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ICANEWS Noviembre 2010, Año 7 # 20
An Experience in Amazonas
by Regina Candel
regicandel@hotmail.com

We left Belem on a small ship sharing space with several other people. We would all sleep on hammocks for three days, one next to the other, until reaching Santarem. The Amazon River is huge! Sometimes, you can not see one shore from the other. On the sides we could see little wooden houses from where children ran to their canoes to row in direction to the ship, waiting for someone to throw them some food. Unfortunately, poverty is part of the landscape in this part of Brazil, next to the dense jungle and the brown deep waters.

amazonas

In Santarem we met Ivan and Cristian, one Argentinean, the other, Italian, with whom we shared a great experience with a native family in the middle of the jungle, in the “Floresta Nacional de Tapajós”.

We took a bus to reach the forest; we were left in a tiny bar at the entrance of a community of native families, 66 in all. We met Marivaldo, who explained to us, while toasting the “mandioca” for the rest of the season, that we would stay in “El Pelado´s” house. He was one of the six official guides to receive travelers in their homes.

Since the very first moment, El Pelado stopped next to several trees to explain what they are used for, usually as medicine or tea. A simple tree became a piece of knowledge in the hands of our experienced guide. We visited the community‘s school and talked to the teacher. The school was only a big room with a greenboard, some desks and chairs, extremely simple. Only some colorful posters lighted the room, but students did not seem to need much more to enjoy the activities that the teacher proposed. That same afternoon we went to the beach, which could only be reached by canoe through some swamps.  The idea of running into a snake or “yacaré” having a bath was breathtaking, but nothing happened. In fact, it is hardly possible to meet a big animal in the wildlife, but “Anaconda” and other horror tales played the trick to our minds.

That night we had dinner with all the family. “El Pelado‘s” wife cooked a typical Brazilian meal: fish, rice, spaghetti and beans. Delicious! Next morning, we had breakfast and got ready for the great adventure: a three hour trail through the jungle until we reached a camp site, sleeping for the night and going back the next day. “El Pelado” showed us plants, trees and fruits. Cristian was eager to cure a great stomach ache he had, so he tried all the possible natural medicines that would stop his pain. At night he felt much better. Apparently, plants worked better than any pill he could have taken. El Pelado also taught us how to build a hut‘s roof with gigantic palm leaves, which are easy to knit.
amazonas

Next to the camp we saw a “Sumauma”, an enormous tree! You have to walk 21 meters to surround it. We saw all types of spiders and insects as well…but we were still very afraid of every strange movement in the forest…either a snake or a “yaguarete” could be encountered!
In the evening we built a bonfire, cooked some delicious spaghetti and prepared our hammocks to face the night sounds of the forest: not an easy task. I could only sleep a couple of hours. One good piece of news:  there were no mosquitoes! We were afraid of them since Amazonas is famous for malaria cases, but again, stories are not always true. The nearby river is acid, so magic happens: no mosquitoes.  Next day we returned happy with the experience.

amazonas

Nonetheless, boys still wanted more extreme situations. So, the following night they followed “El Pelado” to his DIVING fishing NIGHT. They dived with a harpoon in the Amazon River. I was there as a photographer, it was too much for me. There were chances of encountering sting rays, yacares, snakes, eels and piranhas; “No sir, thank you very much!”
Next day we said “Good Bye” with a beautiful family photo. We all left with a big smile on our faces. We headed for Santarem to sail two more days to get to Manaus. And that was another adventure!

amazonas

Regina Candel Martinez is an English Teacher and a great traveler. She studied at the University of Mar del Plata and finished her course of studies in the year 2005.

Glossary

swamps: pantanos
breathtaking: asombroso
trail: recorrido
knit: tejer
hammocks: hamacas
diving: buceo
sting rays: rayas
eels: anguilas

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