A stormy night at Carmindo's

The door to the chapel is open...this means a heavy downpour is expected and we are kindly invited by our hosts to put our tent in and sleep there this night. No stars over our heads tonight.
Quickly we put in our tent and then join Carmindo in the dark living room. He closes all windows and doors, the wind howls spookily around the house. From his rocking chair now and then he takes a glimpse outside while telling stories... Maria calls us for supper, but Carmindo is just too deep into his storytelling.
When we finally follow him to the kitchen Maria has already eaten and gone to bed. We eat in candlelight while the rain beats unrelentless on the roof. Carmindo talks and talks....maybe it's the storm, maybe the candles...we go to bed quite late for local habits that night.
Listening to Carmindo's stories my thoughts drift away in this darkest night in the middle of nowhere and I feel really at home.

Of fishing...and women

No luck in jaguar sighting today, but after the fantastic afternoon the day before...we can't really ask for more. We decide to try to catch some pacùs for supper on a smaller river arm.
In the morning Julinho had prepared a bag of acerolas (little red fruits) and two fishing rods made of bamboo. The technique is to throw repeatedly the acerola on hook in the water, simulating fruits falling from a tree. Joking I tell him that in Italy the fishermen believe women bring bad luck in fishing...I shouldn't have said that...time passes by and no fish is tempted by our acerolas...
Julio is getting quite upset and insists on telling me that normally the pacùs are an easy prey. I make things worse, joking again I say that maybe the pacùs know there are no acerola trees nearby. The way he looks at me makes me stop talking... and fishing...
After a while Julinho gives up too and decides to head to another spot. Through small river arms we finally arrive in a wide open water landscape, a kind of big lagoon full of lily-pads. The navigability of the rivers and lagoons changes constantly, often the rug of lily-pads becomes so intricate it closes completely water-ways and even expert local boat-men get irremediably stuck. Trying to get to another river through the lagoon we get in very shallow waters and Julinho has to row to get us out. Again in deep water he allow's me to pilot his boat! That's fun...much easier than driving the Toyota on the wooden bridges..
Clouds are building up at the horizon. A strong wind sweeps over the river, I have to put on Julinhos sunglasses because I'm blinded by the wind. We head back to Carmindo's hoping he will have thought of putting our stuff that is lying on the table in the house....no need to be worried...our man has obviously taken care of everything and anyway we manage to get back before the rain.

Second day on the rivers

I wake up at 5 o’clock, Julinho is already busy around. After a quick shower and breakfast with Maria while we prepare our meal for the day, we leave for another day on the rivers.
It’s very hot already and luckily I’m 'incentivated' to leave behind all the bloody uncomfortable anti-mosquito clothes and wear my favourite ‘uniform’…havaianas and shorts, my carioca-soul is very grateful for that. There are no mosquitoes on the river, they just come out at night. In silence I thank again all the people who have written raving reviews about Julinho…
Today there is more traffic on the river, while we scan slowly the river-banks we see some boats passing by. We see lots of birds and families of capybaras. At another little beach we stop for lunch with rice and dried meat and – of course - a refreshing bath in the river before and after. A lot of boats full of people dressed up for safari pass by, they must be sweating the damn out of themselves. It’s a mistery to me why they don’t jump into the water. They see that we are not being eaten by piranhas or caimans! Well..when a caiman emerges 2 feet away from us and then goes down again..it IS a strange feeling..but Julinho explains to me that they only attack what they can eat in one bite, we are too big as a prey. It’s still quite exciting to know HE can be anywhere in the water hidden by the mud…
Small fish nibble at our skin, taking nourishment from our dead cells. The only real danger are the stingrays, their sting hurts terribly and the trick is to drag your feet in the water, trying not to step onto them.
We decide to have another look at the river bank on Tres Irmaos River where we have seen the jaguars yesterday, but today we are not that lucky.
A boat approaches
us, the guides we had met at Jaguar Lodge tell us they have seen three jaguars! Another boat had first sighted them and had really gotten so near to the animals that they had become quite nervous and had disappeared soon. Julinho and the other guides were angry about the irresponsible behaviour of their colleague, by upsetting the jaguars not only he had taken the chance of other people to see them, he had also put himself and his tourists in a very dangerous position. Jaguars swim extremely well and jump even better, a move to get the best shot could have easily turned into a tragedy and who could have blamed the jaguar for it?
I'm in a privileged position, as the only portuguese speaking tourist around I can take part in the conversation.
One of the guides tells that a woman on his boat is quite angry because he refused to get as close
to the jaguars as the other boat; that's the result of the lack of common sense in some so-called professionals. Hopefully by the end of the year the 'plano de manejo' (park rules) for the area will discipline the behaviour of the growing number of persons involved in tourism inside the Park.
When the local pioneers in Jaguar tracking (Julinho is the only one still active of the old guard)had the first sightings in that region there were only few of them and they had developed a functional method of jaguar tracking without being invasive. Now that wildlife-tourism has been recognized as good business the risk is that ruthless behaviour of few will break this fragile system, forcing the jaguars to migrate to other areas, spoiling nature and the comradeship between the people involved in that business, leaving them without their jobs in the end. And as sadly happens everywhere around the world, the foreign hawks just take off to the next shore and the locals pay the bill.