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Entries about caiman

Lets invite a croc to lunch

Why is there piranha in the bathroom ?

overcast 35 °C

When I was a lad I read a book about a guy who traveled down the Amazon River. Along the way he wrestled a caiman (alligator), fought off Indians who were shooting poisonous darts at him, battled a giant anaconda, repulsed a leopard with a burning branch and lost a few chunks of flesh to piranha … but finally, while suffering malaria, succumbed to the charms of a lovely Brazilian maiden. I wanted to be like that guy despite the unfortunate ending. (I could never understand why Tarzan, the Phantom and Zorro all ended up in the clutches of women. I vowed never to let that happen to me.) At last, quite a bit later than initially expected, I now find myself travelling 1.600 km (1,000 ml) up the Amazon River. I still don’t understand why, but, like my heroes’, there is a woman involved in the story. So far, the 2nd most exciting action has been watching a sloth climb a tree for an hour … the most exciting was watching a bumptious woman storm out of the ships best restaurant because she considered the service was too slow. The Amazon was named after fierce women. I find myself exposed to dangers my childhood hero could never envisage
The Amazon has recently become the longest river in the world. That claim used to belong to the Nile but is seems they were cheating. However, that’s nothing: the total discharge by Amazon River alone is greater than the total discharge of 7 next largest rivers of world taken together! 20% of Earth’s fresh water that enters the oceans comes from Amazon. The interesting facts go on and on – and can be found elsewhere … with more credibility.
The ships decision makers felt compelled to deliver a special newsletter to the rooms of those who had booked the excursion to have an interesting morning Piranha fishing on Maica Lake. The letter reads, “Please be advised that the catch will not be allowed to be bought onboard the ship”. What an extraordinary dictate. Piranha are among the most prolific fish in the Amazon. They are also among the most regularly eaten. The concept of eating something that has the predisposition to eat me appeals. I’ve had the satisfaction of eating many carnivores that, under different circumstances, would not have hesitated to make me their ‘catch of the day’. I questioned the ships management about this rule which seemed directed by some unacceptable PC / sustainability principle and was assured this was not the case. On a previous voyage a passenger had bought a couple of Piranha on board and kept them alive in his bathroom hand basin. The next question, and the one you’re all asking, is, why? Can only I imagine he intended to remove the light bulbs and encourage his wife to use the bathroom first that night. Visualize his feigned surprise the next morning when the house-keeping staff asks him about the bones in the bathroom. I’m encouraged that innovative thinking regarding ‘spousal removal’ still exists.
I’m proud to report I was the champion Piranha fisherman aboard the local boat that ferried us up river to the lake via small tributaries in which we saw quite a lot of wildlife. I did see the monkeys, water buffalos, a snake, sloths, goannas and dozens of exotic birds. Some fellow passengers swear they also saw the chameleon the captain pointed out in a tree. He did so with a twinkle in his eye. Chameleon are the world camouflage champions. I couldn’t see it – and I now suspect I was afloat on a huge and sometimes dangerous river with 19 people susceptible to autosuggestion. They are either gullible or outright liars. Nether would be good if our boat begins to sink among the piranha. Our group caught 9 fish of which I caught the first, the smallest and the largest – a veritable monster about 40mm (16in) with teeth that generated a lot of respect. PC240028.jpg To my eternal shame I asked our guide, a vivacious chatterbox who seemed to be about 20 but boasted of 5 children and a husband who is seldom home (?), to remove the hook. She had 2 fingernails grown longer for this task and to pull back the lips of the fish so we could photograph the wicked choppers that even after death would remove a finger off the unwary. For my achievements I was awarded a crudely mounted dried piranha to take home. Given it was Christmas Eve it solved a problem – I was able to present it to Flypaper as her Christmas present. I know she loves it but she hasn’t been very demonstrative. She’s probably overawed by my fishing prowess – as were many of the other even older women aboard.
Generally, I like elderly people. I plan to be one - eventually. However, this journey has again made me acutely aware of both physical and mental limitations for those in their autumnal years. In Mexico we listened in dismay to a guide who recounted a recent experience with an elderly customer who obviously had some mobility issues. However, when he uncontrollably ‘soiled’ himself it was discovered he travelled in nappies. Investigation discovered his grown up children funded his continuous holiday, so they could occupy the family home in his absence and hoped his eventual termination would occur in a country with economical funeral costs. Aboard this ship are others I suspect are in similar circumstances. While I do feel for them, I confess, when they block my progress (think urgent bathroom inclinations), require assistance to rise and shuffle to their next destination, wear elasticated supports on all appendages (I’m assuming about this), distribute food around the table when attempting to eat and require constant crew attention or insist on telling me about their medical conditions, I believe it’s time to give up the urge to complete the bucket list. I do confess at these times to considering the euthanasia debate has some merit.
However, there is one guy I felt sorry for, and foolishly tried to assist. Possibly because I classify him among the bewildered and may find I’m in the same condition one day soon. At the buffet breakfast I found myself standing behind a man in a very inappropriate shirt – it was possibly his 1960 Hawaiian honeymoon shirt. He was staring fixedly at the various food options. After about 2 minutes without decision and given the queue was becoming quite long (although none looked starved), I asked if I could help. “Would you like a poached egg?” Yes. “How about a sausage?” Yes. “Some baked beans and a hash brown?” Yes. “The plates pretty full but I could drape some bacon over the egg and add some fried onion to the sausage?” Yes. At that very moment, an agitated woman appeared between us and said, “I only sent him back for his spectacles”. Well … what was I to do? Given the equally agitated queue, I ate his breakfast.
Our final destination before turning downstream again was the city of Manaus – 1,600 km (1,000 mi) from the ocean. Home to 2.5 million who spend half the year treading water during the rainy season when the river rises 10 – 15 meters … mostly due to snow melt on the Andes Mountains 2,000km to the west. Its where the only bridge spans the Amazon river. The bridge, by the way, is reputedly the most expensive per metre in the world and effectively goes nowhere. The official cost was US$570 but the locals say that is nonsense as leaks from city hall estimate over US$2.5 billion. That also goes some way to explaining why many influential people immediately retired from office and have never been seen since. Its well-known, corruption is the handbrake on Brazil.
As we were in port a couple of days we were keen to have ‘experiences’. Flypaper responded to an invitation from the ships Executive Chef to visit the fish and produce markets then transform their acquisitions into an evening meal. Surprised as I was, I can understand if the chef has become interested in ‘body sculpturing’. I didn’t become the shape I am without Flypapers expert assistance. As I had no invitations, I decided to take a river / jungle boat excursion. It started badly with a ride out to the ‘meeting of the waters’ – where the River Negro meets the Amazon. The flows don’t mingle for miles and are obvious by the clearly defined difference in colour. Some dolphins leaping from one river to the other saved the day. From there we headed to a weedy waterway accessing the assumed jungle experiences reminiscent of my childhood hero. Just as we arrived at the mouth a siren went off and the river police pulled us up. The 4 cops were typically arrogant and totally uncaring that their bullying may delay our lunch. I watched a couple of American guys who were clearly itching to become involved – then watched their wives who were not at all certain that was likely to be helpful. One guy commented that he had a much bigger pistol (at home) than the local police issue and wished he had bought it along. I kind of wished he had too. After 15 minutes of harassing the boat captain and engineer, the skinny cop started checking the lifejackets. He found 8 (from 60) that were missing the waist strap, then a fire extinguisher that was last certified in 1998 and a few paperwork issues. It took another 15 minutes to issue the infringement notice. On restart, our agitated captain spun the helm so hard it hit the stop – and broke the sheer pin. After a further 15 minutes the engineer concluded he had no spare, so they called 2 small speed boats and positioned them against each side of the front of our boat to provide steering into the still waterway.
At that stage we transferred to some long canoes with outboard motors. Only 1 passenger dropped his bag in the river and was reluctant to leap leap in to retrieve it – in spite his wife shrieking it contained irreplaceable cosmetic items. (Just quietly, between you and I, I consider it was time she tried some new brands.) After selflessly assisting many of the elderly and infirm together with those terrified of swimming with the piranha, I was embarrassingly requested to serve as ballast on one side to balance the narrow boat. If this had been the US I would have taken out a lawsuit against several parties. After disappointingly putting around looking at birds that looks monotonously similar, we stopped. Our guide told us the caiman here could grow up to 5 metres and weigh 400kg (800lb). He asked for silence so he could call one to visit us. To me, a 5m croc beside an unstable 9m canoe full of unstable passengers did not sound prudent. I noticed some of the passengers bow their heads – possibly in prayer. The guide did make a very amorous sound which I presume was the mating call of the Alligatoridea family. We waited in silence for a while. Serious silence – I think some were holding their breath – only to let out a huge sigh of relief when it became obvious the prayers had won.
We zoomed on across the lake to a rickety jetty leading to an even more rickety wooden walkway further leading up into jungle canopy. It was obvious none of our passengers were structural engineers – because they would have refused to set foot on this structure. Moments later all were having second thoughts, but such is the attraction of monkey viewing they continued. I lagged far behind until the most portly had travelled well ahead. I wouldn’t admit to being scared – I was terrified! Boards were rotten, missing or at least poorly fixed with 30-year-old rusty nails. The whole structure creaked and rocked. When a monkey peed on the shoulder of the lady just ahead I remained silent. We didn’t need a stampede to the washroom. Following the unexpected safe return of our party we boarded our rescue boat – a fast ferry normally used as a ‘bus’ on the river for locals. A satisfactory experience – but I’ll always wonder what would have happened if the caiman had arrived.
On another excursion our guide wanted to talk about the lack of mosquitos at this time of year and particularly around the highly alkaline (Ph4) Negro River. Struggling for the correct terminology he turned to me and asked, “What you call mosquitos in English?” To my eternal shame I responded, “In New Zealand we don’t call them – they come along all by themselves”. While this did result in a boisterous laughter, I did notice he received all the tips later.

Posted by Wheelspin 06:20 Archived in Brazil Tagged monkey lake river brazil amazon elderly caiman manaus sloth piranha negro maica bewildered infringement alligatiridea mosquetos Comments (1)

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