Rafting the Amazon #4: Mosquitoes!
Waving goodbye to George and his family
In the early morning we untied the raft from the dock and pushed off. George and his family waved as we floated away. We rowed between the network of houses built along the river and out to the river’s current. As soon as we reached the river, people in outboard driven canoes came up to us and asked what we were selling. They asked where we were going and could not believe our intentions.
From the beginning I realized that navigating the raft was not going to be easy. The raft was wide, with blunt ends and almost impossible to steer. Pali had never paddled with an oar before and the first half-hour was a learning experience. We finally rowed away from the town and caught the strong current of the river. The raft floated along well and I was even able to use my line and hook that I bought at the store. Within a few minutes I caught an ugly catfish with long whiskers. I had hopes of eating it for lunch but it slipped away while it was being cleaned. I had to settle for rice.
My first impression on the river came from the strange sounds from the jungle. The variety of sounds indicated that it was full of birds, monkeys and other creatures. But, the thick vegetation hid everything. I could see branches shaking and leaves rustling from the movement of animals, but I saw parrots or monkeys only on occasion.
I caught a fish!
At midday the weather turned bad. It began to drizzle and get windy. As the wind picked up it blew us to shore. We had to wait for the winds to die down until we were able to free ourselves from the riverbanks. The raft was at the complete mercy of the winds and river currents. Our paddling would provide some direction to the raft, but most of the time it was up to the river to let us know our destination.
As it got dark we rowed to a small indentation along the river. The riverbanks were high and there were no beaches that would provide an easy port for the raft. We roped the raft to a tree that had fallen into the river. I made sure the raft was securely fastened to ensure that we did not float away at night.
The night turned out to be absolutely miserable. We quickly learned that we were not prepared for the jungle. Our biggest mistake was we did not bring an adequate mosquito net. I had a small mosquito net that was shaped like a miniature dome tent. It was large enough to fit over my head but it was not designed for two people. Mosquitoes entered through the head opening, they entered underneath the mosquito net, and they bit through my shirt and pants. They were voracious and nothing would stop them from their evening snack. I brought the cooking drum into the A-frame hoping that the smoke would drive them away. It did not. A cloud of mosquitoes surrounded me. They buzzed like a squadron of Mustangs. All I could do to get away from them was to get in my sleeping bag. It was extremely uncomfortable because it was a warm night and my sleeping bag was very insulated.
That night the mosquitoes did not allow me to sleep. I was also kept awake by the strange and eerie sounds that came from the dark jungle. At one point I thought I heard a jaguar. Of course, I had never heard a jaguar so I could not recognize its roar. We also had visitors late in the evening. Someone in a motor boat came along side us, with spotlights, to inspect the raft. They were probably crocodile hunters. I was scared because I had no way of defending Pali or myself if they decided to rob us or worse. Fortunately, the motor boat sped away and I was back to worrying about the mosquitoes giving me malaria.