The Amazon… A BLOOMIN´ Wonder!
September 28, 2011 § Leave a comment
A journey through the Amazon – PART ONE
by Dave Chadwick
When asked to help out a little bit here and a little bit there by my good friend James at Bloomtrigger, I did so with happiness not just because he’s my friend but because it’s a good cause right? I listen to the reports of global warming and deforestation with genuine care and concern, I recycle glass, plastic, paper and compost my veggies, I cycle to work each day, I do my bit and that’s enough…Or is it?
I used to think of myself as fairly knowledgeable on environmental issues, nature, and geography. I watch Attenborough religiously and saw Bruce Parry’s Amazon series with interest, but little did I really know or could I really know until I visited the Amazon for myself to find out a few things first hand, and so that’s what I did. I am currently sat in an Ecuadorian Internet Cafe with a half eaten humita (corn type cake thing) and an empty Granadilla (totally tropìcal fruit) shell sat by the keyboard, and without any further ado I’d like to share a part of my journey that may help to inspire you, the way in which Attenborough, Bruce and Bloomtrigger have inspired me.
Although I had passed through some of the Amazon basin already in Bolivia and Brazil, we will pick the journey 100km or so from the mouth of the Amazon on the banks of the River Pará, and in the busy port town of Belem. We, my girlfriend Elli and I, didn’t spend too long in the city itself as our main point of coming here was to travel by boat (and hammock) to Manaus, some 800 miles or so up river. Some of the distances already mentioned and the fact that when we joined the main river, we couldn’t see the other side, brings me to my first awe-inspiring moment of the trip – the sheer size of what I was venturing into! I knew it would be vast and thought I was prepared by some of the 24 hour bus trips already taken in Brazil, but seriously nothing can prepare you for the sight of such a huge river, it makes the Thames look like a small stream. Couple that with the fact a ship the size of the Trafford Centre sailed passed and you can imagine how wide my mouth fell open…truly incredible. This amount of water started my mind racing on just how much jungle was out there to explore beyond the banks, and also gave me a sense of just how many thousands of square kilometers of rain forest are being destroyed. So with that in mind we decided to stop after 3 days at the city of Santarem to take a trip into the jungle.
From Santarem we made our way to a small town called Alter do Chao, and from there headed to a protected area of rainforest, the Floresta Nacional do Tapajós, and stayed with a family of the Maguary tribe. On first impression this was not the typical bamboo hut with men and women in loin-cloths and palm leaves dancing around a bonfire, instead most families have a stone built house running water and, between certain hours, electricity. There is very good reason for this development in the communities here and very good reason why they are still surrounded by over 600 million hectares of pristine rainforest. Just over 12 years ago, the 12 communities living inside the now protected park decided to allow tourists to visit, raising awareness and also bringing in revenue to help protect the park. All those years ago the communities decided that they would live naturally as they had always done, would protect and maintain the rainforest, it’s many plants and animals, and would harvest the natural resources in a sustainable and responsible way. The most notable natural resources here are oils from Amazon Brazil nuts which can be sold to pharmaceutical companies for many skin creams, and latex trees which are bled for their sap, the sap in turn is crafted into many different products such as bags, sandals, or children’s toys, which are then sold at artisanal markets and fairs around the world. Just one night with a family here and one hike through the primary rainforest will be enough to convince anyone that projects such as this are well worthwhile and really can work in protecting the forest. The variety of plants and trees and insects is truly phenomenal, hearing the squawks from Macaws, seeing howler monkeys swinging through the trees or sloths just sleeping away is exciting. Seeing how happy the people are that they are protected in a habitat they have lived for centuries, safe in the knowledge that they don’t have to turn to logging or digging for oil or gold but can protect the forest they love so dearly is truly heart warming. I am not naive enough to think that this rose-tinted experience of mine is true across the Amazon and that all projects work out so well, but seeing first hand how 10 years of sustainable forest management can help to protect and preserve a wonderful environment as well as bucket loads of oxygen has convinced me, at least, that supporting local sustainable projects like Bloomtrigger´s project in Peru with the CREES Foundation really can make a difference and is the way forward.