A CANDID INTERVIEW WITH
I am in Pucallpa, Peru, as a guest of Charlie's so that I can take photos and collect information for a website (BluePeru.com). This website will cover his new ecotourism business on the Amazon River. It occurs to me that now is an excellent time to get an interview for this website. This is great, as Charlie is a living legend in the exotic animal business, with over 40 years of experience - not many still around with a record like that! With Charlie's background, sense of humor and personality - anyone that has ever met him would not easily forget him. So for those of you who have only heard a little about him - this is a chance to know more - a lot more.
Charlie has been coming and going to Peru for the past 9 years. He is now settled down with his Shipibo Indian wife Adie and their four month old daughter.
Charlie with his family.
There are 40 indigenous Indian tribes in Peru and the Shipibos (35,000-40,000 members) dominate the Ucayali River and region, which is the main tributary of the upper Amazon River. Where the Ucayali and the Maranon river converge, several hundred miles North - that is the river we call the actual 'Amazon'. The region around the Ucayali is still the 'Amazon Jungle', but as you get closer to the headwaters of the world's biggest river there are many hilly and mountainous areas, giving it a different character then the broad, flat jungles of the lower Amazon.
The setting for our interview is his large native style home in the little village of San Jose, located on a large and beautiful lake - Yarinacocha. This is about a half hour from the major jungle city and river port of Pucallpa. To get to Charlie's you need to take a taxi from the modern airport in Pucallpa to the lake, and then go by boat (Pecky-Pecky) over the lake to his house. The Pecky-Pecky is a built up dug-out canoe fitted with a small air-cooled motor (mostly 'Briggs & Stratton'). The motor is on a gimbaled stand with a long shaft to the prop - allowing the boat driver to drop and raise the prop at will to clear obstacles like sand bars and logs, of which there are plenty in the Amazon Jungle waterways.
Boats are called 'Peky-Pecky' because of the sound of the motor.
The temperate in the day can go into the 90's, but it often comes down into the 70's at night - the lush vegetation and the occasional rain shower making the difference. So we sit outside on the veranda looking at a night sky lit up with thousands of brilliant stars and launch into this interview - more like a conversation, considering the 30 years of friendship we have shared.
NHM: "Charlie - I have not seen so many stars in the sky since my days of diving in Baja and in Palau, Micronesia. I guess the explanation for the atmospheric clarity here is the absolute lack of air pollution. There really is something to that statement - the Amazon Jungle is the 'lungs of the earth'. I hope the jungle doesn't get cancer!"
CM: "So why do you want to do an interview with me?"