I spent many a night in the Amazon Rainforest alone. The mind can play tricks in the dark, particularly when you are alone, and the forest sounds only add to the sense of foreboding as well as curiosity.
Foods from the Amazon Rainforest…fruits of the forest.
More than 3000 edible fruits are found in Amazon rain forest, amongst them…… Acai, avocado, banana, coconuts, Cupuaçu, fig, grapes, lemon,mango, oranges and pineapple. Many are indigenous, some such as melon were introduced as long ago as the the 1600s.
Acai fruit from the Acai palm tree is an essential fruit for local people of the forest. It is a small black berry packed with protein. Unfortunately the increasing popularity of this fruit worldwide means cleared forests, large plantations and the use of fertilisers and pesticides….which isn’t necessarily good for the rainforest, its wildlife or its inhabitants.
Pineapples, picked from the centre of low, thick leaved bushes, and guarded, often, by huge, black, hairy, Pink-toed Tarantulas, are sweet and tender. Opened with a slash of a sharp machete, the firm, pale yellow flesh is eaten dripping with clear yellow juice. Not a bit like the floppy sad rings, dipped in thick, sweet, orange syrup, that we in the west have for dessert.
Mangoes are picked from the trees when ripe or picked up after a storm. The mangoes bare little resemblance to shop-bought ones. they have a distinctive, fresh smell.The mint green peel is easily opened to reveal rich, golden flesh, so full of juice it runs through your fingers, sticky and luscious.
The Cupuaçu trees come from the Amazon region. The fruit is oblong, brown,and fuzzy. It has a rich creamy whitened, aromatic pulp. The vitamin and mineral rich pulp is used to produce delicious juices, jellies, ice creams, shakes, mousses and chocolates.
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.
Frogs in my Amazon kitchen……steaming casseroles every day.
It would seem logical in the heat of an Amazon Rainforest to eat light meals, salads and cold meats, but my partner and the locals liked hot, steaming casseroles made up of meat, fish and vegetables, every single day.
At first I baulked at the idea of being bathed in perspiration to cook a meal, but clean water was not always available so it was a sensible option to heat food by boiling and thereby sterilise the water and kill the bacteria that rapidly formed on food in the rainforest humidity.
At least that’s what I tried to convince myself as I stood outside the kitchen gasping for fresh air and a cool breeze.
These frogs and toads were quite beautiful. Their eyes particularly intrigued me. They shone like jewels surrounded by a golden filigree edge. They clung to the wooden walls by their suckered toes.
These kitchen amphibians came in a variety of colours and sizes. There was the large, dark tan frogs with brown stripes, the medium size frog/toad with a greenish hue and the tiny delicate pink and soft grey frog with brown stripes found in a pair of wellingtons. And there was the tiny brown toad with pointed fingers and poisonous skin…..excuse photo, not a good one I know.
Shower and bathrooms are also loved by these creatures. Don’t be surprised if you go to Manaus or surrounding forest lodges to find them clinging to the tiled walls. Best ignored, they rarely jump off to bother bathers.
If anyone knows the names of these amphibians I’d be grateful for the information.
Yellow-headed Caracara…Milvago chimachima.
On my way down to the river with a washing up bowl one morning a loud, scream-like, call drew my attention to a tall tree, where a raptor perched surveying the forest. It was a Yellow-headed Caracara.
The bird had a buff coloured head with a striking black eye streak. The raptors underbody was buff, the wings brown with pale patches on the flight feathers. The longish tail was a barred brown and cream.
The Caracara eats amphibians, reptiles, small animals and carrion. The young will eat fruit.
The female lays 5/7 eggs in a stick nest in a tree.
I never ceased to be amazed by the forest. I saw in just a few months more varieties of raptors, kingfishers, herons and finches than I had seen in my whole life before, not to mention parrots, toucans and hummingbirds. Every single day served up a surprise, a reason to stop and stare.
The Amazon Rainforest is a treasure of nature, a wonder to behold.
A New Year thought…..’A Roar of Protest’…..message for my followers.
For those of us who care about the world we live in ie the wildlife, the forests, the oceans and seas, this year has been particularly distressing.
Every day the media shows the shrivelled bodies of elephants killed for their tusks; the silence of huge palm plantations devoid of wildlife, emptied of the extraordinary Orangutans; the destruction of forests and with them the massive diversity of life they hold; ocean reefs broken up and destroyed by mining and oil exploration; rivers and seas polluted by plastic, mineral and oil products; mountains covered in refuse or flattened for development; cities covered with clouds of thick, poisonous fogs; indigenous people displaced, bullied and sometimes killed for their land.
And so much more.
I have this horrific vision of a future when all we hold so dear has been destroyed for money, and replaced by Disney like complexes where forests and wildlife and oceans are seen in the form of holograms and cinematic affects and, of course, will make some corporations, perhaps the very ones who destroyed the real thing, a whole lot more money.
Despite the occasional feelings of despair I feel-I must, because it’s in my nature-Hope.
I will make my voice heard by protesting, signing petitions, writing articles and using social media. Feeble as it might be, my voice will be joined by others and together we will become a roar of protest.
That is my Hope.
Happy New Year to all my followers……
Two glorious sunsets..the first seen in the Amazon Rainforest, Brazil, the other in Torquay, Devon, England.