We had been in Brazil less than one week and already the country was in need of redeeming itself. After a futile attempt to buy a replacement camera in Santarém, we hopped a city bus to nearby jewel, Alter Do Chão with our new roommates, Chris & Gemma. We made our hammocks our beds and the jungle our home for the next week on Lago Verde, fed by the Amazon.
Crystal clear fresh waters, few people, sandy beaches, a rockin’ place to stay (Albergue da Floresta) with a kitchen and beautiful sunsets certainly made it easy to get stuck here. Our first couple of days were spent quite lazily recovering from our disturbed boat sleep and long journey from Manaus, and with Dale and Gemma both down with a flu bug.
It was a treat to walk to the market everyday to get fresh fruit and vegetables — something you don’t find when you eat out in Brazil. Everyday we passed the mango tree in the centre of the town square, being sure to stop and search the ground for mangoes we could take with us.. we were lucky a couple of times to find the perfect freshly shed fruit. Mmmm, fresh and free, hard to beat.
Staying only 20m from the beach made it easy to cool off in the water during the heat of the day. The lure of a nearby island caught our attention, coupled with our desire to be alone, led us to attempt a swim. After 20 minutes of straight swimming, we’d made it less than half way, We decided to turn back. Instead, we walked around the beach to the other side of the Lago where we could chill out with not another soul in sight.
Feeling a bit defeated by the swim, we were willing to give another outing a try. This time, it was a hike up the “mountain”, where our intention was to enjoy a bottle of Brazilian wine at the summit during sunset. After an hour of hiking in hot sun and deep sand, we were just reaching the base of the mountain. In fear we would miss sunset, we pulled the plug. The beach was just as good a place as any to take in the last rays of the day. Btw, Brazil shouldn’t try to compete in South American wine making.
After being chewed by fleas and eaten by mosquitoes on almost a nightly basis along our travels, we were surprised at how few bugs there were here. That is not to say we were without creature company. After a large tree was cut down next door, we noticed a bit of disruption in the jungle life around us. We had a few visitors that require particular mention. The first was a lizard with such heavy feet we could hear it stomping across our roof… something had spooked it. After hanging on the side of our roof for a couple of minutes, this 2.5 foot long lizard decided it would be a good idea to jump down. Our new resident created a loud “thud” as it hit the ground 10 feet below. Sure it was injured, we took a look. Just at the glance of us, this thing bolted across our path covering 20 feet in less than 5 seconds. We had no idea a lizard that large could run that fast. It’s a good thing lizards only eat bugs.
Our next visit came in the middle of the afternoon the same day. We heard a rustle in the trees overhead accompanied by squeaky sounds. At first we weren’t sure what they were, but by deduction (they are small, jump from tree to tree, move quickly, travel in groups and like to make noise) and the glimpses we got, we figured it out. Squirrel monkeys or saimiri. Cool.
Our last visitor was the type that makes you remember you’re in the jungle and is the total opposite of the cute and cuddly features of the monkeys. Something that makes you think twice about sleeping outside, but grateful you have a hammock off the floor. I remember seeing something scurry across the floor by my feet as I entered our dark kitchen after sun fall. It was a big, fast bug. I decided it was a large cockroach, not willing to admit to myself it could be something a little less comforting. Some people like cockroaches, a crunchy snack when they’re deep-fried in batter; I don’t like cockroaches. I actually hate them. But I hate a spiders more. Especially spiders in the Amazon jungle which could carry with them a lethal or paralyzing bite. Remember Mrs. Foo? She still lacks full function in her left hand after being bitten by a spider 2 years ago. I left the kitchen, and the “cockroach”, not mentioning it to anyone. About 30 minutes later, while playing cards I caught a glimpse of something on the floor….it was the same size and had the same quality of movement as the cockroach. I took a closer look. OMG, “That is a huge spider.” Chris stood up, Gemma froze, I didn’t move either. We didn’t want to kill it but knew we had to move it. Well, Chris had to. Trapping it in a glass, we managed to get a really close look. Consensus – a baby tarantula. Our guess was verified by a local jungle-dweller who laughed at us for being startled by such a small spider. About 2 inches in diameter, with fat striped furry legs, it certainly posed larger than its carriage. Practising ahimsa, Chris released it across the street. We all went to sleep that wondering where it’s mother was, knowing she couldn’t be that far away.
The only other night our hammock sleep was disturbed was by a group of ignorant travelers who thought it was a smart idea to arrive at 2 am, open a closed gate, shine lights and search around for a place to put their hammocks. After waking everyone up, Dale politely suggested they go to the beach to sleep.
Our last day we joined a local boat owner on a brief tour of the local waterways. With the water level being so low, we were able to walk through knee-deep clear streams as our guide, Edward, practiced English and we fumbled through Portuguese. Edward was proud of his home, and especially happy to tell us “No have insects here.” As newly weds, after a week of sleeping in separate hammocks and sharing a room with two other people, throw in a heavy portuguese accent and what he said came out as something totally different.