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MikeL

Palms of the Amazon Pre-tour - Another Take

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MikeL

Thanks for the compliments Matt and Jeff, and I'm glad you meant pink dolphins, Matt. And it's always nice to hear from another shutterbug, Kim. I've been enjoying your Rio shots over in one of other threads.

I'm not quite sure about measuring up to National Geographic standards, Jeff, although I'll gladly take the compliment. I've envied Nat Geo photographers since I was a kid and still marvel at the kind of images they bring back from all over the world. It sounds like a dream job to shoot for them but then you have to be the best in the world to even get a whiff of that kind of work. I just hack away and hope for the best.

Kathryn, I'm glad to hear that someone is willing to give a chance to some people and culture shots. I've been a bit worried about posting stuff that isn't pure, 180 proof palm-oriented. And Lindsey, I've been telling everyone about the great palm pictures that Jack has. That takes the pressure off me to have to post my pathetically underexposed shots of scrawny palms in the jungle.

And, of course, I only heard good things about Wal. One of the great pleasures of the trip was to make friends with our Aussie contingent. I think that both Hugh and Philip might have a couple of years on me, but I sure had a hard time keeping up with them as they hacked their way through the bush.

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MikeL

As for your question, Paul, about parasites, besides leishmaniasis there's also the risk of schistosomiasis in Brazil. And, of course, there's malaria, dengue, yellow fever, and something peculiar to Brazil called Chagas disease. My wife, Mary, couldn't resist buying the souvenir t-shirt shown in the attached photo that depicts some of the other hazards of the Amazon including the infamous candiru. If you haven't heard the tales about these insidious, little catfish, then google away on them. I'm not about to repeat any of those stories here.

You're right that the water was pretty still in a lot of places we visited, but we only swam in the main channel of the river. In the picture where you see us diving in off the boat, the river was actually chugging along at about 2 to 3 knots. It took quite a bit of effort to simply swim from one end of the boat to the other.

Don, I really appreciate you adding your local knowledge to the thread. Before this trip I felt that I didn't have a very good understanding of how the vast Amazon river system worked. But the truth is, I still don't have a good grasp on the place even after having been there. It's just too difficult to understand a world where the the boundaries between the rivers and the land are constantly shifting, where it can rain more in an hour than it does in a month in California, where ocean-going ships barrel past hand-paddled canoes, and where pink dolphins, anacondas, giant catfish, and millions of people all somehow eke out a living. And all of this happens within a labyrinthine delta more than a thousand miles from the ocean. As far as I'm concerned, the place defies comprehension.

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MikeL

I can’t help it: I’m more of a people photographer than a palm photographer. Here, Captain Mo brought us to a small village, a place whose name I never learned. How small? The first picture shows the main residential street of the town.

I know just enough Portuguese to get myself into trouble. When I asked the young woman in the second photo about her little brother, she explained that he was actually her son. It is a small town, after all.

No matter. I made friends with the kids of the town while passengers and crew from the boat played soccer with the locals. Mary had fantasized about playing volleyball with the hunks in Rio; this is as close as she got. A Old Testament-sized deluge brought an end to most of the games except for the little kids who kept playing right through the downpour. I guess they’re just used to that kind of thing there.

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MikeL

We stopped in one other actual town, Carvoeiro, on the Rio Negro to pick up a pilot to help navigate a difficult section of the Rio Negro as it approaches the Rio Branco. It was a hot afternoon when we disembarked in what must be the sleepiest town in the world. I did find one kid and his mom on the streets but that was about it.

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MikeL

But, of course, most of our adventures came by canoe. Here you can see Andrew Henderson scouting for trees while Captain Mo steers through the backwaters of the Rio Negro near Carvoeiro. If you look closely, you can see Lindsey Sayers, Glenn Franklin, and David Tanswell in that canoe as well.

We often relied on locals to help us look for good, palmy locales. A local man brought us to the waterfall in the second picture while searching for the elusive Manicaria saccifera. (You can see in the El Hoagie post that we eventually found some.) You'll notice that Mary knows to give me a little smile when the camera is out even when she's in a canoe in the middle of the Amazon. Other folks in the canoe, from the front to the back, are Lelan Nishek, Bruce Golightly, Kylie White, Bob McDade, Hugh Kunze, Glenn Franklin, and our boatman, Zacao.

I'm still not sure why we met so many friendly people. The fisherman in the third shot helped lead us out of a watery maze even after we’d shredded some of his nets with our outboard motors.

Back on land, we could get up close and personal with our palmy quarry. Even Captain Mo got into the spirit; you can see him admiring the infructescence on a particularly impressive Oenocarpus bacaba in the fourth shot. Brett Emery did a little more than admire the cluster of ripe seeds on the Bactris maraja seen in the last shot.

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MikeL

Stick with me. I promise to post some of those palm pictures soon. Mike

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amazondk

I'm still not sure why we met so many friendly people. The fisherman in the third shot helped lead us out of a watery maze even after we’d shredded some of his nets with our outboard motors.

Mike,

I wish I could have met more of you when you came through town. I intended to be here on the Friday you were back in town and I was going to meet up with Dan and Donald again. They called me for lunch, but I had to go to Boa Vista, one hour north by plane for business and could not make it back in time. Your observation is very true about the people of Amazonia. They are very friendly. A few years ago I spent a lot of time in the interior looking for forest lands. I would take off with my mateiro, forest guide, in a small outboard not knowing where we would spend the night. We had plenty of food along so that was not problem. We always met people where we were and found a place to hang our hammocks. I learned a lot from those people. My mother in law who was raised in the rubber tree groves on the Jurua river some 600 kms to the southwest from Manaus is a wealth of forest stories and a great example of the people of the forest. Seeing your pictures makes me want to get back out to the country again.

It is great to have such good coverage of the people and the palms. As you I am sure noticed the people here have no problem having their pictures taken.

dk

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All Habitats Tropicals

Great photos Mike! It really brings the trip to life - it's like being there all over again.

Kylie

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rthink

Those pictures are just fabulous!! Keep them coming please!! It is one trip that I have to make for my lifetime.

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Daryl

Mike, your photos are worthy of National Geographic. I'm loving this thread. Thank you!

I look forward to seeing more of this once in a lifetime trip.

I was going to say the same thing....those photos are fantastic...I thought they were from National Geographic! Well captured Mike!

Daryl

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MikeL

Thanks, Chalermchart. But watch what you ask for 'cause I plan to post many more pictures.

And I appreciate the compliment, Daryl, even more so since I've enjoyed many of your shots of Australian palms in habitat on Palmtalk.

Kylie, I've got some fun pictures of you dancing with Mary on the last night of the biennial. Haven't decided yet whether to post them.

Mike

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MikeL

Kids are always a favorite photo subject for me. You can see three little girls in the open door of the house in the first picture; they got a bit more coy when I got a little closer but that just made for a better picture. The boys in the third photo were just out for some fun, paddling around in canoes the same way kids in the US might ride around the neighborhood on their bikes.

An interesting, if perhaps obvious, aspect of life in a rainforest is that things goes on even when it’s raining. I’ve never seen anyone have as much fun in a downpour as those kids in the fourth shot. They certainly look like they’re having a better time than the group getting soaked in the canoe. Actually, the canoe expedition reported having a great time – including a picnic in the forest – that day.

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MikeL

Anyone interested in birds? I kind of hope not because we didn’t see that many of them and I only got a few decent shots. But I couldn’t resist posting that first picture of a Yellow-headed Caracara in a Euterpe palm.

It was easier to see birds on those rare occasions when we weren’t surrounded by forest. Here’s another caracara in some wetlands along the river. That bird got into a scuffle with the Yellow-headed Vulture in the third shot. The dispute was over the rights to a particularly desirable dead fish. You can see in the last picture who won the argument. Don’t let anyone tell you that size doesn’t matter.

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MikeL

At our farthest reach up the Rio Negro we found beautiful stands of Leopoldinia major packed in thick along the river. You can see a few of them in the first shot behind a canoe filled with the likes of Brett Emery, Philip Arrowsmith, Bruce Golightly, David Salmanowitz, and sundry other palm watchers.

After the Leopoldinia tour, we returned to the Dorinha which Captain Mo had anchored hard to the shore of a spectacularly white sand bank in the middle of the river. The sand bank was to later become just about the most unlikely soccer field (football pitch?) anywhere. You can see Kylie White tending goal, while Jack Sayers and Bruce Golightly endeavor to generate at least some competition for the boat’s crew. That soccer game on the blazing white sand in the middle of the dark waters of the Rio Negro, miles and miles from any town, was one of the more surreal scenes of the entire trip.

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MikeL

I’ve just about run out of stories but still have a few nice shots left. I’ll just post them, if you don’t mind. Just some of my typical subjects: a cute kid with a nice smile; a humble, but extremely colorful house that seems to glow even in the dim, early morning light; a swampy patch of flooded forest. That’s Andrew Henderson on the edge of the canoe in the last shot with Captain Mo at the motor. Both seem to be enjoying themselves. Just another day at the office for them.

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MikeL

Last travelogue post. A pink dolphin, or boto, looking kind of mysterious through the dark waters of the Rio Negro. Even more mysterious is why the kid in the second shot seems so melancholy. Smiles were more common in the Amazon as seen on the fisherman in the third shot. Beauty was so commonplace that we simply came to expect gorgeous orchids spilling from the trees. I’ve included that picture of a mother and son simply because I like it, and it just looks Brazilian to me. And it never hurts to go out with a sunset shot.

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MikeL

Next up I plan to post pictures of many of the species of palms we saw. Andrew figured we’d seen more than 50 species or subspecies. Fortunately for everyone involved I only have pictures of some of them. I’ll get to that in the next day or so.

Mike

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amazondk

Mike,

You have done a great job of capturing the spirit of life in Amazonas. I first was here on a brief and somewhat crazy trip in 1976. I have worked with business in Manaus since 1989. And, I have lived here since 2000. It is quite different here from my home of Montana. But, one thing is similar the great natural beauty. And, how close nature is. One difference from Manaus to most large urban areas is that in a matter of minutes you can be in a place that seems far away. I love your picture of the beach soccer game. It is hard for people who do not know this place to understand what the beaches are like. In the low water season just up river from Manaus there are beaches that appear in the middle of the river. It is great to put the boat on one side of the little sand islands and swim on the other side while making a BBQ. As to birds the muddy water, agua branca as it is called of the Amazon river has a lot more birds than the Negro. You need to be up in the tree tops to really get more bird action as well. At my place in the country there are quite a few interesting birds that hang out. I am going to put in some feeding stations and nesting boxes to see if I can bring more in. Your pictures make me want to get out in the country. So, hopefully this weekend I can go over to our country place and take the kids for a dip in the river. The beach in front of our place is great this time of year.

I have posted a few pictures of a pre pre tour that I took Donald and Dan on before your group left Manaus. Dan took a lot of pictures and I took a few of him and the people were his subject in these. I would love to see him post some pictures as well as I am sure that he has a lot of great ones. The place we were is just in front of our country place at Paricatuba. The people are neighbors. My mother in law which lives there enjoyed seeing them a lot. Hawaii is a long way from where she comes from. I don´t even know if she has an idea of where Hawaii is in fact. But, that does not really make much difference. The world she has known all her life is the one in your pictures. Thanks again for such a good glimpse into the place I call home. Although people think of the forest when they think of Amazonia for the most part life revolves around the rivers. Hopefully I will see more Palm talk people here in the future.

dk

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GTClover

Wonderful Photos!

Thank you!

Susan

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amazondk

Mike,

I was showing this thread to my wife and she recognized the guy in the attached picture. She lived in Novo Airão when she was a teenager and remembers him from then. She could not remember his name though. I am sure my mother in law will know his name though. I will show the picture to her when she is in Manaus next week. It is a small world these days. Raquel really liked the pictures. Since she spent a lot of her childhood living up in the country by the Negro River the scenes in the pictures are very familiar to her.

dk

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amazondk

Mike,

I was showing this thread to my wife and she recognized the guy in the attached picture. She lived in Novo Airão when she was a teenager and remembers him from then. She could not remember his name though. I am sure my mother in law will know his name though. I will show the picture to her when she is in Manaus next week. It is a small world these days. Raquel really liked the pictures. Since she spent a lot of her childhood living up in the country by the Negro River the scenes in the pictures are very familiar to her.

dk

My mother in law is here at our house and she identified the gentleman in the pictures as Sr. Erineu. He is famous for praying with people in Novo Airão.

Just an updated.

dk

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