The International Journal of Sport and Leisure
(Some sport. Some leisure. Also, schistosomiasis.)
Galapagos Islands (5)
About Me (1)
Ecuador: Quito (5)
Honduras: Utila (4)
Rio de Janeiro (2)
South Africa (13)
Temporary Update (1)
* South of Durban
* Escape from the Cape
* Skydiving for Bacon
* Rage Against the Machine
* Bite Me
* Africa Cold
* Scum-Dodging on Long Street
* Cable Cars, Lentil Soup and Bart Simpson
* Cape Town
* Cape Drear
* Lows of Travel ("Welcome to Africa")
* High Entertainment
* Paradise or Miami Vice? (Part 2 of 2)
* Paradise or Miami Vice? (Part 1 of 2)
* Don't Make Me Cry, Argentina
* Hago el Vago en Buenos Aires (Part III: Final Week)
* Gloom at the Top
* Its The End Of The World As I Know It
* Perito Moreno Glacier
January 07, 2005
APOCALYPSE NOW IT STINKS!
Amazon Basin, Bolivia
Friday, January 7, 2005:
I woke up drenched in sweat, literally soaking wet. It was just before 8 AM and everyone else was still asleep. I quickly made my way outside and down the bridge toward the shower and bathroom. As I walked, I noticed a familiar-looking little head with dull, malevolent eyes. The crocodile was still lying within several feet of where I had last seen it the night before.
The shower was cold, which was a blessing. When I returned to the room, I found the others climbing out of their beds. Lucy was standing outside the kitchen by a set of stairs that led down to the water. She had a bowl of leftovers from the night before and was feeding them to the crocodile, which snatched up the mess of spaghetti, beef and cheese with violent, upward swings of its head. Steve, Anita and Neal came out to watch. "So is this your pet crocodile?" somebody asked. Lucy nodded. I wondered if the croc hadnīt approached me the night before to see if I would feed it leftovers rather than... myself. Either one would have done, I suppose.
After breakfast, I doused myself all over with OFF! as I had been doing the day before, nearly every hour. Nevertheless, I was noticing bites all over me. The slightest opening and the mosquitos were there. They bit through clothing too --- with ease. I had a line of ten or twelve bites in a row on my ribcage.
We were all in the boat by 9 AM, at which point we motored off down the river past tucans, macaus, and a distant 3 meter-long caiman. In a patch of tall grass, Carlos tied the boat up to a tree and we all (boots on) jumped out and into the thigh-deep water. The smell, as ever, was revolting.
We spent the next hour and a half trudging through grass, water and mud and scouring the land around us for signs of snakes, particularly anacondas. Carlos did not think our prospects were good at this time of year, because there was so much water, and he proved to be correct. We saw little but for an occassional hive of wasps and some large green dragonflies. Eventually, we came to a small, tree-covered island, with dry ground. We found numerous small lizards, bright green and orange in color, but nothing else.
It had gotten hotter and the smell had grown stronger by the time we returned to the boat (I remember thinking that the water looked and smelled like a Korean beef, egg and scallion soup that had been left to rot in the sun). We set off again down the river in search of freshwater ("pink") dolphins. Carlos knew several spots where we were likely to find them. "And we can swim with them," he told us enthusiastically. We looked at the water. Still pitch black.
It didnīt take long before we heard a snorting sound and looked to see a pale rose-colored dophin sufacing several meters away from our boat. Another quickly appeared, blowing water up through its spout. Carlos peeled off his fatigues into an upsettingly small pair of Speedos and dove in. The German girls quickly followed. The rest of us sat motionless for a minute. Then, not really thinking about it, I zipped the legs off of my convertible khakis, took my shirt off and dove in. The water was cool, compared to the temperature outside (95 - 100 Farenheit) but I was all that much closer to the stench. And the water was filthy. I felt that my dive should have been covered by a TV crew, to be featured on a special program entitled GREAT MOMENTS IN DUBIOUS HYGIENE. Steve followed me into the water, but the rest of the occupants were content to watch the dolphins from the boat. There were 4 or 5 of them and they swam around us keeping a distance of at least a meter at all times. Steve started splashing water at them and, in response, they dove down, then abruptly rose up to splash him back. The first time they did this, he was convinced that a crocodile or caiman had lunged at him --- but Carlos informed us that the dolphins were careful to swim a safe distance away from crocs and other dangerous animals. And, speaking of Carlos, no sooner did I climb back onto the boat than did Neal and Anita inform me that they had borne accidental witness to some decidedly PG-13 groping going on in the water between Carlos and Claudia. Neal claimed he was finding himself nauseous from his exposure to this --- couldn`t smelling the water be punishment enough?
On the way back, Anita mentioned that she thought the landscape was reminscent of that featured in the movie Adaptation --- the ending scenes in the Florida Everglades, in particular. While I agreed, I was thinking more along the lines of the river scenes in Apocalypse Now! (except that it didnīt smell like napalm or victory in the morning, it smelled like eggs and a great many things rotting).
Back at the campsite, we had an immense lunch and rested for a while in the hammocks. Carlos fed some of the leftovers to the little crocodile. We asked if it had a name. It did --- "John." Not exactly a name to inspire fear. (Later, Lucy told us that the croc`s name was Fernando, which inspires even less fear.)
Between 5 and 7 we motored around in the boat again. We saw numerous birds and had a brief encounter with some more monkeys (Carlos fed them bananas, which they promptly snatched with exciting chattering and whooping noises). We also passed an enormous hive of killer bees perched high up in a tree. Otherwise, it was relatively quiet and peaceful, with no other boats or people in sight. Neal and Anita and, to a lesser extent, Joanne and Steve, spent some time playing "Quiz the American" on what I thought about various political events. "What do people think about Lyndsey England?" asked Anita. "To a large part, they don`t," I said, "since the U.S. media hasn`t covered it in ages" (I confess that my brain froze for a minute, trying to remember who Lyndsey England was). Helga joined in to ask what I thought about Farenheit 9/11. I told her I liked it, even though I didn`t like Moore all that much (and even though certain parts of the movie were somewhat unfair). It was no surprise to hear that nearly everybody in Germany loved the film.
On our return, we grabbed some drinks and went out to watch the sun set again. As soon as I finished my Coke, Carlos sidled up. "Pssst, hey, New York," he said, and handed me his bottle of beer. I took a sip and gave it back. A few seconds later, "Hey, New York!" and more beer forced upon me. And so forth. Another tour group with a different company came up and shared the view with us.
After dinner, we went into the main lodge to rest in hammocks and talk. I noticed that the thin, white-haired man with the mustache and the cat was playing chess against a younger man who had arrived earlier in the day in a canoe stocked with fresh rations of Coke and beer. I wandered over to observe. "Do you play?" asked the white-haired man (in Spanish). I nodded. "And what do you think?" "I think black has a big problem," I said, which made him smile because he was playing white. It was no understatement either, because white had almost all his pieces while black had been stripped to three pawns and his king. How he was still even in the game was a wonder. But it was not a wonder that lasted long. "Check," said white, taking another pawn and aiming a rook at the exposed king. I then watched slaw-jawed as black moved his king seven squares down a diagonal (hint to non-players: this is about as illegal a move as is possible, as the king can only move one square at a time). I watched for the old man`s response --- would it be shock, annoyance, disbelief? --- but he just cupped his chin and stared thoughtfully at the board as if his opponent had made the most logical move in the world. I wondered how long he had been living alone in the middle of nowhere with a tiny gray cat, playing chess the wrong way to pass the time.
Exhausted, we turned in at about 9:30. Carlos wanted us to wake up at 5:00 AM so that we could see the sun rise from out on the river. He also said it would be the best way for us to hear the howler monkeys.
The night was even hotter than the previous one.
Posted by Joshua on January 7, 2005 06:18 PM
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