Friday, January 22, 2010

Day Fourteen: Wednesday, January 20 – To the Swimming Hole

We spent long long hours on the boat today, most of them with the expectation that we were about to arrive at our destination, even though “pretty soon” was almost never very soon.  The boat had started to motor onward while we were all still asleep, but the starting of the engine awoke Brian so that he managed to capture a lovely Amazon sunrise on video today.

By the way, the night sky in the Amazon is one of the grandest sights of all time.  (The daytime sky isn’t so bad either.)  The number of stars is staggering, so much so that even those of us who knew a bit of astronomy were completely thrown off by the sheer volume of stars filling the sky.  Jesse managed to find the Southern Cross, which helped us a bit, but we are a little confused about the differences between the sky over California and the sky over the equator.  Along with being numerous, the stars are exceptionally bright and some even seem to be brightly colored.  No matter what, it is difficult to tear ourselves away from looking at the night sky even when we are totally exhausted.

Our destination for the morning was a waterfall that we had heard was quite a distance away from Santarém, but we decided to make the commitment to go that far to see what all the fuss was about.  We curved around and around in one of the tributaries of the Amazon for hours.  Our captain clearly knows every inch of the water because there were many places where we seemed to be in a closed cove but he knew his way through.

We passed a couple of timber mills on the way in, which felt a bit ominous even though we couldn’t see any clear-cutting along the routes we were taking.  Just past the timber mills, we finally saw the wide waterfalls that we sought.  The falls weren’t exceptionally high but they are quite unusual for this river.  At the top of the falls, there was a lovely swimming hole that took us by surprise.

The swimming hole had a staircase that led into it, a rope across it to keep someone from being swept into the falls, and a little island that separated it from the main waterfall.  It even had water that was slightly cool, though much of the water in the Amazon is quite warm.  It was heavenly.  We sat and basked in the enjoyment of the spot and realized that 25 years from now, we will all be able to remember this moment in this place with similar affection for what it felt like to be there.  Nice.

From there we turned around and started to head back downstream toward Santarém.  We won’t reach “home” until Friday morning, even though we are starting that way on Wednesday afternoon.  We stopped at another sandy beach point like the one where we swam yesterday and had an outdoor fish barbecue called a “piracaia.”

We arrived just as darkness was falling and were horrified to see the number of bugs that were drawn to our growing fire.  Though they were definitely “bugging” us, we were equally horrified to watch them get so drawn to the fire that they all died.  Thus, that particular problem didn’t last terribly long.

Rionaldo, his first mate João, Louro and Jesse set up the fish cooking contraption over the fire and we all just gathered around and watched and waited.  Once finished, the fish were beautiful and tasty – all the more so because the whole meal unfolded right in front of our eyes.  After the main meal we added a course of our own: s’mores!  We brought all of the fixings from California and chased down sticks in the forest to roast our marshmallows.

After s’mores, a talent show broke out, including lots of singing, some dancing, some commentary, a spoken word piece about the Rota virus and a newly-written song (by Jesse, Shawny, and Marcia) about us and our time in Brazil.  We had a blast.

The plan was to move the boat once we finished with our bonfire but our captain, first mate and cook were all asleep when we finally stopped singing and dancing there.  We’re hitting our hammocks now and we will go with the flow come morning.

The raging waters of the waterfall.

Butterflies swarming around the waterfall in Aruã.

The water leaving the waterfall created an impressive current.

The Esperança II docked in Aruã.

The sun dipping just below the tree line.

This cow is very flexible.

View from the Lido Deck of the Esperança II.

The main method of transportation for the families who live on the river.

Father and son patch a boat on the river.

A close up of the many insects we have ran into along the Amazon river.

Motoring along the river taking in the sun and the sites.

We stopped at the waterfalls and made sure our boat was not leaving without us.

Some of the group took a swim in the water above the falls.

At the end of the day the sky lights up with a beautiful sunset.

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