Tuesday November 27th, 2001
After an exciting day, we are presently snuggled up to a large sandbank approximately 50 miles up the Rio Casiquiare.
We arrived at the Venezuelan town of San Carlos, on the Rio Negro and approximately 7 miles south of the entrance to the Casiquiare, after leaving our anchorage in the early hours of yesterday morning. San Carlos is a small military town which overlooks the Rio Negro. Directly opposite a few hundred meters away is a small Columbian village.
After completing our 2nd military check in since entering Venezuelan territory, the “Doc” and some of the team visited the medical facility. This proved to be a highly interesting because, through it, were able to learn more about the diseases, such as Malaria, Typhoid fever, Dengue fever, Chagas disease and traveller’s Diarrhoea, that we may encounter on the isolated sections of our journey.
Some additional provisioning was acquired from a floating Brazilian supermarket, the top deck of which was crammed with bags of used aluminium cans. It was the same on many others that we encountered, which was somewhat surprising so far from civilisation. Recycling is obviously a going concern in this remote corner of the world.
Approximately 2 hrs after leaving San Carlos, a turn to starboard had us entering the waters of the Casiquiare - a narrower, shallower river with slower current.
An afternoon’s motoring saw us passing many small, isolated Indian villages and, after completing another military check in, at the National Guard post of Solano, we continued on until darkness forced us to anchor on a sandy bank surrounded by dense jungle.
We reflected on a comment by the National Guard personnel in Solano that the river level was the lowest in many years due to minimal rainfall. Because of this, they said, the temperature of the river was a lot higher. Climatic changes???
Another great meal by our chef “Augusto” and, after setting hammocks on poles ashore, we all put our heads down for the evening. All were sleeping peacefully until around 3am when bolts of lightning lit up the sky and loud booms of thunder rattled the jungle. This time we had our tarps ready and the team ashore was soon all covered and back to a good night’s rest.
Another early start was scheduled this morning but the rain was still falling heavily. We deferred and relaxed a bit over a leisurely breakfast.
Just around the next turn in the river lay our first set of dangerous rapids which “Lucho”, our boat skipper, and Marc, along with one of our Yanomami guides, set off to reconnoitre. The rest of us secured all the equipment on board for what obviously was going to be a bumpy trip ahead. A bin of clothing smothered in red dust from the road trip was unearthed and we took the opportunity for a laundry session before the scouting team returned.
With everything properly stowed and lashed down, we set off around mid-morning and almost immediately were into the turmoil of the rapids ahead. Marc and Ollie were on a rock with camera in hand while Alistair and Augusto manned the inflatable. The remainder of the team were aboard “Seamaster 2”.
After several minutes, with Lucho at the bow waving directions to Patricio (the driver), a call to stop was heard. “Seamaster 2” was becoming too heavy and slow due to the water pouring in over the sides.
Team bailing was the order of the day and we were soon underway again. But, just when we thought the worst was over, the port motor hit a rock and kicked up out of the water. Suddenly the whole craft was drifting sideways down current, beam on to the approaching rapids. With some quick damage control, the situation was retrieved and, with Lucho still waving furiously, the rapids were thankfully left behind.
Not long after, as we approached another turn, a number of villagers were seen waving from the bank. We called in to visit and found them to be a group of Yanomami who had recently relocated to this area. After an hour of greetings and a village visit, we were on our way again with many thoughts about the wonderful people we had just encountered.
We are further up river now and the team is busy setting up “Hammockville”. Hopefully tonight it will not be as wet but, the clouds that have been lingering above us all day are darkening. The tarps are at the ready.
See you in two days.
“The Jungle Team”