Sunday, May 27, 2007

By Gary Duncan, Assistant Director of Marketing

How can it be so hot and humid so early this morning at our remote Amazon jungle lodge on the Rio Negro up river from Manaus? Of course, our local guides, Marco and Anderson, tell me that it is a cool morning for this time of year! I walked out of my small cabin this morning and immediately started sweating before reaching the thatched lodge that serves as our dining area.
Our CCF sponsor group is staying right in the middle of a high forest jungle with tiny cottages built around a lake full of caymans, snakes and who knows what else!

Our sponsors are an energetic group; they arrive for breakfast to find a strange tropical fruits, various breads and meats, juices and very strong coffee. They are entertained (not me!) by the arrival of several macaws from the jungle as well as a large mischievous monkey that tries to steal everyone’s breakfast. The macaws are more polite and merely land on the table waiting to be fed morsels of bread and melon. There is also an assortment of cats here at the lodge, reportedly to keep the snakes away. Ironically, in the dining lodge, there are assortments of snakes in large jars for your viewing and perhaps as a caution to guests that these snakes are all around the lodge and ready to bite you if you make take a wrong step. Anderson assures me that more people die from cayman and jaguar attacks in the jungle than snake bites…

After a bountiful breakfast, we board two small boats on the Rio Negro for a visit to coboclo compound not too far from the lodge. Coboclos are the descendants of indigenous people who married foreign settlers. We arrive at their compound which consists of several simple houses and outbuildings. The patriarch and his wife greet us as our boats come ashore. He welcomes us by proudly stating that he has 40 grandchildren. We are shown their home and given an explanation of various plants and their uses by the indigenous people. Manioc is grown by this family and we are shown their plants and shown they process this root. It is a poisonous root that requires a multi-step, multi-day process to make it safe to eat. Most maniocs here is turned into a fine powder called farinha that is sprinkled on rice, beans, and meat, quite tasty if you can forget that it is deadly in its raw form, and on that note, on to lunch!

After lunch, we carefully board our little boats (a large black cayman reportedly swam below the dock) and head downriver for the rubber museum. After numerous twists and turns through these waters and tributaries, we arrive at a house that looks like it’s from a Lord Jim type novel. Before us is a small colonial house and outbuildings surrounded by dense jungle. On the dock, a short, older woman stands at the end of the small dock to greet our arrival. Beatriz is the most knowledgeable women in the world about the history of rubber growing and production in Brazil and the riches it brought to a few and heartbreak it created for thousands.

We are shown through the house of the rubber baron with furniture that was imported from Europe, the architecture not normally seen in the jungle. This guy was so rich; he used to ship his laundry in steamer trunks to Europe for cleaning. The baron, his wife and children all dressed like they were in a European castle, can’t imagine wearing these layers of shirts, pants, and long coats in this heat and humidity. Beatriz gave us a wonderful tour of the house and grounds, such a hospitable and warm personality had made us forget our clothes seemed to be melting off our bodies.

Tomorrow, we must be up early to travel west to where the Rio Negro meets the River Salimoes to form the mighty Amazon River! Boa Noite or Good Night!

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