The Brazilian Rainforest is on fire.. every year there are fires, but this year so far there has been an increase of 84%.
The Rainforest provides 20% of the world’s oxygen..its vital its saved…for us and the amazing richness of wildlife being destroyed…here’s a poem I wrote when living in the forest, after hearing the loud, mournful cries of the Howler Monkeys..
I wrote this poem while sitting alone in a canoe in the Amazon Rainforest..my friend, a local, had gone into the forest to look for a sloth to show to me and as that probably meant leaving me and climbing trees, he thought I’d be safer in the canoe.
The forest and river were quiet except for the hum of insects and the occasional bird cry. I felt overwhelmed by the vastness and beauty of the place and unbelievably happy.
My poem was picked up by the publisher of a children’s book..I granted her request to use it to educate children about the forest and the use of poetry to express feelings and ideas.
Have you ever known complete aloneness. I mean no people, no tv, no Wi-fi, no radio, no phone, utter silence except for wildlife for days on end.
I had this experience on one trip to the rainforest in the Amazon. My partner had to leave to go on a job. My usual companion, an elderly man who didn’t speak English, but seemed to understand my poor Portuguese, had gone to visit relatives. So I was on my own for a week.
I was not afraid, I knew the risks and prepared for them. I looked out for poisonous snakes, jumping spiders, Jaguars, caiman…they were not the problem. What I found surprisingly difficult was the silence. Not that the rainforest is silent, far from it. It was the lack of human voices and contact with the outside world I found disconcerting.
I began talking to the animals and birds. It made me smile and giggle the thought of a human hearing me in deep conversation with the frogs and tarantulas living in my home on the river banks. The birds at least replied and came regularly for a chat. This was when I realised birds are far more intelligent then we give them credit for. The small finches would move their heads as if trying to catch my words and tweet in reply. The bigger birds, aracaris and toucans, just stared, but felt comfortable enough to stay and watch me. The vultures looked at me as if I had come from another planet, practically sitting in my lap if the food on my plate was tempting.
I grew to love deeply the forest during these times. Sitting on the small wooden river platform doing the washing up became a pleasure. Aqua and crimson swallowtails butterflies came and landed on my hands drawn by the perfumed soap or salt from my sweat. I watched as they stroked my skin with their long black tongues and, yes, I talked to them too.
I got used to the silence and instead became part of another world. It was for a time an uncomfortable experience, but finally a liberating one.
I have just read that there is a word, under song, which describes the sound of a landscape or the murmur of an environment often hard to hear or tune in to.
I found undersong easily in the Amazon Rainforest. Lying neck deep in a cool stream on a hot, humid day with my eyes shut I could hear the rainforest around me ..helped by the rhymic pulsing of insect chirps…the forest seemed to speak to me. In the soft movement of leaves and the cathedral like canopy of trees it spoke to me of strength and vulnerability.
The drink Caiparinha was first made by Brazilian slaves in the1800s. It was made from boiled cane sugar juice and Cachaça, a spirit made from sugar cane. To this mixture was added fruit juice.
The name Caiparinha came from blending of two words Curupira…forest demon and Caipira a name used for the inhabitants of some remote rural areas.
Cachaça can be bought in good supermarkets. Its essential for an authentic Caiparinha.
Ingredients…, Cachaça, a lime, 2 teaspoons sugar, crushed ice cubes.
Cut lime into quarters, put in glass, crush. Add two teaspoons sugar. Add crushed ice cubes and 1 2/3 oz Cachaça. Mix.
Caiparinha is a delicious drink, especially on a hot day. I can only personally drink a couple before I start giggling.
It brings back memories of a vibrant, friendly country and the magnificent forest I love.
My first taste of this refreshing drink was on my first trip to the Amazon rainforest. I was hot and overwhelmed by the forest and this welcome ice cold drink was perfect. As I slowly sipped it through a straw, I relaxed, not knowing then how this beautiful forest would change my life.
Pope Cardinals were regular visitors to the lodge in the Amazon Rainforest, but a flash of blood red in the shrubs was usually all I got to see of this bird…the bad photo shows the difficulty I found with photographing this vibrantly coloured bird in the forest.
Cardinal birds were named after the scarlet robes of the Catholic Cardinals.
They have a mostly black back, their black/grey wings are edged in white as are their tails. They have pure white chests and collars and the bright red head and red narrow bib that has given them their name.
These birds have strong bills and are seed eaters but also eat fruit.
The Agami Herons were regular visitors to the waterfall area. Being shy they kept hidden in the undergrowth most of the time, but occasionally I would catch sight of them on a branch or moving slowly along the river bank.
The Agami is a long billed, long necked, short legged, medium size heron. It has a chestnut neck and chest and with a creamy white stripe down the middle of the fore-chest. The wings are dark green in mature herons, brown in immature birds.
Agami gather together to nest in large colonies and usually have two blue eggs. A quiet, shy bird, when gathered together they make a low snoring sound. They eat fish, frogs, snails and small reptiles.
Despite their reputation for shyness the Agami did not fly off as we passed by in our canoe, but carried on picking amongst the reeds for fish…
This poem was written a few hours after I had left the rainforest. I did not know at the time but it would be the last time I saw my forest for years maybe forever.
Just reading it again brings tears to my eyes.
Manacapuru. Jungle town of Amazonia on the River Manacapuru, Brazil….Town harbour. Part Two.
The town or city of Manacapuru is close to Manaus. Although regarded as a city it looks and acts like a town.
The harbour of Manacapuru is my favourite place to people watch. There is a bustling community of people living and working there. There are small family shops, cafes and carpenters at work and fishermen setting off or returning with a selection of fascinating and sometimes odd looking fish.
The walk down to the decking can be a precarious one for flat footed Westerners. Brazilians, even in their flip-flops, are more light footed and agile. The walk down is best done with a partner for balance or a helpful local. In the dry season a large tree trunk serves as a bridge between the slippery concrete ramp and the wooden harbour decking. Fortunately a terrified look will usually generate the help of a man or two who will help with the crossing.
There are ferries coming and going. Large wooden ferryboats and smaller, faster aluminium craft. They carry locals to their communities on other parts of the river.
Canoes of various sizes are tied up to the harbour posts.
Before the ferries became a mainstay the canoes were the only way of traveling longish distances and could take a day or two of rowing in the heat of the sun to reach town.
Now the canoes are rowed out to meet the ferry midwater if the people can afford the cost…cheaper on the wooden ferry than the speedier metal boats.
Along the harbour decking shops sell all sorts of goods…fresh fruit and vegetables, fish and turtle meat, drinks and water, alongside newly built canoes and plastic kitchen goods.
Washing hangs on lines across the walkways and families, including children, sit chatting, arguing and laughing.
Across the wide river you can catch a glimpse of rainforest…so close and tempting.
The TV programme here in England called #’I bought a rainforest’ showed last night. The show was about Charlie who had bought an area of rainforest in Peru in an effort to conserve it and protect it from deforestation.
His story is similar to my own and his desperation as his dream is shattered is equal to my own.
It’s easy to sit on the stones of a clear, cool forest stream as the water runs through your toes, surrounded by the sights and sounds of the rainforest, and think life is perfect.
But then your daydreams are crashed into by the sound of tree saws and you’re faced with the reality as you hear and feel the thump of the tree hitting the ground.
People, often those living in towns, often well off, come into the forest or send others to cut down the best trees…the hardwood trees that have taken hundred of years to grow, to sell abroad or to clear the forest for food, soya, production.
There are two kinds of locals in the rainforest. There are those that don’t want change, who want the forest they love left alone. People who live and work within the forest.
And there are the other kind. The ones who see the rainforest as a thing to be used and abused and flattened if it provides money, however temporary.
The soil of the rainforest is thin it won’t provide decades of farming. I’ve seen fields after a few years…… now useless …stark, dry and treeless, abandoned by the farmers.
I’ve seen streams and rivers polluted and made unusable by mining. I’ve seen thick forest burnt to the ground and with it thousands of animals and birds and insects, some not yet seen by man as new discoveries are being made all the time.
The forest has evolved over millions of years. The animals, birds, insects, reptiles and amphibians…the trees, shrubs, plants have evolved to work together. The Brazil-nut tree for instance needs a particular orchid, a specialist bee and a sharp toothed rodent to reproduce.
Take away one item from the forest and the effect on everything around it is dramatic.
The rainforest is not only beautiful with extraordinary wildlife, it provides a third of the oxygen we breath. Cut down the forest and human life on earth ends.
When are governments around the world going to take this seriously and help the countries with rainforests to protect them or must we just accept the inevitable. Are Charlie and I banging our heads against a wall of indifference.