Before re-starting on our journey, we returned to Porto Rico (nothing to do with the Menudos’ home island…wow, that was a terrible joke!) to find an Internet café or somewhere, anywhere, with an Internet connection where we could update our Blog, check email and deal with other issues; deadline extensions for university work, for example. We climbed from the boat onto the cement ramp, began asking around and were told about the Extreme Internet Café. We entered a house’s long corridor and descended to the basement. Here we found video rental and Internet sections, all lit with black lights, which, along with the fact that it was in the basement, made the place look like a pub. We were very well received by Henrique, a 15-year old kid who brought us a blue sofa and connected us to the web. They say that even experts never understand computers as well as their kids. The fact is that, for all our attempts, we could not connect the laptops. Henrique did so in a few seconds, after we’d asked. Are we becoming old?
We were very well received by Henrique, a 15-year old kid who brought us a blue sofa and connected us to the web...
We logged-in to the Blog (the expedition diaries was originally published in Portuguese on www.oeco.com.br) and thanked Felipe Lobo, of O Eco, for his help in posting our adventure. We uploaded our daily material, dealt with emails and eventually boarded our little sailboat, heading downriver.
Twenty kilometers from Porto Rico, in the region known as Porto Floresta, we began to understand the real dimensions of the Upper Paraná Corridor: one or two fishers and few signs of habitation, which drastically reduces the number of plastic bottles and other signs of “civilization”. Instead: many islands, floodplains and much forest.
… many islands, floodplains and much forest …
This mosaic, this landscape, this region, we thought, was incredibly suited to jaguars. It possessed elevated banks, sheltered islands, habitable floodplains and, more importantly, plenty of food. Our impressions are corroborated in data from jaguars monitored by radio collars in Morro do Diabo State Park (São Paulo State) and Várzeas do Ivinhema State Park (Mato Grosso do Sul State). Capybaras and marsh deer, preferred jaguar prey, were at home there.
Capybaras and marsh deer, preferred jaguar prey, were at home there.
Whoever has or will visit different types of forested areas will know that in places where hunting (by humans) is sporadic, animals tend to be less afraid. Navigating using wind gives us an added advantage: unlike motorboats, we do not make noise. This permitted us to come almost within reach of capybaras along the banks. It also led to hysterics when we frightened fishers after “unwittingly” sneaking-up on them from behind. Those with a fondness for fishing were also impressed to see a silent vehicle that did not scare the potential catch.
Navigating southward, were crossed the first rapids on the Ivinhema River, in Mato Grosso do Sul State. The Corridor each time gained more life; birds and the sightings of capybaras, otters and caimans increased considerably. The trails used by these animals were often visible to us. This reminded us of the connectivity we were trying to evaluate, these truly could be called the “paths of the jaguar”. At noon near Porto Pinheirinho, where we saw the pine tree (today quite large) that gives the place its name, we lit the barbecue and threw some onions and chicken and the grill. This was our lunch. The idea seemed well-intended and the food was quite welcome. The tailwind, however, blew billows of smoke towards us and into the cabin, reminiscent of some massive fumigation. Mishaps aside, we navigated until 19:30hs.
Whilst heading downstream, we intermittently used something akin to a carnival drum, but not quite. It was for a slightly different purpose: imitating the growl of a jaguar. This “instrument” was given to me some years ago, a present from an old hunter in the region of the Peixe River in western São Paulo State who had hunted jaguars in the upper Xingu River. We were surprised with the volume and echo created by the jaguar-call along the river (not so impressive in the video). We optimistically hoped for a reply!
…this “instrument” was given to me some years ago, a present from an old hunter…
It took us awhile to find an appropriate anchor site because of branches on the banks that constantly threatened the mast. After eventually having done this, we prepared for a quick meal and were ecstatic to pick-up a mobile signal in one of the most unlikely sites. We spoke with some friends and family, including Kauê Cachuba Abreu who studies jaguars in the floodplains of the Upper Paraná. Kauê was on a bus coming from Curitiba to Porto Figueira to join the expedition. After a quick dip in the River that reinvigorated our energies, we called jaguars until 23:30hs. We thought about the star-filled sky that would be hard to describe to someone living in a city.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/SPnvVJekMcE" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
We went to bed expecting to awake with a jaguar growling in the background, coming to see what these beasts were that had invaded its territory. Would it come?