Amazon Via Acre

I Know Why the
Vultures Laughed

We were all set, strapped onto metal seats, when the captain announced: everybody out, we got stuck. After two days flying, and two flawless landings, only the Guajará Mirim ‘runaway’ mud to stop our fearless DC-3 on its tracks. Everyone got dirty pushing the plane.
On the sideways, Native Brazilian Indians laughed out loud. It was not their first time having a blast with visitors, but I never went back for seconds. Once we took off, my mind was racing towards the Acre State, where I’d spend three months with my friend Tonho and his family.
We got to know a stretch of the majestic Amazon Rainforest, three times as big then as it is now. I flew for free as a military officer’s son, aboard a Douglas from the National Air Mail. Tonho left Rio three days later, on a commercial flight, but we got to Rio Branco together.
My place was next to piles of letters and parcels, as DC-3s were still being used on regular post routes within Brazil. No complaints; I didn’t know then, but it turned out to be one of the greatest trips of my life, a real miracle, as I hadn’t a cent to my name but was treated like a king.
On the way, I’ve spent a night in Porto Velho, whose downtown area on that rainy winter of 1973, was occupied by a huge gypsy camp. I had already realized that I was visiting another country, but I felt even more foreigner having a hard time understanding them. Pure prejudice made me weary of the Roma and not to ask for directions.

SYRUP & SPAGHETTI WESTERNS
Brazil’s vast distances and geographical north-south set up has a lot to do with the radical differences among its regions. Getting to the northwest, wild and racially mixed, coming from the south, urban and white European, is like a kick in the ass. You get on all your fours and it’s better to take your time getting up again.
Things seemed so odd, that the first thing the two teenagers got was cough medicine, which used to be unwittingly loaded with codeine. We were not into alcohol, and weed was rarer than snow, so pharma high was our tour guide exploring the sights and city blocks.
By far, the two weathers within a single day were our main source of amusement. The whole city life revolved around things happening before and after the rain. Dawn would break already in the 80s and while the thermometer would rise with the sun, sweat would drench us. Suddenly, all would change.
At just few degrees shy of the 100s, the sky would turn and a monsoon of biblical proportions would come down, all thunder and flood. It’d last less than an hour, though, and then, it’d be gone. Clouds would get quickly driven away and the sun would return to set, at the conclusion of yet another beautiful day.
Many a bottle of syrup we knocked down on our way to the movies – we may have watched the entire Sergio Leone collection, plus every one of the Zapata series – or the ‘boate,’ where a long-haired crooner singing Roberto Carlos‘ Amada Amante, was a nightly hit. What a life.

DEEP IN THE DYING JUNGLE
When we headed to Xapuri, to try Ayahuasca, we had no idea who Chico Mendes was. Deforestation was all around us, piles of downed trees by the side of the road. At one point, our bus stopped: ahead of us, a tractor-trailer was fully submerged in a small lagoon. Only the top of the cabin was out of the water.
We got to Brasiléia late at night, and rented a room in the back of a rest stop. There was no power and we were intrigued when the owner handed us a little fumigator, loaded with kerosene. It didn’t take long to know why: bugs were big as mice, and would fly around. We almost suffocated to death, trying to keep them away.
We woke up early, sweaty and nearly deaf. Heat was expected, but what was that loud noise, as if someone was scratching our zinc rooftop with metal nails. Zeeeep, zeeeep, zeeeep, one after another. (more)
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Read Also:
* Chico Mendes
* Amazing Zone
* Rainforest Rundown

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Booking the Summer

Six Reads to Befriend
in the Next Four Weeks

Hard as you may, you won’t find many book reviews on this site. Hardly any. Ok, one or two; at this point, we’re not too sure. Nevertheless (a word people often invoke in the presence of books, for some reason), authors are kind enough to keep sending us some for our consideration.
This being summer’s last month in the North, and summer being a season when even those with idle minds, get themselves a book or so to read, for some reason, it may be as good a time as any to offer you, avid reader, six more items to pack along with your beach gear.
None too soon, to be sure, as August is also known to suffuse with angst some of us who can’t even afford taking vacations, let alone having unrequited thoughts about Labor Day, fall, end of the year, whatever. That, of course, and the year’s biggest Supermoon, mad dogs, and werewolves.
We insist, though, these are no reviews, and if they may, for a sentence or two, resemble one, you’re allowed to call it quits and deny under oath that you’ve read it first here. Regardless (another word that people, etc.), you may take with you the basic info that’ll be provided free of charge.
That, by the way, is exactly our terms for accepting books to write about. Thus, feel free to take your pick among the themes permeating our list. Mystery, adventure, science, personal miseries, and thoughts about the awareness of animals may sound just like what one may seek to dwell on, in these last dog days of heat and sweat.
Finally, you ought to know that we haven’t finished reading some of them. But before you curse at us, let us offer you the tenor of our off-key intent: you won’t be biased neither by our personal take on them nor by commercial pursuit, so you’ll be freer to browse them at your own volition, as you would at a bookstore.
We won’t tell you our favorites either, or which order we’re following reading them. For we’ll be reading each one of them, as you read this. Thus, it’s just like we’ve preceded you at that bookstore by just a few hours, and already grabbed a half dozen tomes, so you don’t have to take time away from that cocktail of yours. Enjoy the reading.

NEW MEXICO ADVENTURE
Jack Purcell, editor of the popular So Far From Heavens blog, puts his THE LOST ADAMS DIGGINGS, Myth, Mystery and Madness, as ‘a study of a legend and the men who believed in it at a time when men were still inclined to believe in such things.’ He spent decades following a century-old trail of a gold and silver treasure, which eluded many an explorer before.
It’s a fascinating account that combines successive searches for the diggings, that preceded him, with his own tenacious path uncovering clues and old maps. What Purcell’s discovered is now up to you to find out, having him as your trustworthy guide. NineLives Press, 2003.
A SPACE ODYSSEY
Edgar Mitchell is a member of one of the world’s rarest communities: he’s one of the 12 men who’s walked on the Moon. His EARTHRISE, My Adventures as an Apollo 14 Astronaut, is an earnest account by the pilot of the 1971 mission’s lunar module, curiously narrated with his Boy Scout sedated voice, not that of a Navy fighter with an Ph.D. degree from MIT.
There are, however, thrilling passages, as during the struggle to bring the plagued Apollo 13 back to Earth, or when he talks about a long-distance Extrasensorial Perception Continue reading

The Whirled Cup

Five Bullet Points On Brazil

& a Split-Decision to Strike

World Cup 2014 LogoYou may not know this but to most past World Cup hosts, the occasion was for national joy and jubilation, if not much for settling social scores. Brazil, though, is not buying into that placid template: in case you haven’t got the memo, Brazilians are actually angry.
They may have a point. But apart from all disturbing news about the (poor) preparations for the world’s biggest sports event that starts next week in São Paulo, here are five curiosities that go from the promising to the ‘peculiar’ to the far out.
We’ll get to them. But about that anger and the unsettling news: yes, it’s all true. The most expensive World Cup in history may turn out to be, arguably, the turnaround for Brazil’s dreams of being perceived as a global power, capable of handling its moment in the spotlight with composure.
A quick review of the staggering numbers shows that Brazilians are paying between $13 to $18 billion for the right to stage the games, but most of it has been invested either in riches that will quickly evaporate from the country, coming August, or will rot in some stadia built in the middle of nowhere.
Over 200 thousand people have been displaced to accommodate infrastructure projects for the cup and for the 2016 Olympic Games, also to take place in Brazil, according to a Mother Jones infographic, but many of such projects may not be finished for the opening kickoff, or may remain incomplete forever.
Discontent with the way funds have been diverted from needed and more permanent works, and public perception that President Dilma Rousseff hasn’t been fully cognizant to how Brazilians feel left out of the big party, have taken the country by storm and may only get louder during the cup.
In fact, she does seem less concerned about them than how the massive street rallies critical to what was supposed to be a celebration of Brazilians’ passion for the game, will impact the estimated one billion worldwide, expected to follow the month long competition.
But even as those problems have been called out over and over, and may be inseparable from the games this time around, it doesn’t mean we’re not working hard to provide you with some interesting alternatives to experience it all, insights that may be unique to this particular edition. And here they are:
1. THE WALKING STEAD
Talking about the opening kickoff, few know that, technically, it won’t be given by a human foot. Or it’ll but not exactly how one’d expect it. If all goes well, on June 12, a paralyzed person will walk on the field wearing an exoskeleton created by Brazilian neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis.
The technology behind the mind-controlled full-body suit has the potential to revolutionize mobility for millions of people. It’s not the first time that robotics is applied this way, but it still scores a kick in the arse of common indignities associated with being handicapped.
No word yet on who’ll be walking towards the middle of the Arena Corinthians and, with a thought or two, command the suit to help the foot kick the Brazuca. But you can bet your soccer shoes that, for many around the world, it’ll be as historical as the tournament’s winning goal.

2. WELCOME TO FAVELA INN
Some six million soccer fans are expected for the games, the last of them probably on their way in as we speak. But so is a severe hotel room shortage, with prices upwards of $380 a night to boot. So what choices a late comer has to rest their tired bones and avoid crashing in some godforsaken public square?
What about a shantytown? For a bargain $30, one can find a place to stay in one of the thousands of tiny houses, cramped together like jigsaw pieces, in one of Brazil’s hundreds of favelas, conveniently located in most state capitals and often with a much better ocean view than many a pricy hotel.
After all, this is a country where the so-called informal economy Continue reading

New Critters on the Block

Another Blue Tarantula &
a Spider That Builds a Decoy

It’s good that we have no plans of spending time at the tabletop mountains of Brazil anytime soon. Although we hear nice things about the place, there’s one particular local beauty we wouldn’t like crossing paths with over there: the newly-discovered Sazima’s tarantula.
It’s also a great asset to be of a certain stature (physical, not exactly moral); we tend to tower over spiders. But if you were the size of, say, a fly, caution would be in order: an also newly-found arachnid builds a much bigger ‘spider’, to lure and scare the bejesus out of small critters.
They’re both residents of South America’s Amazon and are truly fascinating for the way they look or go about their business of, well, eating small bugs and stuff. Think about that the next time someone talks about hiking in the jungle, and as if spring has sprung, lightly teases you about joining them.
Be strong and resist, always. In case you’re wondering too, that’s how we spend most of our Saturdays: finding new ways to terrorize our senses. In the process, as it’s pathologically common with fear, we learn a great deal about entomology, the Rainforest, wonders of travel and the natural world.
In reality, as many an enologist don’t actually drink, knowledge not always require one to touch the stuff. We’ve had quite a few fascinating conversations about bugs with people who can’t stand having one around. In some cases, clinical detachment in no way prevents anyone from getting intimate with a subject.
Before going any further, though, let’s be clear that we would hardly Continue reading

(Wild) Caturday

A Million-Mile Freeway for the
Jaguar, Amazon’s Shadowy Lord

The mythology of many pre-Columbian societies regard the jaguar both as the Guardian of the Forest and the Keeper of the Underworld. For the native peoples of the jungle, the largest cat of the Western Hemisphere has always been a mysterious creature, associated with death and renewal.
There’s even an old shamanic folktale that portrays the jaguar as a purifier, a character who’s capable of “devouring negative energies of anger, fear and grief.” He’s also the one entrusted with the task of easing your soul into its voyage to the great beyond.
That quality seems to still ring true to this day, as anyone who happens upon this phantom rarely comes back to tell the story. So elusive is this creature that many researchers dedicated to study them rarely have a chance to see one of them up close in the wild.

Now Panthera, a wild cat conservation organization, has conceived the Jaguar Corridor Initiative to connect 90 distinct populations of this Continue reading

Amazon News

Tiny Monkey, An Under River
& the 121-Year Young Woman

Pardon the cliché, but the Amazon never ceases to amaze us.
Be it because of the river that names the region, one of the world’s biggest basin systems. Or the variety of new species that turn out regularly, to speechless researchers.
The fact is, despite all threats to its survival, the Amazon and its indigenous peoples are very much alive and vibrant, including the world’s likely oldest person who still thrives, along with everything else around her.
No wonder Google is trying to get in the action there too, as it slowly maps the Rainforest for its StreetView (sic) service.
A RIVER RUNS UNDER IT
Let’s start by the river system, which irrigates a seven million square area and annually rises high enough to flood the forest.
But guess what? That’s, at the most, just half the story. Continue reading

Hello, Goodbye

Amazon Tribes: Still Uncontacted
and Already Facing Mortal Danger

The latest wave of heavily armed criminal groups operating in the Amazon may eliminate your chance to get to know some of the tribes that dwell in the region.
In 2008, aerial photographs showed a group of a previously unknown indigenous community pointing arrows and bows at the aircraft. Now, disturbing reports about the sight of armed gangs nearby their dwellings may represent the biggest threat yet to the survival of some of those recluse native Brazilians.
For the record, the threat affects all indians living in the area, not just those who were photographed for the first time Continue reading