Friday, October 23, 2009

Amazon Expedition - the first 40 days

29 September, 2009 - Day 23, 6:28am - The morning dawned bright and orange. At first, as I peered out of my hammock and through my bug net, all that was visible was a bright, vibrant orange ball, silhouetts of trees, brush and hills on the opposite shore, and the intensely orange reflection of the water. Slowly the sun rose into the sky and the world became visible - lively greeen leaves and sprigs pushing up from the brown dirt and dead leaves on the ground... rocks, trees, moving water - the rapid we descended yesterday directly across on the opposite shore. From somewhere, I seem to smell yeast bread - it must be coming from the instructor's campsite. It smells good. I could go back to sleep, but I think I'll get up and enjoy the morning.
I am currently writing from a small internet cafe in the city of Apui - smack in the middle of the Amazon Basin, on the Trans-Amazonian Highway. Today begins the second of three days of travel to reach a small, remote community on the Madera River, where we will spend the following 5 days. I don't have much time to write, but I will give you a taste of what has been going on.

During the first 30 days of our expedition, we (15 students, 4 instructors, and the director of the Juruena National Park) traveled 600 kilometers in open canoes down the Juruena and Tapajos rivers. We camped on rock ledges and sandy island beaches in the middle of the river; we ran Class 2 rapids, lined our canoes through shallow water, and portaged around massive waterfalls. We saw hundreds of birds of every shape, color, and size, and hundreds of thousands of insects. There were nights where the sky was so clear it seemed one could see every star in the sky, and nights when the mosquitoes were so thick you cold grab a hundred simply by waving your hand before your face. We've woken up to exquisite sunrises and to ants eating our tents in the middle of the night; to extreme thunder storms and calm, placid mornings.

After our river section, we traveled for about a day and a half further down the Tapajos River and then spent 7 days hiking along the river. Sometimes we were walking through relatively open forest under the canopy, and at other times fighting through unbelieveably dense tangles of vines and undergrowth in areas where the canopy had been disturbed and sunlight found its way to the forest floor, allowing green things to grow up in a dense tangle.

That is all I have time to write now... but I shall recount stories of stingrays and river dolphins, giant Suma Uma trees and armies of leafcutter ants, capering monkeys and all manner of other forms of life and nature once I have completed this Amazon Expedition.

Oh, and one last thought: "The Amazon" is everything you ever heard it was, and more.

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