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Chapter 19: Medic

Accidents happen on every voyage

Page 154-155, Chapter 19:

The shore excursions offer passengers more opportunities to engage with the locals who survive with what the Amazon and the adjacent rain forest offer. The Amazon basin up close is colorful. From the deck of the ship, it just looks green and lush. The air is thick from the humidity and the insects, which look as if they were on steroids. The mating calls of tropical animals echo over the fast-moving water day and night.

Santarem, a port along the way, known as the “Caribbean in Brazil,” offered piranha fishing. This small fish has a terrible reputation as being deadly in American horror movies. On cinema reels, this tiny fish tears away the flesh from an unsuspecting swimmer, revealing just a shredded bathing suit floating in a matter of minutes.

I had the opportunity to go on one of these piranha fishing charters as an escort. An escort is a crew member who travels along with passengers on shore excursions. Passengers pay several hundred dollars each while the escorts get to experience the same for free. However, the escort helps the local guides keep track of the passengers and kept count. Nothing is worse than going on an exotic adventure with eighteen excited individuals and returning to the ship with only seventeen. Cruise lines frown on losing their valuable assets and making headline news on cable TV. Some claim any media is good, but when people turn up missing from a ship, future bookings tend to slow down as well.

The day started like most in the Amazon basin, very hot and muggy. Once out of the air-conditioned hallways, opening the door to the outer deck, the humidity hits you like a wall. Immediately you see thousands of insects lying on every railing and fixture. While sailing at night in the Amazon, guests and crew are required to turn off every light and cover their patio doors with heavy darkening curtains. Even with almost no light present, a blanket of bugs, both large and small, attack the ship nightly.

Slightly bending over the railing, you could see the dock lines tightening to the bollards, which appear to be metal mushrooms standing three feet above the rickety dock. Just on the other side of the pier were two dilapidated steel vessels. I could quickly identify it was steel; large rust stains were coming from every piece of the boat that had a weld. They looked old, worn out, and dirty. Being in the Amazon, just about every ship catering to the local economy appeared ready for the scrapyard.

Brushing off the few critters that decided to leap from the railing to my shirt, I turned and quickly went back through the double glass doors and headed for the elevator to deck one.

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