Expedition to the buritizal - day one

At 5 a.m. the community is still enveloped by silence and darkness, broken only by the cries of the howler monkeys.
We are supposed to leave at 6, Chris had told us the night before, not a minute later, because the first strip of 'terra firme' (not submerged land) where we'll have the possibility to camp is far away from Xixuau and if we don't reach it before darkness falls we'll have to sleep in the canoes.
I had packed a small travel duffel with a few clothes, two torches (one for me and the other for one of the Danish guys), my hammock, a blanket and a mosquito net, photo gear, just the essentials.
After a quick shower there is still no noise from the Danes room, but a trembling light comes out of the kitchen: Paulinho must be preparing coffee for everybody. The trembling lights of two torches run up and down from the small quay.
I knock on the Danes door and call them to action. A sleepy Michael answers that they are almost ready...
I have brought just a small waterproof sack for my electronic gear, so I try to stuff everything else into the few thin plastic bags I had packed at the last moment.
After a while I walk up to the kitchen and ask Paulinho for some more plastic bags. In the meanwhile I have sweet coffee and some cake with Chico and Castelo while waiting for the others. Slowly all the men of the community gather around the kitchen veranda to wish us good luck. Chris, Matteo and the girls are waiting for us on the other border of the lake, and after Michael and Ebbe turn up we walk up to the canoes and load our bags.
Before leaving Castelo shows us a small poisonous snake on the muddy soil between the houses. Nobody seems to bother much and it disappears beneath the stilts of the nearest house.
Castelo and Chico have already filled the bigger canoe with food supplies, a gas canister, a small electric stove and of course the knives and axes they had been preparing for days. Carlito is sitting in his small canoe with the ever present hand-rolled cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth, preparing his fishing gear. His canoe is equipped with a 'rabeta' motor and he will tow the other small canoe with Guri on it for the extension of open river waters. The rest of us is going on the big heavily loaded canoe powered by the new motor that had traveled with us from Manaus. For safety reasons we are taking a smaller reserve motor too, the 'Severino', in case one of the others breaks down.

We are going to navigate upstream the broad rio Jauaperi, then head north along the rio Xiparinã. From there we'll enter the big igapò (a large tract of submerged forest), where we'll have to proceed without the help of the motors. It shall take us about 3 days to get there and something less to come back.
Only Chico and Carlito know the way to the buritizal, they have no instruments whatsoever, just their experienced eyes and senses, that are used to decode the signs of nature.

First we head to the other side of Xixuau lake, to  pick up Chris and his family. We try to distribute our weight evenly on the big canoe, between the supplies, the botanists equipments and the luggage. Chris and his daughters have two midlle-sized wheeled bags - not exactly an appropriate luggage to travel through the forest...but they hadn't any other kind of bags Chris tells me.
And there we go, leaving a winking bunch of people from the community behind in the early morning light.

1 comment:

  1. Ahhh the mud....one of the things I dislike the most. Really interesting shots around your area. Be safe grabbing "vines" around the area. During a trip to Costa Rica, I almost grabbed a snake along a river while studying plants. Memories to last a lifetime:)