Third day, our last chance on the rivers

Today we wake up earlier, prepare our stuff and go. Somehow even if not verbalized we are all conscious that the chances of meeting a jaguar are getting slimmer.
We need to fill up our water tanks, so we have a quick stop at a fazenda that caters to rich fishermen and famous characters where Elizete works. She had told us the night before that 'Leonardo', a famous musician adored by masses of women, was staying there for some days. He had arrived with his private plane, that was parked on the grounds of the fazenda.
J. teases her when she leaves in the early morning with make-up on her cheek and her best dress on. The fazenda is normally uninhabited, only one family lives here permanently and takes care of the place. They are Julinhos official ice suppliers. Carmindo has a fridge, but no electricity and in Brazil it's imperative that everything you drink must be 'gelado', iced.

The weather looks a bit uncertain today, a misty sky and some clouds accompany us. 
We return on our already familiar rivers, J. tries with the 'esturrador' again, but nothing.
It's extremely hot and sticky, and clouds of mosquitoes surround us from time to time. Enrica today has finally taken off the boots she had been wearing all these days also in the boat. Tracking sandals with thick socks...I've been suffering for her feet, but she keeps reassuring me that she is fine.
We meet again rapidly some Giant River Otters, at the same place we had seen them the first time, but they soon leave.

We stop at 'our' sand beach to have lunch. While we are docking a small curious little bird with long legs walks up and down on the beach, not worried at all by our presence. He continues even while we are eating. Enrica starts giving him some crumbs, but Julinho 'scolds' her, reminding that wild animals mustn't be fed and explaining why. She knew, it was just an automatic gesture, being used to live with a lot of pets around her. Probably the bird is so trusting because people feed him, not all the guides/tourists are so conscious about animal behavior. J. cuts the melon while I refresh myself in the brown river water. Finally I'm able to convince Aldo and Gian to have a bath too, they are drowned with sweat. In the water tiny little fish nibble at our dead skin. 
Then we jump on the boat and proceed in our quest. 
Threatening black clouds are growing all around us and a cold wind starts to blow. 
Julinho asks us if we want to go home, he says it will certainly rain and we are going to get wet, there is nowhere to find shelter here. I translate to my friends and we decide to stay, they agree it would be a pity to loose the whole afternoon. I had my old rain coat with me, but they had left theirs at Carmindos to J.'s chagrin. 
The first drops were already falling, I give my coat to Enrica, I'm wearing only shorts and a top and she is fully clothed. Aldo puts on the life-jacket to keep his belly warm...and Gian tries to cover his equipment. Julinho puts his own raincoat on. After a while he tells me to raise my seat and take his black rain poncho.
It's raining really hard and the wind is freezing cold. We raise the blue canopy of the boat and return to the little sand beach. Being the only moving thing on the water during thunder and lightning is not a very clever idea. 
After some time the storm moves away from us and we continue our search, a little wet and cold.
And when we were slowly paddling through the Sao Pedro river, one of the most beautiful locations here, suddenly Aldo emits a choking sound 'Jaguar!!!' 
He almost falls out of the boat for the excitement of having seen it.
There, on the left river bank, from a kind of den in midst the roots of a tree, the head of a wonderful female jaguar peers out.
Strange, a jaguar in a den is apparently not a very common sight. Slowly she walks out of the den towards the riverbank. Then we get a clue, from the den the head of a second jaguar comes out. It's a male and he is wounded, he has blood on one eye and one of the anterior pranks.
Julinho whispers to me that they will stay for just ten minutes. I wonder how he knows that, but don't give it a second thought, used to his sometimes strange utterances.
I'm almost crying because of the emotion and partially the relief of finally having succeded.
The male crawls out of the den and disappears behind the trees, maybe there is another entrance to the den.
We paddle along the direction taken by the female. She is slowly walking along the river bank, when we reach her she lies down for a while on the grass. After some time she dives into the river and crosses it, only her head and tail visible.
For my basic equipment it's too dark to take pictures, but I don't worry about it. Julinho is filming with my small Flip-camera.
She disappears into the forest on the other shore. 
It must have been around ten minutes, but it seemed an eternity. Julinho looks at me and touching discreetly the rosary attached at the ignition keys, says 'I had asked to see them for ten minutes' and so it had been. Maybe it's just part of the show, but even as a fervent non-believer here I feel that some kind of misticism is not out of place. Maybe it's because of the power of the natural surroundings, so wild and so much bigger than us humans, you really get the feeling that there is something that rules this all, were humans  are just tiny grains in an infinite mechanism.

We have all shiny eyes...and as last year we had been magically alone with the jaguars.
Julinho turns the boat and while we were slowly paddling up the river we see a boat anchored not far away from us. I have just the time to realize that there probably is another jaguar when J. tells me to paddle quicker. 
The alarmed cry of a capybara sounds out loud.
We reach them a little out of breath, on the boat there is a guide with a family with three small children. Out there partially hidden by the foliage there is another male jaguar. Doubly strange, two males at short distance. Maybe they were disputing the territory or the female and that would explain the wounds of the other one.

This here is an imposing subject, a very big head with small ears. He lies there almost motionless. 
After a while he gets up and disappears between the trees, we follow the moving foliage for some time, then we hear him roaring. We wait for a while then Julinho says that we should leave him alone, that when they hide they shouldn't be disturbed.
While I paddle out of Sao Pedro river J. blows a last time in his 'esturrador', it sounds almost like a thanksgiving and sends a shiver down or backs.

We hadn't realized it was almost dark and we are quite far from Carmindos home. J. tells us to cover up, because he will have to pump up the motor and we'll get wet and cold. If Carmindo doesn't see us coming back he will get worried that something might have happened to us.

In the last part of our trip suddenly out of the darkness of the night a cloud of innumerable shrieking bats surrounds our boat, following us for a while. After a while they are substituted by a flock of black hawks that follows us until we arrive at home.

As predicted by J., on the riverbank in the darkness Carmindo is looking out for us. 
I embrace him overwhelming with joy and tell him about our sighting. The days before after his ritual question if we had seen jaguars he had always told me to be patient, that sooner or later it would have happened. 
He tells me with smiling eyes that Maria has arrived too, someone gave her a lift by I find her in the backyard and she welcomes me with a big hug. She is much more chattery than usually, I guess because she is happy to be at home again.
I follow her while she looks after her animals and plants and she tells me about her stay in the city and about how much she missed her house on the river. 
She said she couldn't wait to sleep here again, at her daughter's place she had to sleep with a very loud ceiling-fan and she couldn't stand it!
After a while the others join us at the kitchen table and suddenly the generator makes some popping sounds followed by silence and...darkness. It had given some signs that it had some problems the nights before, but Carmindo had always managed to get it fixed. Tonight there is no way, Maria lights a candle and turns on a radio fed by batteries. Elizete unable to see her daily 'novela' joins us too. 
It's the strangest of athmospheres, everybody talks lively, also Maria who normally is more of a listener. In the background the voice of an excited commentator relating a football game, that apparently nobody is following, but when he shouts 'goool' suddenly all of them tune in and the conversation temporarily shifts to football. In the meanwhile Julinho convinces Elizete to sell him 2 cans of beer of her little 'private' stock, to celebrate our successful day. 
Once a month a boat that sells imperishable goods navigates up and down the rivers, catering to the isolated families who live here. It doesn't pass on a fixed day, but the pilot knows each family's location and stops automatically.
We toast, to our hosts, to the jaguars, to Julinho, to us and to life in general, happy to be here.

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