People often ask how is it possible for someone used to a comparatively easy Western life to live in the Amazon forest for any length of time.
For me it was easy….I wasn’t concerned with the lack of communication. I know some people would go crazy without constant stimulation and entertainment from TVs and radios, or contact by mobiles, telephones and i Pads or laptops. I had none of those to keep me company and only missed them when I thought of my family.
I found a constantly changing environment and the extraordinary wildlife kept me fascinated instead.
The heat and humidity of the rainforest tended to drain the body, well mine to be exact, of all energy. I was, therefore, quite happy to sit for long periods in my rocking chair on the verandah, camera at the ready, pen in hand, recording and writing about what I saw. I was richly rewarded in this way every single day by the forest, its wildlife and people, but I did have to get used to things I take for granted being different.
My bed was a hammock. Quite comfortable, but cold around three in the morning so I doubled up a blanket and lay it in the bottom of the hammock and kept a light blanket ready to pull over when the cold awoke me.
Was I scared…….rarely is the answer. The mosquito net kept out creepy crawlies and the secured door and window ensured I wouldn’t be surprised by animals at night.
Interestingly it was lack of privacy I found hard to adjust to. Privacy appeared to be something alien to forest dwellers. I often shared my lodge with neighbours, friends, relatives of friends etc. They thought little of hooking up their hammocks to my bedroom walls or to the verandah. I often woke to find a stranger or neighbour sleeping on the verandah or in the kitchen.
People came visiting without warning too, often at lunchtimes, which meant sharing my sometimes meagre, dwindling rations. The thoughtful visitors brought fish, nuts or fruit to share, but some assumed because I was a foreigner I was rich and would supply a sumptuous spread, these folk were quickly disillusioned as they were handed a small plate of sticky rice.
Washing…bathing was done in the river several times a day. I knew there were all sorts of possibly dangerous creatures, some able to remove a body part or strangle or poison me, in the water, but needs be. River dipping was the only way to keep clean without modern facilities. Really I rarely thought about the possible consequences.
Our tiny second-hand generator only lasted a few months, so lighting in the evenings was provided by solar lights brought from England or by candles. Impossible to read or write but enough for dinner table conversation or cosy chats.
For all its difficulties, I miss the forest every single moment.