Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Day Ten: Ponta Grande

 Day Ten: Friday, January 20, 2017

Today is the beginning of our boat trip!  We will live on a boat for the next three nights and parts of four days.  We have five primary stops to make but a few secondary ones too.  Our boat is a triple-decker that is pretty typical of the boats that people use to navigate the waterways here.  This one is tricked out with some pseudo-party elements, like rope lights and a downstairs bunkroom done all in animal prints.  Of course, we call it the jungle room.  When the boat is moving, the jungle room can be air conditioned, which makes it quite appealing.  When the boat is stopped, though, the jungle room is a sweatbox, so it’s a mixed bag as far as sleeping choices go.  We rarely are moving when we are asleep so people were quick to claim hammock spots that aren’t down there. 

This boat allegedly is big enough to sleep 60 people, but we had trouble spreading out the 28 people in our party (including us, Dona Odila, our two cooks (Louro and Dona Maria), Maria’s daughter Katia and the captain and two crew members.  We felt like we maxed out the place with ten or so upstairs, 12 or so on the main deck and 6 or so in the jungle room.  For many reasons (including the fierce snoring of one of the occupants of the jungle room, there was much moving around in the night.  At least one person ended up sleeping on the floor.  We’ll figure it out. 

But before we could discover the wonders of our new floating home, we had to get up EARLY to get ready to leave when we expected it to arrive at 10am.  We had heard that there were all kinds of reasons the whole thing needed to hurry along, so we hopped right up, organized our things, made last minute decisions about what to take and what to leave behind, and sat patiently waiting for the boat.  For a LONG time.  We were reluctant to start anything work related, as we knew that the minute the boat arrived, we needed to hurry and load our bags after ferrying them across the deep beach sand. 

To make a long story short, the boat was more than an hour late, mainly because it had been loaded that morning with many of the materials we need for our projects.  So, we needed to unload things like 15 bags of cement (about 94 pounds each), heavy chicken wire, several 20-liter cans of paint and lots of other miscellaneous items. We organized a quick bucket brigade to get all of that stuff up to the oxcart and up to the garden and finally got onto the boat with all our luggage for the weekend completely hot, tired and sweaty. 

But we were on a boat!  So the breeze felt great and the river looked vast and we soon lost ourselves in the beauty and wonder of it all.  Things only got more fabulous as we parked at a place that every SMC Brazil trip with Shawny and Jesse has visited over the last fifteen years: Ponta Grande (pronounced like “grungy.”)  It is a huge sandbar out into the river where almost every boat like ours stops to swim and sunbathe.  Despite its popularity, we have never shared it with anyone else, which makes it even more glorious. 

This time, we did what we always do, which is to walk as far out on the sandbar as we can before the huge drop-off prevents us from going further.  It’s surprising how far we can get away from the obvious beach, as the whole area is a huge peninsula of sand that is just barely underwater.  The boat captains all know just how to manage the space, which is pretty awe-inspiring for us. 

We wandered way, way out together and just frolicked and swam and laughed.  We decided to take a break from the sun (and the reflections from the water that might have even been brighter than the sun itself). 

When we came back on the boat, we found just the thing to occupy us there: fishing gear.  No poles, reels or lures, of course – just wound up fishing line on wooden handles.  There are little fish that swim all around the boat by the beach and we used little balls of bread to lure them in.  Eddie caught our first one, which made us all eager to catch the next.  We tried all kinds of strategies about how to bait the hooks, where to drop the line, whether singing to the fish would attract or repel them and whether we could persuade them to bite on our bait by reasoning with them.  In the end, we caught a total of six: Eddie’s + more from Shawny, Nate, Rachel, Julius and Kim.  Kim was a particularly tenacious fisher, as she waited almost three hours but wouldn’t give up until she got one.  Her glee when she realized she had a fish on her hook was worth the trip. 

Louro and Dona Maria kept popping out of the (luxurious – for one of these boats, anyway) kitchen with snacks of various sorts, including a passion fruit dessert, popsicles, popcorn and cake.  They made different juices for us and some of the best coffee we’ve ever had. 

We got back into the water as evening approached, and got out our drone to try to capture the spectacular view we were experiencing.  (Today’s video may or may not tell you whether we succeeded.)  The evening light on the white sand made the point look even more magical than it already seemed.

We ended up staying here on the point for the night, as we had no specific destinations until Saturday morning.  The only downside was that thousands of insects swarmed during one portion of the evening, enough to make us all look like we were having spasms during our group meeting, as our hands jerked around and we kept slapping the air and ourselves while Shawny and Jesse were relating cautionary tales from trips gone by. 

We eventually found our way into our hammocks, knowing that we needed to sleep enough to be ready to take a hike up into the “primary forest” above Atodi first thing in the morning.  We’ve already mentioned that everyone’s sleep strategy didn’t exactly go as planned, but we are sure we will figure it all out.

Our reflection tonight was about where we are and why it is different from where we usually are.  We expressed our appreciation for the simplicity of our lives here and for the hard work we are privileged to contribute to the community of Anã.  We expressed annoyance for the bugs that were flying in our ears and up our noses but also found ourselves grateful that at least they weren’t mosquitoes.  We briefly acknowledged that things were changing in the U.S. as of today in ways that we can hardly predict, but we decided not to worry about those issues for now.  We hope that everyone who is reading this blog found the same level of peace, unity and joy that we all shared today.  And we hope that whatever level of contentment we have reached can be maintained for the rest of our boat trip, the rest of our time in Brazil and even after we return home.  Right here, right now, it’s easy to believe that it will . . .

We thought it was really cool that our professor (Jesse) brought his son (Gui) along for a nice father-son bonding experience.

1 boat, 2 professors, 3 nights, 4 days, 5 destinations, and a million memories.

This fish put up an extremely big fight. As lightning struck down on the boat, the line broke and Julius jumped in piranha-infested waters and caught the fish with his bare hands (details may be exaggerated).

Aldrich fishing off the top deck. After countless hours, he came away with no fish; however, he did get a nice tan.

Kim was ecstatic to finally catch a fish after hours of laying her line off the boat. She was determined to catch one and would not stop fishing until she succeeded. 

 Jules sits on stern of the boat while beached at a beautiful point on the Tapajós River. The dirties are taking a couple days off from the chicken coop work to explore the Amazon.

Some of the dirties relax on the sandbar after unloading concrete, chicken wire, and paint earlier that day from the boat to the chicken coop. 

Shawny catches a fish by using the bottle method with includes half of a liter soda bottle and manioc as bait. Once the bottle is in the water the fish swim in and you pull the bottle up. The dirties will eventually eat Shawny’s prize for dinner.

The first stop on the boat trip was at a sandbar in a very secluded area on the Tapajos River. We were careful to do the stingray shuffle so no one would get stung.

Towards the end of our sunny day at the sandbar, the dirties sat and watched a storm unfold as the lightning lit up the sky and the clouds.

 Julius finally caught a fish after an hour of patience and waiting while on the boat trip to different Amazon communities.

Afternoon sesta: after a long day of playing in the sand, fishing, and bonding it was necessary to take a quick sesta before dinner.

Here’s a sneak preview of our futbol practice before our big game against Brazil.  It’s safe to say we will be able to hold our own next weekend.

Part of our daily routine is to journal and reflect about our day.  Here Nat and Caba use the scenery to find their inspiration.

Our home away from home, away from home, away from home.  Joáo Felipe II will carry us safely to and from the five destinations we are planning on visiting.

Here the DIRTies are taking a break from the sun, after a recommendation from the captain. The most dangerous time to be in the sun is between 3pm and 5pm.  

No comments:

Post a Comment