Into the lion’s den

 

I woke in complete darkness to the sound of a boat passing down the river. Thoughts passed through my head of men with guns and cocaine making runs in the middle of the night. It made me realize why it is so difficult for people to receive help in the jungle- because it is composed of a very intricate system of rivers that only a professional could navigate without getting lost, hours and hours from the nearest city. Out in the jungle anything goes, and you have to be prepared for the worst.

An alarm went off at 5am, which was our key to get up. I packed up the tent that I had been sleeping in on the hard wooden floor of the thatch roof house. The tent was mainly for protection from mosquitos, which were horrendous. We left right around 6am. A man from the community warned us of a location which we would pass after about an hour on the river where they mine gold.

I couldn’t believe how beautiful that the forest was. A heavy mist engulfed the land, making it possible to only see the massive trees for a certain distance down the river. As we continued older growth forest became more and more prominent along the river, with massive branches looming over the water. Rafts constructed of large logs tied together and held in place by smaller trees were sometimes seen floating down the river, or laying along the shore abandoned by whoever constructed them. This was the method that some of the loggers used to try and get wood out of the forest and to the city. I soon saw an area washed away by water in the otherwise dense shoreline of the river, and behind it a relatively large area of jungle that had been hollowed out. Floating in the water was a raft with a steel barrel on it, as well as a machine with several hoses. It was explained to me that this was a gold mining location, and that we had to be cautious while passing by. I watched a flock of parrots fly over the river, something that I had been waiting to see all day. The sun came out quickly burning away any bit of fog that had remained- and with it came the heat. My coworker that was next to me earlier had moved to the bow of the boat to help distribute the weight better, and was once again hit by a flying fish. We had been traveling for 15 hours up river, and were finally getting closer to our destination- which was right next to the Brazilian border. From time to time I would see canoes tied off on the river bank leading to trails that would disappear into the forest. Other times I would see men in their canoe on the shore that would simply stop what they were doing and stare at us as we passed by. We eventually passed a boy on a long wooden canoe who whipped it around after being greeted by the driver of our canoe, and stopped to speak with us. He was from the community of where we would be staying. He picked up my coworker and I to help lessen the weight of our canoe, and took off. I couldn’t believe how fast that the canoe traveled, gliding over every tree or sandbar which would have undoubtedly stopped the much bulkier metal canoe that we were in. In hardly any time at all, we had arrived.

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