Looking out on the falling snow on a blustering 25 degree day, the Brazilian Rainforest seems a lifetime away although I just returned this week. My Amazon adventure was in the planning stages since the fall 2013 as an alternative to being "home alone" for the holidays. Attempting to replicate past celebrations can really fall flat. The best idea for "accidental" solos during traditional family holidays? Adventure travel to distant locations! I have had a lifelong love of adventure travel from Rarotonga to the Albanian border of Montenegro. Having been serenaded in Istanbul with the Yellow Rose of Texas (a first for me as a Washingtonian), I have skied both Dubai and Sun Valley (the former more successfully than the latter). In 2013, I was looking for a fresh approach for the holidays.
After considering my options, I decided on a river cruise. Having previously gone solo to join a Nile cruise and one along China's Yangtze River, I was intrigued by similar tours offered in Southeast Asia, Europe and Latin America. River cruises are a good fit when traveling alone, especially in remote areas. If you choose a single cabin, you can have a ready-made travel group / dinner partners but with privacy and time alone when you need it. With meals and day-to-day transportation / outside sightseeing taken care of, I saw this as the perfect time-out from the hectic working world.
I chose the Brazilian Amazon for two reasons: First, it was closer geographically and easier to get to. Secondly, it added balance to my multiple prior trips to Spanish-speaking Latin America. I envisioned landing in a small plane as I had in Botswana's Okavango Delta, flying as "co-pilot" in a 2 seater plane. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Airbuses and 737's land routinely in Manaus, the capital of Brazil's Amazonas Province, with non-stop service via Miami.
After pre-trip planning to rival a space launch, I missed a few last minute odd details to consider. I offer a few practical tips I gleaned:
1. A frequent visitor to Brazil warned me not to lose my immigration form if I hoped to make my outbound flight. That seemed pretty simple. Then I realized that international flights into the Amazon landed around midnight and typically departed between 1-3 AM. I was unlikely at that time to be at the top of my game. Being practical, I packed a stapler to clip my immigration form to my visa / passport. Of course, the outbound US airport security scan was perplexed by this odd-looking item in my carryon luggage. Inbound immigration gave me a wry smile apparently amused to find a travel weary tourist dutifully whipping out a stapler on arrival.
2. At the last minute I read the fine-print that Brazilian regulation requires travelers to provide both copies of doctors' prescriptions and pharmacy receipts for drugs being brought into the country. Having a cornucopia ranging from malaria pills to less exotic fare, I had inadvertently overlooked this requirement. …