Brazil – An adventure of a lifetime
Well, it’s been exactly one month since our arrival in Brazil and I think I could honestly say that more has happened to me in this last month than in the previous twenty years! All considered, everything concerning my reason for being here in the first place is going very well.
Our first day in camp was very exciting, especially the “house cleaning”. First, we hand to evict all the resident scorpions (Portuguese: Escorpião), tarantulas (Portuguese: Caranguejeira), and snakes (Portuguese: Cobras), all of which just happens to be deadly poisonous. Then we had to try to make the place as much like home as possible. One particular event which I found rather entertaining was when Al grabbed the mattress he had chosen to sleep in and started to carry it outside to, in his words, “rid it of all its awaiting ticks”! When I noticed what at first thought was a belt falling to the floor, I noticed the “belt” slithering back towards the bedroom and me. I decided it was time to make use of my new machete. When the snake made its classic pose with body coiled and head raised up high ready to strike, I decided it was time for me to make the classic Samurai slash across its neck. It was a fairly small snake, maybe 3 ½ to 4 feet long, about as big around as a hotdog, no rattle, and about 3/8” long fangs. I didn’t think much about it until I showed it to our camp foreman who told us it was a “Jararaca”. Furthermore, it was called that because if it bit you, you wouldn’t have time to call it by it’s true name (which in English means something like “You son-of-a-bitch”!).
The following day went smoothly with everyone (about fifteen total) helping to establish camp and moving equipment into place. No snakes, scorpions, or spiders. Everything “normal”. At least until that night. Al, Rogerio, and I had to go into town that night to leave the following morning for Belo Horizonte (Beautiful Horizon) and then into Rio. We left the camp in charge with our camp foreman and cook. By the time we had arrived the following night in Rio, we had a message to call Rogerio’s wife in Conceição Do Mato Dentro (Rogerio’s home town). We returned her call to find out that a band of banditos had ravaged the valley where our camp is, stealing about half our equipment, killing livestock in a voodoo ceremony, shooting two people, and raping two of our worker’s wives. Nothing serious, just a handful of otherwise nice guys having a night out on the valley. Just as a side note, under such circumstances the last thing you want to do is inform the police because there is a 50/50 chance one or more involved in the incident might just be an officer of the law.
By the time we got back to camp four days later, all of our equipment, excluding tent poles and one portable cassette player, had been recovered, the livestock replaced, and all in all, order restored. Furthermore, the camp foreman personally guaranteed that the same “gang” would never cause us problems again. I asked no questions, just thanked him and rewarded him with 50,000 Cruzeiros (about $30 US). By the way, the camp foreman, Patrició, is a very nice, easy going type of guy, at least until he gets mad. The cook says “at least you don’t have to worry about Patricio getting mad at you twice!”. I try to be very nice to Patrició. I wouldn’t want to get our #1 man upset.
My First Dive
I did my first diving (in water) a couple of weeks ago, bringing up “samples” to work (pan). The water temperature is a constant 57° F, and after four hours underwater, needless to say, you get somewhat cold (frio in Portuguese). At least my efforts don’t go unrewarded. I was able to bring up the first gold ever recovered from the gorge itself (see sketch). The following day Al and I inspected the river directly below the first waterfall (see sketch) which allowed me to try out my mountain repelling and climbing ability.
I’m leaving for Manaus (on the Amazon!) tomorrow or Saturday to pick up some special diving equipment with a Texan named Max (James Maxwell Ray) who I met passing through town a couple of weeks ago. Max is a 30-year veteran of Brazil and mining in general. His specialties being but not limited to, deep sea diving, underwater explosives, and skydiving. Quite an individual to say the least. Just like in the movies – wild, loud, fearless, daring and very much “in the know” when it comes to surviving under the most adverse conditions. For some reason we seem to get along very well. He says I’m the first American (from Indiana?!) he’s met since coming to Brazil in ’53 that after going through what we’ve already gone through, can still honestly say, “I think I’m going to enjoy my stay in this country!”.