Upper Amazon Travels: Trip To Tabatinga

Mario Cohn-Haft - May 1997

    Back from a month-long trip to Tabatinga, the last Brazilian town along the Amazon before the Colombian border. The trip had 2 distinct phases, one interesting for the birds, the other for the company I kept. I had been offered a job as scientist guide on board a fancy boat going from Tabatinga to Manaus, so I just flew up 2 weeks early to chase my Hemitriccuses, the subject birds of my doctoral research.

Curtis, a Ph. D. student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and I ended up spending 5 good mornings in the terra firme on the Amazon’s south bank. We stayed about 16 km south of the town of Benjamin Constant, at a house near the end of a dirt road. As usual the subsistence farmers there cooked for us, let us hang our hammocks on their porches and use their woods and hunting trails, in exchange for sharing our food, some presents, our irresistible good company, and a modest gratuity. They used the bottled water we brought to make cupuacu juice once in a while, but apparently didn’t use it in the juice they made from acai palm fruits (a personal favorite, mixed with sugar and tapioca)—I got an intestinal parasite from drinking it.

They seemed to be perfectly good woods with reasonable numbers of birds. Some precious lumber had been extracted a few years back, but there was no sign of significant disturbance around. The locals hunt a lot, and there were almost no monkeys or big game birds around. The only monkeys were little tamarins: a dark one with a white moustache.

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