Bountiful Amazon Botany and a slippery snake - Day 574
Sadly it was our last morning here at Juma Lodge on the swollen River Mamori. The end of the rainy season, the river was at its highest, encroaching over a good few metres of land. It's quite bizarre to think that a full grown tree is hidden under the water with the tops of trees looking like small twigs floating on top.
This morning Titan took us through narrow channels and flooded forest to a small plot, 'just' 500m x 2km that a member of his wife's family recently purchased. Despite there no longer being a house on the land, it was covered with a vast variety of fruit trees and plants. However, the new owners are building a covered open plan verandah to relax in for weekend gatherings.
And the purchase price? R$5,000. In sterling a mere £1,000 for a plot in Paradise! If it weren't so far from our family, I would have offered double that!
Titan showed us around, pointing out various plants; the first was a large Jack fruit. I don't think I have ever eaten one, unless in a curry. Apparently, when ripe it tastes like a mix of apple, banana, with a slight pineapple flavour. Mmm... I must try one.
There was a lemon tree and three different types of lime trees with an abundance of fruit. One was called a tangerine lime as under the yellowy green flesh, the fruit resembled a tangerine, just more sour; delicious though.
There was also a tall palm with papaya, not my favourite, and pineapple plants, which are my favourite. Thirty years ago when in Sri Lank I overdosed in fresh pineapple and ended up covered in a rash. Not a good look in my tiny bikini back then!
There was also a coffee bush with its hard, dark brown beans, plus a bush with fruit that looked similar to a lychee, but when Titan opened it, instead of the white flesh and shiny seed inside, this Red Urucu had a large number of cone-shaped seeds. Titan took a couple out and crushed them. When he opened his hand, it looked like he had squeezed a lovely tone of brick red lipstick. Unsurprisingly, he informed us that the Indigenous people use this for ceremonial face and body paint.
We then passed another palm, but this one had thick stripes up the trunk of long black needles. (sadly with minimal wifi here I couldn't research the name of it. Any ideas?). I certainly wouldn't want to bump into this tree on a dark night, that's for sure.
Our last plant of interest was a low growing Mandioca, or you may know it as Cassava. Titan described in detail the process to make Farinha flour from the plant's tuberous roots. Day 1 The root is peeled and grated, Day 2 the moisture, which is poisonous, is squeezed off and kept, Day 3 the pulp is left to dry and Day 4 it is roasted to make Farinha. Meanwhile, the liquid is left so that the glutinous starch sinks and then separated. This is then used to make sticky white tapioca pancakes, which are often served for breakfast. Cooking destroys the cyanide in the liquid. We are glad about that, we had pancakes that morning!
Tim and I both thoroughly enjoy times like this, seeing where fruit, nuts and veg come from and learning about their uses. Which reminds me, Titan earlier on showed us a shell full of well packet Brazil nuts. Well, I never! I had no idea. Had you?
With his machete he opened the round rock hard shell, prised out a few nuts, chipped off their casing and handed these delicious nuts to us, so fresh that they resembled the flavour of coconut. In Cuba, funny enough, they are called St James' Coconut.
It was time to get back for lunch, not before Titan spied another snake. This long yellow-bellied water snake was stretched out in the middle of a bush. It's forked tongue kept wiggling towards us to get a sense if we were food or foe. Titan said that he would try and catch it and moved the canoe. I did trust him but was mighty relieved when I realised he was joking.
Sadly, our Amazon trip had nearly come to an end. We both wished we could have stayed longer. Perhaps we will be back in two years time. I hope so.
Titan and his wife took us back to Careiro village where we were picked up again on our private boat and again went to the Meeting of the Waters. This time conditions were right and we sailed from coffee coloured water of the fast flowing River Solimôes to the dark chocolate coloured and 4 degrees hotter Rio Negro. The line of the rivers meeting was quite clear.
Back to Manaus feeling quite melanchony, our Amazon trip joins an ever growing list of GrownUpTravellers wonderful highlights.