Expedition updates from Rebecca Lerer, Greenpeace press officer and writer

Last edited 19 March 2001 at 9:00am

piun free zoneCuniua River, Sunday, February 18th

11:08h: Today is Sunday, but it doesn't really matter time is not classified by weeks or months in the river. It is classified by seasons. Wet season, dry season, simple just like that.

Since last night, all sorts of insects have invaded the Comandante Savio. While I type these words, dozens of piuns fly around the computer screen and try to bite the uncovered parts of my body (read hands and face; they specially appreciate to suck the blood of my ears). I showered this morning with 15 different species of moths, 3 grasshoppers and infinity of microscopic strange insects watching me. It was kind of a voyeur experience.

The Cuniua River is getting really narrow and navigation difficult. We got lost a few times in this real labyrinth of igarapes. Due to the floods, entire tracts of forest become waterways that turned out to be dead-ends. The last time we got trapped in one of these dead-ends, the Comandante Savio could not manoeuvre and had to use reverse engine to get back to the main river. Pretty exciting!

17:06h: After lunch, we set up a mosquito net around the desk where we work and declared it PIUM FREE ZONE. Seen through the white veil, the world became a nice place again, and maybe I will not be absolutely mad when this trip is over. Piuns can be very dangerous for your mental health.

22:27h: We've just crossed the Cana river, which means we are now inside Deni territory. We will sail for another 3 hours tonight and ETA tomorrow is 11 am.

Cuniua River, Deni lands, Monday, February 19th

9:56h: We are in our final approach to Cidadezinha, the first Deni village of the Cuniua river: only four kilometers to go.

The Greenpeace hydroplane is on its way to meet us, what should happen in a couple of hours. The VHF radio is not working but thanks to the satellite phone we are able to communicate with Fernando, our pilot, via Manaus.

15:29h: "Mazukameni Rebeca". Today I've learned how to introduce myself in Deni language. Not sure why they laughed at me every time I tried to do it. Maybe my biblical name sounded really funny to them, the same way their names are difficult to pronounce for me: Tuberini, Paiini, Viini, Valara

The Deni seem to be very excited with the workshops and classes for the demarcation. "We will never leave our lands", said Kubuvi, while staring gravely at the river and at his kids. "We need this land to survive. We need to fish and hunt to have food. To do that, we need a lot of space", the patarahu (chief) told me.

Kubuvi complained about the economical dependence of the local regatao. The regatao is a boat that sells industrialized products to the Deni in exchange for copaiba oil. "The regatao charges R$30 (USD15) for a plastic bowl, which means 40 litres of copaiba oil.

No matter how much copaiba oil we give him (Raimundo Acreano, the patron that owns the regatao) we are always in debt". As he speaks, there is a clear change in his tone of voice and a pale gleam comes to his eyes. "I will never step on his boat again. He robs us". Kubuvi is upset, this honoured man that became a slave within a monetary system that he never really asked to be involved in.

I met some of the people I got to know last year, and it touched my heart to see that they still remembered me. It was especially nice to see Branca again.

Branca is the mother of 4 little boys, all beautiful and smiley and shy. She is smart and strong and expresses joy when she speaks of life, work, family and ambitions for the future. The nicest thing was to realise that her ambitions for the future are basically to have the same life her ancestors have had for many centuries.

We are getting closer to the Cuniua River again, towards the Deni village of Sumauma, where we will meet the rest of the demarcation project team and Deni leaders from all the 8 villages. The adventure has just begun.

23:39h: We stopped the Comandante Savio for the night, this starry night that blesses the Amazon and provides us with doses of happiness.

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