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Day 6, posted Nov. 16, 2006
Our Brazilian guide on our Amazon adventure is Gonzaga. He is truly like a modern day Tarzan and that is not meant in any way other than the most respectful.
Gonzaga is the lead guide at Peacock Bass Trips, our hosts for our journey. He is small and wiry but quick with a smile. He knows a good bit of English, even though he didn't let us in on that fact until we were well into our trip.
At 26 years old, Gonzaga grew up in these waters which is extremely sparsely populated. Although slight of stature, Gonzaga is very strong. His ropy arms can swing a machete to chop a fallen log in two like it's a sapling without breaking a sweat.
He knows the area well. In fact, he is one of the only guides who can run the river at night. When the supply boat from Manaus was late in arriving Gonzaga was sent to meet it and bring the fuel back to camp. The trip would take palce in the cover of darkness. There is a rapid downstream from camp and Gonzaga can run it without lights.
The camp manager, Jerry, tells of running the rapid at night with Gonzaga and explains that he "senses the water. He emphasizes how dangerous it is to run the river at night.
He points to an area where he wants his angler to cast with a wave of the hand as he looks the other way for signs of fish. He tells us that when the jungle is quiet, there will be no fish. When the jungle is alive … fish. He gets very serious when the jungle is alive.
During the rainy season all of the other guides go to their villages but Gonzaga stays at the camp to look after things. They tell me he's a chainsaw operator which makes me wonder why we don't bring a chainsaw in the boat. It would seem to be much faster thatn a machete, but that's how Gonzaga does it.
Gonzaga took us to his home on the river, where he lived with his wife and children. When we approach it by boat, it hardly resembles a house at all. It is open to two sides with two walls made of planks that were hand hewn by Gonzaga. The fact that it is open is bewildering to me.
Back at camp we had been told that the guides who live in the rough camp beside the houseboat really like the fact that there is a generator in camp that is very loud. They say it keeps the animals away at night — especially the jaguar, which is what the locals fear the most.
One night earlier in the week, the generator had quit running in the middle of the night. All the guides got nervous. Some of the men and all of the women came to the houseboat until it started running again.
After seeing Gonzaga's house, we all wonder how he slept there with his wife and children in a house open to the jungle — with no fear.
The house sits on a high bluff in a bend of the river where a stream joins the river channel. The site was carefully selected because if it's height, which is important during the rainy season.
There are hand made nets hanging from trees, and stripped limbs stake out a garden area. The house is built on a rock.
Gonzaga has made an oven from mud. On top is a huge iron skillet. There is a large, primitive press for removing the juices from food sources. Gonzaga tells us he made the press, as well as the dugout canoes that are around the place.
We leave his home site slightly awed. Here is a man living in the 21st century who is totally self sufficient. It reminds me of the western pioneers of the United States.
Gonzaga never seems stressed out about anything. As we make our way up the river, we all agree that back home we know many men who come unglued in a traffic jam or can't seem to handle much physical discomfort, especially not extreme heat.
Not Gonzaga. The jungle is his home. And if you were ever in trouble here, you would definitely hope Gonzaga had your back.
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