Amazonia. If you want chickens, there are several possibilities. One is to go to the next grocery, one that have a freezer (that is, at least a medium size grocery), and buy there a frozen chicken. You may also buy a live one to your neighbour, but that’s more expensive and you have to kill it yourself (and pluck and empty the beast, that’s more work but it’s not impossible).
Or there’s the other way. I’m going to tell you…
Two days ago, that was my birthday. Like every year, I realise it when that day comes (and I tell you, it comes every year). This year, I have my birthday in Amazonia, and given the time lag I was also awake at the very hour I was born.
Since this is a special place and a special day, and since I prefer making gifts than receiving them, I decided I would offer a mango* orgy to my hosts and friends. Indeed, I know of a bunch of trees after a short trail and lost fields in the jungle about 25 kms from home. These trees are producing mangos right now and the ground is covered with fruits. Nobody seems to take them. Indeed, the place is close to Belterra, a charming small city already full of mango trees, enough mangos for everybody. I like those in the jungle because they’re clean, compared to those in the street, and you can really choose the maturity level of the fruit. Plus they are “pink” mangos, which are always good… :)
So this is setting the day. I would take the bike up to Belterra, and as a friend told me, I should try the “other” road, aiming first to São Raimundo and keeping up to Belterra (alternately, you can go to Porto Novo and Pindobal, and turn left to Belterra). Aiming for novelty and a new face of the forest, this was my road of the day. Of course, you might think 25 kms is no big deal, and of course, it is mostly not. Except on sandy roads, especially since the latest rain was a few days earlier. This makes bicycle somewhat less efficient but I had the whole day off, sort of. I did go.
The road was neat, wheather was uncertain as it is supposedly the rain season, and if you don’t take risks, you may end up doing nothing.
Until this road crossing. Rarily enough there’s a sign telling me where to go. Straight is a field station, possibly an ecological reserve under study, left is for Belterra. I turned left.
But hey, that was supposedly a second level road (expect 4 meters broad), but it turned out more as a trail than as the road I was expecting. Not bad, because lots of butterflies are to be seen along such trails.
Except that I’ve seen this on the sand. Fresh tracks of something that seems big.
Note that would I be a zoologist, I would have kept cool. Because I would have remembered only Cheetahs don’t have non-retractable claws, and there’s no Cheetah here in Amazonia. I vaguely remembered one felid species could not retract claws, and this might well be the Jaguar (it is not, but I couldn’t check on internet in the jungle :). And of course, beasty factlets I learned as a kid have been replaced by plant science. Not that useful in this situation. Oh my, couldn’t remember! Imagine the atmosphere. Nobody around except me. Possibly a big cat around too. And what’s more, the jungle was silent. This is always a bad thing when the forest isn’t speaking out loud. Most of the time, it means that you, the intruder, is under prospect. Birds are waiting to see if you’re a threat or just kidding. You don’t need a strange mind to think that in this case, they might be silent because the threat is the other one. Everything is so quiet… I followed the trail. And guess what? When I eventually comes to something like this, I called it civilization! :)
Which it is. Not far away (say, 10 kms, I should be close to Belterra now), I had to deal with domestic animals. Zebus are fine, but still, I’m not a cow boy, and I wondered what plain males could be thinking when females and calves are involved, and are just grazing on the road. Apparently, it didn’t think much. Even if the bike was squeaking like hell. (Hey! the bike was squeaking, not my knees!). So much for the pig. Muddy road, peaceful pig.
Eventually, a hunter told me I was 3 kms away from the town, so I was about 7 kms away from my beloved mangos.
It was time for a break, and there was a trail between jungle and old field recovering slowly into forest. The kind of place I like because you can see many species of insects, birds, and plants flowering around. I hide the bike in the corner (that’s just because I kept the weird kind of thoughts that somebody will come and say “oh, here’s a bike, I’m gonna take it home”, ya know, just like in western cities where I grew up). Civilised craziness.
I enjoyed the walk much. Just to share a bit, there were lots of insects. Just have a look at the following locust. Cool, isn’t it?
But the main issue with going jungled with a camera is the kind of slo-mo you eventually end up with. If you want a good picture, you walk slowly. Light feet. Birds don’t know you’re in here. Other animals neither, to the exception of sweat greedy flies or blood sucking mosquitos. You’re part of the party. Nature at its plainest and wildest. Time to enjoy. First wild stick insect! (And it’s been a while I’m trying to find one, despite plenty of species are described from the region…). A wonderful adult male flying around.
But then, slo-mo has its inconvenience. One of them is that I stepped next to a mygala nest. Okay, I’m still paying attention, looking around and enjoy carefully.
But eventually, I stepped on a resting snake. Saw the wide open mouth, almost heared it crying “who’s freaking disturbing me when I sleep?”. Did not think twice, not even once, just begun running fast. A dozen meters away, walked back. Wondered about this strange drum noise out and realised it was just heart beats as it sounded in my ear. Got my mind back. Breathed slowly. I did not go back to get a picture, but quite likely (given the memory of colours and shape fresh in mind), it was one species in this Genus, most probably Bothrops atrox (okay, that’s also because I like its cool name!).
Got back to bike. Got to my sweet mango trees. Got the following 30 kms (this is a loop via Pindobal, that’s why the way was longer on the way back) with about 20 kgs of fruits in the backpack.
And guess what I had for dinner?
This is how you get chickens in the Amazonian rainforest.
* I know you know what is a mango, but the wikipedia page is really interesting, even to learned naturalists like you. May even be worth a few blog posts… :)