Macapa Brazil

Macapa Brazil, as we head out into the Amazon we do not know what awaits us. It is Brazilian Independence day, although at the time we did not know it. All we knew was that it was Monday and all of the tour offices were closed for some reason. Taking a taxi to the outskirts of town near a nature preserve, we have all of our gear. Our taxi driver seems mystified and gives us his phone number. We expect to find some kind of accommodations at the mouth of the Amazon. Boy were we wrong. There is a pavilion overlooking what was supposed to be a “clear crystal lake”. What we found was a muddy hole. The sun was blistering and it was the dry season. There was no one else in sight. Across the way their was an open seating area. There were two tables of people inside. They were playing American Reggae music. We plopped down all our gear and ordered some drinks. Before we left civilization I had forgotten to buy cigarettes and the little man behind the counter was out of everything, including smokes. Feeling like an American scmuck I meekly implored an older portly Brazilian man for a “Cigarito por favor.” He smiled and offered up a cigarette.
“Where are you from?” He inquired in flawless English.
“America” was my response, although with the current global politics “Canada” may have been a safer answer.
We chatted briefly. “Brazil is a special country. I’m not just saying that because I am Brazilian. I am traveling a lot all over the country. It is very special.”
“I am a sales manager with a tool and blade company. Next week there is a conference of the forestry industry.”
“Where are you from in America?” He asked plaintively.
“Colorado” I reply. Some Brazilians know of the state, most don’t. “Denver is the capital” I add for clarification.
“I know of Colorado. All the time when I was a boy growing up I wanted to go to Colorado to be like my hero Buffalo Bill.”
I was amazed. It truly was a small world. “Buffalo Bill’s grave is in Colorado!”
“Yes, Lookout Mountain” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
We chatted for a while longer regarding the deforestization of the rainforest. Being a supplier to the lumber industry I was curious as to what his response would be.
“It is the farmers who ruin the rainforest. The Loggers want to keep the forest alive. The farmers just want to burn it.” Ironically there has smoke in the distance from a good sized burning even as we spoke, as if silent testimony to what he was telling me.
He introduced me to his friends at the table, a middle aged Brazilian couple. He gave me another cigarette and told me to give it to my girlfriend.
She was a few tables over chatting with the other guests at this patio bar. I sat down and offered up the cigarette, waving to my new Brazilian friend. She had been at the table for a short while and the somewhat tipsy Brazilian teachers where, like almost everyone else in the country, friendly and curious. Their English was broken, but still much better than our Portuguese. Many of the locals were very interested in our politics back home. Most didn’t think much of the newly re-elected President Bush. To be honest neither did I.
They had been motor crossing and asked us if we wanted to go for a ride, I politely refused, as I am somewhat intimidated by two wheeled vehicles. We drank beers, ate some fish and talked for an hour or so, and then they had to go back to town. With a smile and a wave, they were on their motorcycle.
At that point my girlfriend wanted to press on, she had heard from someone that there was a place to stay one or two kilometers down the road. It was midday and I had a few liters of beer in me, so we strapped on our back packs and walked down the dirt road into the jungle. I have to admit that this was a lapse of judgment on my part, as we were low on water, and really had no idea where we were going.
I had been keeping track of our pace, and after an hour or so I was pretty sure that we had come at least three kilometers. All we could see was sparse jungle, with a barbed wire fence parallel with the seemingly never ending road. There was no place to stay in sight. At this point the sun was bearing down on us, we had less than 500ml of water between the two of us, and I was starting to sober up. We turned around, and headed back down the road.
During our trek, the occasional vehicle would pass by. The bemused Brazilians would stare at us like we were from another world or maybe just plain crazy. They were probably right on both accounts. Many would smile or wave, honking their horns as they sped by. I was a little nervous, realizing we were probably easy pickings for any bandit who liked the look of two exhausted foreigners walking with all of their belongings on their backs. I figured at least we would not die of heat exhaustion or dehydration before we could walk the few kilometers back to the little stand where we had started, but we were tired and the packs were heavy.
Shortly after we had turned around, a small hatchback stopped on the road just ahead of us. It was a Brazilian couple and their pre-teen son. The smiled and waved us over to them. I knew hitchhiking was considered suicidal in this part of the world, but hey, we were exhausted and they seemed like a nice family. Without much hesitation the man jumped out of the driver’s seat and opened up the back of the car and helped us heft our sweat drenched backpacks into the vehicle. My girl and I squeezed into the small back seat next to their boy, who smiled but seemed a little embarrassed.
The brown skinned shirtless man smiled. Then he pulled out a medium frame revolver. Well this is it, stupid. I thought. He simply smiled and handed the pistol to his wife, who put it into the glove box.
“It is OK.” He stated simply.
My girl and I exchanged a nervous glance. What could we do?
“She is a police.” He said proudly. “A lieutenant.”
We were somewhat relived, but I knew that there wasn’t really anything to do but trust our new friends, who were taking us out of the jungle, hopefully back to safety.

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