Sunday, 8 March 2015

Triple Frontier - Brazilian/Colombian border

Yesterday we embarked on what is the longest journey we have made so far. It takes approximately 38 hours to take a fast-boat up the Amazon (or one of its tributaries to be precise) to reach Tabatinga, on the border with Colombia. I couldn't have been more wrong when I imagined the river to be clear cut straight up and down. The banks are eroding leaving trees and natural debris crumbling into the water and in some places the marshland, prime caiman habitat, is so vast it is impossible to see where the river ends and land starts. The width of the river is huge but broken up with islands everywhere. Over 2,000 dot the landscape and we are told it is the largest archipelago of river islands in the world. Not that dry land brings with it sights of Amazonian wildlife. For the first few hours every floating log we saw definitely could have been a caiman... But so far all we have seen is a pig, a couple of cows and lots of birds - not quite what we had hoped for but as we are quickly learning, this is the Amazon and nothing should be taken for granted. I wasn't quite prepared for just how many villages there would be along the riverside, some ranging from a couple of huts to towns big enough that they even have a version of Rio's Christ the Redeemer.

 Despite the varying degrees of development all houses seem to have a Sky satellite dish! Although settlements are frequent, none of the smaller islands have signs of human life. Brazilian law prevents anybody residing on these islands in order to protect the area of conservation. When I asked Milton, our tour guide from a few days ago, about the ever controversial topic of deforestation he  assured me that local people aren't interested in destroying the forest. "Tourism is a long term investment which is guaranteed to bring in regular money. If we chop trees down we get money once when we sell and then what?" Besides it is too risky to ship logs via the river, their only mode of transport as there are no main roads leading to any other big city. Surveillance cameras would see the logs slowly being hauled down the river, something which isn't a problem on the speedy highways surrounding the Archway of Deforestation, the band which runs from west to north east and the centre of deforestation of the Amazon. The man alleged to head the logging operation was arrested last year and there has been a 65% fall in deforestation since - a move in the right direction. 

This morning we had a rude awakening of the animated type as the film Frozen was blasted from the televisions. Along with the Sky TV, credit card machines in gift shops found on remote floating villages and Nicki Minaj baring from speakers everywhere you turn, it looks as if the people of the Amazon are also moving at a pace to catch up with the rest of the world. A good thing I don't know, but at least I can sing Frozen's "Let it Snow" in Portuguese now.