Brazil Part 4

On our last riveting installment, named Brazil Part 3, I told you mostly about all the animals we bothered while cruising through the Amazon. In this week, I’ll tell you about some of the jungle we hiked through. There was actually a lot of walking on this vacation for me having signed us up for a river cruise, though considering the cool things we saw, I’m not complaining.

The first thing I was fairly surprised to discover was how like, not strange the rainforest looked. The rain forest had always been this mysterious and exotic place in my head, full of vines and snakes and whatnot. It did in fact have vines in it that you could swing from, and we did that at one point (well, climbed like two feet up and swayed back and forth), but mostly the jungle looked a lot like a number of forests I had camped in as a Boy Scout:

On our hikes through the jungle, our guides tried to show us stuff about living and thriving in the rainforest. At one point, they had us eat a grub (or, at least, dad ate a grub, which he said tasted “like a grub,” and I politely declined). In the photo at the top they showed us how to make fans out of various palm fronds and whatnot, a very useful skill indeed. During one hike we trekked into the jungle and then after we got wherever we were going they told us to figure out the way back. Luckily I was a super-smart Eagle Scout and had studied hard in Navigation class and also noticed the guides had been making marks on trees with their machetes as we hiked along, and I managed to get us out of the jungle. I was very proud of myself. Another survival tip they showed us was that if you let the ants swarm all over you and quickly rub them off, they don’t bite, but do leave a small that discourages other bugs from biting you. Like the grub, I was also too wimpy to try this, but here is dad giving it a go:

These treks also couldn’t possibly go without us bothering wildlife, so here is Elso annoying a tarantula:

One night, we actually stayed in the jungle instead of our cozy bunks on the boat. This was a lot of fun. After we landed ashore, the first thing we had to do was to build ourselves a shelter. This was quite the undertaking. We were of course under the tutelage of our very experienced guides. Step number one was to clear an area to set up camp. This involved clearing away all the small brush and small trees from our chosen location. Dad had a blast doing this. Once he got hold of a machete, he could barely be stopped chopping down the trees that were in our way, and then harvesting the many many palm leaves that we needed to thatch our little hut. Look at him go:

Dad is on the left, Elso is on the right.

One of the things I remember most from this experience was it being hot. Out on the river, every single day was extraordinarily pleasant. Just the right temperature, and cool river breezes. But man, once you got into the jungle, it was boiling. The humidity was at 100% and there was no wind or anything to keep you cool. Just a whole lot of sweat. I was drenched. After finding four suitable trees to serve as the corners of our shelter, assembling it involved tying a whole bunch of sticks together. Larger poles served as cross-beams, and then small poles as the support for the thatching. The whole thing was assembled using tree bark as rope, a technique I later became very familiar with in Zambia but which was new to me here. After all that thatching was cut down, my own major tasks were trying to help tie stuff together and then handing things to the guides, who were clambering all over the structure. After the roof was on, all that was left was to hang up our mosquito-netted hammocks and settle in for the night. Here is the group posing proudly in front of the structure, and me with half my bodyweight in sweat in my shirt:

Dinner that night was the best chicken I have ever had in my life, as I mentioned all the way back in Brazil Part 2, cooked on a stick over an open fire. The only other exciting part of the night was listening for jaguars, which seemed to be about the only thing that Elso was actually afraid of. In the morning I think he reported hearing them, but I was too blissfully asleep by that point. In the morning we awoke to our guides making us a literal pot of coffee, which I found deeply amusing. We drunk it out of tiny little plastic cups, and all in all it was an excellent morning in the jungle:

And that is where I will leave you this week. Come back next week when I will finally reveal… the infamous sloth story!!!!