We arrived at the tiny fishing village of Boca da Valeria at breakfast time. It is situated at the confluence of the Rio da Valeria and the Amazon, midway between Paritins and Sanatarem, it is a remote and primitive village of around 75 souls, descended from intermarriage between Portuguese settlers and local Indians, they are called Caboclo.
There are no roads, a simple dirt path leads through the village of wooden and reed huts, other paths lead off into the rain forest. The simple dwellings have just openings for doors and windows, no glass, just shutters to keep the rain out. They live by hunting and fishing, the few ships that can visit this settlement are welcomed enthusiastically, indeed the surrounding villagers flocked to witness the spectacle of our cruise ship.
The Magellan anchored precariously, less than a 100m off the shore line adjacent to the outflow of the Rio da Valeria, making it a very short Tender boat ride to the small jetty just another 100m from the river’s mouth. I knew it was going to be a good day when we spotted our first, very rare pink Amazonian dolphins swirling and flipping behind our craft, hunting for fish disturbed by our propeller in the impenetrable muddy water. Tying up we disgorged crocodile fashion through a small wooden hut to be greeted by a tunnel of grinning and brightly dressed locals.
Sue and I had decided on hiring one of the motorised canoes to see this part of the rain forest and were keen to do this early before all the available craft were taken. Stepping down the line of tightly pressed Caboclos I spotted one holding a picture of his craft and with a quick exchange of sounds, smiles and a thumbs up we peeled away from the melee and followed him to the river bank. Pleasingly, today he had brought his son, around 7 years of age and looking quite serious. Settling into the elongated and roofed craft our captain produced a small lemonade bottle of petrol and reassuringly topped up the engine’s fuel tank. With his son perched on the sharp end, he than pushed us off into the flow of the river, started up the motor and began our very loud put-put up the river.
Our 40 minute journey brought us familiar sights from our previous days expedition; river birds, Indians fishing from canoes, others put-putting in a hurry to be somewhere and a variety of river dwellings, these seemed tidier that the ones we had witnessed over the last few days, perhaps the Portuguese genes may have a part to play in that.
On our return journey to the little jetty and a waiting crowd of enthusiastic European spotters I noticed a large white river bird snatch a fish from the water, but it seemed to lose grip ten metres above the river where his catch spiralled back to safety. Wheeling round, the bird immediately dived again and caught what I thought was another fish, with yet again the same result! I witnessed the unfortunate bird attempt to catch his fish on four times without success before I lost sight of the action when we rounded a sharp bend. Possible scenarios: (1) This bird was great at locating, diving and catching fish, but has a lot to learn on landing and eating his prey (2) This bird was unfortunate on each occasion to successfully hunt down a piranha and in order to save his legs from being bitten off, he sensibly let go of the fish (3) This bird knew what he was doing, he deliberately dropped the fish from height to stun it, but his fish was a piranha and he couldn’t risk carrying it to a great height or perhaps the shore, because of the danger of having his under-carriage nibbled away.
Arriving back at the village we set off to investigate. There were many more camera toting fellow passengers here now, all equally eager to snap the little children dressed in colourful costume , or perhaps holding a pet sloth, turtle, baby caiman or a long-tailed something or other with a very sweet face. We happily joined them, snapping away merrily, rewarding them with little gifts gleaned from the ships inventory, bars of soap, sachets of coffee, small bottles of water, pencils. To the grown ups we gave one dollar bills, all were pleasingly received, especially the soap.
Some had set up a few small stalls selling locally made trinkets and artwork from the shade of their wooden huts. Sue perused these with great interest and eventually bought yet more pictures for displaying on what little wall space we have left. We gave a dollar to enter one of the larger dwellings, the matron of the house was pleased and obviously proud at our interest and beamed broadly as we nosed around her simply furnished but very neat home. I wouldn’t have thought that Sue would have been so grateful if strangers turned up at our door and requested a quick nose around. However, this lady was selling the only commodity she had for the benefit of her family and was easy with that, and we were equally happy to oblige. Obligado!
As the previous day the sun was fierce, but we managed to see all that this little village had to offer, including its small church and school room. We donated something or cash to help its people in some small way. I don’t think our visit exploited or harmed their chosen way of life, both parties learned a lot through the visit of our ship (those that bothered to leave the on board buffet tables, many didn’t). They are not an indigenous people to be protected, they know about the wider world, yet they don’t seem envious or beg, they appear at ease with these occasional meetings and I they probably consider us as being the richer for meeting them, and I wouldn’t disagree.
Back on board, refreshed with food and drink we watched the village from high on deck 10, snapped some last shots of pink dolphins flipping the waves off-shore as they blindly dived after fish that had been detected using their acute other senses. Hmm, a blissfully enticing scene, I wish these lovely people the best in the future. The photos I took today are full of smiles and the experience has been quite humbling.
Late in the afternoon we left the village to its peace and continued our journey upstream. I wonder what tomorrow will bring?