Leaving Manaus
From bus to ferry to van to boat, we journey from city to where the waters meet, and beyond to village to tributary and jungle. Ants of all sizes claim the earth on which we sweat and stink. The power’s out; the water’s off. We make do with candles and beer.
Where the Rio Negro and the Rio Solimões meet.
Beans, plantains, guava paste, manioc, rice, papaya, and fish. Melon and meat, and melon with melon, now try the meat with meat. Needle teeth in tiny jaws, the six-year-old baits the hook with beef. Piranha fishing on Christmas Eve; Piranha for lunch on Christmas Day.

Children enter the jungle with nothing and exit with palm frond origami. Our guide, a craftsman of toys and tiaras, whistles and figurines, works wonders with a knife and jungle at hand. Tarantulas, squirrel monkeys, sloths, and macaws, an inexplicable lone white rabbit, kept as a pet and spotted (it’s worth noting) before the day’s cachaça consumption.

We slog in mud and chant to the children: You can do it; be tough! You can do it!, All the while wondering if they can. (They can). An eight-year-old fears the innocuous wasps and roaches, yet defends the ravenous mosquitoes. Mama, they’re just trying to feed their babies. She also enjoys the hammock all night while leg cramps plague the adjacent adults.

The hammock room.

It’s a handheld dinosaur, this caiman in my lap, in a world condensed to waterways and vines and the smells of fuel and fish. Like any other, it’s a place of smartphones and litter, but also one with larvae to eat and ants to eat. Please pass the melon and meat.