We met around 9am Sunday morning. After the rough drive the day before, everyone needed a break. Ramon, Sara (a 1st year PhD in the center that I work at), and I decided to visit a few attractions nearby. The professor, who is well established and around his 60, said he needs to do stretch to put his bones back to the right position, hence he didn’t join us. So here we go, the three young fearless scholars went back to the unpaved road, on the way to more adventures!
Here is something interesting about the professor. He is an expert in Latin American studies with 40 years experience in the Amazon region (and according to him, the road to Mateiros is the worst he has ever seen, even the bad infrastructure in Amazon can not compete with this one). This expertise sent him into the American Academies. Actually, the work that made my phd advisor Dr. Deadman famous is a collaborative work with him–modeling the fish-bone pattern of land use changes in Altamira in Amazon. He’s a charming person with loads of knowledge and interesting stories from the field. I have high respect for him because he still visits his sites even at such age. One thing I’ve noticed is that everyday he’ll talk to his wife and whenever it’s the call from her, his voice changes to a gentle (maybe a bit naughty) tone. It is sweet.
Back to our day-off. While we were driving like 30 km on the bumpy road, Sara said “Ramon, stop! stop the car!” She jumped out of the car the moment Ramon stopped, and ran backwards on the dusty road. We were so confused about what is going on and she screamed with joy “we found the light!!” “this is our light!” Ramon and I started to run to her, and we couldn’t believe what we saw in her hands. It is the light of our car! We would never have prayed for such luck to find it back!
Thrived by the luck we have, the 50 km drive became less suffer-able. As we drove into the gate of the waterfall of Formiga (Cachoeira do Formiga), a group of people saw us coming and started yielding in Portuguese. Within a second, an older lady jumped into our car, and lots of conversation going on…I guessed the group wanted us to take the lady to the waterfall since there’s still a bit of walk from the gate to the actual fall. Alright, as long as Ramon and Sara know what is going on. After another few minutes drive, we finally arrived the place. It is not like a park in China or Canada that has nice sign or even gate. There is only a wooden house, with a sign said “20 reais per pessoa” (20 RS per person), and some crappy benches..Nothing like a national park or even a local park that holds a nice attraction…
So here is the thing, water resources in Brasil by law is free. This protects anybody’s right to use it and enjoy it. However, the access to water can be bought by individuals, so that people have to pay to transpassing the property. I think Mexico has a similar regulation? I remember hearing someone told me in Cancun, all beaches are free but some hotels can extend their property very close to the water so basically they have the beaches as private. (not sure, need to check)
However, the water is amazing. In such savanna, you walk hours without any sign of water, but all of a sudden you’re in this beautiful oasis. Creek runs furiously, forms a natural swimming pool that is surrounded by palm trees. The water is crystal clear, layered by beautiful and fine white sand at the bottom. you don’t even see much grass and fish because the water is so clear. The water is tempting and calling you for a swim.
I didn’t bring baiting suit with me to Brazil because I didn’t expect that we would have a pool and now this or even have time for leisure. However, at that moment, I can’t resist and jumped into water with Ramon and Sara with my underwear. Who cares if it’s inappropriate to swim in your underwear instead of swimming suit! I want to enjoy the nice water! In this small natural water pool, it is paradise. See how happy my colleagues were! (I’m not in the photo, but don’t worry, just imagine my face and Scarlet Johnson’s body.)
After a while, the lady who we gave a ride to and her friends joined us in the pool. They were from a nearby state Bahia and it is a church group activity for them. They apparently had some interests in me and tried to pronounce my name (failed xD). Later we felt a bit cold and decided to go under the sun since none of us brought a towel. While we were sun-drying ourselves, one woman from the group came, asking to take a photo with us. She was wearing a T-shirt with a huge Jesus in the front, and I was in my underwear…Alright, now some woman in the middle of Brazil has a photo of me in my cute bra and panties….
Remember the palm trees and oasis I mentioned in the last email? So we actually saw a belt of palm trees that is at least 5 km long. I think it’s a great evidence for river. We even saw one driving this time.These palm trees also have burned marks, that puzzles me..
Although unwilling to leave, we left the waterfall for Dundas, a sand dunes. We drove and drove on the road and saw no sign..Basically the navigation here is based on verbal instruction from the manager in the hotel. He told us you just drive forever on the road and you’ll see the sand dunes in front of you all of a sudden..That what we did. I think we must have driven around 1.5hrs, and we stopped a few times waiting for some cars to pass so that we could check if we’re on the right track. Photo below is when we waiting for cars to pass by, which usually takes a while, but there are cars with mountain bikes.
Eventually we got to the park, and we were told it’s still 5 km away from the gate. The road inside the park is even worse. Ramon has to stop constantly and switch gears, and the car made lots of noise trying to move on the pure sand road..We crawled like 10 minutes on the road and the car cannot move anymore– It was stuck in the sand completely.We had to get off the car, under the 2pm heat, and trying to dig the monster pick up out off the sand…The sand was burning my feet and I was wearing the Chinese green sneakers not even flipflops. Sara and I had to walk around and collect as many logs as we can, and Ramon stuffed the logs tightly under each tire. And we started the car again, you see the tires raging and pushing lots of sand out, but still, it’s not moving..We tried the same procedure a few more times with more log, but still no luck.
the video is our attempt
At this point, worrying began to rise in my mind..I asked Sara if she wanted to walk with me to the gate. So the two of us grabbed one bottle of water (half full), and left poor Ramon there continue digging sand–which seems useless… We couldn’t really remember which way we came from since there are lots of small pathes but none sign..So we decided to always follow the middle path. It was a desperate walk..extremely hot, no shade, no one around, actually nothing around, no signal, only half bottle of water..not mentioning walking in sand is really difficult. The only sound I can hear is my heavy breath..I don’t know how long exactly we have walked, but it should be around 30 minutes, and finally we saw the gate! “woo, we are saved!” Sara and I thought. Turns out we were too optimistic, as usual..
this video records the walk of Sara and I. (Yes, the sound is my breath)..
The guard of the park was in the bar next door. This is the only building that we have seen during the whole afternoon. Sara and I ran to the bar, explained our situation to the people who were sitting there, hoping some of them could help. The owner of the bar is a lady, she gave us lots of cold water, which we were dying for the whole walk.
Rounds of conversation between Sara and the group. %^$&^&$&$. At the end, Sara said that, no one has a car.
“Fuck” I cursed, “Do they know anyone around has a car?”
The answer is no.
“Fuck” I cursed again. “Ok, so what can we do?”
Sara said their suggestion is to just go back and keep digging the sand……
“Fuck!” I definitely became desperate..”Ok, can we at least get the guard’s phone number so in case we couldn’t dig the car out by sunset, we could call him to call someone else?”
Conversation between Sara and the guard. “No, he doesn’t have a phone. Besides there is zero signal here.”
I basically cried out “Fuuucckkk!”
All those wild imaginations appeared in my head: we have to spend the night in the desert with limited water for a night. There are tons of mosquito and might be jugar or cugar (there is, in this region)…..
Alright, deep breath, calm down.
I saw a shovel at the corner, and I asked Sara to ask if we could carry it with us. The owner said yes, she also filled our water bottle, and sent us on the way back to poor Ramon..