Published: October 24th 2009October 22nd 2009
I am typing this blog with two hands. I typed the last blog with one. Not because I thought it would be funny, or because I lost a bet, or because I like to time myself doing strange tasks but because I had an accident. Actually I've been having quite a few accidents recently. But i´ll get on to that in a bit.
On 24th September we flew from Cartagena to Leticia, a teeny weeny town in the far south of Colombia on the boarder with Peru and Brazil. I cant tell you much about Leticia because when we arrived we jumped straight into a taxi and went to Tabatinga, which is in Brazil! Yes that's right, we took a taxi from Colombia to Brazil! And it only took 10 minutes! We went straight to the Federal Police station to declare our presence and ask for an entry stamp in my passport. Italo, by way of being a hot Brazilian, didn't need one. We spent a long time in the Police Station, whilst the officer on duty, and all of the other officers in the station, debated whether or not this was really my passport and I was who I
claimed to be. This debate of course happened in complete silence, the officers using only their eyes and eyebrows to communicate. The situation went something like this: Officer 1 examines my passport. Officer 1 moves eyes from passport to my face, then back to passport and back to face with long pauses in between movements. Repeats sequence five more times. Officer 1 looks to officer 2 and raises one eyebrow. Officer 2 arrives and examines passport. Officer 2 looks to my face and back to passport twice then raises both eyebrows at Officer 1. Officer 1 and Officer 2 look to Officer 3 and raise both eyebrows whilst directing eyes at my passport. Officer 3 arrives and goes through the same eye/eyebrow movements as Officers 1 and 2. All officers look to each other jiggling all eyebrows up and down. I stand on the other side of the glass wall grinning inanely at said jiggly eyebrow officers.
Being experts in eyebrow language ourselves me and Italo were fully aware of the potential trouble we might be in. This resulted in Italo trying to say under his breath, and hence making us look even more dodgy, that the Officers didn't
think it was my passport and me starting to sweat and show more and more teeth, less and less lips and make my eyes more and more Chineseified. In the end the Officers stopped jiggling their eyebrows, did some kind of lips together, nod the head, half close eyes and let out a small grunt maneuver and then stamped me in! I cant say I blame the Officers for their lengthy eyebrow debate, I really don't look anything like my passport picture....
Tabatinga is the centre of nowhere. There is absolutely nothing to do. And I really do mean nothing. We spent two days there, just waiting. It felt like two weeks. The only reason to go to Tabatinga is to leave by boat. Imagine that, a town that you would only visit in order to leave. That's a pretty shitty town huh!
So we did indeed leave Tabatinga. On a boat. On a boat headed to Manaus! Manaus, centre of the Amazon! Four days by river, nearly 1000 miles, right through the middle of the worlds greatest ecosystem! Amazing huh.
When we boarded the boat our first task was to find a spec to hang our
In my hammock on the boat
The guy next to me is Marcel, a Colombian drug runner who would like to study theatre production in Argintina
hammocks. We´re not talking luxury cruise with on-suit cabins and deck top pool here, it was hang your hammock from the roof of the middle deck, and if your lucky you´ll have enough space so that your not rubbing bums with the Colombian drug runner next to you.
And talking of drug runners, we were given a full inspection by the Federal Police before we were allowed to leave. It took hours! They actually went through everybodys bags item by item! My bag is HUGE and it has far too much stuff in it. It takes me a good hour to pack it, rolling, folding, stuffing, squashing. So you can imagine how miffed I was when a big sweaty man, who was actually dripping beads of sweat into my clothes, started pulling everything out out it bit by bit. He started with the side pocket, which is where I keep all my ´girls stuff´. Now I will admit that after 3 weeks of rolling around whilst not in a box tampons can start to look a little tatty. Paper hanging off, bit bent, the odd string sticking out etc. But they still look like tampons! To a normal person!
But not to a Federal Police officer! Boy was he baffled as he picked that tatty tampon up and brought it right up close to his face, turning it over, peaking under the wrapper. I mean seriously, what was he thinking it was? A little tube of cocaine!? hahaha And then he did realise what it was! And man did he put it back where he found it fast. After that he had a good riffle through the main compartment of my bag. He looked pretty intrigued when he found my snorkeling flippers. And even more when he noticed that there was something stuffed inside the feet compartments. His hand was right in there! Fast as lightening. And then there he was, stood there looking a little bit embarassed, holding up all of my dirty knickers for everyone to see!
Four days on a little boat with nothing to do but lay in your hammock might seem like a long time. But it was really nice! Out of all of the things I have done on this trip and the last one to South America I think this has to be my favourite. 4 days of reading, sleeping, eating,
playing cards, talking to the other passengers and just watching the world go by, or I should say watching the trees go past, is so nice and relaxing. And when you stop and think that you are right in the heart of the biggest jungle on earth, surrounded by millions of animals and more plants than you could ever count, well it just takes your breath away.
On the day that we arrived in Manaus we crossed ´The meeting Waters´, a very cool phenomenon that occurs at the point where two rivers of different coloured waters meet and don't mix. They just run along side each other! Amazing. And quite odd when you cross from one to the other and nothing happens.
The boat trip didn't pass without its share of excitement. Throughout the trip we would pull into little towns and villages on the river bank, some people would get on and take a ride to the next town, goods would be offloaded, others put on. Small boats would come up along side our boat and the locals would sell fresh fish and fruit to the passengers. It all seemed quite jolly until we pulled up
to one particular town on the second night and were greeted by a big crowd of very anxious looking people. There had been a motorbike accident. One person had died and three were badly injured. The injured were carried onto the boat by friends and family and put into little poky rooms. It turned out that we were the fastest way to the hospital. One and a half days by boat! A scary fact of life when you live in the jungle. The dead guy needed to go to the hospital as well, to be embalmed or something, but they didn't have any rooms for him so he had to share my hammock. I could have sworn he winked at me one night!
I think the transport fairy, who really does hate me, has started rounding up all of her little fairy friends into an I Hate Laura club. I'm really not having much luck at the moment. When I was in Tayrona Park in Colombia I got eaten alive by mosquito's. I counted 22 bites just on the back of one hand! My legs and feet swelled up so much I couldn't put my shoes on. After that
With our gringo friends at the front of the boat
Notice we have now crossed into the black river!
I got a really itchy toe, and even when my foot had stopped impersonating an elephant my toe was still big and red and covered in strange lumps. It got worse and worse and spread to two other toes. I showed it to Italo on the boat who recognised it as Micose, a disgusting disease of little worms which live in the skin and travel around, hence the spreading. When he told me my skin was full of little worms I seriously freaked out and started trying to shake my foot off. Owh Ive never been so grossed out by my own body before. The disease is caught from poo, so I must have picked it up in the forest in Tayrona which is full of donkey shit. The poo worms probably jumped into my toe through a mosquito bite :(
Because I hadn't known what was wrong with my toes I´d spent a lot of time poking them and squeezing them. The worms then spread to my hands and were everywhere. All over my palms and along my fingers. God, Italo´s lucky he didn't get it on his Co... ;)
A few days after we arrived in
Manaus I went to the hospital to see a dermatologist. He told me that it was the worst case of Micose he´d ever seen! I got some tablets for it, which dried it out and caused all of my skin to come off in big chunks!
My tale of woe doesn't end there though. Italo took me out clubbing with his friend Rod that night. We had only just arrived in the club and I was starting to get my groove on. Disco funk was pumping out of the speakers and Italo was strutting across the dance floor towards Rod. Italo, by way of being a hot Brazilian, is an excellent dancer. Actually he could work as a professional Michael Jackson impersonator. Hes got all of that homoerotic crotch thrusting and squealing down to a tee. In a good way. Anyway off he struts towards Rod. When he gets to him he busts out this amazing MJ spin and disco fever arm pointing thing. Given that there is hardly anyone on the dance floor, everyone in the club is watching the dance floor, I now have a lot to live up to. So off I trot (yes I, by
way of being a dippy English girl, am more of a trotter than a strutter) towards Rod. When I get there I bust out the same MJ spin as Italo (imitation is always a good solution when you have no idea what to do) and half way through I mix it up into that MJ move where he keeps his feet flat on the floor and tilts the rest of his body down to the floor, until hes practically horizontal, and then pops back up. Except I forgot to pop back up. Ahh who am I kidding, I didn't mix it up into a new move, I just fell over. So there I was laying face down in the middle of the dance floor with my minuscule skirt up around my waste and equally minuscule thong wedged firmly into my rather large white wobbly ass.
Italo came to pick me up and tell me that everybody had just seen my ass (like I hadn't realised that). I told him that my arm was hurting. He repeated the fact that everybody had just seen my ass, with more emphasis on the word everybody. I repeated my fact about my arm
REALLY hurting. Italo replied with ´No you don't understand. EVERYBODY and I mean EVERYBODY just saw your ass´. OK OK I got it! Everybody saw my ass, the lucky bastards. But my arm fucking hurts!!!
So 10 minutes after arriving in the club, we were leaving and I was headed to A & E where I found out that I had broken my arm and would need to wear a plaster cast for 45 days.
Have you ever seen a backpacker in a plaster cast? No, i didn't think so. Because people that fuck up like that go home and spend the rest of their holidays doing safe things, like staying in and watching TV.
Which is pretty much all I've done since my accident. Ive been living at Italo´s family´s house for 3.5 weeks now. I eat, I sleep and I watch TV. Sometimes we go to the cinema, or out for dinner. We´ve been to see some nice waterfalls, to the historic centre and to some rivers for swimming, or in my case dipping.
Italo´s dad cut off my plaster cast with a big kitchen knife and a pair of pliers the other day
because I couldnt stand the weight of it any longer, hence me now typing with two hands. I can´t pick much up but at least I can wash myself and wipe my own ass. Its not fully healed but i´ll be able to get by on my own when I leave. I'm heading to Costa Rica next to meditate and become a hippy. Unfortunately I´ll have to say goodbye to Italo, which is going to break my heart. But I'm sure I´ll be seeing him in the New Year...
There are more photos below