In his column Guia Negro, colleague Guilherme Soares Dias describes the “worst tourist experience of his life”, which was a trip, last September, to the state of Amazonas. Averse to traditional tourist programs aimed at the unwary (like me, by the way), he made a concession to the, without a doubt, unmissable meeting of the waters, where the Negro and Solimões rivers come together under the name Amazonas, but without mixing in the first moment. It is fascinating to notice that the water temperatures are different, as are their colors, which create a beautiful mosaic. The impact of the two powerful currents (today greatly compromised by the region’s absurd drought) is one of those spectacles that you must see at least once in your life.
What caught my attention in Guilherme’s text, however, was his reprimand upon learning that the package contracted to visit the meeting of the waters included two other programs typical of the region: swimming with dolphins and a visit to an indigenous village. And so, as someone who has lost count of how many times he has visited the Amazon, for work or pleasure, I will allow myself to warn anyone who is heading to the fascinating north side of the country: do not hire bulk packages. In general, it includes robberies like those described by your colleague and you will leave with a bitter taste of someone who played a fool or, worse, was unintentionally politically incorrect, ready to be canceled on the networks.
Starting with swimming with porpoises, it is worth making a caveat: normally, agencies accredited for this activity must follow a standard that makes all the difference — contact with tourists can only be made, at most, a few days a week in each area. This is established precisely to prevent the animals, who have nothing to do with fools, from becoming addicted to the easy fish provided by the guides, generally riverside dwellers who find the activity a valuable source of income, a more than fair cause. It is impressive to note that, although on other days, these mammals have to turn around to look for their own food, they identify by instinct (or, more likely, and biologists forgive me, by the sound of boats) the days when excursions They arrive in their neighborhoods with groups of unwary people who can take good hits from the dolphins if they abuse the proximity. Here’s a tip from anyone who’s already had one of these, hashtag don’t mess around, because it hurts.
But on one point I must agree 100% with your comments, Guilherme. It’s the radius of visiting indigenous villages, which in practice are warehouses disguised as huts, close to lodges (pompous and foreign name for jungle hotels, spread throughout the region, with more or less comfort depending on the guest’s budget) or from the banks of the rivers. In these fake “hollows” tourists are welcomed, with bleachers installed to provide comfort to the alien buttocks, while half a dozen indigenous people dance, sing and drag visitors to the center of the space for a “more authentic” contact that is pure staging.
More melancholic than this false display of the “true indigenous celebration”, only the “crafts” kiosks offered at the end of the presentation, which include unbelievable dream filters, traditional mobiles from the native peoples of North America, who do not know how they ended up in the middle of the Amazon.
Here I allow myself to tell a story I experienced many years ago, when I participated in a meeting of women journalists at the now bankrupt and ruined Ariaú Towers hotel, located on the river of the same name, a tributary of the Negro, 60 kilometers from Manaus. It was still the 1990s, and for many it was their first contact with the forest, which gave the group the right to do all these touristy programs, like fishing for piranhas with small raw meat baits (you escaped that one, right, Guilherme ?). In time: the skittish fish have a unique talent for stealing your meat without biting the hook. Let’s say that, out of every ten baits that enter the water, at most one will result in a fish for dinner soup — with luck.
On the night of the last day of the meeting, after the frustrated piranha fishing, we went to the party in the village, which was sold to us as belonging to a tribe that did not speak our language, therefore we should not try to interact with its members, as if that was normal for a lot of journalists. At the end of the performance, however, two girls, still in costume, ran to ask for autographs from a colleague in the group who, at the time, was presenting Fantástico.
“We always watch your program at home”, assured the youngest in good Portuguese, happy with her autograph and irritating the guest guide. Quick cloth. Let’s continue.
So, if the thing is to escape the depressing traps, what would this Amazonian bush addict advise Guilherme next time? Pulling the heat on my tambaqui, I suggest you book a three or four-day trail through the forest, with a local guide. You will walk three to seven kilometers a day, nothing too exhausting even for those who have no experience of walking outside the cool of shopping centers; he will sleep in a hammock and fight with the mosquito net all night to the sound of the frightening roars of howler monkeys, the dragons of the forest; and you will learn how to make a fire to cook dinner even in the rain, using a piece of white pitch collected from the nearest tree. After the meeting of the waters, this will be the most perfect experience of what the Amazon is. Take it from me, Guilherme, give one more chance to what I, at least, consider to be the most fascinating and richest biome in our Brazil.
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