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2007: By boat to Brazil

Lonely cabaña on the river-bank

For various times we ventured on reconnaissance boat trips on the rivers to Brazil and to buy provisions and material. The trip on the Rio Paraguá to the confluence with Rio Iténez and then 24 hours the Iténez upstream to the Brazilian small town of Pimenteras is always filled with impressions, only to be experienced on a still untamed river. The journey proves to be very varying according to the season of the year. After the rainy season (december to march) enormous quantities of water flow to the Amazon. The banks of the river disappear completely and trees stand with their trunks submerged in the water, as far as the view ranges. Sudden shortcuts appear that had not been there before. Everywhere water streams and gargles and if one capsizes or the boat contracts a hole and sinks, no rescue is possible, unless one could swing for many miles from tree to tree. During the dry season, the river carries little water, the banks are high and picturesque sand banks invite to spending the night there. On the Bolivian side, the journey is along the national park Noel-Kempff-Mercado the entire time with in part still exhibiting impressive primary jungle and on the opposite Brazilian side (Mato Grosso and Rondonia) at least the still existent gallery forest is simulating an intact landscape. Disturbing the idyll are Brazilian fish poachers fishing on the Bolivian national park side, which is prohibited (if their was any control) and at night the speed boats of the cocaine smugglers that shot past, coming dangerously close, with high velocity and without any lights at all.

Caiman near the riversideOn a trip somewhat into the interior of Brazil I had to see for myself how in this twenty years ago scarcely touched province Rondonia/Matto Grosso hardly any large tree has survived "progress" and that the burning sun now causes an almost intolerable climate, because the vegetation that formerly protected the ground is missing. Thus the unavoidable development to desertification has been induced by reckless depredation. Also on the Rio Iténez human activities proved that on the river the world is no longer safe and sound, even if we saw the glowing eyes of caimans at distances of a about a hundred yards from each other in the vicinity of the river banks. Once more I realized why our (and that of others) engagement for nature in Bolivia is so important.
The Brazilian villages on the river banks manifest the temporariness of their existence by their looks. Even if compared to Bolivia often a higher standard of living has been attained, the aggregations of functional buildings in no style at all have no identity of their own. Therefore returning to the poor but authentic Piso Firme after sailing downstream for only 15-hours is in spite of the conveniences found in Brazil like a homecoming. The trip, in part in the darkness, requires a lot of concentration and attention of all on board because of shallows, hindrances, vortices, and nowhere ending branches of the river, so that we not only arrived impressed, but also exhausted in Piso Firme once again.


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