Time patrol: On the Amazon

On the Amazon, Belém do Pará, Brazil, 1974.

Exploring the Amazon was a childhood dream. Read too many books by explorers. The first time I got to the Amazon was in Belén do Parà, at the end of my second Brazil “road trip”, in 1974. Belén means Bethleem in Portuguese. A fascinating choice of name. The city is at the estuary of the Amazon, where it flows into the Atlantic, after traveling 6,400 kms from the Andes. In miles: 4,000 miles. Less impressive. We spent only a couple of days in Belém. Did have a chance to take a small boat upriver. Too short though.

Flying above the Amazon, near Leticia, Colombia, 2006. The Amazon is forest and water. Water and forest. Flew from Bogotá to Leticia, with my eldest daughter, my sister-in-law and her husband.

Sammy the Saïmiri. Brazilian name. Squirrel monkey in English. There is an island not far from Leticia called the Thousand monkeys island. An obligatory stop on the river.

THE Amazon. A wide, wide river. At certain times of the year, the waters rise and flood the forest for a few weeks. Most constructions along the river are built on stilts. Better safe than sorry.

Stevie the Sloth. (One of) the slowest animals on earth. Took it ages to move from one tree to the other.


We left Stevie to his own devices (Smallish head is on the left; not a tail) and hit the forest. (I’m almost sure I already did a post on the Amazon. No idea where it is.)

Your typical rain forest path. Slim trees here and there. No underbrush. A very thin layer of earth. Once the forest is cut, the earth washes out in 3 years. The original Indian tribes cleared a few acres for crops and moved on after 3 years. Now hectares are cut out. To breed cattle, mostly.

Frankie the Frog. (A distant cousin?). The Amazon is host to hundreds of species of frogs. Some highly poisonous. Our guide knew his sh… his job well.

Sammy and his BFF.

Suzy the spider. Most wildlife in the rain forest of the Amazon is small. (Except for Brenda). Tapirs are scarce. Jaguars are invisible. There are many snakes. Watch where you step. And many, many, many insects. The Amazon invented the mosquito. Repellent is a must.

Our stop on the Peruvian side of the Amazon. Leticia in Colombia borders with Brazil to the East, and Perú to the South. You can move across three countries in a day. There are piranhas in the water. Brother-in-Law caught one. Nasty teeth. The piranha.

Brenda the Cabiay (capybara) on the Peruvian side. Brenda has already been featured several times on this blog. A rodent and a distant cousin of the Guinea pig, it can stand 20-24 inches tall and weigh an average of 100 pounds. Brenda was a darling. Liked noting more than getting her head scratched.

Mickey the monkey, Peru side of the Amazon, 2006. Can’t remember the species. I think it is a Brown capuchin. This particular “shelter” was fantastic. We only had lunch there. Wish we could have stayed the night. The house was full of animals. Half wild, half tame. (Don’t try to pet a monkey. They bite.)

Albert the Ara. Amazon. 2006.

Fancy some piranha fishing?

Tommy the tucan. On the banks of the Amazon.

Terence the tarentula. Like I said, our guide knew his stuff.

We bade adieu to Brenda who put on a stiff upper lip, and we hit the road again. The River I mean.

The Amazon. thousands of miles of river. Millions sq. miles of rain forest. We saw pink river dolphins later on. They’re not salt water dolphins and have a pinkish skin. On the verge of extinction like everything else.

I’ve mentioned it before, I’m not too keen on sunset photos. No picture can capture the power of sunset. Still, sunsets on the Amazon are unique, and worth a photo try.

Sunset on the Amazon. December 2006.

Captain and crew thank you for flying Equinoxio Time-Space shuttle. No idea what the next destination will be. I’ll ask Spock.

79 thoughts on “Time patrol: On the Amazon

  1. Paresseux … lent d’accord mais tellement élégant quand il, ou elle, est dans les arbres. La première fois où j’ai vu une femelle avec son petit, j’ai pris une leçon de qigong. Quant au cabiais, j’en ai vu toute une famille, adultes en tête, impressionnants, sortir d’un étang, traverser le sentier à quatre mètres de moi, sans se soucier le moindre du monde de ma présence. La forêt amazonienne est un concentré d’existence !
    Merci pour voyage et les souvenirs, Brieuc, et une belle et douce et souriante journée à toi.

      • Que de bons souvenirs ! Surtout le paresseux. J’en présente à chacune de mes conférences, surtout quand il y a des élèves ou de professeurs dans l’assistance. J’ai renoncé à présenter une mygale sur les conseils d’une médecin et néanmoins amie qui dit qu’une mygale plein écran, chez un-e arachnophobe …
        Une belle journée à toi, Brieuc.

      • Sûrement un bon conseil. Mais je finis par me demander si on ne prend pas trop de précautions? “Censurer” une mygale au cas oú?
        (Hmm. Aurais-je pu causer un choc anaphylactique chez un lecteur?) 😉

      • Extrêmement stable avec tous les indicateurs au vert et vacciné contre LE Covid. En revanche, j’attends début juin avec une certaine impatience pour diminuer, je le souhaite, les doses d’un traitement un chouia lourd.
        Merci, Brieuc, et une toute belle, toute douce et toute souriante journée à toi.

      • Début Juin c bientôt. Espérons que tu puisses effectivement baisser le traitement. Même un “chouia” peut-être trop. (Amusant, je n’avais pas entendu ce mot depuis des siècles) A +

  2. Cool critters. Your trip reminds me of a biography I read a few years back about Theodore Roosevelt’s trip down a treacherous tributary of the Amazon (after his presidency). It’s a great story by Candace Miller who is extraordinarily interesting and easy to read. She not only describes the trip but gives a lot of information about the flora, fauna, tribal peoples, geography… If you’re curious, the book is called, The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey.

    • Interesting. I didn’t know Teddy had gone to the Amazon. I once met a Roosevelt in NY. Late 70’s. I asked her which Roosevelt side she was from, she laughed and said “both, I think…”. Then we all went to a Bob Marley concert in Harlem. Quite an experience.

      • Sounds like a good time! Few Americans would be astute enough to pose such a question. Kudos to you. Highly recommend the book.

      • Few? Really? It seemed like the obvious question. I mean both presidents were very important in US and world history. Anyway, the concert is a story in itself. Imagine a Bob Marley concert in the middle of Harlem, late 70’s. Burnt cars on the street. Half a dozen “whiteys” in a dilapidated theatre. The audience was probably 70% black. The air was 80% marijuana. The curtains were torn down from the ceiling. Half the armchairs were on the floor. And Marley came on stage. Rastafarai!

      • Perhaps I was being overly harsh. Hard to say. Only about a third of Americans can name all three branches of government. I just imagine a fair number thinking there’s a father/son relationship between Teddy and Franklin.

        Nice imagery for the concert. Must have been an exciting show.

      • I understand. Very likely. I remember a host family in Grad school. Faculty. Nice people. They gad a son named Byron. At a loss for conversation, I asked them if they had named their son after the poet. They said: “No. After the baseball player”. 🤣
        The concert was amazing. Marley at his best. All the more so since he died a year or two later.

      • 😀That sounds right. Sad about Marley but he left behind an impressive legacy. Lucky you to have seen him live.

      • Babylon by bus! Yea! Rastafari… The way he moved on stage. The musicians. The choir. They were probably all high on grass. (We went out slightly dizzy after the concert. Everybody or almost was smoking grass… 🤣

      • I hadn’t heard of Gheerbrant before, but looking him up, he seems to have been a more then interesting chap. Traveling intensively hasn’t shortened his lifespan. I don’t read French that well, but perhaps I can find an English edition of his Amazone book. O’Hanlon also met the Yanomami, but in his tale they are fierce warriors that are to be feared. I can’t help thinking he needed some suspense in his book. 🙂 He does write very accurate though, for instance about the drug Yopo wich is blown into the nose by a hollow pipe. What it does to the receiver, he describes vividly, and after checking some video’s of said ritual , he seems very right. (I’ll stick to my glass of red wine, I decided. 🙂 ) Anyway – thanks for mentioning Gheerbrant. I’ll go look for his book.

      • There might be an English version. Best of luck. The yanomami were the tribe Levi-Strauss did his anthropology field trip before the war. I think they were “pacified” by the time O’Hanlon went, but it’s literary license. Yopo now? Strange how memory works. I think I remember it form Levi-Strauss’ “Tristes tropiques”. Probably a high content of alcaloids.
        Yep. Red winde is da thing… Santé. 🍷

  3. What a trip. The Amazon tries hard to kill you everywhere you step. Yet it is teeming with life and supports millions of species.
    Interesting is the perception that the rainforest soils are rich. Like our rainforest soils which are thin and have a dense tree foliage cover with few shrubs underneath, as you pointed out once trees are removed, the soil erodes quickly. Sad that this is not understood by authorities.
    The animal photos are great. Loved seeing the sloth, Capybara and marvellous birds.
    You can keep the insects!

    • Haha! Insects are the forest’s most dangerous inhabitants. Mosquitoes in particular. There are a few poisonous frogs. And yes, the forest soil is very thin. INteresting that it should be the same over there. Now, understood? Nobody cares. Greed is ruling the world.

      • Dare I say capitialism has feed and nurtured the greed monster? If I ventured up the Amazon, every inch of my skin would be covered and I would be glistening in bug spray! Lol.

  4. Oh boy. A dream of yours and mine too. Look at all those beautiful animals. I have to imagine lots of bugs too! What a dream some true. Thanks for sharing these photos. I don’t recall seeing any of these previously. Kudos on a beautiful black and white canoe photo.

    • You’re most welcome my dear friend. 💕
      And I’m glad we agree on sunsets. I almost never shoot them anymore. I prefer to keep them in my visual memory…
      take care.

  5. The Amazon is a fascinating place, but I’m just as glad to be able to explore it vicariously through photographs. I would like to have met Brenda, though. She looks very sweet. As to whether I fancy some piranha fishing, that would be a big negatory.

  6. So amazing Brian! I had some interaction with monkeys in Costa Rico, not a fan. A beautiful destination, the Cayobara are quite interesting ! your pics and text are outstanding as always! So enjoyed this.

    • Of course not. The guide was always picking rare animals on the ground or trees. Frogs, spiders… At least he didn’t pick up a snake…
      Personally I don’t touch wild animals. Childhood in Africa, you learn “don’t touch that”.

  7. That sloth looks enormous!!! One of my kids loves sloths 🙂 As for me, your photos of the great river remind me of a recurring dream I have. I’ve never been to the Amazon except in my dreams (the dreams are not exactly the relaxing kind, I’m in a boat heading downstream towards a waterfall and try to row away from it…)

    • Stop watching “African queen” with Bogart and Hepburn. 😉 Must be quite a nightmare.
      Navigation was peaceful where we were. No sweat. All in all it was a good trip.
      And the sloth was big. There are smaller species.
      Tout va bien?

      • Haha. It’s an old classic American movie, with the man and the woman getting at each other’s throat all the time… One of the last Bogart (and Hepburn)’s movies. I’ve been trying to find it online, but it’s always complicated these days.
        Ça va, ça va. A +

  8. What a fantastic trip! No way in hell I would touch any of those creepy-crawly things but I would love to see them from a distance. Thanks for the virtual trip.

  9. OH!!! So many critters to fall in love with, starting with Sammy the Saïmiri … and Stevie the Sloth, Frankie the Frog, Suzy the Spider, Brenda the Cabiay, and who could resist Albert and Tommy? And I even loved Terence, though I might wish to wear gloves before letting him cuddle in my hand! You know just how to bring a smile to a tired old face, my friend. Thank you!

  10. Enjoyable journey, thank you!
    Too bad “THEY” are destroying the Amazon Rain Forest. (Not to mention all the other nature being destroyed) Even though I do many things to mitigate my share of the destruction, I play a part.

    Hey, I couldn’t remember your URL & was too lazy to go to a post of mine where you had commented so I put equinoxio.co.
    LOL It took me to a page where that URL was for sale! $4,000.00 LOLOLOL

  11. A dram of so many lived by, well as of now not very few. Thank you for the tour with Brenda and other friends. Been a while you took it. And yes Amazon and other rain forests were being cut at such a rate that a pandemic had to halt thing for few years to put little bit sense into people.

    Hope you and loved ones are healthy and safe.
    Nara x

    • My pleasure Nara. Glad you liked the “trip”. Of course, the Amazon is also the setup of Lévi-Strauss’ “Tristes tropiques”, Sad tropics. A good book to read if you can find an English version. There is a strong element of sadness and misery in the tropics. All that sun and heat can be delusional.
      Likewise, best wishes to you and yours…
      Phir milenge

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