PTK Goes To The Rainforest: February 7, 1998

It seems much longer than 41 kilometers, because every one of those kilometers is tough. To make things more difficult, we periodically have to stop to clear away huge piles of fallen tree limbs! Later, we learn that, in fact, we got to camp the easy way—until 3 years ago, the fine, modern highway we traveled on the first leg of our journey was a dirt road as well!

Finally, and not too soon for anyone, we arrive at Camp 41. But no! We park the jeep at the entrance to Camp 41, but we human porters still have another 500 m hike down to the actual camp itself. Loaded down with gear, we trudge through the forest. People joke about jaguars, but the real trick is balancing our loads while hiking through slippery mud and leaves. You would not believe how wonderful the tin roofs and hammocks of the camp look after such a trek. The “locals” come out to greet us, and get the special treatómail that we’ve brought with us from INPA. The scientists in residence at the time of our visit include Emilio Bruna, Ellen Andresen, and Marcela Santamaria.

As we are just south of the Equator, 3 degrees south, to be exact, the days and nights here are almost equal, and so dusk and dawn fall promptly around 6 (am and pm, of course). We arrive at dusk and the sunlight quickly fades. Going back up the trail just 15 minutes after arriving, to unload some final gear, it’s amazing how much darker it has gotten. Suddenly, those jokes about jaguars don’t seem all that funny!

Turns out that we arrive just in time for the evening meal, surely just a coincidence, but there’s plenty for everyone. Leaves and bugs? Hardly! INPA maintains a small full-time staff at the camp, usually a husband and wife team, but tonight ably serviced by a smiling “mateiro” cook. “Mata” is the local word for the forests here, and “mateiros” are those who work in them. Instead of leaves and bugs, we have a tasty buffet of chicken, rice, beans, salad, and juices which would make any churrasco restaurant proud. Dinner comes with good Brazilian coffee, as thick as mud and about as strong.

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