Our Promised Land

Chapter 16.     THE TROPICS


Arthur G. Thayer

Thayer Coat Of Arms

Copyright © 1983 with all rights reserved by Arthur George Thayer



      Winter seems to be the time to head for warmer climates. In March of 1972 Eva and I flew to Hawaii for two weeks. We were in a group of 39 with two "regular" guides plus a Hawaiian guide in Hawaii, who explained the areas and seranaded us on his guitar. The busload of us made friends and chatted about the wonders of the islands.

      Maui, with its old sailing town of Lahaina, is the spot I prefer. We saw whales splashing their tails and spouting in the ocean. I played golf near the hotel.

      The trip to the Fern Grotto was delightful. On the barge one lady did the hula for us --some people can do it just right!

      The hotels in Hawaii do not have doors at the entrances, which surprised me. Enjoying the pleasnat weather and the absence of bugs, we walked into beautiful foyers.

      The pineapple we brought home seemed sweeter than the ones we buy at home.

      In October of 1973 I had a stroke making it difficult to talk. A doctor decided I had cancer of the brain and advised cobalt x-ray treatments. That really threw me. We checked with Eva's cousin, Doctor Corry, a surgeon who did transplants and now does kidney transplants. He called and requested the x-rays and then suggested we go to a medical college and have a doctor there check the x-rays. The Medical College of Ohio is located in Toledo and we met with their brain specialist. He checked and said, "NO CANCER," but that I had a blood clot. After the holidays, he planned to open my head and remove the clot.

      In January I went to see him and he took a final x-ray and found the clot was gone. Eureka! Serendipity! I believe there is real value in having students, as well as other doctors at a medical college, simply because they question each other on their actions.

      Eva and I flew to Costa Rica in 1975, stopping in New York to pick up our connecting flight. Eva had never seen New York so we visited the Empire State Building, used the subway, rode the Staten Island Ferry, and browsed in shops near the hotel.

      At the airport in New York we met a couple taking our trip and so we had company. He spoke Spanish and they expected to settle in Costa Rica. We rented a car and the four of us drove to a quiet volcano and saw the greenish lake in the cone and then on to Puntarenas on the Pacific Ocean for a sandwich.

      We bought a package trip, which included a train ride to Limon, pleasant lodge accommodations along the Gulf, and an airplane trip back to San Jose. We followed a river that started near San Jose at an elevation of 6000 feet and then meandered down to the Gulf. The narrow gauge railroad stopped frequently and did not run very fast. The windows were open until a cloudburst forced everyone to close them.

      Huge logs, six feet in diameter, were being logged from the forest, wild banana trees were along the ditches, and coffee plantations were on the slopes. A small swarthy family had been shopping and were going home. The wife had a small parakeet in a paper bag and she`d open the bag and peek in, then beam and smile as did her children. The father was stoic, but you could see he was very happy about his purchase.

      The lodge at Limon was quiet with beautiful gardens. At the Gulf and on the Pacific, it was warm and sultry. San Jose has a pleasant climate.

      Over one Christmas holiday, Eva and I flew to Miami and sailed on the Sun Viking for two weeks. The hotel comes along with the boat! Shopping or touring the Caribbean Islands is refreshing and you bring home stuff to hang on your walls or to fill your tables or you get a pipe or a ring.

      I enjoyed the ship and would be up early to see the docking procedures. Our dining table was by a window and two couples dined with us. One couple was our age, the other couple were newlyweds. All were congenial.

      When the boat docked at LaGuaria, we decided to take the cable car to Caracus. The newlywed couple went with us on the cable car trip through the clouds to the top of the mountain and down to Caracus.

      The cab driver met us and we toured Caracus, then through a tunnel back to LaGuaira. It is good to have an English speaking cab driver, but we also learned he could swear vehemently in Spanish as he argued right-of-way with another cabbie.

      We visited seven of the Caribbean Islands and found many to be similar to the Hawaiian Islands.

      My sister Mary and her husband Ed lived in Campinas, Brazil for several years. He was project manager for a company that was erecting a factory building. Mary invited us to visit them in February 1978.

      We found a group tour of South America and spent two weeks with Mary and Ed and three weeks on the tour going to Rio de Janeiro, Iguassa Falls, Asuncion, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Lima, Cuzco, Machu Piccu, Iquitos, and Bogota.

      We flew from Miami on a night trip to Sao Paulo. I squirmed all night, just couldn't rest. My wallet fell out of my hip pocket and dropped onto someone's foot. He tapped me on my shoulder and said, "Here is your wallet." I was so disturbed, I forgot to tip him. Now I keep my wallet in my thigh pocket.

      In the morning we met Mary and Ed and stopped at a "hippy" fair in Sao Paulo where excellent handicraft was on display.

      Mary and Ed had rented a home in Campinas. We drove to the country club and golfed, met people from the United States who had temporary jobs in Campinas, went shopping, and looked at the construction Ed was supervising.

      Mary had friends in for a party and they invited us to their homes. We ate out two or three times, once at a currascia-type restaurant. In a large barbecue pit, spits held sausage, chicken, and shanks of pork and beef. a waiter brought a spit of meat to our table and sliced it on our plates. It wasn't long before we had had enough.

      When we left, Mary and Ed drove us to Ubatuba along the ocean shore for the evening, then to Rio.

      In Rio we met our guide and the other eleven members of our tour party. Our hotel overlooked Copacabana Beach and on clear days we could see the statue of Christ the Redeemer.

      Several years earlier, Sue had spent two months with a family in Rio and we spent a day with them at their home. We toured Rio by bus and drove to the statue on a cloudy day. We swam in the ocean and used the local bus to see the zoo.

Jean and Eva at Iguassa Falls

Friend Jean and Eva at Iguassa Falls.

      Before landing, the plane circled Iquassa Falls and gave us an excellent view of the area. On our walk to the falls, we saw a flock of wild toucans high up in the trees. Eva went with four or five people in a rowboat to the edge of the falls. The level of the river was low, enabling the rowboat to work its way to some little islands and to one island at the brink of the falls.

      In Asuncion the land is very flat. Next to the hotel was a casino, making it seem a bit like Las Vegas.

      Buenos Aires is on low level ground. Its elevation is near sea level and so many burial vaults are above ground to prevent water seepage. As we toured the city, we found the street to the capital building to be unusually wide. At a ranch forty miles away we swam, horsebacked, rode a Model "T", and had dinner.

      There was snow on the Andes as we flew to dry Santiago. After a tour of the city, we visited their zoo. A cable car transported us up a hill to the uppermost portion of the zoo area. Then we wandered back down between the cages and fences.

      Flying toward Lima, the ground appeared to be very arid, quite like the Sahara. Many homes do not have roofs. Along the beach, gravel banks sixty feet high stand solid with little evidence of water erosion.

      We walked to several buildings. One had been an inquisition building and we saw the torture racks. My, what does religion do to man's mind?!

      One evening three of us went to a cock fight. Once is enough for me. One rooster dies, the other may or may not die -- a rather gruesome form of entertainment!

      Cuzco at 12,000 feet is in a wide valley up in the Andes. Jet planes rise quickly over the mountain and circle down to the air strip in the valley. We rested two hours -- actually two days are needed to acclimate oneself to this elevation.

      The Incas had built narrow roads or wide paths from Cuzco to the shore on the west, toward Santiago in the south, north to Ecuador, and east into the forest plains. Unfortunately for the Incas, the roads allowed the Spaniards easy travel between Cuzco and the sea.

      We saw many of the churches erected by the Spaniards to promote their religion. The Spaniards had forced the Incas to tear down the fortress at Saqsawaman and bring the stone to Cuzco for their construction.

      We toured Cuzco and up 2000 feet to Saqsawaman to see the fortress ruins. The elevation was hard on several of us who were susceptible to heart and lung problems.

Inca child

Inca child overlooking Cuzco, Peru.

Inca child

Two Inca children at the Saqaman ruins above Cuzco, Peru.

      The next morning at 5:00 A. M. we hurried to the railroad depot and waited an hour or more until the gate at the depot was opened. After another hour, the train started and came back. The train did not have proper electrical connections between the engine and the cars. A male tourist from the States was a railroader and said he could "hook it up" and he did. The railroad men were on strike and the soldiers with rifles urged the railroad men to run the train. Now the tourist had to explain how to make the connections to the Army and the Army in turn had to tell the railroad men, who already knew how to do it anyway.

      The train had to make several switchbacks to make it over the mountain. We were two-thirds of the way up the mountain when a pair of engine wheels slipped off the rails. The railroad men worked for an hour trying to put stones along the rail to force the wheels onto the rails. Finally our helpful tourist said, "Don't you have rerailers?" "Oh, yes, we do -- in the engine tool box." Again the tourist had to explain the idea to the Army, the Army to the railroad men, and we finally went over the mountain into a wide valley.

      As we moved toward Machu Picchu, the valley narrowed and the train followed the short tunnels built along the Urubamba River. At the station we were met by buses for the drive up to Machu Picchu. The road is perhaps two miles long with many switchbacks. We finally arrived at Machu Picchu in the evening, several hours late due to the delays at Cuzco.

      The "Lost City of the Incas" is intriguing. The masonry work, plumbing, building designs, and arrangements for burial rituals were only part of the incredible sights of Machu Picchu. Along the side of the mountain were terraces, one after another, held on by rock and dirt brought from the valley to grow food for the Incas.

      Soon it was night and we were bused back to the station, which had one solitary light. After an hour or more, the engine arrived and we all jumped into the railroad cars. Now the engine was on the wrong end of the train. With the help of the Army, the engine was taken to a turntable and then brought back. Alas, it was still on the wrong end of the cars. After half an hour, it was decided to push the cars for several miles to a siding as the siding had a switch on each end. In due time, the engine was coupled onto the front end of the train. Part way home we left the train and were bused to Cuzco, getting to the hotel about 3:00 A. M.

      At noon we left Cuzco, changed planes in Lima and landed in Iquitus on the Amazon. It was evening, dark and rainy, as a bus drove us to the river dock where a boat with a thatched roof took us to a camp on a tributary of the Amazon. At the camp everything was on stilts. The main building, cottages, and walkways all had thatched roofs.

      In the morning we reboarded the boat and sailed to the 60' deep Amazon. We saw the two destroyers that make up the Peruvian Navy and a freighter that had traveled nearly 2000 miles from the mouth of the Amazon to the dock by a large plywood factory

      Our boat stopped near the junction of the Amazon and the tributary; one river was brownish, the other blueish. Four fishermen were in a long, slender canoe like boat and had a net in which they would bring in several dozen fish per cast. The fish were ten to twenty inches long and some were piranhas with vicious teeth.

      The fishermen brought their boat close to us and handed a piranha to one of our men for picture taking. Porpoises leaped from the river. It was difficult to aim the camera in the right place at the right time.

      After lunch at the camp, we walked to an Indian shelter. We walked in single file avoiding brush and trees on the dim trail. We wore raincoats and carried umbrellas, which were hard to control in the brush. In a small glade was a large, thatch roofed structure on stilts. A floor covered a third of the roofed-in area and was four feet above the ground. There were no walls to the structure. On the ground a pot of bananas was boiling over a small fire.

      The chief, with his feather headdress, and several Indians and squaws were on the ground amidst small naked children. Some of the older children were on the floor.

      Eva traded some coat hangers and clothing for a crocheted handbag. The chief wanted my pipe and some tobacco and I traded them for two blow darts. The chief fired up the pipe and was ecstatic. He asked Eva to dance with him to the beat of their drums and she did. The chief was proud of his five-foot blowgun. At forty feet he could blow a dart and put it in a two-inch circle.

      Next morning the thatched boat took us to the dock where we climbed on a bus with plank flooring. We toured Iquitos over chuck holed streets. It misted and rained continuously. On the streets hawkers sold their wares; some without umbrellas or roofs, some having tables, others carts. Most of the traffic was by foot or bicycle.

      Bogota, high in the Andes, is different than Santiago or Lima in that it has a moist climate and green fields abound. A day was spent touring the city and country side by bus. We went to a salt mine where the salt had been removed, leaving an opening inside a mountain the shape of a large church. Lights were installed on balconies and there were many altars. It did look like a church with various rooms. We shopped a bit in Bogota, stopped at a gem factory, and enjoyed a farewell dinner the evening before our return to the States.


                      Other Chapters

                        1.     Atlantic
                        2.     Silica
                        3.     Oil City
                        4.     Boat Trip
                        5.     Chris's Home
                        6.     Hubbard Lake
                        7.     Hunting and Fishing
                        8.     Our Farm
                        9.     Schools
                      10.     The Depression and the 30's
                      11.     Michigan State University
                      12.     Jobs
                      13.     Our Home
                      14.     Boating
                      15.     Trips
                      16.     The Tropics
    Next - - - 17.     With The Kids
                      18.     It Is Written


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Copyright © 2001 with all rights reserved by William V. Thayer

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