And So The Buffalo Swam To Marajo (Amazon, Brazil)
“There is a time when it is necessary to abandon the used clothes, which already have the shape of our body and to forget our paths, which takes us always to the same places. This is the time to cross the river: and if we don’t dare to do it, we will have stayed, forever beneath ourselves” Fernando Pessoa
Marajo is an island in Brazil in the state of Para at the mouth of the Amazon. It is the size of Switzerland and home to many beautiful birds and water buffalo. The story goes that a ship on route to French Guyana ladened with goods and water buffalo from India hit a reef and sank off the coast of Marajo. Some of the buffalo escaped the wreck and swam to shore. The buffalo are descendants of this shipwreck though now more have been brought in. There are large herds of domesticated water buffalo on the island.
Marajo had an advanced pre Colombian society from 400AD. The arrival of the Portuguese in the sixteenth century wiped out ninety per cent of the natives due to lack of immunities to the European diseases. They left behind great examples of pre Colombian pottery. Artisans on the island recreate the designs.
Soure is a sleepy fishing village.
The people have a peaceful life, take things slowly and keep up their traditions.
Fisherman shacks, modern homes and large faziendas (farms) exist side by side on the island, It is the only place to have a water buffalo police force. They say it is used for looking for drugs in the forest but most of the crime is pilfering or the occasional lost drunk or “misplaced” bicycle.( newest police recruit)
Fazenda Sanjo is a ranch and hotel owned by Ana and Carlos Nunes. http://www.sanjo.tur.br You take a boat down a tributary of the Amazon to get there from Soare.
The hammocks are an inviting place for a nap. (and I made a friend)
You can experience the daily life on a Fazenda in the Amazon.
There are many activities and nature is your host.
There is piranha fishing, riding and milking buffalo, canoeing and horseback riding through the river with the buffalo.
We did that.
I think pictures are better than words.
It was definitely the most different thing I have ever seen up close and pretty amazing.
On the boat ride back, it was very windy and I lost my hat in the Amazon.
It is one of those lifetime jungle, sun and mosquito repellant hats and luckily, it floats. The hat is usually on my head in my travels where there are mosquitos. I live in fear of malaria or dengue so I was glad to get it back.
A hotel in Soure is the lovely Hotel Casarao da Amazonia which occupies a restored blue colonial mansion. The breakfast is good and the atmosphere is immediately relaxed. There is not a lot of English but if you need it, they find someone.(http://www.casaraoamazonia.com.br)
The island is a spectacular visual feat of nature.
The marshlands attract many varieties of birds like the scarlet ibis.
Vultures fly overhead on the miles of quiet beach.
Marajo is located at the mouth of the Amazon River where the fresh water pours into the Atlantic Ocean. The fish can be fresh or salty depending on what the fisherman has found that day.
The Amazon rainforest has foods and flavors that dont exist anywhere else in the world.Every meal is juxtaposition of the intermingling of cultures of 400 years – European, Brazilian and African.
We eat buffalo steak topped with slabs of queijo do Marajo, sweet, soft buffalo milk cheese followed by fresh fruit.
In the morning there is buffalo butter on home-made toast and jams made from fruits that I never heard of till now.
There is always ground cassava (manioc) at the table and sometimes there is jambu a wild green that numbs your mouth while you are eating it. There is acai served with dried balls of cassava flour. In cities very far away acai has become the new superfood because it is loaded with antioxidants, but here you eat it in a bowl alone usually with fish. When red flags are up a fresh batch of acai has been made.
The weirdest thing to eat here is uncooked turu and we were on a mission to find some. (Gelderson)
(apparently Survivor was filmed here and they had it regularly) Turu are tree worms.
They are rich in calcium and can be eaten raw and like oysters are taken as an aphrodisiac.
I couldn’t decide if i wanted to eat it or not and when I finally said yes, they ran out of bottled water to wash it. I declined to clean it in the river. ( turu in motion – or my photo is blurry)
There is a small fishing village on a beautiful beach with houses set on stilts.
A woman is washing her dishes and setting her cups to dry on the posts children laugh and play quietly.
The beach is impossibly wide and the sand gives way to the Para River which joins the Amazon downstream and disappears into the horizon.
There are a few hut umbrellas and small restaurants serving cold beer, fresh fish and always fresh coconut water.
I walk for miles on this beach alone fascinated by the patterns in the soft sand surrounded only by vultures.
I have to thank my tour guides Osvaldo and Gelderson, who’s knowledge, kindness, patience, excellent English, sense of humor and nothing is a problem attitude made the trip to the Amazon even more wonderful. People like them always remind me of how small the world really is.
Tenha Uma Boa Viagem,