Where I Have Been Map

Friday, April 20, 2012

Camping in the Rainforest - Day 4 & 5

The town of Carrezero is unique. As our boat was approaching the riverside community, I realized I had never seen anything quite like this place. The houses were lined up side by side, safely situated above the water by four wooden poles being used as stilts for each house.  As our boat floated by, house after house after house came into view, a half-a-mile stretch of wooden houses. But as we got closer I realized not all were houses – some   were stores, others churches, still others bars, and at the end of the stretch was a large school. What we were approaching was a community created right on the border line between the Amazon River and the rainforest, and it was all connected by one long bridge.  And as for transportation, besides the bridge, everyone traveled by boat or canoe.
The riverside town of Carrezero
I had a feeling a town as unique as this would provide a unique experience for us. What I didn’t realize at the time was that each curious resident of Carrezero was thinking the same thing as our boat full of foreigners approached. As for their unique experience, I did not let them down. Only two hours later I found myself trapped on the dock with my camera in the middle of a timelapse, and a downpour quickly approaching.  I only had a couple more minutes left until my timelapse finished, as I held a little umbrella over my camera and unsuccessfully tried to cover my back with a blanket that was only getting more soaked by the minute. The people of Carrezero found the sight humorous. 

Later that night we interviewed a man in the town church. The sun had gone down quickly, and we found ourselves in the old building with very little light. The scene was almost eerie, and it didn’t help when the man we were interviewing began telling us stories about the legend of the Curupira.
The Curupira is a creature that is said to live in the rainforest.  Its purpose is to protect nature and the animals of the forest. It is a placid creature – until people come into the forest with intent to harm nature or engage in the overkill of animals, to which it responds with trickery or aggressive behavior.  The Curupira is about the size of a child, and covered with black hair. Its feet are turned backwards, and it uses its backwards footprints to confuse people into getting lost in the forest. You know it is nearby when you hear its shrill whistle. 

Just as the man began telling of his personal encounter with the Curupira in the forest, the door of the church began to creak and slowly opened. A shadow the size of a child materialized. We all froze and looked on as the shadow came closer to the dim light, walking slowly. When the shadow finally came into the light, we realized it was my mother, tip toeing to the first church pew so as not to disturb the interview.  After we were done, we all walked back to our boat just as all the electricity went off. The generator that provides power for the town shut off precisely at 10 p.m.
After a night of hearing ghost stories and legends of Amazon creatures, the events that occurred the next day could be classified as nothing less than ironic. The archeologists had finally found success discovering archeological sites in the rainforest, they had stumbled upon three thus far, and the last discovery would have been the perfect setting for a horror story: In the middle of the town’s main dirt road leading into the forest, they found the remains of a person, a human skull thousands of years. And not only that, the archeologist discovered five more buried vases containing human remains. They had stumbled upon an ancient burial ground. 
The ancient skull buried underneath the dirt road

Unfortunately, I could not stand up long enough to share in the excitement of this discovery. For some reason, that morning I woke up feeling like something wasn’t right. That odd feeling gradually grew into a horrible headache and uncomfortable stomachache. This feeling grew worse by the hour, and by the time the archeologists had made this discovery, my legs felt like they were about to give out. Every inch of my body was in pain. I felt as if my entire body had gone numb, and become stuck in that “pins and needles” phase, where every little movement hurts. Even the gums of my teeth were tingling in pain. I stumbled back to the boat and fell into my hammock, not moving until our boat docked back in Gurupa, ending our five-day “camping” trip. By that time I had a high fever yet was shivering from a cold sweat in the middle of the Amazon heat.
I stumbled back to our hotel room, hit the bed, and was out in a deep sleep. The last thing I remember was my mom talking to my sister on the phone, and my sister saying I had signs of Danghai fever.
When I woke up, it was dark. I asked my dad what time it was. “It is 6 o’clock” … “In the morning?” … “No in the evening”. I had slept for 24 hours.  My fever had broken. This ruled out Danghai fever, which usually lasts for weeks. I must have caught a less severe tropical fever from one of the children in the interior. Nevertheless, I felt weak and sore. I used the little strength I had left to pull myself to a sitting position. I looked at the bruises on my legs, the bug bites all over my arms and legs, and the seemingly incurable dryness in my throat from dehydration. I was absolutely spent, driven to the final ends of my strength by this journey. Yet I was happy to have experienced it – fever, bites and all. 

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