An account of how things ended. We fled from fishermen with shotguns. As we lay on the damp jungle floor in the darkness we decided it just wasn’t worth it… (I think Nina’s exact words were ‘fuck this’)
After Ilson things seemed to conspire against us. A headwind blew so intensely that as hard as we rowed we stayed in one spot. A dark cloud, a storm forming, rushed at us without the usual thuderclaps that served as a warning. The river churned around us, the wind swooped and clothes hung up on the roof structure to dry blew into the river, lost forever. Our grill fell into the river. We both got our periods. When gutting a fish I might open it up to find eggs inside. Now I did not seem so different from a fish. I too was subject to biological processes. I too could be hunted. That night we docked nearer to the danger zone. Approaching the beach I felt like a slow benign river creature. I lived from the river; I had as much a right to it as anyone. So why did I have to worry about being killed by city people wielding guns from aluminum motorboats, intruders to this world?
Bright sparkly day, bandits await?
Next afternoon, tired, we reached Espiritu Santu. Here the river made a huge desolate bend. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a canoe motored straight for us. It enlarged out from across the river, foam frothing at its prow, and as it drew close we saw there were four men inside. I stared in disbelief. But the canoe swerved alongside and the man at the motor greeted us in Spanish. ‘Aren’t you afraid of the bandits,’ the motorist said. ‘This is the first danger zone, there are more downstream.’ He implored us not to continue the journey. He told us we should dock for the night. It was getting late; the river was dangerous. We are exhausted and shaken and they seemed like decent guys. We let them drag our canoe to a raft upstream, the last population before a long, deserted stretch of river. They intended to leave us there overnight. But the raft was crammed full of people. Sullen, dark faced children peeped out of the hole in the wooden walls. It seemed like a trap to us, no privacy to even go to the bathroom and surrounded all round by deep water. We wanted to sleep in the forest. The forest was safer than civilization. There were no people there.
But instead they took us down a hidden back channel that was nearly dry. We went single file, their motor spluttering in the shallow water. Our canoe followed, dragged behind, nearly bumping the sandy banks that humped up on either side. The channel widened out into a lagoon. Silent forest encircled the water. Everywhere on the water’s surface concentric rings surfaced and rippled, hundreds of fish flickering. On the lagoon was a lonely raft, a solitary outpost. They wanted to leave us here for the night. Now we were two exhausted, vulnerable young girls in the middle of nowhere with four half-drunk men. True to form (this will not surprise any girl who has travelled extensively in foreign countries) the motorist, the good guy, our supposed savior (though I always thought his eyes were too far apart) cornered Nina in the dark raft, grabbed her, and insisted she wanted to sleep with him. In her own words:
‘I pry myself from his grip. I am upset, scared and disgusted. This feeling remains with me the whole night.’
There was an uneasy standoff. He might have tried to take what he wanted by force and fatigued we would not have been able to put up a fight. He insisted he would be back later to ‘stand guard’ during the night. We told him we really hoped he would not. Finally he seemed to drop the issue. Having failed to get sex he wrangled a deal to take us to the next city for 200 reales and since we didn’t feel like we had a choice we tentatively agreed. Suddenly he raised both arms above his head. ‘Welcome to Espiritu Santu.’ he cried. ‘I know you’ll be back.’ His eyes danced wildly, as if he was possessed.
His calmer companion gifted us a big fish caught from the lagoon. It lay suffocating on the raft, twitching, its mouth flexed grotesquely. Frustrated by the situation I angrily took the machete and hacked the fish’s head away from its body. Blood splattered up. That could have been me I thought darkly. I was still trying to sever the head from the body as their canoe veered away. ‘Be sure to clean up the blood!’ the companion called out, laughing.
All was silent. We relaxed a little. Hundreds of fish hiccupped on the surface of the water. Then, to our horror, we heard the whirr of a motor entering the channel. Had someone seen us come in? They would know we were trapped on this raft with no escape. The sound amplified, drawing nearer and nearer. There was no time to try to hide. My throat swelled in fear I walked out to meet the approaching canoe.
The shudder of the motor blared rudely into the silence, the water, disturbed by the movement, spluttered against the raft.
‘Hello,’ A podgy round faced youth stepped out of the canoe, a bottle of whisky in his hand. Four other boys, all teenagers, hovered behind him. Relief washed over me ‘I thought you were bandits,’ I said ‘No, not us, we’re fishermen.’ The boy chuckled.
We obligingly talked stilted Portuguese. Night fell. The mosquitos buzzed in.
What happened next was a total communication breakdown. I am still bewildered when I think back on it. It must have been the language barrier, the exhaustion, and that we were already tense and whisky was flowing. And we were on a solitary raft, the kind of place where hysteria might grip you and things could escalate into madness. Only the forest and water would be witnesses, and they would never tell.
The boy, unsurprisingly, wanted sex. When it became clear we were not interested he went outside sulkily. Twenty minutes later he came back in, flustered. A canoe was entering the channel, he said, they might have seen us come in, we should leave immediately. Standing outside, I heard with sinking heart the crescendoing hum of an approaching canoe. We hurled items into our canoe and the youths leapt into theirs and cranked the motor and we stuttered upstream, but the strange canoe was already upon us. A light beam, brandished across the water, illuminated us. The canoe approached, its black silhouette faintly outlined against the black night. The youth blinked. His teenage companion snorted sarcastically at the failed escape.
‘Oh, it’s a fisherman’
Back on the raft the youth apologized. But confusion and chaos had already taken hold. We sat on the floor trying, finally, to eat our cooked fish but the new arrival, a middle aged fisherman, pranced around us and heaved us away from the food. Why wouldn’t he let us rest? He was a strange dancing monkey. In the candlelight his flailing shadow loomed on the walls. Then the youth approached Nina again and, sick of crude advances, she shouted him back. He stormed angrily around the raft. Then they were trying to get us into the canoe again, they wanted to take us somewhere. The fishermen grabbed me, the youth tried to pull Nina away. We resisted, these people weren’t our friends.
‘Let’s get out of here!’ Nina cried.
Somehow, through a blur, we managed to get into the canoe and pull our rubber boots on. But one of the teenagers held the rope that tied the boat and would not let go. He lashed it from side to side. Our food bucket smashed, food fell into the water. I scrambled to save what I could. He relinquished the rope. We made our slow, manual powered getaway into the pitch black night. Nina rowed while I illuminated the water with our only working flashlight. We made for the forest. The forest was our friend. The people were a menace. They tailed us with their canoe, snared us in their light beam and dragged us to the bank. We scrambled out onto the muddy shore. I had the tent in my hand and I turned to secure the canoe. Then I saw the youth pick up a rifle. ‘Is it loaded,’ he heard him ask the fisherman who sat beside him. The fisherman nodded. He lifted the rifle, aimed it at us. We fled straight for the trees. I felt big and clumsy. Tangles of coarse branches scraped against me in the dark. I crawled up a steep slope, fumbling for hand holds, moving deeper into the forest. I felt safe here; it would be too hard to shoot us through the trees. I called to Nina and we squatted at the base of a big tree. Mosquitos swarmed but their stings were dulled by the alcohol. I was glad for that at least. We pitched the tent and peered down to where the canoes were docked. There was a commotion there but they were not following us anymore.
That night we rested the best we could. A huge caiman crashed by the shore and the early hours of the morning brought rain.
A bleak, gray morning. We found the canoe ransacked. They had stolen my camera that barely functioned (but contained precious photos,) some money, and our fish meal in our pizza pan. But they had left my passport and had graciously tied our boat to shore. We had been robbed by the ‘good guys.’
The wind howled against us as we tried to leave the channel. We wanted to take refuge amongst women and children but the water surged against us. I had to get out onto shore and tramp through the mud dragging the canoe alongside, sinking into the mud up to my knees, battling to get free. After much swearing and colossal hardship our canoe was swept slowly onto the giant bend of the Amazon. Our legs were caked in mud, our hands smeared in dirt. The ore holder, made of wood found on beaches, had broken. Nails splinted out of the boat, the plastics were crumpled and sodden, and the contents of our backs were coughed up over the canoe. Our clothes were moldy. The food bucket was a sad shard of plastic; half our food had sunk in the river. We were both menstruating. Was the blood on my hand fish blood or my own? Fish blood was splatted on my clothes. The water was turbulent, white foam danced atop choppy waves.
Not wanting to drift much further we searched for houses but we only saw blustery gray water stretched out ahead. A canoe pulled up behind us. It was the motorist from yesterday. But now he was travelling with a woman and a child. He seemed perversely normal sitting there in the light of day, chatting to a woman like she was a human being. He refused to drag our canoe to the next city, Jutai, so we transferred our gear into his. Our canoe that had brought us so far danced on the waves, empty now, a ghost ship, drifting solo downstream. As we chugged away across the river toward a ‘safer’ side channel I looked back. The roof looked skeletal without a plastic over. The canoe pitched on the waves. The waves tossed it along like a thousand clamoring hands. It faded from view and I turned back around. The wind blew in my face as we swiftly cleaved the water. We talked happily of mountains and roadways.
Day 14,15 Brasil –
We are reluctant to make a stop at the next city though we need salt. As we deliberate I write a letter of complaint on Nina’s behalf to the company who manufacture NOS mosquito-proof socks. They do not work. They are added to our blacklist of shitty products. Also on the blacklist are a majority of Peruvian lighters (they melt if you keep the flame on for more than 4 seconds.)
Dear Sir/ Madame,
I recently purchased your product NOS socks. I was thrilled to have found socks that repel mosquitos from my ankles since my ankles are very delicate and go swollen when mosquitos bite them. So I did not mind the $20 price tag. On a recent Amazon trip I pulled on my socks eagerly at mosquito hour. The mosquitos alighted on the socks and bit right through! I thank your company very much for its false advertising and my raw blood streaked ankles. Infact I am still in the Amazon suffering each day and night and the socks are not magic mosquito socks I might as well have got a pair from a thrift store or tied some thin rags around my feet. Thanks a lot, I hope your company goes bankrupt.
maybe you can redeem yourself with coupons or money
We never sent the letter but I am putting it here to warn ye who may read this.
We decide to take the left fork to the city. The decision has lasting repercussions. As we approach the city a pekky pekky turns and belines straight toward us. A fisherman and his wife pull up alongside. The man is called Wilson and speaks spanish. He offers us coffee, then puts on a serious face and tells us what we are doing is very dangerous. He invites us to his house to rest. We want to rest, but we tell him we don’t want to go if he is going to spend the whole time telling us we are going to die. He half chuckles.
Do you want to die SI or NO – he roars at us back at the house. He stands over us as we sit meekly at the table and drink lemonade, our clothes smeared with fresh mud, twigs in our hair.
Over the next 48hours, Wilson does the best he can to convince us not to continue. He brings in ‘witnesses’ who have been recently robbed downstream. A skinny old man comes in. Wilson talks to him in Portuguese then turns to us and rages on in Spanish ‘Yes they are assalting! They’ll haul you to the beach and leave you tied up in the sun and push the canoe to the middle of the river! Don’t deliver your lives to the bandits!’ He tells us he was going to fish downstream but changed his mind because he didn’t want to risk his family, but we’re still willing to put it down to hysteria until he indicates a precise point on the map where the bandits patrol. Then we’re worried. I formulate a plan to quickly learn Portuguese and advance little by little downriver, asking communities as I go. But Wilson’s wife wants us to leave. So between impassioned rages about death and danger Wilson tells us it’s best we continue the journey, good luck. He gives us a new fishing net, an ore to replace one that was stolen at the port (people are opportunist thieves!) He is still raging on about killers downstream the next morning at sunrise as he hauls us out to the Amazon, waves us goodbye, and leaves us in the middle. We float and bob in the big blue expanse. We realize our boat is shaped like a duck. A sitting duck. Wilson has instilled the fear.
Awake in the Yucca farm and roast the salted fish. We spend all day rowing down a blustery channel. Then, joining back to the main river, we see an airplane taking off from a huge ship!! I think a giant griffin has hatched and is soaring towards us. This is because I have been in Peru too long where the most advanced technology is plastic. A sad slave to addiction, I make us row half the afternoon to the city to by cigarettes. The city is called Amatura. It is pretty going by, it has a nice blue church. It is evening by the time we are approaching and a speedboat hauls us up to a raft shop. Next door is a brand new raft with a porch where we can sleep for free. The shop keeper gives us gaseosa. We go up to the city and manage to furtively shower in a hotel. It’s Saturday night and there and noise and music and teenagers shrieking and we don’t sleep so good.
That morning Nina wanders out to the port and poos behind a log. Out in the forest we are normal but in the city we are like feral people. Then she moves around gathering sticks and debris to make a fire to asado fish. We cook rice and lentils on the fire. People think we are hilarious. This is a nice place, a nice city where people have city jobs and wear leather jackets. Here people do not go to the toilet outside wherever there is space and then build fires infront of the prominade to grill their fish. It starts to rain and everyone dashes for cover but I stay out to tend to the fish. I see Nina putting out the bucket to catch rainwater, her favourite activity.
That evening we dock at a beach, but we feel more secure in the forest so I use machete skills to hack through tall grass to reach the forest behind. once in the forest I pitch my tent and Nina hangs her hammock. We put the fishing net. We chuck it in half-arsed and tie one end to a log and the other end to the back of the boat, but before nightfall have already caught one fish, boca chico, which Nina salts while I groom the trail with the machete. Back in the forest we eat the remaining rice and beans as the mosquitos swarm in. We fan ourselves with a fan that Nina got from Thailand. It is an effective method to thwart the mozzies.
Dawn in the forest and I hear a motor out on the river so pack up quick and trek out to the beach. It’s some fishermen. During the night the log we tied the net to has floated downstream and wedged near the shore. I pick up the net to check and it absurd, a massacre, there must be 100 boca chicos in there. Nina runs to the fishermen and asks for salt but only gets a tiny bag. Some of the bigger fish are dead already because they choke faster. Some are even already rotten. We shouldn’t be leaving the net all night but with all the rowing we are too exhausted to check it every few hours like fishermen do. We spend a long time taking out all the fish. We keep boca chicos and there’s also a pirahna and I also find a tiny hard-shelled catfish which I throw back. Since we are low on salt we salt fish but sparingly.
The vultures gather round. They line the beach picking over the fish carcasses. As we clean out guts baby fish gather around the boat. We can’t put our hand in the water without being nibbled by tiny fish waiting for guts. I guess nothing is wasted here in the Amazon.
I gather sticks and chop down pieces of firewood then stand in the sun in a cloud of sandflies cooking the fish. They cook slow I have to rebuild the fire halfway. I also eat some fish sort of raw. Nina takes over and finishes off the grilling. Finally we are done.
That evening we pull up to an island. Baby gray dolphins leap out of the water and stand on their tails. By that evening the salted fish are rotten, we hadn’t had enough salt. The wiff of rot is depressing. We decide we can’t fish so frequently if we want to row further. We will give fishing a break, and next time be prepared with enough salt to preserve fish for a week. It is cool this evening so we both sleep in the tent at the edge of the forest.
Day 9 –
Leave Sao Paulo tired, not so comfy sleeping with head jammed up against the motors. Downriver there are dolphin swarms. Dolphin watching is supposed to be enjoyable but not when there are masses under your boat. They are huge (more than half the size of the canoe) bulky fish that leap out of the water. Will they jump into the canoe? (bad for both of us human and dolphin) Will they headbutt and smash the underside of the canoe? Must be a lot of fun to be a dolphin in the river though, there’s food abundant and play and freedom.
Feel tired so stop on a raft. Can’t go any further. Put the fishing net around the corner. There’s a man on the bank who sees us and eventually he comes down and pushes his canoe out to dock on the raft and he is calm says we can stay. We lie in the boat resting and then go check the net and there’s just a couple of mini palomitas. As we’re paddling back some guys pull up to the raft and start unloading big fish they stash in the freezer to sell. We’ve just enough energy to make oatmeal on the alcohol can stove then we put up the mosquito net and sleep early sleep deeply.
Go fetch net. There are many palomitas in it. The problem is palomitas are tall but not fat, they are like round discs, so very small ones can get caught. They also like to entangle themselves enmass, the entire shoal. They are yum though. Succulent ribs. There are also some sardines and my favorite the grimace face fish (though smaller with two long protruding fangs from the lower jaw) and a smooth fish with whiskers and a basket mouth fish which is taboo to us because of that day in Peru were we cooked and sweated and by the end were sick with no appetite. Also it looks weird it is blue and red and lumpy like blood has accumulated and bulged on one side of its body. Since its taboo we let it go and it swims away.
I gut and Nina tends to the fire. That’s the worse job because there’s no shade from the already blazing 8am sun. You get roasted from above and below. We salt the palomitas and sardinas and all the while we are getting attacked by sandflies. We’re trying to perform delicate procedures with the knife and all the while the sandflies cling. Nina has a cut on her hand that salt gets rubbed into nicely, typical.
A late start, 10am or so. That night we sleep on a Yucca plantation. While pitching the tent amongst the baby Yuccas I sing a song that goes MAKASHARA MAKA MAKA SHAIRA AAAARHHHHH. I scream the song delightedly over the river. Makashaira (don’t know how to spell) is Portuguese for Yucca. So far the words we know are Makashaira – Yucca, Peixe – Fish, and ‘Esta boa’ – ‘S’all good’ (We use this one all the time.) There’s only time to hastily eat one fish then mosquito hour is upon us. Trillion mosquitos. Retreat fast into the tent. It is too hot in the tent for two. Squish. It is a horrible night we are soaked in sweat practically suffocating but we can’t go outside or open up the door because the mosquitoes are hovering.
Back on the river. Lots of Storm Dodging
Day 1 rowed. Slept in the boat, not so comfy.
Day 2 wake up to rain. Sitting in the boat Man comes to speak to us, he overlooks us from the bank. We don´t speak Portuguese. Nina nods and then descends a plastic over her face to shield from the rain. Conversation ends.
Take shelter in fisherman shelter leaf roof on beach just tall enough to stand in. Make coffee with alchol stove and wait for rain. clears up. That evening dock on a beach. I tie the boat badly, a storm is coming towards us slowly very dark, the wind whips up the sand, then the boat comes loose and I run after it in a panic, limbs flapping everywhere. Then we try to tie up a tarp secure to protect from storm but hard to put sticks firmly in the sand then I try and put up the tent but it is too windy and it seems the storm is already on us and OK were just going to wrap ourselves in plastic, last resort, but the storm skirts around us. Storms move around strangely in the sky.
put roof back on (blown off by wind)
turn the corner then an island ends and we are right in the middle at a point where the river is massive there are masses of dolphins sometimes right under the boat, we row out of there as fast as we can which is not very fast. Storm is in the sky we pull over to the side. There are shoals of fishies jumping out of the water they do this because they are joyful. We debate how to put the net in and we havent even put it all the way when we raise it up and there are billions of fish trapped in it, a whole shoal of palomitas and some fat succulent yellow stripped fish and sardines. Then fishy rehabilitation, throwing back the smallest ones. We are very absored in fishy rehabilitation then look down at our arms and they are bloodsmeared from sandfly bites, we leave just as it gets unbearable. But we got the fish and the sandflies got us so I guess that’s fairness and the universe in balance and all that. Row over to the other side to the beach and it takes several attempts to get the canoe right up to the sand prodding in the water with the ore to test if the water’s too shallow and the boat will get stuck. Decide just to sleep with mosquito net and a plastic by us to wrap ourselves in case of a storm. Peru style shelter. Grill the fish, got 4 fat succulent yellow striped fish and palomitas are also yum which we eat with rice and beans and farignina. Very high powered torches scanning the beach makes us nervous, didn’t have those in Peru.
Storm coming and we dart into fallen trees and take off the roof and wrap it over our heads. We put the basin out to collect rainwater and make coffee while waiting. cloudy day. Get to a beach which has water pools. A fisherman has half made his roof, has put the sticks up, so we string the tarp over and sleep under. There are billions of mosquitos and sandflies. We don´t eat dinner because we don´t make it before mosquito time (dusk) and had to hide in mosquito net.
Just as many mosquitos as in the evening, make oatmeal and eat fish. feel sick today, think its from all the sandfly bites. Stop early stop at a beach that up the bank has little path into the jungle and a nice forest camp spot. I put up tent Nina puts up hammock. Put the fishing net, cook food, check net, got a pirahna and palomita, roast them with the coals. I am very very hot it is very humid there is a storm nearby, now I truely know the meaning of hot and bothered. I march out onto the beach illuminated by lighning and step over fissures in the land down to the river to dump water on my head. Can´t get cool. But once I´m in the tent I´m okay.
Day 6-7-8 Sao Paulo de Olivencia
Arrive at Sao Paulo early afternoon.
ask people if there is a hotel raft but there isn’t, people at first raft say we can sleep in the roomful of motors, but they aren´t so friendly so we push off from there and row really hard so we don´t get sucked under a stationary giant boat, then, passing another raft they wave us over and we dock there and they bring us chicken and one of the guys speaks Spanish. Here we sleep in the room with the motors but it´s more spacious than the other.
Spend three nights at Sao Paulo. First night we put net out along the raft but the current sucks it underneath and I pull it up to arrange and there is a massive black armour fish caught! But since our net only has three inch holes only the tip of its fin was caught and it fell away as we were trying to haul it up. That night raft lurches crazily and I dream that the raft has come detached and is floating down the river.
The raft is a fish buying and storage business (with big ice boxes) and motor storage, boat storage, etc. Children at the raft fishing all day. Don´t seem to go to school. But caught 6 or 7 big ass zebra stripped fish that day.
There´s a boat opposite. It was attached to a huge metal platform, they´d just delived asphalt to Sao Paulo. The crew of that boat frequently invited us to eat with them, then we´d pull a parked canoe across the water until it touched the platform opposite and use it as a walkway.
The final night we drink and eat (peixe asado) and meet a Peruvian guy who tells us his stories. He was a stowaway for 8 days in a cargo boat to the US. He didn’t eat that whole time. When he arrived he wandered around like a lost dog (his words) for a week, then tried selling newspapers. But they were onto him and deported him immediately. He thinks they were watching him as he got off the boat.
He also told us a couple of decades back, in his youth, he had paddled the Amazon to traffic cocaine. People helped him along the way, hauling him with their motors, but they didn´t know what he was carrying. It was offputting to hear that people smuggled drugs paddling a wood boat like ours, since we would scoff when people had told us we´d be shot because they´d think we were carrying coke (to steal the drugs or something) (if we were smuggling cocaine we´d travel with a motor!). But back then he probably fitted in better paddling since motors weren´t so widespread.
Also guy on the raft who is quiet and subdued and seems stoned all the time tells us he used to traffic drugs but then went to prison and ‘sufri mucho, agora nao quero mais’ and that´s all he tells us and ever says to us except for asking us for a lighter 100000 times and when we try to avoid he sends the child to ask us.
We are a little nervous in Brasil. In Tabatinga and even in Puerto Narino many people had told us not to go because in Brasil many people die on the river. Drug wars. or random violence. or something, we never figured it out precisely. We hadn´t seen a single police boat on the river, it´s a huge lawless watery wilderness, the only laws are life and death
Brasil marked a new phase. Things were different there. In Brasil fishermen catch huge fish for export, wherelse in Peru it´s small fish to feed the family. People also dressed more trendy.
We dodged storms, grilled fish and generally avoided people up until a fateful day (night) we got robbed by a child with a rifle. The camera was stolen. So sadly no pictures, apart from a couple Nina took with her phone. Also lost a video of Nina wielding a hatchet on the Iquitos raft. Sad.
leave Puerto Narino-
realized that metal ore holders, now hammered in firmly, were going to corrode ores (before the nails would come loose and we´d have to bash them back in periodically.) slept on beach, put the net, at dusk water surface stirred with much life. tried sleeping in the tent it was too hot, drowning in own sweat hot. Slept outside of the tent with the mosquito net. Fishermen patrolling their net in the night. awoke to fishy massacre
took out the fish from fishy massacre. strung them on strings to try to sell them in Leticia. but Leticia further than expected, have to go the long way round because other route dry. Infact by the time we arrive at the marketplace the fish are half rotten and a man comes up to us, looks at the fish, and frowns and wags his finger disapprovingly. Things rot so fast here. Try to take the turn into Leticia port but river almost dry so channel is very narrow. sucked into side of giant boat, people pull us alongside, upstream, hard going. people unloading beer. Nina says dame cerveza (giveme beer) and they give us beers. got stuck on sand in middle of traffic and boat coming out crashes into us and there are many boats going past in very small space with slashing motors and they don’t have brakes. Nina gets out and turns boat around then we rowed back out onto the Amazon downstream to Tabatinga, Brazil. Stay at a shithole raft with giant cockroaches and a polite rat and a massive spider about hand span.
Went to Brasil Marina to try and get a good map and a man tells us not to go and they won’t give us the map and he shows us a form to get a permit and we need a satalite phone and a gps and all sorts of complicated things. Print out a google map. Hard to bathe privately on raft there are lurking men. Boy leaps eagerly into canoe to bathe with Nina. Have to tell him to sale de ahi like you would a dog. Man lurks at the door and tries to buy Ninas body. Seedy raft hotel.
Another day in Tabatinga, a sunday-
Get drunk and people give us things, lots of things it is bewildering, peanuts and candy and water and cigerettes and more beer, and everyone is drinking to music but it is very hot and everyone has glazed eyes and the culmination is the punk kids fight. (there are punk kids in Brasil) We make a fire to asado fish and some indigenous people come and take over the fire. They put their fish atop, it is a very indigenous-person attitude, no sense of ownership, they move our fire under their fish
Also in Puerto Narino we made and sold pizza which was tricky because we had to cook with fire and avoid burning the crust. The solution was to cook the dough with coals. Then one of us had to run out and scream pizza in everybody’s face to sell before it got cold. But we think we were successful because once we went down to work on the boat and a child tugged on her mum’s sleeve and said ‘I want pizza.’
We also put a roof on the boat to protect ourselves from the sun that half killed us in Peru. Our boat was popular amongst others for bathing and washing clothes since it had a back platform. So though I found it half full of water it didn’t have a hole in it. We also hammered in makeshift oar-holders so that both of us could row. Somebody gifted us an ore by hiding it under the floor planks. I asked a guy to make two more ores since I’d been cheated in Peru. Nobody employ a man named Rogelio in Nauta, Peru! He switched the hardwood I gave him for oars for softwood and both these oars broke fast. This other guy thought he could sell me oars made out of worm eaten scrap wood but nay!