Saturday, 19 January 2008

Around Brazil – Amazon Swarms and Amazon Storms

After a three day trip had turned into 7 drunken nights, 8 break-down, 9 towing booze cruise of 10 remote Amazon towns, we rocked up in Santarem in a different boat to the one in which we set off. We might still have been marooned downriver, sitting ducks for the mosquitoes that could bit through hammocks and clothes. I guess in that empty part of the river, humans don’t stop too often so they have to make hay while the sun shines. Their bites hurt so much we had to go swimming to hide. The thought of another Mosquito Dawn had us begging every boat that passed. One finally stopped at dusk, but only under duress. Saved! We boarded with all our gear and hundreds of boxes in a frantic mid-Amazon sunset swap. It’s not easy to climb between two decent-sized boats with backpacks.

We waved goodbye to our boat, the crazy chef, the captain who was going down with his ship, and the crew who were probably going down with malaria if they stayed there much longer. They might still be there for all I know.

The second boat was full already. The only place where hammocks weren’t hanging, dead cows were. A goat was tethered to the front like a figurehead, but despite these accoutrements our new boat lacked the sloppy character of our old one. It had a proper bar at the back for a start, with striplights that attracted a million Amazon moths. Maybe they liked the music pumping out of the speakers. There was nowhere else to sleep except on the benches by the bar. Narrow, hard, noisy and full of insects it might have been, but even this part of the trip had its charm. Once the bar closed, the people and music disappeared and the moon came out. With only three or four electric lights within a hundred miles, an Amazon moon has no competition, especially when it has huge rings around it which can’t be seen all the time. The gentle ripples behind the boat reflected the silver light in calming patterns as the silhouette of the jungle slipped by. At moments like this, there is no need to speak, just smile, enjoy the ambience and be glad that you’re in Brazil.

Even better. A dark, dark cloud was looming over the tree-tops, sweeping millions of stars up in its path, making the brightest of silver linings out of them, and contrasting beautifully with the coming storm. We rolled the tarpaulin down but not all the way. The rain was so loud it was pointless talking. The jungle disappeared behind it as the moon and stars had done. The girl who’d told me once that gigantic rings around the moon meant a storm approaching was as right this time as she had been before. Nothing to see, nothing to hear, nothing to feel except the rain of the rainforest.

No comments: