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.
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.
The ‘one percent’ is a term used in the West for the tiny group of people living in most countries of the world who own half the wealth of that country. It was highlighted in a book written on the American economy.
This is my small protest and reminder of what the one-percent are doing to the environment to build up their bank accounts and I ask them,’Is it really worth it?’…
The sloth is a difficult animal to take photos of. It is an arboreal animal….living quietly in tall trees and it moves slowly so is difficult to even see. They usually appear as dark shapeless bodies high in the branches.
My partner climbed a tall tree and brought this sloth down for me. I held it to me and like a baby it put its surprisingly strong arms around me digging its long,sharp nails into my skin.
The three-toed sloth’s face is gentle and baby-like with an upwards curving mouth, you can’t help smiling as you look into its large round dark eyes, despite the green algae covered fur crawling with fleas and other insects.
As I held the sloth it put it’s hand out and grabbed some leaves. They eat leaves, shoots and fruit usually in the evenings.
Three-toed Sloths have no breeding season, but breed throughout the year. Females scream to attract males. Babies stay with their mothers for nine months and are left territory by their mothers who move on to new grounds.
The sloth was carefully unpicked from his grip of me and returned to the tree. I could hear the sloth moving through the branches as it moved up the trunk and along from tree to tree.
I, left below in a canoe, spent the next hour picking off large fleas from my clothes and hair.
The Amazon: Worlds longest river.
New research has found a possible new source for the Amazon…..a river in Peru called the Mantaro or Great River.
The results of the research are questioned because the river dries up for four or five months a year, but if they are confirmed the Amazon will be officially the worlds longest river.
The Amazon is an incredible river. I first travelled on it when I went to see the Meeting of the Waters. The black waters of the River Negro and the tea-coloured waters of the River Solimoes flow side by side eventually blending to become, in Brazilian eyes, the great River Amazon.
The river is huge, sometimes from one bank looking across, its impossible to see the other side, its so wide. And, it feels powerful too.
It is a busy river and getting busier. Transport ranges from small wooden canoes, ferries, on to massive world-class liners.
I hear that it has already caused the deforestation of large areas as I feared when I saw the first parts of the huge structure being put in place. It was not obvious to the populace in Manaus what the bridge was for…. to open up the other shore for more farming and people, or for exploitation of gas or oil finds. Either way the forest would suffer and this is happening.
Nothing is sadder than driving along the road that used to be thickly lined with rainforest to see vast areas of nothing stretching into the distance and always a solitary Brazil-nut Tree in the middle as a reminder of what was. Wildlife and birds are non existent along the tarmacked roads.
Snuggling in small pockets along this road are small areas of thick forest and sparkling streams full of people enjoying what’s left. People escape to these spots in the evenings and at weekends, desperate to enjoy the ‘Green Effect’ that nature alone supplies….a feeling of well being that no amount of concrete and metal can reproduce in the concrete jungles of cities.
New study by the University of California, Berkeley, argues for new origin, according to a report by Jane Lee in National Geographic.