Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Day Eleven: The Forest Primeval

 Day Eleven: Saturday, January 21, 2017

The engine of the boat kicked on at 6am and we all awoke with quite a start.  Julia, in particular, leapt into a defensive position out of her hammock, convinced that something sinister was happening.  We had been warned that we would motor for the first hour and half of the day and that we could stay in our hammocks for the first hour of that time.  Most of us readjusted to continue sleeping and the ones who didn’t found chairs and quietly worked on journals until the rest of us arose. 

We headed into the community of Atodi (pronounced ah-toe-GEE) and were greeted with a welcoming song from the tourism committee.  We quickly divided into two groups and started on our hike, as it helps to make it happen before the hottest hours of the day arrive. 

We walked for about 40 minutes on a gradual incline and eventually noticed that the forest around us was changing.  Our guides asked us what we were noticing and we talked about the size of the plants, the things that were in our path, the general state of shade and how much darker things appeared to be and the earth itself, which was no longer primarily sand.  Our guides agreed with all of our observations and then alerted us that we were going onto the “Trilha das Castanheiras,” or “Trail of the Brazil Nut Trees.”  There we would encounter some of the hugest and oldest trees in the area. 

We climbed on a slightly slippery trail up, up, up in to the forest, noticing that palms around us had fronds that we 30 or more feet long, stretching from the ground far into the sky.  And the trees were huge and tall, especially the castanheiras.  Some of them are more than 300 years old, according to our guides.  All of them are now protected, as they were harvested for too many years as sources of desirable wood or as obstacles to farming, cattle-raising or sugar cane cultivation. 

We learned about a number of other trees unique to the area, including several with medicinal properties.  We tasted the milk of one tree that was said to control stomach issues and another that was a remedy for colds and allergies.  We also tasted tiny little coconuts that are used for their meat but also as a source of coconut oil.  And another tree had coconut-like fruits that also contained big fat larvae (if you were lucky, kind of like a pearl in an oyster).  Several of us ate the larvae at the insistence of our guides and were told that we would not suffer stomach problems for quite awhile for having done so. 

We got to see monkeys jumping high in the trees, including a new one we’ve never seen before that looked just like a creature from the movie “Gremlins.”  And there were zogue-zogues all around, but we didn’t see as many as we heard.  Birds were flying all around our path, as were panã-panãs, those blue butterflies that we named Alessandra after. 

We walked about eight or so miles, including one stretch that was a pretty steep climb.  So when we returned to the starting point, we were ready to get on the boat and be lazy.  But the boat wasn’t there.  The captain expected our hike to end somewhere other than where it ended, so they moved the boat closer to that place.  There was much confusion about whether we needed to walk a couple more miles, which in the end, happened anyway, meaning that we walked at least eleven miles today through various levels of the Amazon rainforest.  Once again, we recognized that our lives here are much different than our lives in Moraga would have been this January. 

We had a lunch of Louro’s famous fried chicken and lots of other amazing goodies.  We got a little time to rest before our afternoon appointment, which was back in a different part of the community to see how manioc flour (called farinha and pronounced far-EEN-yah) is made.  The process takes several hours but they had already done some of the phases of it before we arrived.  They showed us how to differentiate types of manioc, how to peel it, grind it and sift it, then how to remove (and save) the liquid from it for other uses.  Then they started cooking it on the huge wood-burning stove that is the main feature of every farinhara (farinha-making hut).  They use wooden paddles to scoop and scrape the grains around so that they get toasted to a warm and dry state.  We got to take turns at the oven, which was brutally hot, and found ourselves really getting into the whole process. 

When we took our leave from watching the farinha process, we walked another long distance back to their pousada to see some of their artisan goods, honeys and bark teas.  We shopped a bit and had yet another snack (we eat CONSTANTly here) and then headed back to our boat to prepare for our beach cookout called a piracaia (peer-uh-KYE-yuh). 

We found a lovely little cove that was breezy and had another sandbar point, giving us a perfect place to bathe in the river, which we very much needed to do. Some ominous dark clouds started to gather and the wind really picked up.  That wind meant that we had NO bugs (unlike last night) but it also meant that the timing was bad for a beach bonfire/cookout.  We decided to move the cookout to tomorrow night and rethink dinner for tonight.  While Louro cooked up fish in the boat, the rest of us lit the wood that we had collected for the bonfire and gathered around it.  Gui somehow started a routine where he would do a dance move and then all of us would mimic what he did.  Then we went around the circle inspiring all kinds of dance moves in each other, giving everyone a chance to set the tone for the whole group at least once.  It was a blast. 

We went ahead and did our reflection while we were all out at the fire and put some thought into our group and what our hopes are for the second half of our trip.  We all felt pretty good about it all and then Dona Odila called us into the boat for dinner.  We ate fish, rice, beans, pasta, salad, collard greens and a dessert of acerola.  We got our plans together for tomorrow and then called it a night.  Tomorrow we leave early to see a reforestation project that started last year and that we visited in its earliest stages.  We’ll see how far things have come and what the future holds at this point.  But for tonight, sleep, and dreams of giant trees and forest spirits . . .

Claudia and Colleen enjoying the Amazonian clay after a long hike through primary forest. The clay is found in an igarappé, the connecting water way between the rivers Arapiuns and Tapajós. The clay helps rejuvenate and moisturize your skin.

After hiking in the primary forest for two hours, we reached a lookout point, where we could see the Tapajós River. Along the way, we saw monkeys, butterflies, and ate larvae.

We learned how manioc is turned into farinha. First, they soak the manioc in water and grind it. Then, they squeeze out the excess water, sift the solid manioc, and cook it on an open stove (shown above).

The Castanheira is a tree that produces the Brazil nut. Here, it is known as the Pará nut because we are in the state of Pará.

This morning, Julius captured a breathtaking sunrise.

The Amazon rainforest is just as cool as you think it is. 

Mid-hike selfie #selfiegamestrong 


 Sifting manioc to make farinha, a Brazilian staple.

Bom día, my dudes! 

The Amazon rainforest is even prettier the second time around.    

1st step of Farinha: The locals of Atodi walked us through making farinha, a product of manioc.  The first step is to soak the picked manioc in a bucket of water to remove the toxins from the root. As seen in this photo the pealed manioc is run through a homemade grinder to break it down to the right consistency. 

Açai anyone? The trail requires hikers to keep their focus on the ground but if you were to look up you would see one of the more peaceful sights.

Final step of Farinha: After the manioc is fully processed and drained, it moves to the final step of being toasted.  They use a large wood fired hot plate to roast the manioc to a crunchy texture that is pleasing to the locals. A family of five in Atodi will spend an entire day to make their weekly supply, which weighs about 100 pounds.

Rainforest View: The final look out of our 7-mile rainforest hike, highlighted the primary and secondary parts of the rainforest. In the distance you can see the Rio Arapiuns.

Sunrise in the Amazon: Although the feeling and sound of the boat motor woke us abruptly at 6am, we were greeted by a breathtaking sunrise.

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