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Six Awesome Things

I woke up this morning at 4:46am. I went to sleep at 11:30pm, so that's approaching reasonable. As soon as I woke up I began thinking of how great some things are, so I got my laptop and now I'm in the dark writing about them. That's inspirado.

1. Blankets. How cool is it that blankets don't use any electricity? If I was a supreme deity of the earth and one of my minions said, "Look at those humans. They're making big cotton pancakes and sleeping underneath them because they think that will keep them warm," I would seriously question why I built humans in the first place.

It's just so cool that we generate enough body heat to keep ourselves warm like that. I would expect that it would help maybe, but that we'd still need external heat.

When The Bug Bites ...in the AMAZONAS

On to be defined

The itch to explore is superseded only by the itch that accompanies me on my flight back to Rio. I am wearing bug bites like war scars...having survived my sojourn into the wild Amazonas.

An early morning flight landed me in Manaus midday good Friday, and it was a boat+pickup truck+boat ride past the meeting of brown and blue river waters, and over the high(water)ways to the place where the mouths of rio Mamori and rio Juma meet and where the Lake Juma lodge resides. i'm the one-who-came-late and the tour boat swings by to pick me up before we head out for a spot of piranha fishing on the lake. No skills needed, just stick a piece of frango (chicken) on the hook, dip the wooden rod down low and wait for the nibbles. The trick is to be swift once you feel the bite. My level of patience is not quite suited to the waiting sport of fishing, so either it was luck or impatient me whipping up the line each time i felt the tug of a bite (so that I would not lose my bait too often to pirate piranha), i was rewarded with two piranha catches! These were not the most vicious breed (out of the 25 species) that would chomp one's fingers off, but hey, a piranha is still a piranha! And every living creature deserves a second chance, so back they went into lake, to bite another tourist bait another day.

After a sunset tour of the large lake, we head back out for cayman spotting after dusk. The boat skimmed the shoreline as the guides flashed their torches into the vegetation. It's always the eyes that show. (Flashback: I recall the Masaai guard swinging his torch around the bush at the serengeti camp and knowing which animals were out there just by their eyes shining in the dark). So whilst our untrained eyes looked blindly into the dark forests, the guides jumped out and waded into wet grass to catch the caymans. Just over a foot long, these reptiles have a flat lone & powerful tail, webbed hindfeet for swimming, 4-fingered forefeet for climbing and 72 sharp teeth for chomping... complete with eye lenses and ears. However, it seemed that evolution deemed a tongue as unnecessary but the cayman is certainly no dumb creature, be careful to keep its mouth shut as bites are potentially nasty bacteria-laden infections.

Since we had put the sun (pôr do sol) to sleep that first evening, we naturally had to wake up at dawn to watch it rise over the rainforest. That was the intention anyway but the cloudy sky merely made it a serene morning boatride as the dawn gave way to daylight. The mornings somehow always carries a certain magic with the freshness of a newborn day. The surface of the lake wobbles like a dark green jello as our boat floats gently by in the still cool morning air. It's a game drive on water as we cruise the shores on the lookout for forest creatures.

Day 2 is explore-the-forest day. We gear up and head out after breakfast, ready to meet & greet the residents of the rainforest. Forest survival 101: 1. Keep to the muddy trail and follow the guide's footsteps, 2. Do not touch underside of leaves (the residents there don't like to be disturbed), and 3. Beware of walking into branches and spider webs. .. i think. So the bunch of us city folks keep in step behind our guide whilst his native eyes picked out armadillo and tarantula burrows, giant ant colonies, grasshoppers and tiny tiny frogs that pack a poisonous punch. The dense forest is a treasure trove of nature's own medicine from antiseptics to mosquito repellant (involves mashed ants) and superfruit such as trendy açai. If you are into a hi-protein diet, try snacking on firefly larva. Then there were the trees the natives used for weapons or communication or shelters... and the ones that smelt of menthol vapour rub or essence of rose, not forgetting the fascinating walking tree and the 600 year old Brazil nut tree. Three hours later, seven pairs of wet muddy shoes returned to the lodge...except for our guide who was wisely and cheerfully dry in his rubber boots. By mid afternoon we were ready for our second foray into the forest...this time for a sleepover under the stars.

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