Saturday October 27th, 2001
The mayor of Novo Airao came for breakfast - along with quite a few friends - but they were all very friendly people who had looked after us extremely well last night.
We (the crew) loved the papaya and melons and freshly squeezed fruit juices; they went for the pancakes and the egg/bacon mix - and the synthetic orange juice.
A new river pilot came aboard and off we went - yet again - still heading northwest, away from the ocean, towards our next stopping point for a walk through the rain forest to a series of caves.
Again there were white sand beaches and sandbars - and the dark green of the ever-present forest ribboning both banks.
Shallow patches had us creeping along at minimum speed with the centreboards raised a little - and still no doubt swirling the sand from the bottom.
The crew for the jungle walk made their preparations during the morning so that by the time we reached the anchorage we were ready to move.
Lunches, water bottles, VHF radios, emergency hammocks, the filming equipment, torches - and so on - all went into the dinghies.
We followed with our long trousers, high boots, floppy hats, and loads of sun-cream and insect repellent, for the hour-long motor through the narrow channel nearby.
Our guides were in their usual flip-flops and shorts, wondering what all of the fuss was about.
After lunching in the shade of a large overhanging rock, we set out.
The jungle canopy kept the heat to a minimum but we still all lost a lot of fluid over the next few hours.
If I had been in the same situation in the “bush” in New Zealand, I would have felt very comfortable with my surroundings. But here, in the Amazon, where there are many of the nastiest creatures to be found, we weren’t so cavalier.
To touch a tree meant being aware of what was on the tree - or what had built its nest in the tree - or what was waiting to land on your shoulders.
To step over a log meant being careful to look what was on the other side first, to avoid a possible problem with a snake.
But we didn’t see any snakes - or anything else particularly unpleasant.
Our guide asked us to be very quiet at one particular point to avoid being attacked by some rather feisty wasps, but apart from these and the usual biting ants, all was disappointingly well.
The caves were quite excellent - and to be able to look closely at the paw marks of different sized jaguars on the muddy “floor” was the highlight.
The return trip seemed longer than when we went in - but the relief came in the way of monkeys skylarking in the forest canopy overhead - the first monkeys that I have seen in the wild.
How great to be as free as they were - to effectively fly through the tree-tops - a far cry from the animals we have recently witnessed ebbing their lives away in a zoo.
At last we arrived back at the dinghies - hot but happy - and certainly much lighter than we began.
Our fluids needed a lot of topping up.
It has been a very hot day.
It has been a very worthwhile day, as it tested our jungle “systems”, our clothing, our boots, and our fitness for what might lie ahead.
This is the Rio Negro in the Amazon Basin at low river.
All the best from the Seamaster crew.