Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Golf Clubs and a Machete?

Playing golf is not a passion for J or L but more of a way to spend some time enjoying the outdoors while having a few laughs and chuckles as we rid ourselves of any personal frustrations by whacking away at an innocent small white ball which generally has a mind of its own. Correct your stance for a nasty hook and the ball will mock you with a slice. Overall though it is a time to enjoy those you are playing golf with while getting exercise.

Thus the reason John and Paul Bakas (our videographer and companion to Peru this summer) decided to play nine holes at the Amazon Golf Course in Iquitos one afternoon during our eight day visit to the rain forest. Laureen was much smarter by staying back at the small but nicely laid out club house sipping on Pepsi and talking with the manager and his family.

Ninety-five degrees and ninety- five percent humidity at noon quickly pointed out that the boys would much rather have taken Laureen's lead and enjoyed a few cold ones beneath the palapa instead of walking over 2500 yards in the sweltering heat. But being the adventurous types, the reason for this blog really, Paul and John headed out to the 1st tee.

The golf club was created in 2004 out of 24 acres of second growth rain forest just a quick 30 minute drive in a motocarro from downtown Iquitos.Our driver for the day, three can sit comfortably in these motorcycle modes of transportation, was Ademir Guerra Shapiama. J and L don't normally go with guides but Ademir was so well known that not only did he take us to the course but spent the day with us. A very personable and enjoyable guy.

Ademir Guerra Shapiama - our guide
Anyway, the golf course was built out of the jungle and the minute a golfer arrives at the lush landscape, they realize the game is going to be very interesting to say the least. With the jungle lashing back at intruders day and night it is a struggle to keep anything resembling a golf course for the managers. Every day the team of groundskeepers are mowing,clipping,chopping,and clearing away with mowers, trimmers and machetes. 

Yes, machetes!

The Amazon Golf Course is probably the only course in the world that when clubs are rented they come with a machete and a warning that a lost ball in the jungle may be worth a stroke instead of a limb. Human - not tree.

Caimans (smaller alligators but with a similar bite) sunning themselves in the sand traps, Piranha in the water hazards (according to an employee at the course a golfer actually lost a portion of their index finger while trying to extricate a lost ball from the water), and snakes in the jungle on either side of many of the holes.

We saw no such things (could be we weren't there first in the morning) but did hear some strange sounds while looking for a lost ball or two in the jungle when the ball decided to head for vegetation cover. At one point Paul and John decided that a lost ball was not worth the trouble looking when a large group of leaves decided to slither away on their own.

Dead leaves don't have legs do they?

The nine holes went along as well as possible in the humidity and rough conditions of the course. It is not PGA since the rains are nearly every day and trying to formulate a perfect condition for golf in such an environment would be impossible. The tee boxes were fine, the fairways narrow and tough but it was the greens which seemed to be the biggest bugaboo for the adventurous golfing duo.

No such thing as a straight line putt. It was more like a hop, skip, bounce, and perhaps get near the cup eventually. Actually, after the second hole it seemed though the boys got the putting down to a near genius method. Punch the putt hard enough that it would literally fly in a straight line and try to keep it off the green itself. Sounds ludicrous but worked as there were a few pars during the nine holes.

The game was fun and a must for anyone who visits Iquitos but remember the heat and humidity. You are playing just a few miles where the Amazon River actually begins and lots of drinking water is needed to finish the course - there are no electric/gas golf carts or pull carts. It's nothing but the golfer, a bag on their shoulder and a machete in their hand.

But the great news is that there are very cold beers waiting at the club house for a very reasonable price. A well deserved award for those brave enough or dumb enough to venture out into the jungle for an afternoon of fun loving golf.

Multi Lingual Tourist Guide
Ademir Guerra Shapiama

Amazon Golf Course
185 Malecon Maldonado
Iquitos, Peru

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Take Time Together

I don't really know when it happened. J and L, we haven't aged a day but somewhere along the road, our daughters grew up. Those little bundles of joy (most of the time anyway) became adults with lives and interests of their own. Now, instead of dinner time together, we have to schedule time around work, in-laws, and everything that pulls each of us in our individual directions. So mother and daughters decided to start what has become something of a regular occurrence: Girls' Weekend.

Sometimes Girls' Weekend is a couple of hours squeezed in on a Saturday to get a manicure and a fancy coffee or lunch -- anything to spend time together and reconnect. It's not easy transitioning from mom to one of the girls, but it has it's rewards. Other times, we head out for some real time together, venturing with our former German exchange student, turned family member, Jana, to a weekend in Vegas or camping with the whole brood (men are included for that adventure).

Whatever the activity, whenever we have the time, we've made a commitment to get together to remember not only how much we love each other as family, but how much we like each other as individuals! I discovered (or is it rediscovered?) that I LIKE them! I enjoy their sense of humor and doing silly girl things their dad, poor J, would probably roll his eyes over.

This time, it was Palm Springs. A hundred and nine degrees (oh, but it's a dry heat) and we decide to go to Palm Springs. Did I see you roll your eyes? But we find a wonderful hotel right in the heart of the action with a large pool. And that is where we stationed ourselves. Swim, go to breakfast, swim, go to lunch, swim, time for a sip of something cool and refreshing, ah, and conversation, giggles, sibling arguments (aw, the one stand-by you can count on in life), swim, then clean up for dinner, and, of course, a little shopping. A perfect weekend!

Well, almost. As time goes by, we must take these moments to keep the family lines intact. We may have our differences, but this is family and worth working to keep close so that time and distance never steal us away from each other. J and L love traveling together, but we also love coming home and spending time with loved ones. As you head out to your various destinations this season of the summer break, don't forget to take time to stay in touch with family. You might even enjoy it!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Fourth of July

The Fourth of July is that day of the year we Americans give thanks and remember what a wonderful and special county we live in. That day hundreds of years ago which brought us freedom from the heavy-handiness of the British (we're best of friends now) by those founding fathers/mothers who risked their lives, often losing them, in gaining the freedom that we live with every day. It was those days which changed the make-up of the world.

 Being educators J and L tend to spend quite a bit of time out of the area on the Fourth of July. We've missed countless fireworks shows, bbq's and time with the family but years ago we decided to travel as much as possible - it's a big earth out there - and with that means traveling during the months we have off. We wanted to share those adventures with our readers and thus why we hit the road so hard during the summer months.

But no matter where we are in country or out we always have a special day together recalling what makes America great. We smile and remember family and friends and the good times we have during the year and talk about the sacrifices so many made to ensure that America would survive and survive they way it was intended. We generally end these discussions with why we are so glad to come 'home' to the United States when we've been gone for any length of time.

And believe us when we say we love to explore new places but as the old adage states: there's no place like home.

Dorothy had it right.
Simple things like electricity, running water, decent drivers, going to the bathroom without a flash light in case a deadly viper wants to take a bite, etc. makes it so rewarding when we step up the customs window at LAX, JFK, Miami, or other international entries. When the U.S. Custom's Officer asks if we have anything to declare the reply is simple and routine.

"I declare it's good to be back."

America - you gotta love it!

We're traveling again but to all our family and friends - Have a celebration of a day and don't forget that we live in the greatest land there has ever been.

Happy Fourth of July!!!!