We flew back to Altamira along the Xingu River (sounds like "Shing-gu"). I took several pictures of the river from the small plane. The closer we came to Altamira, more and more farms and ranches had taken the place of the rainforest.
The town of Altamira.
In the hotel that night, my feet, ankles and legs had swollen to twice their size from an allergic reaction I had from a nasty little biting bug called locally a "Piune" that I found in the Indian villages. Or should I say... that found me. The Indians and locals had obviously built up a resistance to it's poison and to them it was usually no more bothersome than a mosquito bite. But my body certainly didn't like them! Even a month later, my feet and ankles were still itching from their bites.
Leaving Altamira again early the next morning (big feet and all), I traveled up the Xingu River, this time in a small aluminum outboard motor boat. The river is shallow and wide and has lots of currents, whirlpools and rapids. It has very low banks in many areas so during rainy season it just spreads out wider, and flows faster. There are many tributaries, islands, and branches of the river - some really shallow, rocky or with alot of rapids, so it can be confusing to navigate unless you know the river.
Going upstream in rapids and white water in a small boat can be pretty exciting (and bumpity!) and we had to be careful of the many rocks and currents in the river. I was thankful that my boat driver knew the river well. Some of the whirlpools I saw were big enough to suck our small boat right under... we didn't slow down long enough to take a picture of them and gave them a wide berth!
Out of Altamira, for more than an hour, I passed farms and plantations where the rainforest had been cut down for crops and livestock. Then the land along the Xingu started into low rainforest with only scattered fishing huts and squatter's houses along the banks. Even once we passed the border where the Indian reserve started, I still saw scattered huts of squatters and fishermen (called locally "Pescadores") which were invading the reserve.
It took almost 5 hours to make it upstream to the Assurini village but only about three and a half hours to return back downstream. Going with the fast current instead of against it really speeded things up when we returned the following day!
I filmed some great video of the river and land during the calmer parts of the river with my new digital video camera. Check back again later to see if I figured out how to upload it here on the website for you to see!
Continue on Journey to the Assurini
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