|Tuesday, January 11, 2011
At about 8:00 am I could hear the clanging of chains pulling up the heavy anchor as we docked at Santarem, Brazil. By 10:00 am we were stepping off Discovery and right onto the Amazonia
that was waiting for us. This was a river-cruising boat with plastic lawn chairs on both sides of the deck. We were free to roam anywhere we’d like as we were sailing on a bright, sunny day with a gentle breeze.
Jose Jillison is our guide for today and tomorrow and competently demonstrated the skills he acquired as a teacher.
We were sailing into the Tapajos River to observe the “meeting of the waters”. The Amazon is a murky brown as it churned up all the silt on its journey from the Andes. The Tapajos is clear and it was obvious to see the demarcation of both rivers.
The first activity we saw were some small freshwater dolphins occasionally poking and turning over in the water. We had a lot of eyes looking for birds and we weren’t disappointed. Yellow billed terns, cormorants, a ringed kingfisher
, black collared hawk, herons
, and caracaras were the birds we spotted also a three-toes sloth. There were some rather scrawny looking cattle feeding on grass by the side of the river. We passed an island that wasn’t there about 15 years ago. It was formed by erosion from the Amazon as it washed up silt and mud along the way. A pond formed on the island, there were also some huts, but only temporary; rainy season floods the area and they will be uninhabitable. We waved at fisherman and people living by the side of the river.
At about noon, we stopped the boat to see if we could catch any piranha. Each or us got a line and hook baited with beef. Everyone was holding his/her line on both sides of the boat, waiting for something to happen. I felt a nibble, but whatever it was cleaned the hook and I got it re-baited. I tried again, letting my line quite deep. Pretty soon I felt a pretty solid tug and I tugged back and a nice sized piranha was on my hook.
It was hooked through the side of its mouth and there was no way it was going to free itself. I was the only one who caught a fish! The cameras were clicking and there was a lot of excitement as one of the hands showed us its teeth.
I understand it was called a cashew piranha. Jose released it, but it was the highlight of the day; I didn’t care if I saw any more birds. Pretty soon Jose called for the woman who caught the piranha and presented me with a prize: a mounted black piranha!
It is really a wonderful souvenir.
It felt good getting back to the ship again at about 1:45 pm where the temperature was hovering around 90 degrees. With the humidity our ship’s paper said it will feel like 96.8.