An Amazonian Adventure

Benito Aranda-Comer - Brazil

April 4, 2013

My trip to the Amazon is characterized by one word: unfathomable. Nothing can prepare you for what the Amazon truly is. For me the Amazon was a rainforest with majestic sunsets, stunning waterfalls, and a plethora of wildlife. You can look at it on a map with its physical boundaries and geographical identity, but walking around inside the jungle, examining the wildlife, and nature you begin to understand one thing: nothing like this exists anywhere else on Earth. During the first five minutes on the small riverboat to our ecological lodge, my mouth fell into a permanent gape. Amazing. All it took was two planes, one taxi, one bus, and a boat ride to be on the Amazon River. Immediately I began to understand that this small sliver of river, the only part that I will get to know in, most likely, my lifetime, is just but a fraction of a fraction of the world’s longest.

The sunset on the first night was stunning. The sun and clouds reflected on the pensive water while I stood bewildered as I began to realize what I was experiencing. Dinner that night was fresh: piranha fresh. Having had no luck myself with my disastrous fishing skills I decided not to partake in a rather arduous meal–too many bones. However, my fellow Fellow and travel companion, Alan, devoured what he said was a once in a lifetime fish dish. Accompanied with the super fruit pineapple picked straight from the jungle, dinner was magnificent. Next came cayman hunting. Our guide, Francisco, is most definitely a character. After twenty minutes of gliding soundly along the river with only the moon as a source of light we came to a secluded tree grove. Frank stepped out of the boat and deftly slipped his hand into the water and out came a cayman. Incredible. The ride back was dark. The silhouettes of the trees on the far banks loomed over the river and the black water reminded me once again that many things lurk beneath the water and on ground in the jungle. Our group watched the next morning’s sunrise from the middle of the river. Being the rainy season in the Amazon it was somewhat surprising to witness such a regal sight. With the sun over our heads and with packs on our back we began trekking through the jungle. Frank, again, adeptly chose a singular hole, out of an entire jungle filled with holes, and lured out a tarantula the size of my hand–just another surprise amid my experience. Later that night while camping in the jungle I was hearing stories about pumas, jaguars, even more tarantulas, and, of course, anacondas and boa constrictors. Mind you, this is while lying in my hammock in the middle of the jungle. Suffice it to say when I woke up at three in the morning nothing could sate the brief panic attack when I opened my eyes and saw absolutely nothing. The jungle transformed over night and while I couldn’t see anything I could hear everything. Insects chirping, monkeys howling, perceived pumas breathing. Altogether it made one large hum. The forest was alive.

The actual jungle tour was over by our fourth day in Amazonas. For the most part my Brazil-defining journey was nearly over. Manaus, however, offered a welcomed respite from Salvador in the form of a cultural hub built upon the Amazon. The famous Teatro Amazonas was breathtaking while the Rio Negro, in its sheer enormity, left me stunned and scanning the horizon trying to see the other side. Comparatively, my time traveling within Amazonas was short but I experienced and learned a lot. Socrates said, “True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.” I do not pretend that I am wiser for going there and coming back, only that I had a very unique opportunity to re-evaluate what I thought were the limits of my reality. I was able to begin to fathom the size of the Amazon River and the world. Brazil, although a rather large country, is only one country. There is so much to see and do in this vast world that I must continue to put myself in situations where an adventurous spirit, a backpack, and friends are all that I need to enjoy life.

Benito Aranda-Comer