Friday, January 22, 2010

Day Sixteen: Friday, January 22 – Tapa-JOYOUS!

Special note:  Our video camera batteries were all used up on Day One and Day Two of the boat trip and our belief that we would be able to charge them on the boat turned out to be untrue.  Thus, the teams with video responsibilities for yesterday and today have produced slideshows that are combined into one overview of these two days.  That combined slideshow appears above.

The boat got moving early in the morning to get Louro to work by 8:00 a.m.  He made it in plenty of time.  We, then, got some bait right on the edge of Santarém (we bought it right out on the water) and then headed off to fish for piranhas!

We had to find a shallow and muddy area to try to catch piranhas, so our captain took us downriver just a bit to a tributary off the Tapajós River (itself a tributary of the Amazon River, along with which it runs side by side right in Santarém.  The bait we needed was all meat: some beef, some chicken.  

We pulled our big boat up against some tall water grasses and started chasing our prey.  One method of catching piranhas is to disturb the water at the surface to emulate an animal in distress.  The piranhas might be drawn to that disturbance, then take the bait attached to the hook.  Those of us with bamboo rods practiced this method.

Some of us, though, did not use rods.  We had fishing line tied to empty plastic drink containers.  Our strategy was to drop our bait deep into the water and then pull it along to simulate natural movements.

Still others used a slightly different method, which involved keeping the bait in sight just below the surface of the water, then watching for the piranhas to come after it.  Once those people saw a fish go for their bait, they would jerk the line to get the hook to sink in.

Despite all of our great strategies, we turned out to be terrible piranha catchers.  We could see them come and take our bait, but we couldn’t catch them.  Finally, one of the boat staff caught one, which gave us renewed hope.  We moved the boat a couple of times to maximize our chances.

Finally, Gary became the first SMC student in SMC Amazon history to actually catch a piranha!  It was a pretty small one but we didn’t mind a bit.  We hooted and hollered and went nuts just to know that our hours of fishing weren’t totally fruitless.  Rionaldo (our boat captain) quickly caught another one (a bit bigger this time), so we were really ready to reel them in after that.

Sadly, those three fish were the only piranhas we would catch today.  By the time we left the area, most of us had put down our lines and started reading books or writing journal entries.  We were totally demoralized.
But then to lift our spirits, we returned to the Meeting of the Waters (Encontra Das Águas) to jump off the boat a few more times.  Shawny didn’t jump this time of course, and the rest of us used new protocols to check the depth and the general conditions before trying anything tricky.  Scott and Gary had missed our original swim at the Encontra, so it was particularly fun for them to get to jump there.

We headed home from there and spent most of the afternoon getting reorganized in camp.  A few of us loaded video and pictures from our trip, while a few others went to the storefront project and completed some cement work.  We think that we will make huge progress on the storefront over the next few days.  We hope you continue to follow us and find out if we are right . . .

Quincy, Jarred, Ana, and Ciara enjoying Piranha. (People listed in decreasing order of enjoyment)

Neil tries his luck on a bamboo rod.

Prime Piranha fishing grounds.

Jared and Quincy showing off their home made fishing rods.

Using the cows to whip the Piranha into a frenzy.


  1. Wow! What an amazing week you spent cruising the Amazon River! We missed coming home from school to enjoy your daily blog, pictures and video each evening. We are so glad you posted about the days you spent away from camp upon your return. Please give our best to Shawny, we didn't see her in any of the pics or videos and hope she is healing and feeling well.

    Reading about the high temps and humidity there seems so foreign in January. El Nino brought strong storms, wind and rain to CA the past eight days straight with more on the way for at least the next three days. You will no doubt have to adjust to winter upon your return to not-so-sunny CA. We look forward to updates about your adventures this coming week, and we wish you safe travels as you find your way back to the USA.

    B-ry, Kent said you must shave and get a haircut BEFORE they come for a visit in Feb!!! We concur!

    Hugs and love to your entire group...
    Mom and Dad
    (aka Bob and Lenore)

  2. NFL Update:

    Jets 17
    Colts 30

    Vikings 28
    Saints 31 in OT

    Super Bowl XLIV
    Sunday, Feb 7 in Miami

    Colts vs. Saints