Chris' (Previous) Daily Journal
March 11, Boca Da Valeria, Brazil
What an extraordinary experience we had today in Boca Da Valeria. It’s not a place one would visit (or even find) if not on a cruise ship. There are about 20 ships that stop here each year, so the visits are a great source of income for the residents.
Tenders from the ship were used to take us the short distance to the village. We were quite surprised when, after boarding the tender, a couple small boats pulled up alongside and a young boy hopped onto the tender step and posed for a picture with his bird. And, his hand extended for a tip.
The village was wonderful – population normally is 75. Today, it was a couple hundred as they invite other villages to come and look at the tourists!
The ship’s description said we would enjoy exploring a sleepy village in the Amazon basin and see how the local Indians live. Well, with 20 cruise ships visiting every year, I doubt this was a “typical” Amazonian village.
When we got off the tender, there was a line of children waiting to greet us. John and I were instantly adopted and off we went. Somehow, we ended up with about 10 children escorting us through the village and pointing various things out to us. One of my kids was so funny – he knew enough words in English to point out items of interest. He would say, “amigo – monkey” (or whatever it was he wanted to show me).
Two of my children escorts constantly wanted to hold my hands. This was fine, except it prevented me from taking as many photos as I wanted, and I was so sweaty that my hands were soaked. The kids, of course, weren’t perspiring at all.
Whoever invented the digital camera is my hero and a genius. I made the mistake of showing the kids how to take a picture and then see the one they had taken. Well, by the time we returned to the ship, I had over 300 pictures to review. I have about 25 left. But, the kids had a great time and actually, so did I.
The children who were not escorting us were both “posing” with their pets, such as toucans, sloths, monkeys and one wild boar. The young girls, were dressed in costumes and ready for their picture to be taken. Of course, after doing so, one is expected to offer tips.
John and I are suckers when it comes to kids, so we went to a thatched roof hut where cold drinks were being sold. We purchased each of the kids a soda - their brand of Coke – and somewhere we had acquired more children, so John ended up buying 13 sodas. They were only $1.00 (U.S.) and the smiles on the kids’ faces were well worth the $13.00.
Several of the residents offered various handmade products for sale – some wooden decorative pieces, jewelry, hand-painted t-shirts and painted wall hangings. John had interest on one of the wall hangings, but had only brought the Brazilian currency with him and the man only wanted U.S. money.
The kids were quite proud of their school: “Escola Municipal São Francisco” or “Municipal School of St. Francis”. It was quite pretty on the outside – stucco painted in blue and yellow. The inside – one room - had small tables and chairs along the walls. Hanging from the ceiling was a banner with mathematical examples.
The other community buildings included a small church and the cultural center. Not exactly sure what they do in the cultural center, but it’s there if needed.
The houses were small and all on stilts. The windows had no coverings – no glass, no shutters. Some of the people obviously sleep outside under their house as there were hammocks suspended from the stilts. A couple of the homes were brightly painted and decorated, others were just wooden shacks.
After spending a couple hours, we decided to take the tender back to the ship and cool off a bit.
We gave the kids about 40.00 of their money (about $25.00 of ours) as a thank you for showing us around and headed back to the ship. It appeared that all the monies collected were given to one man. They must have some type of sharing system among themselves and split up the money.
When we reached the ship, three of the small village boats were there, getting so near the tenders, I was afraid for their safety.
We had heard about the pink river dolphins (botos in Portuguese) that inhabit this part of the world. We were able to see several of them at a fairly close distance. At first glance, we thought we saw their fins. However, after reading more about them, we learned they don’t have the dorsal fins like their gray counterparts, it’s a hump on their back.
The pink river dolphin has a brain capacity 40% larger than that of humans. They are an endangered species due to the accelerated commercialization of the Amazon basin and the destruction of the South American rainforest. They are around nine feet long and on the average, weigh about 200 pounds.
It’s not completely understood why they are pink. One thought is due to the presence of capillaries near the surface of the skin. Other factors that may affect the pink coloring may include the age of the dolphin, the chemical disposition of the water and water temperature. We were very excited that we were able to see them.
We will be in Manaus, Brazil tomorrow (Friday and Saturday), Sunday in Parintins – our last stop in Brazil.