alcohol (we did not drink very much by choice)  and $75 on gratuity. For what we got, an absolute bargain.

    Manati has 6 rooms that can sleep four each. During our five days, guests on two, three and five-day tours revolved  in and out.  We met a nice variety of world travelers from Brazil, Canada, England, Italy, France, Croatia and the USA.

    Our Guide

    Amazon Jungle

    Isaac, right, shows me how to weave

    Our guide Isaac was wonderfully full of enthusiasm, stories and wisdom about his native region. Some days we had Isaac all to ourselves and other days we shared him with other guests.

    Amazon Jungle

    New Years Eve

    Isaac made sure we saw and did so much. We began with a serene and beautiful tour by boat to enjoy the jungle from the water. There is green, and then there is Amazon jungle green – an indescribable range of hues I never knew existed on the planet. Throw in the remarkable rainbow and it was such a pleasant way to start our adventure.

    A special celebration on our first night for New Year’s Eve was totally unexpected and so wonderful. The staff decorated with palms and flowers we ate and toasted with sangria and champagne and even had midnight fireworks. Not at all what I expected in the middle of the jungle. It was wonderful.

    So much to see

    Amazon Jungle

    Piranha catch

    Over the next four days we had a huge variety of experiences, but also plenty of downtime to relax and read. I had neither WiFi or cell service over the five days which turned out to be a blessing – giving me a news and social media break I didn’t even realize I desperately needed.

    Surprise Encounters

    Amazon Jungle

    Sloth trying to hide

    A visit to a local village provided us our first spotting of a sloth in the wild – a lifelong dream for me.  Going piranha fishing had never been on my lifelong dream list but it turned out to be very entertaining and fun.

    Medicine

    Amazon Jungle

    Jungle hike

    I really enjoyed our three-hour jungle walk, where we were introduced to a fascinating variety of flora, including dozens of plants that are used in medicines we know and use regularly from Vick’s Vapor Rub to Milk of Magnesia. We saw wild acai, Brazil nuts, palms used for roofs, plants the indigenous people used for poison and hunting and other plants used for survival in the Amazon jungle.  And some in our group even ate butterfly larvae.  I declined the offer.

    Animals

    Later that same day, under thankfully sunny skies we swam with the famous Amazon pink dolphins.  The government allows the dolphins to be fed four days a week, this is how the tourists get to see them.  The rest of the time they are left alone so they do not grow overly dependent on humans.  They are not in a pen.  They swim freely and come to the platform when fish is available. They were large and incredibly strong, but also gentle.  They enjoy being petted.  And they smile.

    Amazon Jungle

    Pink dolphin

    I swam with dolphins once before, in Zanzibar.  But this was different.  In Zanzibar we did not touch them.  I enjoyed both experiences for different reasons. The dolphin skin is soft like a baby.  Their eyes are so tiny.  Also known as botos, they are born grey and become pinker with age. As they mature its skin becomes more translucent allowing the blood to show through. When excited, they will flush to a bright pink , like your face might when you get embarrassed or excited.

    After saying farewell to our new dolphin friends we took a beautiful boat ride to another part of the river.  We parked the boat on the river’s edge and watched as dozens of inquisitive little squirrel monkeys cautiously approached and then, when realizing we had bananas, jumped right on board.

    I’ve seen monkeys big and small all over the world, and generally am not a fan.  They can be mean and smelly.  But the Amazon Jungle squirrel monkey was by far the cutest and sweetest I have met.

    Amazon Jungle

    Squirrel mo key

    We ended this amazing day with a sunset swim in the warm Rio Negro before returning to Manati.

    The next morning we woke at 5am to clear skies so we groggily (before coffee!) headed out to watch the sunrise. It was beautiful and worth getting up for.

    Plants

    Amazon Jungle

    Water is life

    Amazon Jungle

    Sunset swim

    After breakfast we visited a local family home where we learned more about plants used for medicine in the jungle.  We also learned all about the staple native food of manioc, a tuber that is the source of tapioca as well as numerous other products.  Manioc is part of the daily diet not only of the indigenous people but nearly everyone in Brazil.

    Snake

    Amazon Jungle

    One big snake

    We ended this day with a visit to another local home.  Here an anaconda that was  accidentally caught in a fishing net is being nursed before being released back into the wild Amazon jungle.  Those who wanted to were allowed to hold the beast.  It was about eight feet long.  Damp.  And strong.  Another once in a lifetime experience.  I think once is enough.

    Indigenous Tribe

    Our final day dawned stormy so our hour-long boat ride to visit an indigenous village was down right painful as we crossed the giant Rio Negro in a healthy wind and serious chop.  But I’m glad we did.

    Amazon Jungle

    The tribe we visited

    The village of the Dessana people accepts visitors as a way to earn money and to share their culture.  Originally found in their ancestral home 600 miles (965km) away in the dense remote jungle of northwestern Brazil, they came to the Tupe region for a better life to fish and farm. Dessana began benefiting from tourist who were curious to see their ancient traditions (source theCultureTrip.com.)

    The Chief explained in detail (through an interpreter) many of their rituals about boys initiation to manhood, marriage, leadership, food, hunting and celebrations.

    Amazon Jungle

    Dancing with the Chief

    The Chief and about twenty-five people from the tribe including men, women and children then  performed for us several ritual dances and songs with handmade instruments.  We then were invited to dance with them.  The Chief took my hand and he was amazingly strong as he led (well, dragged) me alongside him as I tried to follow the intricate steps of the dance.  Arne was also dancing, although I was too busy to see him trying.  Luckily Isaac snapped a few photos.

    Amazon Jungle

    Arne dancing too

    Before leaving we purchased a few handmade items from the tribe and thanked them for sharing.  It was a great way to end our amazing Amazon visit.

    Farewell

    Amazon Jungle

    One of my fav photos

    After lunch we headed back to Manaus and civilization, forever changed by the experience.  Just one more remarkable memory and a spectacular way to begin 2019.

    Fabulous! 

     

    Adventure Travel  --  South America Travel

    Iguacu Falls- Brazil Side

    Worth the Effort to Get There

    Location: Icuacu Falls Brazil

    It was a two-hour flight from Rio.  An hour city bus ride packed in like sardines was followed by more than an hour in ticket lines and shuttle lines to actually reach the falls.

    I began to wonder if it could be worth all this?

    Yes. Yes it was. Totally worth the effort to get there. What adjectives to use? Stunning, awesome, powerful, beautiful. It was all that and more.

    In fact, once off the bus and on our own, the post-Christmas crowds didn’t seem a big issue, except on the one major platform that takes you out closest to the thundering falls.

    A stones throw across the raging river, it was easy to see the Argentinian side was just as crowded. Perhaps even more so. There are those who argue the view is better from Argentina. I can’t say. But the view from the Brazil side was incredible. And definitely worth the effort to get there.

    Ten dollar entrance to the National Park provides your park transport. Additional activities require additional fees including guided hikes, boat tours, kayaks and food.

    In hindsight the thing I would do differently (other than not come Christmas week) is stay in one of the hotels next to or inside the park. More expensive than our in-town Airbnb (which we really liked) but the convenience would be worth it. Especially since our time here was limited.

    A definite “I don’t have a bucketlist” bucket list item. Iguacu Falls Brazil Side. Entirely worth the effort to get there.

    Fabulous!

    Learn more at Iguacu National Park

     

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    South America Travel

    The Hat That is a Work of Art – The Panama Hat

    Location: Monticristi Ecuador

    Right off the top(hat) let’s clear one thing up.  The Panama Hat is NOT from Panama.  It is from Ecuador, and specifically originally from Monticristi, a small village in the mountains near the port city of Manta.

    In 1835, Manuel Alfaro, a man who in many ways is considered the grandfather of the Panama hat, arrived in Montecristi to make his name and fortune in Panama hats. He set up a Panama hat business with his  goal being exportation. Most of the exports went through Panama, thus the name.

    But hat making had been an indigenous occupation long before Alfaro arrived and exploited it. Since the early 1600’s coastal and mountain Ecuadorian peoples had steadily perfected the art of hat weaving.

    Known locally as Toquillo Straw Hats, Panama hat construction uses the toquillo palm, which is not actually a palm but a palm-like plant.  In fact, you might recognize this plant as many in the USA have this as a houseplant.  I have had several over the years.

    Loved for the lightweight texture and breathability, Panama Hats are more popular now than ever before, particularly to wear in hot weather.  The authentic hand-made hats from Ecuador can take months to construct, and depending on the intricacy of the design can sell for retail in the USA from $200 to $10,000.  Purchased direct from the weaver in Ecuador (before the multiple middle man markups) hats cost much less, anywhere from $50-$300.

    We watched a couple of local weavers in the mountain village of Monticristi.  It was fascinating to see the process.  Most of the expert weavers are women.  They stand for hours hunched over a wooden support that they lean their breast bone on.  I’m sure these women have a permanent bruise on their sternum.  From this position they weave the hats, basically from an upside down position, while the hat is right side up.

    We watched one hat under construction.  The young woman had been working on it for two months.  She told us, through an interpreter, she expected to be done with it in another month.  The quality of the hat comes from the tightness of the weave.  Two styles of weave are most commonly used; the Cuenca weave has the appearance of a herringbone pattern and utilizes slightly more straw;  the Brisa weave has the appearance of small diamonds/squares. This type of weave is less intricate but perceived as finer than the Cuenca weave by some as it is lighter.  Both are very beautiful and the hat we watched being made was absolutely magnificent with its intricate design.  Perfection. She expected to sell it for $300.

    Of course today you can buy imposter Panama hats from Taiwan.  They look about the same and cost decidedly less.  But if you want the real thing from the real and authentic Ecuadorian artists, be sure you are buying a real Panama Hat.

    I did not buy one, since I wouldn’t be able to take care of it during our full-time travels.  Although designed to fold up with out damage, I still didn’t want to take a chance.  I expect to return to Ecuador in a couple years and I will surely buy one.  A quality purchase that will last a lifetime.

    I’m so glad I got to witness this art form first hand.  A wonderful cultural, artistic experience I will not forget.

    Fabulous!

    (Source for this blog Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panama_hat).

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    South America Travel

    The World’s Greatest Shortcut – Crossing the Panama Canal

    Location: Panama Canal

    What a fascinating experience it was to cross through the Panama Canal on board the Norwegian Sun.  I enjoyed it so much more than I thought I was going to.  Absolutely a fascinating experience, in a life full of fascinating experiences.  My Fab Fifties Life.  

    Panama Canal

    Approaching Gatun Locks

    Incredibly we had a glorious sunny and hot day (the next day was cloudy, wet and stormy), so we felt lucky as we stumbled out of our stateroom a little after 6:00am, for what would be about an eleven hour excursion through the 80km  canal – an engineering wonder of the world.

    Panama Canal

    Inside Gatun Locks

    The Panama Canal connects the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans, cut through one of the narrowest saddles of the isthmus that joins North and South America.  The Canal uses a system of locks with entrance and exit gates that function to raise the ships from sea level to the level of Gatun Lake (a man-made lake) 26 meters above sea level.  

    We began on the Atlantic side passing first through the Gatun Locks (named for the town located here) at 7:00am.  It took about two hours to pass through this first set of three locks (see video). 

    Our ship, the Norwegian Sun, is a relatively small cruise ship, just under 900 feet long.  The locks we passed through are the original locks – the longest ship that can pass through these locks is 1000 feet (304.8 meters).  Curiously the Panama Transit Authority uses feet and inches rather than meters in all transit communication.

    Panama Canal

    Panama Sunrise

    A new set of locks (opened in 2016) now can accommodate larger vessels,  up to 1200 feet long and 158 feet wide known as Neopanamax ships.  Norwegian’s newest ship, Bliss, which is 1100 feet uses the new canal.

    Panama Canal

    Our stateroom view when the water was lowered

    The water used to raise and lower the ships in the locks comes from Gatun Lake by gravity; it comes into the locks through a system of main culverts that extend under the lock chambers from the sidewalls and center wall.  The narrowest portion of the canal is the Culebra Cut, which extends from the north end of Pedro Migues Locks to the south edge of Gatun Lake.  It is approximately 8.5 miles carved through the rock and shale of the Continental Divide. 

    Panama Canal

    Jockeying for a good view

    The Panama Canal is a saga of human ingenuity and courage that dates back to the early 16th century when the Spaniards arrived to the Isthmus.  Since then, the idea of building a route that would link the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans was discussed.

    The French began the first effort in 1880, but abandoned the effort when financial problems as well as tropical diseases made it impossible to continue. 

    At the urging of the United States, Panama broke from Colombia and declared its independence in 1903, resulting in the partnership with the USA to begin construction once again on the passage.  The canal was completed in August 1914 and as per the original agreement the USA administered the canal until December 31, 1999 when Panama assumed full operation.

    The world’s greatest shortcut provided a boost to world trade and transit, by cutting transit time from the Atlantic to the Pacific (and vice versa) by approximately three weeks.

    A private yacht may pay $2000 or less and a large commercial ship up to $150,000. The cost is still less than sailing around South America. Interesting fact: Panama Canal authorities used to charge swimmers 36 cents to pass through.

    Panama Canal

    Culebra Cut

    Toll for crossing through the canal for a ship the size of the Norwegian Sun is approximately $250,000 (1500 passengers).  A giant cruise ship such as the Bliss, will pay $890,000 (4000 passengers).  The tolls are calculated with numerous factors including size, revenue earnings and number of passengers.  A universal measurement system is used, taxing every 100 cubic feet of passenger space (cabins, dining, entertainment areas) but not bridge or crew areas.  Usually $5 per cubic foot.

    Panama Canal

    The Norwegian Sun

    Cruise operators will often include in the cost of the cruise approximately $140 per person as a surcharge.

    Panama is now one of the fastest expanding countries in world trade.  The canal generates 2 billion dollars for Panama annually.  The canal is vital to the world’s prosperity and is clearly an enormous feat of humanity, linking the world.  

    As we exited the final locks on the Pacific side (Pedro Miguel) at 5:30pm we completed more than ten hours of transiting through one of the wonders of the world – the world’s greatest shortcut.  As the world moves through the challenges of nationalism versus globalization, as well as the impending and potentially disastrous effects of climate change, new and expanded canals are being considered.  The wildly successful Panama Canal has sparked interest in Nicaragua for possible construction of a new canal there.  China is poised to capitalize as a world power in potential new canals around the world,  with the construction knowhow and trade-savvy chops to lead in the building of such a canal.  

    Cruising through the Panama Canal was certainly the highlight of our 15 days onboard the Norwegian Sun.  Fabulous !

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    South America Travel

    A Day At Sea Onboard the Norwegian Sun

    Location: Onboard the Norwegian Sun

    Fifteen days onboard the Norwegian Sun is done.  We had a great time.  This ship, smaller and older than any recent cruise ship I have been on, had both its pros and cons. The ship was not quit full, carrying about 1400 people of its 1900 capacity.

    Fewer people meant things were not overcrowded.  Staff was good for the most part, food was also good with a few exceptions.  Our room steward was brand new and it showed.  But he was trying.

    The Norwegian Sun performance cast and band was one of the absolute best I have ever seen on a cruise.  But the additional entertainers brought on board (hypnotist, Latin singer, magician, and female trio) were just meh.  We did like a Beatles group..

    We had several sea days, which I always enjoy for relaxation and fun.  We have put together this short video about how we enjoy a day at sea onboard the Norwegian Sun. I hope you enjoy it.

    Watch for a blog about crossing the Panama Canal and other blogs coming soon!

     

    South America Travel

    Wild Whitewater Memories

    Location: Chile

    If you follow my blog closely, you are aware of the overriding theme of adventure; particularly my desire in My Fabulous Fifties to never be afraid to try things.

    And the day we rafted the whitewater of the gorgeous Rio Petrohue outside of Puerto Vasa in central Chile was a testament to that mantra.

    From Puerto Mont we traveled by van about an hour to the lakeside town of Puerto Varas, a beautiful town settled in 1854 by German immigrants on the shores of the huge (338 square miles) Lake Llanquihue. Though the day was overcast it was warmish and comfortable.

    I have river-rafted before, but it’s been about 15 years. I was younger and thinner and, well, younger. Yesterday in the van on the way to the river trip I said to my husband, “I don’t plan on getting wet”. He smiled at me. He knew. The river had its own plans.

    Whitewater rafting

    In the washing machine

    Our guides were fantastic, funny and well informed (www.kokayak.cl). http://kokayak.clWe dressed in skin tight and less than flattering wet-suites. As I pulled on my neoprene garment that presented me as a large black and red sausage I took note of the other guests in our group. My husband and I were definitely the oldest (important note for future reference), with another couple from England closely behind us in age. There was a single woman, from the U.S., probably in her mid-forties and a bit larger than I am, and then the rest of the group of 16 was made up by twenty and thirty-something’s from China, Germany, France, and various other countries.

    Whitewater rafting

    Good advice

    After a brief safety instruction we settled into our two rafts along the beautiful river that flows out of a high lake in the Andes behind the active volcano of Mount Osorno (a perfect Mount Fuji looking cone) and the dormant Mount Tronador at more than 11,000 feet it resembled Mount Rainier and is a hikers paradise. The terrain of the area is covered in black volcanic ash and the river is lined with a variety of deciduous trees ranging from bamboo to beech as well as gigantic gunera.
    Stunning.

    We maneuvered the raft out into the river and within the first three minutes we were completely soaked from the first set of rapids. Exciting and exhilarating and as I said, the river had other ideas about my staying dry. It wasn’t cold, thanks to the sausage suit, and we were all laughing and trying to catch our breath after the first rapid.

    I was stationed in the back of the boat and on the second set of rapids I popped off my seat and went flying into the woman in front of me, but managed to stay in the boat. As we maneuvered through the river it became easier to read the rapids and be more prepared for what was coming. At a couple of really mean looking areas of whitewater our guide had us all get down on the floor of the boat and hang on – and luckily for that, as we were completely engulfed in the washing machine of the river. We came up sputtering and laughing and disoriented; but still in the raft.

    Whitewater rafting

    Still smiling!

    We slowed and pulled the rafts into a calm area and we all got out and hiked up to a rocky outcropping, where the guides announced we were going to all jump off the cliff and into the river one by one so they could take our photo. Guests younger and fitter than I declined. Not me. Fabulously Fifty went flying off the cliff in her red and black sausage suite, hitting the water with a big splash and a big smile. Fabulous.

    Back in the boat, switching positions, we flowed down the river. We continued to be beat-up by the rapids, but always coming out soaked and happy. In the calmer spots our guide gave us some history and talked about the geography, flora and fauna. He talked about Chile, the food, the wine and much more. It was wonderful.

    Approaching the final set of smaller rapids he announced that anyone who wanted to jump over board and ride the rapids feet first down in the water was welcome to do it here. Everyone looked around at each other – who would volunteer? Guess who?

    Myself and my husband and two of the twenty-somethings jumped in and were swept up in the whirlpool. Perhaps because I have a high body fat content (nice way of saying it) I was quickly carried off ahead of the others. I was pounded in the face over and over by the rapids and had a moment of panic, as I was unable to get a breath between poundings.

    Whitewater rafting

    Fashion Statement

    It was over quickly and I hadn’t even had a chance to see what any of the other guests had done as I was swept down stream. Next thing I knew I was the only one left in the water and the raft was heading to pick me up. My darling husband somehow hoisted me up and into the raft where I lay panting and gasping. I announced to everyone in the boat “I sure hope someone got a picture because that was never going to happen again.” Everyone laughed at my expense and it was fabulous.

    These are the experiences that make life memorable. Those who didn’t get out of the boat to ride the rapids will have the memory of watching me do it. But I will have the experience of it. Worth a thousand times more.

    Put me in the middle of the action until they cart me away. Let me set an example. Let me never be afraid to look silly, have fun, and come up sputtering on the other side. There is no other way to live in My Fabulous Fifties.

    Go. Be. Fabulous.

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