Sunday, July 7, 2013

Peru-Brazil 2013 – Day 18 – Our continuing stay in the jungle

I forgot to narrate a funny event from yesterday: As we were preparing to go in our jungle walk Miguel warned us to wear long-sleeve shirts and lay on the repellent “because the mosquitoes are coming”. What did he mean? There had been very few mosquitoes so far. Then, all of a sudden, the mosquitoes came in big swarms. Ah, but Annie and I were prepared and promptly donned our secret identities: Mosquito Man and Mosquito Girl, archenemies of Batman and Wonder Boy. For this trip we bought expensive repellent-treated REI pants and shirts. Totally useless. But we had also bought rather dorky, but inexpensive jackets with hoods and pants made of mosquito netting. We looked pretty silly, but these dorky garments were like magic against the mosquitoes. And the kids rather enjoyed seeing us “in costume” while I told them about the perilous adventures of Mosquito Man and his inseparable companion Mosquito Girl.

Anyway, I awoke rested like if I had slept for 24 hours, and in nice fighting trim, only to see a sorry lot of bleary-eyed zombies slowly coming back to life. It was then that I heard about the poking and the calls for “Haonnie” together with the more radical ideas about moving me and my hammock to the school house, or just tossing me in a boat and letting me go adrift.

It took a while to get some coffee on the table, followed by Huevos Perico (scrambled eggs with onions and tomatoes), but by 8 am we were fed and ready to go. Our goal was to have a cruise in the Titanic to see birds and monkeys. Miguel pointed to all sorts of moving things, and Joel rattled off their scientific names in Latin. Joel is a dear old man (younger than I, but with a lot more mileage in himself) who has had a rich and interesting life as a guide. He speaks English and French rather well, and he used to guide expeditions through the jungle, before the jungle became a touristy place. Unfortunately he had a stroke not too long ago, and at times gets confused, has little sensitivity on his right arm, and gets tired easily when walking with a pronounced limp. Still, he is a super interesting guy with whom it was a pleasure to chat.

Our next adventure was to go fishing for piranhas. Miguel had prepared himself for this portion of the trip with four long home-made poles, a few scraps of chicken skin, and chicken gizzards. Contrary to Hollywood’s depiction, piranhas do not swarm all at once to devour a body in just a few seconds. They live near the bottom, feeding on dead fish or fruit that sink to the bottom, or the scraps left by the kill of a bigger fish. We used this latter trait to our advantage by making a big splash in the water with the tip of the fishing pole and then letting the bait float to the bottom. Almost right away Miguel and Josué started pulling out little piranhas, but we caught none. We changed spots three times before finally heading for the shore of the actual Amazon, which is apparently a fool-proof place for the fishing of piranha. Again Josué kept pulling fish after fish, and Joel managed to be bitten by a little piranha (an amazing amount of blood for such a little guide), but I still came up blank. After half hour I felt pity for our fearless leader and declared myself satisfied and ready to go home.

So we went back home, where I took a delightful siesta, while Doña Betty worked out her magic cooking over an open fire. Lunch was, once again, delicious: Deep fried piranhas over white rice, and a stew of chicken, potatoes, and tomato sauce that was to die for. A side salad of sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions completed this delightful meal.

Finally it came time to say goodbye to our gracious hostess and the kids. Wow, we only spent a night here and they all feel like family! It was probably the simplicity with which we are taken into the fold of the family that worked out the magic.

Our excellent Miguel took us directly to the commercial port of Tabatinga, where we took motorcycle taxis to go to the main wharf, where the fast boat to Manaus departs, to buy our tickets for tomorrow. Annie once again threatened to fly directly to Los Angeles rather than go in another boat like el Golfinho. Since I was not ready to spend an additional week in Leticia I told her that no, we could not go look and buy the tickets later (my Lovey has some problems being decisive); this was it: We were buying tickets and going. Our good luck came to the rescue, in the form of the Crystal I, a rather upscale fast boat, with place to move, four bathrooms, TV, and a real galley. With some reservation my Honey has tentatively agreed not to abandon me, so tomorrow will be the big day of our 1,000 km trip down the Amazon to Manaus.
When we got to the hotel, tired and dirty, I jumped in the shower while Annie went across the street to the pharmacy. I got out of the shower, washed my clothes, put on my swimming suit, went for a swim, and finished writing my blog for the previous day, and still no Annie. Where could she have gone, all sweaty, without first taking a shower? I was beginning to think kidnap and how to raise a ransom here in Leticia, when she finally came back. She had been for over an hour at the pharmacy, torturing the poor attendant, by going over the list of ingredients of every brand of shampoo they had, looking for the most “organic” of them! And then, after finally buying the first she had been presented with, she remembered she also wanted some sunscreen lotion, so she repeated the whole performance, this time involving even the pharmacist, in her search for a lotion that would not cause her pores to clog. I wonder what kind of memory these poor people will have of foreign tourists from now on.

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