Monday – November 24, 2008 –
Last night was an amazing experience sleeping in a tree house inside the Amazon canopy! My brother and I slept well and woke up refreshed.
Before walking down to the dining room at the Ariau Towers for breakfast, we explored the resort to take in the tropical landscape. We saw a number of playful macaws and squirrel monkeys playing in the trees as we walked among them on the miles of boardwalks.
After a Brazilian breakfast of ham, eggs, bacon, fruits and acai juice, we prepared for a jungle trek. We met up with the rest of our group and Alan.
Around 9 a.m., Alan took us on a walking tour of the surrounding Amazon jungle. He carried a machete with him which was little bit assuring in case some wild animal decided to attack us. He referred to the trek as an Amazon wilderness survival tour. He showed us how to survive in the wild Amazon.
First, Alan taught us how to find clean water. He took his machete and cut through a certain type of tree that collected water inside. We all had a drink – cool and refreshing. Then he showed us some edible insects. He found an Amazon larvae and asked for volunteers. You only live once, right? So I volunteered to eat part of it that he had cut apart. He told me to chew it up again. A few of the women with us gasped as I chewed and swallowed. Actually, surprisingly it wasn’t too bad!
As we trekked onward, Alan show us some venom-carrying ants that he demonstrated their aggressiveness at a distance with his machete. He also pointed out some poisonous Amazon frogs that secrete a poison used by natives on their hunting darts. Alan also identified some carnivorous plants like the Venus flytrap. Then he showed us some edible plants.
As we walked along the trail, he taught us how to build a lean to shelter. Then he demonstrated how to set up a hammock. He gave us the option of sleeping out in the jungle that night, but no one took him up on the offer!
After finishing up the rainforest trek around noon, we went back to the lodge for lunch. We had some Brazilian sandwiches where we watched the brilliant toucans outside our windows. They could imitate human voices! Later we enjoyed the squirrel monkeys outside which would literally come and take food out of your hand if you were not careful.
Around 4 p.m., we loaded into our motorized boat to go to another creek tributary of the Rio Negro. Using bamboo polls, we were about to go fishing. Alan, our guide, took some raw beef and threw it into the water. Piranhas started going crazy on the surface in a frenzy! Our guide flopped the end of his rod in the water and they went nuts! Someone asked what would happen if you tried swimming in the water. He explained that they would not harm humans. He demonstrated this by putting his hand in the water! We expected the piranhas to attack, but nothing happened to our relief.
Alan explained that there are 27 species of piranha in the world, all found in the Amazon, and 25 of them don’t threaten humans. He explained that the two aggressive species were found way north on the Rio Negro near the Colombian border. Alan explained that mosquitos are not nearly as prominent on the Rio Negro (Black River) because they don’t like dark-colored water. He said they are more prominent, along with their diseases (like malaria) on the light-brown colored Solimões River.
Jeff and I caught a few piranhas. We could take them of the hook as long as we kept our fingers away from their razor sharp teeth! I lost more than a few pieces of bait and hooks immediately. If you didn’t hook them on their first bite, they were gone! Later, I caught a beautiful fish with a bluish stripe on the top. Right as I grabbed the fish to take it off the hook, Alan turned around and said don’t touch it. I got zapped with a small amount of electrical current. He kind of laughed but asked if I was okay. The Brazilian species of every fish and animal life is extreme.
After returning to the lodge around 7 p.m., we had another Amazonian buffet dinner. We got to know our fellow guests well. Our German friend Christoph Guetter, a few years younger than me, was touring the Amazon with his Brazilian fiancé, Marcella. They were both really nice people and were on the swim team at Princeton University. Both of them spoke English well, which was interesting, because Christoph’s family was touring with him. His mother, father and sister (Julia) spoke English but not Portuguese, and Marcella spoke basic German. Therefore, they communicated in English when together. We really their company and found them to be nice people. We also got to know an older American couple, Roger and Elizabeth Olenbush from upstate New York. One of their sons married a Brazilian girl recently and they decided to visit the Amazon during their trip. The last two were a Brazilian doctor, Helio, and his wife, Aida. They were Paulistos and the epitome of nice Brazilians. Aida was a little shy about her English skills around everyone, but I told her she spoke English well. They were the only other Brazilians on our tour, and we really appreciated them being on our English-speaking tour.
That evening Jeff and laid out in some hammocks near the lodge and read some more. I bought a trophy piranha to take home along with an Amazonian voodoo figure in a nearby resort shop. After we took showers, we slept well upon wrapping up another great day in the Amazon.