Brazil: In the Jungle, the Mighty Jungle

Brazil Travel post #10: The Mighty Jungle (intro post is here).

So now that I’ve officially exhausted jungle-themed songs as titles, let’s actually go into the jungle.

A great place to…reflect. Heh.

Each day, we had 2-3 excursions from the main boat. Morning, afternoon, and night. Some of those days included jungle hikes into the pure, unadulterated wild. This wasn’t like those jungle hikes in Rio, where the trail is wide and flat from thousands of tourists. From what the owner of the Tucano told us, the areas we went in only we went in. Judging by the machete-clearing techniques used by our guides, I believed it.

Our guide, Edgivan, teaching us about jungle fruits.

The main problem, however, was footwear. We didn’t bring hiking boots, we brought hiking sandals. Which wouldn’t really be a problem except for the fact that we could sink into six inches of dead leaves and other rotten vegetation with each step (where, of course, spiders, scorpions, and vipers love to hide).

Good luck little toeseys.

So…that part was unnerving. The hikes themselves, however, were extraordinary.

The “skeleton” of a leaf after its “flesh” has been eaten.

While the Amazon jungle has the greatest diversity of life in the world, it actually has low density of each kind. So each type of animal you come across should be treated like an unexpected gift.

A gift that comes easier when you have an amazing camera zoom! (Photo by Jerry Peek)

Here, you’ll see the “greatest hits” of our jungle hike excursions.

This moth has about a foot-wide wingspan!
Wasps love mangoes.
Bullet ants, very painful and very big. About the length of my forefinger.

Story time: Bullet ants (pictured above) are known to have one of the most painful stings of any ant. In fact, apparently, it feels like you’ve just been stung (with fresh pain) for about 24 hours. It’s so bad, that there’s a tribe whose “manhood ritual” involves wearing a glove filled with bullet ants. Once a boy does this, he is now a man, and can accomplish anything.

Occasionally it does rain in the rainforest…who knew?
Even the trees around us were exotic.
Learning. (photo by Jerry Peek)
Edgi showing us a rubber tree.
Pure rubber! (photo by Jerry Peek)
Life under every leaf.
“Ruins” of a rubber labor camp.

Story time: The site pictured above was run as a “company store” and the natives that worked here were essentially tricked into indentured servitude. Those that tried to speak out were never heard from again…. Despite all the natural beauty here, it’s important to keep in mind the history (and current activities) of exploiting the rainforest. It’s a fragile ecosystem, despite its size.

So many butterfly varietals, I dont think I saw the same one twice. (photo by Jerry Peek)
Tiger butterfly? Im not sure. And, there are so many species, that not all are named. (photo by Jerry Peek)
Yes, he is actually trying to get ants on his hand.

Story time: Souza showed us this specific type of ant (which frenzies in response to noise) that doesn’t sting, but their body fluids make for a great natural mosquito repellent. All you have to do is clap nearby to get them to rush out of their nest, then you let them on your hand, and rub them onto your skin.

And, incredibly, it worked!
So we both tried it!
“What’s up?”
A baby sloth, that’s what!
Souza “spider charming.”

Story time: The protagonist in this story is our guide, Souza. The antagonist a giant bird-eating tarantula. Here’s the setup. Souza is a self-proclaimed “Coboclo” (a person of mixed ancestry where half is a native) and grew up in the jungle. So he knows his stuff. He knows hundreds of bird calls. Can identify dozens of types of ant nests. Hundreds of plant types, along with their uses. And…he knows how to “charm” giant spiders out of their burrows.

Here it comes…

He put his scent (sweat and spit) on a stick, the tricked the spider into defending its burrow against said stick. When the first spider came out, there was a collective gasp from the group.

Collective gasp! This sucker is as big as my hand and probably three times as large as any “pet shop” tarantula I have ever seen.

Though we had some adventure and excitement, mostly what we found was natural beauty and new experiences.

And lots of colors!
We had a brief stop to see some villagers, but they had left on a holiday soccer trip. (photo by Jerry Peek)

Seeing the jungle “up close and personal” was definitely worth it. And no bites or stings! Next time I’ll show you all the things we could see from our expeditionary watercraft. Hint: A lot more animals!

PS — I’m taking the weekend off. Michaela’s mom is in town, and I’m meeting up with a friend from out of town for some quality dude time. Catch you on Monday!

Click to continue: Brazil: Rollin’ on the River.


Thanks for reading! What do YOU think? Is that sloth the cutest or what?

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

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Brazil: Sightseeing (Part 1)

Brazil Travel post #6: Sightseeing 1 (intro post is here).

From the outset, I can tell you I’m going to have to split this topic into multiple parts. There were sooooo many sights to see, especially with a “MURDERED Bucket List” in my back pocket.

Jardim Botãnico — The Botanic Garden

Rio de Janeiro was once home to the expansive Atlantic Rainforest, a different type of jungle than its more famous Amazonian cousin. Once Rio was declared the capital of Brazil, the city flourished and the rainforest dwindled to roughly 10% of its original size. This was largely intentional, as Brazil became an important produce exporter, and as demand grew, so did the demand for farmland.

The botanic garden was founded in 1808 by King John VI of Portugal (Brazil was in the Portuguese empire at the time) who decreed that a garden should be built to see which foreign plants might best thrive in Brazil’s climate. Thus, the botanic gardens were born, and once that job was completed in 1822 they became a public site.

Today it is a beautiful park full of exotic flora, including 900 varietals of palm, as well as wild monkeys and hundreds of jungle birds. Here are a few of the fantastic images we captured:

Shall we?
Shall we?
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A beautiful spot for locals and tourists alike.
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Dr. Seuss would be proud.
Monkey in a jackfruit tree.
Monkey in a jackfruit tree.
Ready?
Ready?
Leap!
Leap!
Just one of a billion flower photos Michaela took.
Just one of a billion flower photos Michaela took.
Serenity before lunch.
Serenity before lunch.
See the statue on the hillside? I'll give you three guesses what the last stop on our sightseeing tour will be....
See the statue on the hillside? I’ll give you three guesses what the last stop on our sightseeing tour will be….

MAR — Museu de Arte do Rio

From natural beauty to created beauty. The MAR holds some of Brazil’s most impressive artistic pieces. Let’s see a few.

Shall we?
Shall we?
#CIDADEOLYMPICA
Hashtag seen in real life. #CIDADEOLYMPICA
Theres something about a painting I dont understand captioned in a language I dont understand.
A painting I don’t understand captioned in a language I don’t understand.
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Slice of life from 1940s Brazil.
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Perspective.
Powerful perspective.
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Disney’s short-lived Brazilian character, Jose Carioca, which roughly translates to “Rio Joe.”
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These were actually TV shots of monkeys arranging bananas, meant to look like they were spelling…something.
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Quite stunning.
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Brazil’s take on “The Thinker.” It’s a monkey contemplating a turtle.
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Impressive.
Not creepy. At all.
Patently bad-ass.
Ostrich selfie?
Does this guy trot? Because that would be amazing.
Does this guy trot? Because that would be amazing.
Umm…science?
Presumably found in a serial killers basement.
Presumably found in a serial killer’s basement.

Click to continue to: Sightseeing Part 2.


Thanks for reading! What do YOU think? Are you more a museum type or a garden type?

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

Come with me, Vamos o Brasil!

I’m back from spending the holidays with my wife in Brazil! As promised, I’m going to tell you all about it.

The trip was split into two parts. First, we took a riverboat deep into the Amazon jungle. The Amazon river itself is far too settled for a true rainforest experience, with industry and cities crowding her mighty banks. Instead, we went on the adjoining Rio Negro, living on the boat for a week. During this time we took day excursions into the jungle on foot and explored the islands, inlets, and archipelagos with smaller watercraft.

The Tucano! Our home on the river.
The Tucano! Our home on the river.

It was a magical, crazy experience that included fishing for (and eating!) piranha, seeing our guide “charm” an enormous, bird-eating tarantula bigger than my hand out of its burrow,  watching giant river otter chase a large caiman alligator onto land, and much, much more.  I’ll blog about these stories (with pictures!) day-by-day as we go along.

For the second half, we journeyed to Rio de Janeiro, a vibrant city home to more than 12 million people, and the setting for the vast majority of the events featured in MURDERED. Here we saw the sights, ate like locals, strolled the beaches — and found adventure as well.

One of Rio's many "favela" slums. Yep, we went here.
One of Rio’s many “favela” slums that dot the hillsides. Yep, we went here.

Each day, I’m going to share with you pictures and stories from the trip, as well as highlight those experiences that you can live for yourself in MURDERED.

I’m not going to present all the photos and stories chronologically, lest I risk turning this into a family vacation slideshow. Instead, I’m going to share my experiences in Brazil by subject. I’ll show the people, the places, graffiti, food, the jungle, and more. Because my book begins in Rio and moves out to the jungle, so will this blog. Each day will be something new.

How many days? I’m not sure yet, but I hope you’ll join me in reliving this truly epic journey.

Click to continue to the first topic: Brazil: Resort, Hostel, Palace, Guestroom


Thanks for reading! What parts of Brazil are you most excited to see? Have you ever been? Requests for stories or anecdotes on travel?

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