Getting lost and getting found…
On my second day in Brazil, I walked off the boardwalk and onto the beach to find the boat that would take me to where I was meeting Rafael, another researcher who was already out in the field. With my new hammock, mosquito net, and cell phone I asked around for which boat was going there. With my still improving Portuguese, I was pointed to a ferry station where I bought a ticket. This seemed too easy and, using my lonely planet guide to Brazilian Portuguese, I asked the man at the counter again. He told the boat did go there. Once boarded, I was still unsure, so I asked again- and my fear was confirmed. This was a ferry to a city on the other side of the Amazon River and not to the community where I was supposed to go. I found my cell phone and called Rafael. His service was hit and miss, but he asked to speak to the ferry captain. They arranged that I’d get dropped off along a bank and Rafael would backtrack in a small boat to pick me up. The ferry pulled close to the shore and I jumped six feet to the ground. I walked up the bank as onlookers on the ferry wondered where I was going. There was a single house on stilts on the bank and a woman doing laundry invited me closer. After I coarsely explained what happened, she invited me to sit in the shade under the house. I noticed the radio was on in the house (running on batteries since there wasn't a line going to the house and the generator wasn't running) and I heard a song that was overplayed back home, “Written in the stars, a million miles away…”.
A few songs later, Rafael arrived in a small long shaft motorboat - slow moving but fuel efficient and cheap. After briefly greeting him (this was the first time I met him in person) and his team, we were off to spend a few hours baking in the sun. When we got to our destination community (by community I mean a house every few hundred km along river stretch), we sat at the edge of the river to relax and cool off. Despite the creatures big and small the Amazon is renown for, a few children were playing in the water. We asked them if there were any piranhas or candiru in the water (the latter being a small fish that is notorious for its ability to swim up a person’s urethra). They smiled and told us no. There are also the caiman, or freshwater crocodilians, to be mindful of….
I stripped to my boxers and cannon balled in- my first bath in the Amazon.
Labels: 2011 Field Season