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Archive for the ‘South America’ Category

Now this is an amazing story, reported by Johann Hari in The Independent:

Hari writes, “Earlier this year, Peru’s right-wing President, Alan Garcia, sold the rights to explore, log and drill 70 per cent of his country’s swathe of the Amazon to a slew of international oil companies. Garcia seems to see rainforest as a waste of good resources, saying of the Amazon’s trees: ‘There are millions of hectares of timber there lying idle.'”

Now, this is a pretty shocking decision, because the Peruvian Amazon, upriver of Iquitos, is an especially pristine region.

But here’s what happened next:

“The indigenous peoples acted in their own self-defence, and ours. Using their own bodies and weapons made from wood, they blockaded the rivers and roads to stop the oil companies getting anything in or out. They captured two valves of Peru’s sole pipeline between the country’s gas field and the coast, which could have led to fuel-rationing. Their leaders issued a statement explaining: ‘We will fight together with our parents and children to take care of the forest, to save the life of the equator and the entire world.’

Garcia responded by sending in the military. He declared a ‘state of emergency’ in the Amazon, suspending almost all constitutional rights. Army helicopters opened fire on the protesters with live ammunition and stun-grenades. More than a dozen were killed. But the indigenous peoples did not run away. Even though they were risking their lives, they stood their ground. One of their leaders, Davi Yanomami, said simply: ‘The earth has no price. It cannot be bought, or sold or exchanged. It is very important that white people, black people and indigenous peoples fight together to save the life of the forest and the earth. If we don’t fight together, what will our future be?’

And then something extraordinary happened. The indigenous peoples won. The Peruvian Congress repealed the laws that allowed oil company drilling, by a margin of 82 votes to 12. Garcia was forced to apologise for his ‘serious errors and exaggerations’. The protesters have celebrated and returned to their homes deep in the Amazon.”

Read the entire story here. Travel Dynamics International is scheduling three cruises of the Amazon in 2010, and for every guest on these trips, we will be donating funds to The Rainforest Foundation, a nonprofit founded by the pop singer Sting and his wife Trudy Styler for the precise purpose of educating and assisting indigenous tribes of the Amazon to protect the rainforest – just like the peoples of Peru did, above.

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amazon_will_denimcintyre_getty460Next March, Travel Dynamics International will be embarking upon a tremendous journey up the Amazon – more than 2,000 miles from Belem, on the Atlantic coast, to Iquitos, in Peru.

On Monday, The Guardian brought us this tremendous story about medical researchers who are hunting for natural medicines, and cures for everything from cancer to AIDS, amid the dizzying biodiversity of the Amazon.

Tom Phillips, in Rio, writes:

TODAY, SPURRED on by an obsession with the Amazon and nearly 40 years as an oncologist, Varella leads monthly expeditions up the Cuieiras river in search of natural medicines that he believes could change the future of his profession and eventually bring new hope to cancer victims around the world.

“[As a child] I didn’t even know that [the Amazon] existed,” Varella told the Observer during his latest mission to the group’s base on the Cuieiras river. “I’d heard the children’s stories, about the Indians with two feathers in their hair. But you didn’t even talk about the Amazon back then. It was such a distant thing.”

That changed in October 1992, during a trip to the Amazon with Robert Gallo, the US biomedical researcher credited with co-discovering the HIV virus. (more…)

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Now at Travel Dynamics International, for remarkably discounted rates, you can:

Voyage into the classical world with antiquities experts from Antiques Roadshow. Enjoy an epic cruise down the entire Pacific coast of South America, from the Panama Canal to Ushuaia. Explore the lives of famous women of antiquity. Take a once-in-a-lifetime repositioning cruise from Morocco to Patagonia, following the route of Magellan. Continue in the footsteps of Sir Ernest Shackleton with Peter Hillary, son of the first man to ascend Everest. Cruise the Falklands and South Georgia in the far southern Atlantic en route to Cape Town, South Africa. Discover South America from the Amazon to Uruguay. Take an astounding voyage along the entire Atlantic coast of Africa. Sail from coastal Brazil into the depths of the Peruvian Amazon. Or perhaps the Orinoco and Amazon, with the beaches of Trinidad? Delve into the rich cultures of the Western Mediterranean from Seville to Venice. Circumnavigate Newfoundland. Or cruise up the entire Atlantic coast of North America, from Palm Beach to the Canadian maritimes? Listen to exquisite music, and enjoy top-chef Mediterranean cuisine, from Seville to Naples.

The epic journeys you’ve been waiting for, available now for less.

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Ancient Roman trade routes across the Mediterranean

The New York Times reviews William J. Bernstein’s impressively comprehensive A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World,” a new history published in the last month. “‘A Splendid Exchange’ is a splendid book,” the reviewer concludes, and so much of this book’s territory is TDI’s as well:

Ancient Mesopotamia was richly endowed with fertile soils and water from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, but it lacked stone and wood for building, and metals like copper for tools and weapons. The Sumerians, however, had surplus food to trade, so they could bargain for stone from near the headwaters of the rivers, wood from what is now Lebanon and metal from Sinai, Cyprus and elsewhere.

The scope of ancient trade was immense. A single Bronze Age shipwreck around 1350 B.C. near Bodrum, a Turkish coastal town, yielded no less than 10 tons of copper and a ton of tin ingots along with other merchandise like ivory. (The ideal ratio of copper to tin for making bronze is 10 to 1.)

By Roman times vast armadas ferried Egyptian grain, Greek wine, Spanish copper and silver, and a hundred other commodities around the Mediterranean. India has yielded rich troves of Roman coins that reached that subcontinent to pay for spices the Romans coveted, especially pepper. Chinese silk — literally worth its weight in gold — traveled through the heart of Asia on the Silk Road to reach markets in the West.

As the West collapsed at the end of antiquity, so did its long-distance trade. Few Roman coins dating later than A.D. 180 are found in India, as the Roman economy began to run out of gold and silver. The Arabs came to dominate the major trade routes of the Indian Ocean after the rise of Islam. And as Western Europe revived economically, a lively trade developed between rising powers in Venice and the Middle East. (Venice supplied slaves from the Crimea and Caucasus in exchange for spices and sugar.)

When the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople slammed shut the sea route to the Crimea, Europe began seeking other routes to reach the resources of the East and eliminate the middleman. Columbus sailed west in 1492 and stumbled onto the New World. Vasco da Gama reached India in 1498, having rounded the southern tip of Africa. The modern world began, thanks to trade.

The history of global trade is so long and so vast that Mr. Bernstein could have easily produced a toe-breaker of a book. Happily he has not. By treating many aspects thematically rather than strictly chronologically, he shows in fewer than 400 pages of readable type how people and nations have faced the same problems over and over and often solved them the same way.

The poor soil and scant rain of ancient Greece, for instance, meant that the terrain’s ability to grow grain was limited, but grape vines and olive trees grew in abundance. To export its wine and olive oil, Athens developed a pottery industry to supply the jars in which those products were transported. As Greek trade, and colonies, flourished across the length and breadth of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, naval power was needed to suppress piracy. To control choke points like the Dardanelles and Bosporus, which led to the rich grain lands of what is now Ukraine, the Athenian empire developed.

A good book to take on board for one of our Grand Voyages, without a doubt.

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