One of the most amazing experiences we had during our travels around the world was spending a night in the middle of the Amazon rainforest. Amazonia, the largest jungle in the world is probably the richest and still in many parts unknown ecosystem of our planet. It is a place full of mystery, habitat of all sorts of animals and tribes living far-away from our civilization. Like many people, before our RTW trip we had always dreamt about experiencing its special atmosphere from inside.
Our adventures started in a morning when we got off from our boat in Santarém after a three and a half day (seemingly everlasting) boat trip on the Amazon. A guy was waiting for us in the port who was Gil’s brother-in-law; Gil was our guide we contacted by mail in the previous weeks. We were a bit worried, as the boat trip took a day more than expected, and we didn’t have any chance to communicate with Gil from the boat, but fortunately he was prepared for our late arrival.
We had just time for a quick breakfast and for saying goodbye to our new mates (from the boat) and two amazing days started immediately. We still had sleepy eyes, but we woke up quite quickly when Gil took us to the local market, where a guy every morning feeds the pink dolphins and some really huge birds. We had lots of fun watching these beautiful creatures from so close, as during our boat trip on the Amazon we just saw these dolphins from far away.
Next, Gil took us around by car to show us the surroundings of Santarém. We visited some soybean plantations, which are sadly expanding in the area due to the destructive deforestation carried out by farmers and the Brazilian government’s negligence of protecting the rainforest. Gil as someone having been born in the jungle tries to wake people’s consciousness about this tragic process. We visited a village called Belterra, which is an interesting mixture of an American-style settlement and the surrounding rainforest. We listened to Gil’s stories about the economic failure of the rubber plantations of Fordlandia, created by the multimillionaire car magnate Henry Ford.
After having an abundant lunch, the really awesome part of the day just started. We parked our car in a dirt road, and we entered the jungle of the Tapajós National Park. Our guide was Aparecida, a woman who was brought up in the middle of the dense rainforest, and she knows all the little secrets of this incredibly rich natural environment. Since there are no trails, we had to cut our way through the jungle searching for a good place to spend the night. Following her, as she was cutting the branches and other obstacles, it was like being in a Tarzan movie. We were really enthusiastic even though the heat and the humidity were unbearable in the middle of the dense vegetation, and every now and then a small leaf or an insect fell on our heads.
After a couple of hours, we found a big tree which seemed ideal to attach the hammocks to. We cleared the ground around and hanged up our hammocks.
In the raining season you can expect a shower every day, so we had to be prepared for that, too. We wanted to sleep under the sky, but we built a small shelter for our bags and for having a refuge in case it had rained. Although we looked for a while for the appropriate palm leaves for the shelter, we did not find that kind of palm tree, so we used a plastic cover for it.
It was already dark when we made fire and started preparing dinner. It was really authentic, Aparecida simply stick some branches of a tree to pieces of chicken, and we cooked them in the fire. It was delicious with the spice (called “colorado”) we used for cooking. We lied down in our hammocks, slurping our Gil’s bloody strong caipirinhas, and we listened to Gil’s interesting stories about remote tribes and other stuff.
The most memorable part of these 2 days was spending the night in the jungle, sleeping in our unsheltered hammocks. When our fire was out, complete darkness came upon us, and this was the moment when the jungle around woke up. We started to hear louder and louder the noise of crickets, scorpions, small birds and monkeys which were jumping from tree to tree just above our heads. Many times we woke up during the night, when small branches or leaves fell into our hammocks. Sometimes the noise was really strong, especially when the howler monkeys were roaring in the distance. For a moment we thought some wild animals were coming at us shouting so fiercely. We could not sleep deeply, but we enjoyed listening to the music of the rainforest, it was an unbelievable experience.
We got up at 4 AM to see the sunrise from a very special place. We listened again to the sound of the roaring monkeys, and we were left breathless seeing the sunrise over the jungle. Gil then took us to the place where he grew up, a beautiful green meadow with some huge trees around. Gil showed us some rubber trees and took us to a small trail that was made by his ancestors, where we could get familiar with different herbs and exotic jungle fruits. On the way out of the jungle, we saw a deer crossing the road.
For lunch we went back to Santarém and then walked around in town. Sometimes we strolled on top of sandbags, as many streets were flooded in the rainy season. Later Gil and a local boatman took us to the place where two rivers the Amazon and Tapajós join each other. It was interesting to see as the different colors mix together slowly after a few kilometers. In the rainy season, a part of the rainforest is flooded, which creates a unique environment. You can go around the forest by boat and as there is more than 6 meters of water on the ground, you have much better chance of seeing animals from close range.
In a short two hour boat trip, we saw loads of animals: sloths, different parrots, colorful birds and iguanas. We enjoyed especially our encounter with the sloths, these peculiar animals which move about so slowly on top of the trees, and when they see you they try to hide, but they do it so slowly that makes you smile.
In some places we entered the very dense forest and the boatman had to cut the branches to make way. This dense part of the flooded forest had a really special, mystic atmosphere, we loved it.
We tried again some new exotic fruits, jungle candies were our favorite, and we also saw some really huge water lilies.
After these amazing 2 days, we spent one more night with Gil and his family in his house in Alter-do-Chao. This village is famous for its beach in the dry season, but in the rainy season one can just see the top of the beach bars, the rest is under water. We celebrated the wonderful experience of the last days with a fish barbecue, for which the fish was caught from the Amazon by a local fisherman. This was a perfect ending for our days in Santarém before leaving to Manaus, where more jungle experience was waiting for us.