Today started out with another 5:30 am wake up call. As dawn broke we boarded the canoe and headed out on another branch of the Rio Negro looking for more tropical birds. It wasn’t long before we spotted a Toucan in the upper braces of a dying tree. Our guide, Hugo, called out to the bird and pretty soon they had quite the conversation going. As we went further up this particular branch we saw Hawks, Kites, Vultures and a huge assortment of Parrots. All the while we had a chorus of bird songs, reminiscent of the Tiki Room at Disneyland, providing our soundtrack for the morning.
These motorized canoe trips are fascinating for a number of reasons. One that continued to blow me away was how convoluted and confusing the maze of waterways was. There would be no way in the world I would be able to find my way back to the boat after just a few turns through green-lined channels, not to mention those times when our guide would take the canoe through a hike in the dense foliage and we would pop out in another waterway after a few minutes in a dark tunnel of towering trees and plants. It was so cool!
After our morning canoe run we returned to the boat for a hearty breakfast and then we were off to visit he members of the Terra Preto indigenous community. As indigenous communities go these guys were pretty well off. They had electricity for 4 hours a day and most of the homes had satellite dishes. You realized how remote they were, however, when we talked to them about interactions with other tribes. For example, the only real chance teens had to meet other teens from another village were occasional soccer games. The children were all schooled in the native language of the tribe which was unique to them. All that said, they are charming, polite people with really cute kids.
At the village we got a lesson in how Manioc flour and tapioca are made using very primitive tools. This hot, heavy, difficult work is all done by the women of the village. Given the amount of work necessary to produce Manioc flour it is amazing it is as much of a staple of the Brazilian diet as it is.
This was a very busy day. After our visit with the villagers I took a refreshing swim in the Rio Negro (it’s like swimming in warm tea) and then we got ready for our dusk canoe adventure. For this trip the boat dropped us of at the Ariaú River which branches off the Rio Negro and we canoed down the river and the boat was supposed to meet us where the Ariaú rejoined the Rio Negro. We had a bit of an issue at the start because it started to rain hard. We were able to wait out the worst of the rain but it still looked like we were going to get soaked on this 2 1/2 hour ride so I wore swim trunks. We headed out and the wildlife viewing was great.
The combination of dusk, the rain hitting the water and the choice of a heavily (animal) populated waterway allowed for some great experiences. We saw a number of tree sloths, our guides made a grab for a 4-foot long Caimen and we saw a beautiful spectaled owl. One of the highlights was getting a chance to feed a bunch of capuchin monkeys who all but crawled into our boat to get at the bananas our guide had brought along. Towards the end of the excursion we had to cut through some flooded rice paddies to get back to the Rio Negro. This got pretty exciting as it was now dark and we basically got stuck. As visions of being stranded In a canoe in the middle of the Amazon basin swirled though our heads (are we lost?, how much gas DO we have? Why did we feed all of our bananas to those monkeys?) our trusty guides got us out of the muck a right around a couple of corners was our lovely ship all lit up and waiting for us. We were pretty relieved.
Note: Special thanks to BB Hanlon for supplying the photos for this blog!