May 4th, 2011 – Rain was pummeling the tarps above our hammocks from the middle of the night on into the morning, but J.J. was able to revive the fire and make more hard-boiled eggs for breakfast. The rain let up a little and we went for a one-hour hike further on into the jungle, where we saw a “Walking Stick,” some jungle berries in a tree, and wood mushrooms.
The streams in the jungle were high and the woods were very wet, but the temperature was warm. Back at our blue-tarped camp, we packed up and hiked back to the Lodge. “Gen” and the two Slovania women left the Lodge in the afternoon by river boat back to civilazation. That left only the couple from Montreal – Hana and Chris, and myself to share the rest of the day and next day together.
We all got re-situated in our dorms, and at 3 p.m. J.J. took us out for an afternoon boat trip, where we fished again for Piranha. Chris caught one! They’re difficult to catch, as they’ve become wise to the hook. J.J. caught 2 catfish. AND we finally saw the elusive Pink Dolphin 7 times!!! But they’re so fast when they surface, breathe and dive that it’s impossible to photograph them.
The afternoon started to clear up, the clouds lifted and only a fine mist was falling. Back at the Lodge, we had a quiet evening and prepared for the next day, when we would be taking a riverboat trip upriver to see people living a farming lifestyle along the river banks.
May 5th – Light drizzle in the morning with some breaks in the clouds – J.J. canceled the Pink Dolphin sunrise trip again. I went up to the lookout tower and watched the clouds clear and the blue sky and sun break through.
After breakfast J.J. took us upriver by boat about 30 minutes to a private residence of local Urubu dwellers who armed their traditional root crop of Mandauco – a diet staple used similarly as rice in Asia or taro in Hawaii.
While visiting at the plantation, we noticed a pair of parrots that, though wild, the family regarded as pets. The parrots perched in the rafters of their simple home and showed no fear of humans. The whole living situation was so close to the earth, that humans here were a part of nature, not separate from it.
The family was hospitable and helpful in explaining how they farmed, harvested, cleaned and processed the Mandauco. We helped them peel a pile of the tubers, and later walked through their plantation.
The root crop is only grown for 2 years in one place, then more jungle must be cleared and the Mandauco replanted onto virgin soil as the old soil is too depleted for it to continue producing a good crop of roots. This short field life – 2 years – is a big part of the jungle deforestation problem. After 2 years when the Mandauco roots are replanted elsewhere, fruit trees are planted on the old Mandauco fields.
After returning downriver to the lodge, Hana, Chris and I took the paddle boat out along the riverbanks, for a quiet boating trip of our own. It was extraordinarily serene and peaceful, and we saw parrots flitting among the treetops. Back again at the Lodge, we swam off the dock, had lunch, then boarded our return boat for the 1-hour river ride to catch the bus back to Manaus. The boat trip back to the town where we caught the bus was incredibly beautiful – blue sky and puffy white clouds across the expanse of big, flat blue water.
Back in Manaus, Hana, Chris and I met up for dinner at the Africa House on the Teatro Opera House Plaza. They had to leave the next day to return home to Montreal. They each have excellent jobs with an insurance company, and they take one big trip once a year to different places in the world, and smaller trips within Europe during holidays. In Winter 2012 they planned to go to Patagonia.
Hostel Manaus was almost empty and I had the 6-bed dorm room all to myself. Got a pretty good night’s sleep.