February 19, 2005

Night Trekking In The Amazon

The night had thrown its blanket over the Amazon, and we were now trekking in the dense rainforest, with only torchlight to guide us. I had found the jungle intimidating in the daytime, but at night, it had taken on a totally different atmosphere. The life that had been hidden away from the sunlight of day, was now out under the relative safety of darkness.

The three of us treaded carefully behind our Amazonian Indian guide, with our minds filled with the vast array of dangerous fauna and flora that pervades the rainforest. Once in a while, a vine would brush over my face, immediately jolting me into alert mode.

We stopped at one tree, and shone our torches up at the tangled vines. There, many tarantulas sat adorning the branches, like hairy Christmas decorations, waiting for prey to come their way.


A Tarantula On A Tree (taken with a poor digital camera)
Photography By El-Branden Brazil

As we continued on, I thought about the infamous Bushmaster - the most feared venomous snake in the Amazon. Unlike the Ferdelance, which tends to avoid human contact, the Bushmaster is highly aggressive. It is also the owner of the largest viper fangs in the world. According to our guide, legend has it, that the Bushmaster will bite repeatedly, and then it will curl up on the chest of the corpse, absorbing the heat from the victim.

Every branch that lay on the path was stepped on to, rather than over. This is a recommended habit, because snakes often hide near logs. I had no intention of meeting an unsuspecting Bushmaster!

Our lights shone out on everything around us. At one point, very large, plump Bull frogs appeared on the path. But, unlike the frogs back in England, they were not fearful of us, and immediately charged if any of us approached them.

As my torchlight crossed the canopy and then back down to the path, I suddenly became aware of a long, slithering body up ahead of our guide. Instinctively, I shouted out, "SNAKE!"

Now, our jungle guide was a fine fellow, with an admirable knowledge of the rainforest, but I have NEVER seen anyone jump so far backwards in my life. The guy was practically levitating!

Dave, a biologist from San Francisco, immediately recognised the snake species, and against the guide’s advice, decided to leap on to it and grab it! Thankfully, he had not made a misjudgment and picked up a Bushmaster! Instead, he held on to a beautiful Rainbow boa constrictor, and whilst not venomous, could certainly cause a nasty bite with its sharp reticular teeth. The guide was not impressed by any of this behaviour, and just looked on.


Jason and the Rainbow boa-constrictor (poor digital camera)
Photography By El-Branden Brazil

The Amazon is a place that needs to be respected, and a guide is a necessary requirement for anyone unfamiliar with the environment. That said, whilst the rainforest has many hidden dangers, it is a beautiful place where the human spirit can once again come close to the primordial. Here, the sights, noises and smells attune the soul, and bring about a direct realisation of the symbiosis that we are apart of on this fragile planet.

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