Brazil: A River Runs Through It

Brazil Travel post #12: A River Runs Through It (intro post is here).

Pink Dolphins

Picking up from yesterday’s river post, let’s start with freshwater dolphins. Unlike their seafaring cousins, river dolphins don’t often jump out of water, nor are they known for chasing wake. So, my best pictures look like this:

Hey, a thing!
A dolphin?
Maybe!

Some places will take you to feed dolphins, though this isn’t very eco-friendly, so our outfit did not. However, their photos look like this:

Photo copyright National Wildlife Federation.

According to the folkloric stories told to us by our guides, river dolphins are revered friends, and are never killed or eaten. It’s specifically the pink dolphin that holds their attention, but the grey dolphins gets extra protection too. Why, you ask?

According to local legend, the following story has been known to happen from time to time. When the villages unite for festivals and parties, occasionally a handsome stranger will arrive in all-white, wearing a straw hat. He might take a fancy to one of the young women and make her his girlfriend. Invariably, she’ll wind up pregnant and he’ll disappear, but it turns out the man was a river dolphin all along! He wore that straw hat to cover his blowhole and had to return to sea. Instead of a negative, this event is seen as a blessing. The dolphin will give special powers to his new child, who will be the smartest kid and everything will come easy. They will eventually become the village chief or shaman.

To me, this sounds like a story told by a suave, handsome sailor at port, who said he has to head back to sea. Either way, good news for the pink dolphins! We got our best views early in the morning on our kayaks, or at sunset on the top deck of the Tucano.

Rare tree frog sighting

Here’s another fun story for you. One of the guides suddenly pulled his skiff over to the shore, and called the second longboat over to see what he had found. Ready? This is what he saw from a moving watercraft.

Do you see it?
Keep looking…
Well, hello there!
Nice work, Souza!

Piranha Fishing

It’s finally time! With all my foreshadowing, you probably guessed that piranha fishing was one of my favorite parts of the trip.

Good guess.

First, some background. For those of you without rod-n-reel fishing experience, let me give you some basics: Sneak up on the fish, hide the hook in bait or a lure, and don’t spook it–you want the fish to come to you.

Here’s how you fish for piranha: Take a bamboo rod, thread about 10 feet of line with a hook on the end (a reel isn’t necessary). For bait? A piece of raw steak, no bigger than a fingertip. Remember that reference.

To get the fish’s attention, you slap the bamboo on top of the water’s surface, creating a thrashing motion to simulate a panicked animal. Then you throw in your wounded animal chunk (your bait) and within 10 seconds you either have a piranha or your bait is gone.

Success! (photo by Jerry Peek)

Your only real worries are getting the thing off the hook, since it can bite off a fingertip. Oh, and my sure you wear close-toed shoes, because they can take a toe and can get pretty big:

Yeah…that one is the size of the guy’s whole shoe!

Although the best part? Tastes like chicken!

I eat you! You don’t eat me!

The Meeting of the Waters

As I’ve said, we spent our week exploring the Rio Negro because it’s more remote than the Amazon River and allows for more wildlife exploration. On the last day, however, we went to the famous point where the Rio Negro and Amazon converge. It’s an amazing site, and an incredible viewpoint, because the waters don’t mix easily. Here’s what I mean:

Come with me!
To the meeting of the waters.
This image is so iconic, you’ll even see a black and white swirl on handbags and sandals for sale all over Brazil.
The Amazon is much siltier while the Rio Negro appears almost black from the surface.
We made it!

That’s it for today, and we’re almost done with our trip. I think that means tomorrow is the final post!

Click to continue to: Ciao! Goodbye, Brazil


Thanks for reading! What do YOU think? Would you try piranha fishing?

Feel free to comment below, and don’t forget to share and subscribe!

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