Sunday, January 24, 2016

Day Nineteen: Leaving Our Amazon Home

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Daily Video part 1

Daily Video part 2

We had decided to get up at 6am to finish packing but when 6am rolled around, it was still dark out.  Getting up at that hour didn’t make sense if we couldn’t make progress.  So we stayed asleep for another 45 minutes or so and were awakened by the sounds of the zogzogs (a kind of monkey) outside the oca.  Shawny pointed out that this was our last wakeup in the hammock hut and told us to look at the thatched roof one more time then wind up our hammocks.  We got moving pretty quickly from there and got control of our individual bags.  The shared bags didn’t go quite as smoothly but we worked things out. 

The locals started to arrive to help us carry our bags down to the beach but we were surprised when one group that arrived early this morning included a full-on film crew with boom microphones and everything.  They are doing a documentary on the communities of the Amazon and, of course, Anã will be one of the featured ones.  They filmed us some as we said our goodbyes at the top of the hill but they stayed up there as we made our way with all of our luggage down to the beach. 

Dona Odila needed to stay with the film crew, so she couldn’t do her usual beachfront goodbyes.  The newcomers got a small taste of the emotion that was to come when they saw the veterans and Shawny sobbing over their farewells with Odila. 

At the beach the focus was on bags at first but then when the luggage seemed to be under control, the focus was on sadness.  We intended to go back to the garden and do a little ceremony there but we were already getting a late start so we did it on the beach. 

We gathered all of us and all of the locals and stood in a big circle in the sand.  Shawny asked each of us to say what our hopes and dreams for this community are.  We tearfully expressed our wishes for their health and happiness and for their pride in their community to continue to grow.  We then reached our hands toward the garden and sent our best energy toward all of the facets of the garden, including the new chicken coop.  Next we reached our hands toward the pousada and sent our best energy toward it.  We finally reached for each other and embraced each other in deep gratitude for all that we have learned and experienced here, both about Anã and about ourselves. 

The hugs and tears went on and on as we went in small boatloads of five out to the big boat docked offshore.  We all waved madly on the way to the big boat and all congregated on top to wave and get our last glimpses of our dear friends as we pulled away.  They waved madly too and eventually we were out of sight. 

The boat captain lightened the mood by cranking some Brazilian music and moving the tables on the first floor so we could dance.  The people on the first floor started dancing right away and the others started to overhear what was going on and joined in one by one.  Some remained on the second floor to rest, play cards or play chess. 

While our dance party was commencing, the crew was cooking huge tambaqui (fish – the same kind that are in the fish cages in Anã) on a charcoal grill right on the deck of the boat.  They made farofa with bananas in it and the combination of the fish and the bananas was exquisite.  We ate and ate and then entered our last Amazon community for this trip: Urucureá. 

Urucureá is famous for its crafts, especially baskets and other goods made from young fronds of the tucumá palm tree.  They call their collective Tucumarte (pronounced like too-coo-MARCH), which is a lovely Portuguese pun.  As it turns out, that particular tree is the one we have been calling the faca (knife) tree, as its trunk is covered with sharp spikes that make it a horrible surprise if you bump up against one in the forest.  We are pleased to see that this tree we’ve struggled against is the source of great beauty by those who know how to appreciate it. 

The artisans’ work is beautiful and so tightly woven by hand that the pieces are very sturdy.  (Some of you will see for yourselves pretty soon, we suspect . . .!)  Several of the women from the collective were there to introduce themselves.  The group is made up of 27 people, 3 of whom are men.  Each piece is labeled with its maker’s name, so it is treated very much like fine art.  We started to notice that we had affinities for certain people’s pieces and their design choices and we made our selections accordingly.  We are all very happy with the pieces that we purchased.  For those of you lucky enough to receive them as gifts, we hope you will be happy too. 

From Urucureá, we motored (FAST!) to a popular beach area called Alter do Chão.  We stayed away from the public areas and docked by some other recreational boats on the other side of the point that forms the beach.  The ride was pretty rocky but pretty fun.  It’s hard not to feel like you are on the ocean when the waves are crashing and you can’t see land in most directions. 

We arrived at Alter do Chão earlier than expected and got to play in the waves as dusk began to fall.  Our captain cranked up the carimbo tunes again and we just had a private little beach party on a sandbar in the river.   Right now we are waiting for the sun to set and then we will hop onto our vans and head back into the city.  If the timing is right, we will visit a rehearsal for a samba school that is preparing for Carnival.  We also hope to grab some more excellent ice cream now that we are in range again.  Our plan is to go to a self serve place that lets you scoop your own and pay by the kilo.  We look forward to reporting back on our choices (and collective bowl weights!). 

We will likely post again on Monday night but we will be in a major packing frenzy by then and Tuesday will be the beginning of our travel time.  We got stuck in Manaus last year trying to get home so be ready for us to experience travel delays.  We just learned about the blizzards in the northeast so we wonder if those issues will persist into the middle of the week.  We’ll be fine whether we get home on time or not but we miss all of you and look forward to seeing you as soon as we can.  Thanks again for following us and for posting comments.  We love to hear from you; we hope you love hearing from us almost as much.

A closer look at the intricate designs of naturally dyed palms. These crafts are hand woven by a group of locals at Urucurea.  

Approaching Alter do Chão, to relax and enjoy the water.  

 Looking back at the sunset after unloading all of our luggage from the boat. 

The DIRT crew preparing to say goodbye to Anã. One of the hardest moments of the trip.

 Natalie and Arianna enjoying their last moments on the beach of Anã by taking a selfie.

Tonico and Reginalva are two of the most influential people that we met on our trip to Anã. We were blessed with the opportunity to work alongside these two while in Anã.

Saying goodbye to our amazing friends of Anã was a very moving and emotional experience for all of us. We hope to continue the relationships we have formed here and take them with us for the rest of our lives.

We arrived in Alter do Chão just in time to witness the beautiful sunset.

Before heading back to Santarém we stopped in Alter do Chão where we took the opportunity to swim in the river.

We had the opportunity to visit a women’s cooperative where they weave beautiful baskets, purses, coasters, hot plate holders, and vases. These pieces of art can take up to an entire week to produce. 

An average day on the boat. Everyone is resting since we had an emotional time saying goodbye to the locals of Anã.

Quick stop at the sandbar in Alter do Chão. It was great to reminisce on our time we spent here in Brazil so far, and discuss our future adventures that we will create once we get back to the States. 

The last boat ride before docking on land and heading back to Santarém.  

Rob and Cooper helping to move luggage into our vans. 

One of the communities we visited called Urucurea has a group of 27 members who weave different crafts with their own style. They are growing popular and sold around the world. 


  1. As you prepare a long journey coming home, your friends and families can't wait to see you all and hear the amazing stories and adventures you've experienced. Safe travels, DIRTies! Thank you for the detailed blogs and the colorful pictures and fun-filled videos. I really enjoyed reading and watching them. Bem Feito!

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