Jan 1 2012
1/1/12 - 1/1/12
• Pink dolphin
• Piranha fishing
• A visit with woman from Berlin who speaks five languages and is living in a house without walls or windows or electricity and with a hand pump for water – and loving her life.
This morning when I woke up we were at Santarem dock. Many ships at the dock. There are many small boats and small ferry boats near the docks. When the ferry boat goes by everyone waves.
We left the ship from deck five and walked over to the buses which would take us to a boat going up the Amazon and a tributary with the word “lake” in the title (but it was not a lake but a tributary). We had a Brazilian guide (boat manager/owner) and a young woman named Annie who spoke to us in English.
We started out in the Tapajos River which is mineral water. Acid. Low PH. We went into the Amazon. Viewing the meeting of the waters. The dark Tapajos and the brown Amazon.
The guide showed us the “security clothes” (life jacket) and made motions to “plus your nose and jump in”.
The Tapajos and the Amazon mix at Santarum. The difference in color is due to density, velocity and temperature.
Mosquitos don’t like acid water. Less fish in acid water and less biodiversity.
Today was an incredible day. The sun was out, the boat ride was peaceful and fascinating we learned so much, As we traveled up tributaries of the Amazon, we went by islands that will be covered in water during the rainy season. There are small houses, often on stilts and the island will be covered by water during the rainy season and the houses damaged. I think Anna said the water will go up 6-8 feet. During the dry season the residents will have cows moved to the island via barges. They will rebuild the homes that have been damaged by water. Because they can live on the island for only part of the year, one crop they can grow is rice and they can grow vegetables like cucumbers. They catch fish to eat and sell. They have outdoor plumbing. No running water. No electricity. We saw small children swimming, playing by their homes, a woman washing her hair near the river, fisherman in small boats or tucked under trees that overhang the river seeking some shade. It was a picture into the life of the people that live on the river. It doesn’t even feel real. It was peaceful on the river, the views were beautiful, many birds around.
We had lunch on board with the food prepared in a teeny-tiny kitchen by two women wearing hairnets. The lunch was buffet. Wheat isn’t raised in the tropics, obviously so there are other flours, one of which was served as a side-dish. It was curly and yellow and didn’t have much taste. The lunch was beef, chicken, rice, salads and watermelon for dessert. Also the sweetest pineapple you can imagine.
After lunch we fished for piranhas, which must be a tourist activity. Someone I talked with in the U.S. said they ate the piranhas after catching them. On our boat, they were catch-and-release. We were given a small wooden block with notches on the ends; around that was wrapped fishing line. The hooks had a chunk of red meet. We threw them over the side of the boat. I quit rather quickly as I’ve never liked to see fish suffer. A few people caught them; the boat helpers took the piranhas, held them up for pictures and then put them in a bucket of water and later returned them to the sea. I’ve never really understood how the fish heals his poor little mouth but didn’t ask.
The Amazon has 2000 species. Tapajos has 300 fish species. Fish don’t prosper as well in the acid water of the Tapajos.
Anna, our guide, was very clear that even though the people we saw along the shore looked poor, that in Brazil these people are not considered poor. If they have food, they are not poor.
Brazil has two seasons. Rainy season and dry season. They don’t speak in terms of summer or fall or winter or summer. Rainy season is December – June.
We headed back to the ship in the afternoon. (Have to finish the rest later)
My conversation with Anna:
• House with no walls and windows; palm roof, clay floor, cooks in clay oven.
• Pumps water from the ground with a hand pump and has a good filter on it. The water table is high so easy to get water.
• Solar power.
• Her passion is growing food – she grows food to eat.
• She also makes jewelry, does some tourist stuff like today, makes Pesto to sell, etc. She says she only needs money for food. She is a neighbor of the boat owner – not sure how she has her land. She has lived in the Amazon 4 years.
• Willy the bat lives in her house; only comes out at night. Not a bother. He was named by her mother when she visited Anna from France.
• Anna likes warm weather;has lived in Mexico and was heading for Venezuela and then stopped in Santarem because tired of traveling. Has been there four years. Thinks she will move on some day as she would like weather that is a little more temperate.
• Never bitten by a bug
• Degree earned in Berlin
• Speaks five languages: English, French, Portuguese, Spanish
• Brazil government planned to move soy plantations north in Brazil near to Santarem. 2004 U.N. says “no” to aquifer. Largest drinking supply (in world?) near Santarem. Can’t use pesticides.
• Has bugs in house and she says “you guys have the whole “f….g” jungle, get out of here” and they listen to her.
• Locals kill things like bugs but she doesn’t.
• Three months pregnant: support groups, free healthcare for all but she doesn’t want to give birth in hospital.
• I told her she looks like a model – she says she’d rather plant.
• Lives on land that is not treated with pesticides.
• Anna has a pump in the land – hand pump for water and a great filter
• She takes the bus 45 minutes to her village (has guest room, living room and kitchen
• She says the islanded are “floated”, when she means “flooded” .
• Cost of stuff including food is as high as Europe. $1.50 Kilo bean. (Kilo is 2.2 lbs.)
• She is three months pregnant. I gave a little money to buy something for her baby, the least I could do for all the interesting conversation I had with her today.