PTK Goes To The Rainforest: February 7, 1998

On the way out of town, we discover another thing Brazilians are serious about—seatbelts! Our driver would not budge until every one of us fastened ourselves in. It’s actually kind of amusing, in a region of carnivorous ants and poisonous frogs, to be worrying about seatbelts. But first, you have to get to the forest safely!

After about a half an hour of driving on modern highways, the van pulls off and we are at the dirt-road entrance to the forest preserve. The first order of business is to put plastic bags over all of our gear before we put it in the exposed bed of the pickup jeep. This is the rainforest we’re going into, after all! And the last thing we put in the back of the jeep—Brian, our videographer! He was to record our trip to the camp and any other interesting things we might see on the way. No plastic bags for him, though—if it rained, he’d just get wet.

We privileged people in the front of the jeep all have our own cameras out, as well, hoping to catch a glimpse of some exotic jungle animal. Not a chance! The dirt road to the camp is without question the most rutted, bumpy, rolling, precarious, slip-sliding trail of clay that anyone of us had ever experienced. Forget trying to take a picture out the window— after the fifty bounces between when you pointed and when you shot, you’d be lucky to get a blurred picture of the car roof. So we settle back and hang on for dear life.

As the jeep rumbles through the jungle, we get our first up-close and personal experience of the towering foliage. It’s 41 kilometers from the main highway to camp—hence, Camp 41. We periodically stop to tape footage of our progress and, as with any TV production, this sometimes requires several takes. Our driver is agreeable, but you can tell that he’s questioning the judgment of these American TV people. “Why take pictures of such an ordinary road?” he wonders. To show the wet and muddy conditions of the road, Brian gets out at one point and waits for us next to a large puddle. Geoff asks the driver to roll down past Brian, for a nice picture of the jeep sloshing through mud. Unfortunately, the driver goes a little too fast or maybe Brian is a little too close. He ends up with both a great shot and a face-full of mud. Now for sure Brian is riding in the back of the jeep.

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