BOCA DE VALERIA, BRAZIL
When we were in South America last year we visited Boca de Valeria, a small Indian village upriver from Santarem that’s so small we never managed to find it in any guide books on Brazil. Nina didn’t like the place last year (she calls it “Boca de Chaleria”, so this year only I got off the ship for a return visit to Boca (not THAT Boca, THIS Boca….). And since nothing much has changed in Boca de Valeria in the past year, I’m going to use some photos from last year on this blog page.
Although a certain amount of modernity has come to Boca de Valeria, this Amazon River community of perhaps 75 houses attempts to preserve its ancient traditions in spite of the onslaughts of modernity. Rumor has it that once a Costa Cruises captain had some extra time on the cruise itinerary between Santarem and Manaus and found this name on a map but no additional information. So he sent an “expedition” from his ship to find out what was there and if there was anything worth seeing. And, as they say, the rest is history…… Today numerous ships drop anchor offshore from the village and, depending on whether the tide is high or low, tender the passengers to either a primitive port in the middle of the village (as we did this year – Amazon River is very high right now) or to an even MORE primitive port if the tide is low (namely, step out of the tender and onto some plank boards planted in red clay mud, and walk about 25 steps to a less muddy dirt path that leads into the village.
When ships drop anchor here the kids are let out of school and dress in what are supposed to be traditional Amazonian Indian costumes in order to show themselves off to fawning tourists in the hope of being beneficiaries of some tourist largesse. The kids “greet” the guests where they disembark, and whether you meet the kids on the mud path or on the dock, in both cases it feels something like running the gauntlet as the kids grab your hand, supposedly to show you around in a language you can’t understand, and at the end of the tour the “protocol” is to give each kid a dollar. Other “dollar moments” are the opportunities to photograph the kids with their pets, some of which are quite exotic to the rest of us. There are also handicrafts for sale, some of which were undoubtedly made by the residents themselves, and many of which are simply brought in from larger cities and offered to tourists for sale. And finally, one additional opportunity is to take a ride along several of the canals and tributaries of the Amazon in a river canoe, piloted by some of the young men of the Boca de Valeria village and others nearby as well (“one friend brings another” seems to be the operative business model here), and on this river ride one can get close up to the river and some of its wonders. It was specifically for the opportunity to take a canoe river ride that I returned to Boca de Valeria this year.
One of the things most people don’t realize is that there aren’t any beaches along the Amazon. That’s because the river rises and falls several times each year. Plant life grows right up to the banks of the river, and the river flow does not allow any sand to accumulate, so the shore is always either dirt or rock. Here are some examples from today. The photos were taken from the tender as we were approaching the dock.
This year as we docked we were met by the kids and “walked the gauntlet”:
Last year the kids just ran up to the visitors,grabbed their hands and led them around the “village”.
Some of the older women found themselves with as many as 6-8 “instant grandchildren”, and they ate it up…..
Because this is a river community, meaning that the entire village is located on or close to the banks of the Amazon, all the houses are built on stilts to protect them from the rising river. Here the family canoe is “parked” in the “garage” under the house……
Some of the houses are painted and actually have a primitive kind of “pretty” to them.
Below was the most highly decorated house we saw in Boca de Valeria.
But painted or not, why give up the creature comforts? Anyone for CNN en Espanol?
Meet some of the kids’ exotic pets.
The Amazon catfish (a daddy is showing it off)::
The kids (and even some adults) in their “typical” Amazon River Indian dress:
The natives sell some of their hand-made wares as a means of supporting themselves.
One of the sellers offering “original works of art” for sale (and T-shirts):
Now look carefully at the picture for sale at the far left:
A painting (highly desired, I’m sure) of our own cruise ship, the Prinsendam, on the same day that very ship happened to drop anchor and bring tourists. What a coinkydink! Ya think? The funniest thing I saw today was one of the ship’s passengers, a typical “old lady” who had “acquired about 6 “dollar grandchildren” at the dock, showing her “grandkids” which cabin on the ship was hers……as if they understood or even cared…..pathetic……
But I was there for the canoe trip, so……
Less than a minute after leaving the dock area we came to a field of lilies….lily pads, that is, some with blooming flowers, and many of these pads were over 4 feet in diameter.
These bad boys had some really intimidating protective spikes on their backsides.
We passed a lizard hanging on to a log
Birds of all kinds, including this yellow-billed egret, commonly found in the Amazon.
While the Amazon River itself can rage, the canals off the River are very tranquil, as you can see from the reflections:
There were wooded sections of the rain forest that where the ground was flooded
but the growth was so thick that it was actually dark inside the growth:
We had an extra “traveler” in our canoe, the younger sister of the young man piloting the canoe. She had just received a gift of a pencil holder and some note pads from some of the visitors and was using her “ride time” to open and inspect it. Here she is with one of the note pads shaped like a Valentine’s Day heart:
Here she is riding the canoe’s bow
And, at the bottom of the canoe, her footwear – typical of so many Amazonia dwellers:
On the way back we passed a number of houses on stilts (to keep the ground floor always above the river water line) of members of the Boca de Valeria river community. Isolated …. isolated….but see the satellite dish?
If they have satellite, it’s obvious they have electricity:
We passed some other canoe trippers on the way,
and then back to the dock to go back to the Prinsendam
and LUNCH !
Tomorrow we’re going to be in Manaus, a city of 2 million-plus people located about a thousand miles up the Amazon. This will be the farthest we will travel up the Amazon, and we will be here for two days. We’re hoping to be able to post all our accumulated–but-not-yet-posted blogs from Manaus ! !