July 13, 2009

FLASHBACK: Female Vet Team Competes in Amazon Raft Race

Originally posted on September 26, 2006
The Amazon CARES ALL FEMALE team came in SECOND PLACE of all international teams that finished the race! This is an incredible feat and I am so proud. All agreed it was the hardest challenge of their lives and declined to participate again next year, but we'll see ....

These strong gals rowed 8-10 hours for two days straight, and on the final day rowed 4 hours. Much of the rowing was AGAINST A STRONG RIVER CURRENT. They also battled sweltering heat, insects, the threat of snakes, piranhas, spiders and they were wet the whole time. AT night they slept on a boat (in hammocks) that resembled a refugee ship. Congratulations team!

The participation of Veterinarians (left to right) Jane Little, Beth McGennisken, Sheradan Harvey, and Aoife O'Sullivan raised much awareness about Amazon CARES. Thank you girls!

Below is an article from the New Jersey Express Times. Of the six international teams three dropped out during the race. The one mentioned in the article below had to be rescued by the Coast Guard after their raft sank during a tropical storm.

Piranhas, spiders await race teams in Peru
Wilson woman will participate this weekend in race along Amazon. Trophy, $3,000 will await winners.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Express-Times

WILSON BOROUGH: A borough woman plans to spend this weekend racing Peruvian-made wooden rafts down the Amazon. "It's an adventure of a lifetime," Natasha Serrano said. "It takes a lot of endurance to be in the Amazon, but the things you see are amazing."

The seventh annual Great River Amazon Raft Race is billed as the world's longest raft race. Seventy four-person teams race the 133-mile distance between Nauta and Bella Vista Nanay in the Iquitos region of Peru.
"It's a fairly calm river," Serrano said. "It's so big it looks like a lake." The race is held in three stages with the contestants racing their balsa-wood rafts for $3,000 in prize money and the Schneider Trophy. That's while the racers are avoiding piranhas, anaconda and mosquito-borne diseases, such as yellow fever. Indigenous tribes also have been known to shoot darts at strangers. "I like pushing myself by doing things I am normally afraid of," Serrano, 35, said, pointing out that she has a fear of heights. "I don't even want to get on the plane to go down there."

Serrano visited the Amazon last year as part of an international business class. While there, she was bitten by a spider. The wound turned into a staph infection. "It was a pretty close call because you don't want to go to a hospital in Peru," Serrano said. And then there were also the largest cockroaches she had ever seen and the sighting of a 140-pound rodent. "I thought I would never go back there again," Serrano said. Despite the spider mishap and teenager-sized rats, Peru left an impression on Serrano, and she kept in touch with happenings down there. She found the race information on a Web site and convinced her brother to join her in South America.

It will cost Serrano $900 to get to Peru and $200 for the race entry fee. Part of the fee goes toward the construction of the wood and rope raft built by Peruvians. It also buys Serrano and her brother three days on a river boat sleeping in a hammock between races. Serrano said she is not there for the competition. "The goal of my teammates is to experience this," Serrano said.

The finish line in Iquitos is a town where the residents live out on the water and use boats for transportation. Serrano described it as Venice without the romance. "I like to see things I would not normally see," Serrano said.

Serrano, a pharmaceutical company analyst, will bring along medical and school supplies for the Peruvians. Her teammates on the Los Picadores team are an American brother and sister living in Peru. Los Picadores translates into "the spicy ones" or "those who cut into pieces," depending on whom you ask for a translation.

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