Expedition updates from Rebecca Lerer, Greenpeace press officer and writer

Last edited 19 March 2001 at 9:00am

Amazon: flooded forest 




Wednesday, February 14th
17:40h: Sun is back and the brown waters of the Purus glitter under a diffuse silver light.

The water level is rising fast and the locals expect to have a real high waters season in 2001. Our speed decreased from 13 knots yesterday to around 8 knots today due to the strong current we are facing.

Between December and June, there is great increase on the amount of rain. The rivers invade the forest and a new cycle of life begins on the igapos. Fish species such as the tambaqui are attracted by the smell of their favourite fruit trees. They feed with fruits and then spread the seeds helping to distribute biological diversity throughout the Amazon basin.

The igapo forest of the Purus is beautiful and seems to have a thousand eyes. I saw monkeys and different birds all day long today. We can hear the forest chanting during the night. But the varzea has been hurt. The frequent tract of land covered with embauba, a plant that grows mostly in devastated areas, is clear evidence of deforestation. Of the large and pompous igapo trees, little is left. It is still possible to spot young sumauma trees here and there, but loggers have removed most of the "queens of the forest".

We are due to pass the municipality of Tapaua around 3am. It's the last urban settlement before we reach Deni lands and there are 5 days of sailing ahead. Nevertheless, we have already started to count our PIUM and Co. bites.

Purus River, Thursday, February 15th

19:59h: Earlier in the afternoon, we crossed the Alligator River. With such a name it's needless to say that I would not risk my neck for a dive on its cold and black waters, even if it does look tempting. Ribamar told me that the Alligator River is a sacred place for loggers; it's where they go and ask for protection to work, to not get caught by IBAMA, Environment officials - and Greenpeace, I guess. Loggers also appeal to the gods in this place.

It has been hot today! and we had piuns and black flies on board most of the day. We now look forward to reach the Tapaua river, its black acidic waters, its bug-free atmosphere and its lovely riversides. We should get there tomorrow sometime, depending on the current and the manoeuvres the Comandante Savio may have to do to escape from the logs and branches that run with the flow.

Tapua River, Friday, February 16th

14:36h: Well, today we found an extra and uninvited crewmember on board the Comandante Savio. Talented on hiding he boarded the boat in Manaus and it took us almost five days to notice his presence.

We reached Foz do Tapua village before lunchtime, and we were putting one of the voadeiras (aluminum boats) on the water to buy fresh fish when we found organic tracks left by the small stowaway. We've been sailing with a cat.

Meanwhile, Ike, our doctor, attended Maria Doralice, a 28-year-old lady at Foz do Tapaua village. She has an infection on her abdomen. "She has been treated as if suffering from malaria. I gave her antibiotics and advised on the medical treatment, but she may need a surgery", he said. We will try to stop on our way back to check if she is doing any better with the medication.

The good news is that Maria's family decided to adopt the stowaway cat. He has been named "Lucky" and when translated means "his only chance to survive in a place like this."

Anyway, after so many emotions we are finally sailing the Tapaua River and enjoying its charm and hospitality. We will enter the Cuniua River later today. There we will have to stop for the night, as the river is narrow and shallow. We expect the journey to get even lonelier from now on.

17h: The clouds were so low that you could see them touching the river, like a meeting between two worlds. The rain came densely, joining earth and sky. Now we can say we are facing the real Amazon winter. It's on a grey tone and it glimmers with the permanent luminosity of the place. It's not that cold, but it does refresh mind and body.

Cuniua River, Saturday, February 17th

6:45h: Today, we leave for the voadeira tour on the igapos. When sailing among trees covered up to 10 meters with crystalline water, you feel special to have access to the wondrous and mysterious world of the flooded forest.

A world that is simple and complex with spiders that live upon the dry branches of the trees and have to build millimetres above the water line in a permanent and delicate exercise of architecture. Just by observing, you learn a lot about life and struggle to survive in such a place.

18:04h: Almost twelve hours after entering into the flooded forest world, we are still sailing the Cuniua river. A curtain of rain just poured with the hot sun gleaming, everybody starts looking for the rainbow. It's always poetic to see colours falling from the sky.

21:21h: Today, is our 6th day of sailing and looking forward to meet the Deni. We are not that far now; should be getting there tomorrow-late night or Monday morning. I'm curious to know what they've learned with the workshops and how they see the demarcation now. I want to share moments with them. I believe this is going to be an experience of a lifetime.

Follow Greenpeace UK