First days at Xixuau and the flooded forest

In the morning I get up eager to see where I am, the darkness of the night before had only allowed impressions and feelings.
Our maloca is the first of six, some are still just wooden skeletons. They face the still waters of a big tea colored lagoon, the Xixuau lagoon (or broad river). They lie at the left extremity of the community. Between the malocas and the community there is a one room house with the kitchen which is connected by a wooden catwalk to the bigger communal maloca, where we had dinner yesterday.
On the sandy riverbank there is a small wooden quay and two colored wooden canoes.
Big black vultures fly between the trees and a lot of cats and medium and small sized dogs come curiously to see the new arrivals.
Behind our maloca there are some women at work, clearing the ground from leaves and pieces of wood.
From the window of our bathroom there is a nice view of the community in the morning mist. A big blue satellite antenna sticks out between the wooden houses.

There is no water...still dizzy with sleep I walk up to the communal maloca where Chris tells me there is a problem with the plumbing and shows me the toilet with shower annexed to the big maloca which we can use until they fix it. After a rapid shower I look for Mike and Ebbe to explain them the problem. Ebbe has already gone for an early morning walk, he tells me it's beautiful around here, but very 'primitive' (his expression will become a cherished joke between visitors and locals throughout our stay...). I have the feeling that he was expecting something more like a jungle lodge with all the amenities of so called western civilization (even if I don't really get the point - we have a room all for ourselves, with bed, a private bathroom with shower and toilet, someone that cooks nice food for us...and the people of the community really do everything to make you feel at ease). 

It's a typical Amazonian river village. Simple stilted houses made of wooden planks, white-washed by the sun, with roofs made of weaved leaves. A little school, an unfinished church, the only masonry building in the middle of the square housing the office with the communitie's computers. Clothes lined up on ropes between the houses give a touch of color to the monochrome houses and the muddy soil. Some houses located on the extremities of the village are connected by narrow improvised catwalks.
At first sight there is no difference to other river communities, apart from the solar panels and the satellite antenna. But if you have eyes to see and read and ears to listen to the people you understand it's in fact very different. The Xixuau Xiparina Reserve was born as an ambitious project, to improve people's lives in a sustainable way conserving the environment and maybe to teach to 'foreigners' that life is possible in other ways than the western way.

After coffee and a rich breakfast with eggs, ham, cheese, home made bread and cake Chris asks me what we want to do. He says that at this time of the year with big parts of the forest underwater there are not as many opportunities for walking and that it is nicer to ride in a canoe through the igapò - the flooded forest. We agree on a canoe ride until one of the emerged parts where we can walk a bit in the morning. The afternoon is less comfortable because of the many insects, so we'll leave the longer canoe trip for after lunch.
Camilo and Stefan are going to the 'fazenda' (a kind of plantation not far away where the community tries to grow vegetables and fruits in a sustainable way) to collect açai with some of the boys of the community.
Chris introduces me to Guri and Isac, they are going to be our guides for the days at the reserve. Guri is a man in his fourties with an important belly, Isac a beautiful 19 years old boy. Guri will take the Danes, while I'm going on a canoe with Isac.
Taking seriously my role as a middle-man I collect my two friends and take them to the sandy beach where Guri and Isac are already waiting for us.
The sky is not very promising, it's cloudy and humid and it looks as if it could rain anytime.
Guri's canoe has a big piece of concrete on one end. With him, Mike and Ebbe it looks quite loaded...but Guri has a perfect style, it's evident that he has spent most of his life kneeling on these tiny canoes. He rows with a straight back, seemingly without effort, his load.
Isac with a big grin confirms my suspects about why he carries the big concrete piece - to balance his weight.
Our canoes glide over the calm water coasting the community. Some women are washing the laundry in the river, kneeling on a wooden embankment surrounded by clouds of yellow and black and white striped butterflies. On another wooden 'island' there is an improvised vegetable garden. A solitary tomato plant sticks out from a blue bin with one tomatoe on it.
Then we are enveloped by silence, broken only by the lonely cry of an occasional bird. Guri rows in front, vigorously, followed by Isac. On the other side of the lake there is a solitary wooden house on stilts with no land around. It stands in the middle of the flooded forest, with no land around it. Chris and Cathleen live there, they have to move back and forth from the community on canoes.
Isac shows me waves in the water - river dolphins - but unfortunately they stay underwater. We see a few birds that Guri's keen eyes pick out between the dry branches of the bushes near the waterfront. A tiger heron, some caciques, a toucan high up in the green branches of a tree.
It's not easy to see them because of the dense vegetation, you need some time to train your eyes and perception. I knew that it would be a much more hazardous task to see animals here in the Amazon in comparison to the more open Pantanal, so I had curbed down my expectations and was just enjoying the gorgeous nature around me as a whole. In the meanwhile a fierce sun creeps out of the clouds and my long trousers and shoes become immediately very uncomfortable. It will be the last time I wear shoes on this trip...
Then the slim canoes slide through a breach into the dense forest.

1 comment:

  1. Yes....I enjoy those little expressions on trips. Instead of "primitive", we used a lot of "I feel like" to tell the other person that it was rough:)