The Boom Booms are on the boat through the amazon now. Its a wide and wild river, over 6,000 km long; this thing holds 1/5 of the worlds fresh water. Unfortunately the late departure brings night-fall, making it difficult to see the amazing phenomenon of the RIO NEGRO AND SOLIMOES river flowing into each other, brown and blue meeting and running together side by side. The rivers differ in chemical balance and this keeps them from mixing. A symbol of this is shown in tile art around Brazilian cities. Black and white symbolic rivers flow side by side, meandering through parks and around statues. It is a cool way to represent the nation’s multi-cultural integration and history. Everyone, no matter their history, can become one and still move forward. This is Brazil.
ABOARD OUR JUNGLE BOAT
The day is surprisingly eventful, with everyone finding their own way to keep busy. The heat rises in the morning like a house furnace and we all grab a small breakfast: buns and cheese, some market fruit and ‘mmmm’ cafe com leite (coffee with milk). The strong, sweet coffee has the exact tinge of the amazon water. Sean practices his outstanding Portuguese with kids, others write, mingle with passengers and take in the view. The common event of the day is napping like a true wolf-pack crew. The shifting hammocks keep us during the day in motion, waking often.
Our boat is a two-deck boat with an engine room and kitchen on another lower floor. During a rare port stop, 50 of 140 passengers take down their hammocks from the lower deck and go into a small village. Our hammocks are arranged in a line along either side of the ship and through the middle.
Of our crew of 9, Jorah has the best place to sleep of all, pressed against a metal pole, being pestered by kids in the morning and within the snoring viscinity of Theo throughout the night. “Snoring right in my face!” he says with puffy eyes early in the morning. All of us have been a bit shocked/humoured by the tight sleeping space, but it really is great to wake up among people who routinely do this trip between the Para and Amazona state.
Other extraordinary sights and sounds (other than Theo’s operatic snoring) are the storms and weather. Tonight we arelooking out at the black murky Amazon. It is very intimidating as we imagine scenarios about falling in, sinking, or having to swim to shore. With piercing lightning from three directions and thousands of kilometers of wildlife, it wouldn’t be very inviting. The stars are beautiful though. The Orion’s Belt is just in our site below the top balcony, but here these are the “Tres Marias” (“Three Marias”). We stay up late telling stories, playing dominoes and wrapping our heads around this enormous country. Filipe is our close brother from Vancouver, he has told us several stories about Brazil’s political history and traditions in music and culture. The country has so much to offer for research and study, all of it is colourful and rich with exciting history. The Amazon alone has tens-of-thousands of people involved in conservation and research. We have just scratched the surface here in the Amazon and we’ve learned so much about Brazil. We are all excited to communicate through music and celebration, and document our experience here.
The morning is busy as the heat rises like a house furnace, again. A simple breakfast is served. The new Engine shakes and is pushing us slower than normal. Another day passes. At night we navigate off the south shore with a powerful spotlight. A huge storm is coming in tonight…
Brazilian music style/artists to check out!!!
In many central Brazillian tribes their is one word for dancing and singing. One verb will describe both acts of celebration as if they are inseperable. “Roda de Carimbo” is a traditional dance performed in a circle and like many Brazilian styles it is derived from African dances and rhythms. The African Origins that reached Brazil in the 17th and 18th century are primarily from Congo, Angola and Mozambic. Carimbo is popular in the Para State today. Para is one of Brazil’s 26 states. Carimbo applies to several styles of music born in Brazil. Check the link below for pictures and audio of this style. Carimbo is traditionally played with a Zambumba drum:
Video example of Carimbo:
Also popular in Para State is Barbatuque. Barbatuque translates to “beard drumming”. This music is a very percussive style but the performance does not involve any instruments. Also practiced in a circle, the music is played with strikes to the body and mouth, as well as foot stomps and vocal calls/cues.
Video example of Barbatuque:
We arrived in Santarem off the boat feeling energized and prepared for the tour ahead. On shore we grounded our sea legs by playing soccer. We then rode in the back of a pick-up truck with all of our gear to get to Alter do Chao. This was an amazing location. We hiked a mountain overlooking the amazon river! This was a beautiful oblique view of the River we had just spent two days on. The amazon river is truly the most monstrous river we have ever seen. As we pulled into the town we knew we would stay for a visit. With a white sand beach off the shore of the amazon, and a beautiful bar… with a stage! The Boom Booms hooked into the scene. We arranged a deal with the owners of the bar to play a show and stay in one of the rooms. We spent the day exploring and swimming with three dolphins hanging out in the bay! What a way to relax, and we are glad that we did because our next excursion will be a two day bus trip from Santarem to Altamira. The geography of Brazil has been our biggest trouble for our trip plans. Our decisions are based on sourcing out all transportation options. For you Canadians, Brazil is nearly the size of Canada. If you were to fit Madagascar’s land mass into Brazil’s it would be equal to Canada’s.
RIDING BUSES THROUGH JUNGLE – WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE
We knew our bus trip to Altamira would be painful, and it was. Each of the three buses that we travelled in had a flat tire. The first bus stopped for gas and a tire repair within the first half hour of driving. Stopping only for bottled Coca Cola and pastries we drove through hundreds of kilometres of Amazon jungle. The drivers pushed ruthlessly through hard packed red dirt roads, all night and all day. The twisting and shaking of the stiff buses and the hard packed, pot-hole roads caused most of the tire ware throughout the drive. Shoulder and leg room is limited on these little buses. By the end we had head bruises from the windows, back and leg cramps and only some of us slept through the night. We were lucky not to have any rain. During one stop our bus driver insisted that we ate a full meal before departing. They never know what can happen on these roads. At night the only view was a shifting windshield from one side of the road to the other as the driver dodged holes and crevasses.
Filipe chatted with two of the passengers on the bus. Both worked construction in Altamira. They would commute here to live for short periods and make some income for families back home. The price of the buses and rising food costs along the way makes it hard for them to return home with any profit. On the work-site they only make 25-30 Reais (app. 15 dollars) per day.
We departed on Thursday Jan 26th and arrived in Altamira two days later on with a ride prepared and a place to stay.
The Belo Monte Dam with a substitute message “Belo Death” in Portuguese. Photo: Grounded TV
THE BELO MONTE DAM… PROTEST and CREEPING CONSTRUCTION
The Boom Booms are in Altamira now, we have met Instituto Socio Ambiental (ISA). ISA is an NGO that has been in Brazil for 16 years. ISA deals mainly with indigenous cultures that reside on the Xingu river. Our first meeting with them was to organize a show in the city center. They invited us to join them for dinner with some of the local fisherman. This was excellent for our team, we learned a lot about the scene here and all the facts about the Belo Monte Dam project. This Dam will be the 3rd largest in the world if it is completed! And will seed two other dam projects in the area. Today, Altamira is growing, the community is changing its occupations and lifestyles. The city of over 77,000 has grown to 120,000 in the past years, seeing new building developments to provide accommodation for construction workers. The Project is bringing larger development projects in the past 4 years than any other time. Many people have lived here their whole lives and are now choosing to work with the Dam project. Some residents are making up to 1000-1300 Brazilian Reais (577+ CAD). All of this is happening before the more extreme affects of the completion of the Dam, (that is, if it is completed). The debate for this project has stretched decades now and not everyone in Altamira know the affects the Dam will have on the city or Xingu River peoples. Our interviews with the fisherman was the first of many insights into this cultures attitude about the Dam. Check out our Interview with them online.
The XINGU RIVER is a 1979 km long tributary river of the Amazon River. The Belo Monte Dam site has begun construction along the ‘Volta Grande’ or ‘Big Bend’ section of the Xingu. The fish we are eating is from the Xingu river located only yards from the main ISA office. The fisherman have told us about the loss of fish populations and tributaries in the volta grande region. The Dam is located 10 km east of Altamira. This map representation only shows Altamira and the mighty Xingu River flowing east. In fact, the google map representation location for the Dam project is incorrect. The Dam is located 10 km east, down the river of Altamira. It will cut off most water flow to nearly 12km of the Xingu, which stretches 2 km wide in some areas.
Google Map Search for the Xingu River Big Bend and the town of Altamira that will see large flood effects form the Dam “Altamira Belo Monte Dam”
For more information on the work of ISA visithttp://www.socioambiental.org/e/ (english/portuguese)
We were excited to hear that we would be visiting a tribe on the Xingu river. The Xikrin tribe would be our hosts for two nights among howler monkeys (Guaribas), countless species of flora and fauna, and one beautiful amazon sky above. They are located on the shore of the Xingu, 6 hours by boat from Altamira. The Xikrin people are one of 14 tribes in the region. Check out the Map of the Dam project area below. The Map also shows the separate indigenous regions that the government implemented in the 50′s. These borders are the first acknowledgements of indigenous tribes by Brazilian governments. The Belo Monte Dam project is also the largest developments around the Amazon Rivers, and is among many developmental concerns here in Brazil. The construction of the Dam has begun and continues to be a topic for debate in Brazil. Decisions to continue with the Dam construction have been halted because of several protests and reactions from indigenous communities. In 1998 Altamira’s river- front street hosted the largest indigenous protest in the history of the project. Many Brazilians throughout the country are concerned for this project. We have now seen, first-hand, how sensitive this is for Brazilians. As Canadians, we have come here knowing that similar issues reside around our home in the Pacific Northwest. Several Dams have been constructed throughout Canadian history, many are halted from debates and protests and many have carried through effortlessly. The Boom Booms crew have told Brazilians about the new Kitimat terminal development and Pipeline project in British Columbia. These are similar cases in the struggle to balance conservation of natural land, and preserving cultural traditions and lifestyles. Development debates are worldwide and have been occuring throughout history….
The case of the Canadian Pipeline and the projects in the Amazon River are similar because they are planned for energy purposes. The greatest similarity and concern is that the location for these developments interrupt indigenous land and culture. Growing up in Canada we have seen several debates over Native lands. Our main concern here in Brazil is that these developments are not being well informed to the people who reside in these locations. Also, the funding provided for these projects is great enough to keep development plans moving for several years. The Bela Monte Dam Project will take 7 years to build. Though the Dam construction has started it has been slow. The debates for the project have lingered for over 25 years and have been heard throughout Brazil. Something about this timeline and development plan seems to be sneaking under the radar of protest groups and activists. Many of the residents of Altamira seem exhausted on the topic. Not to say they do not have concerns for the effects. The case is that the project plans have lingered for decades! Is there a strong enough group to stop this Dam? Many believe that the strongest influence toward this project development, and others in the Amazon will come from outside countries and cultures.
Stay tuned for video footage!
We are editing footage like mad in Salvador, Bahia home of one of Brazil’s wildest Carnaval’s… starts in 9 days!!!