Sunday, April 9, 2023

To Angel Falls

When we arrived in Cainaima, there were more huts selling more native crafts--woven baskets and shoulder slings made from stiff cloth of local vegetation.  There were decorative gourds used as bowls and ladles.  There were native bows and arrows, small, made of local wood and strings of fiber, and straight, wooden arrows that would be tipped with poison made from the secretions of a certain frog that would paralyze whatever animal it entered, bird, monkey, lemur. . . . There were blowguns both small and big, and tiny wooden darts with cotton backing to allow them to be placed into the narrow shafts and blown out with explosive force.  One, well over six feet tall, looked especially dangerous.  What would they hunt with that one, I wondered?  

But I wasn't carrying anything up the river with me other than my clothes and a new Voigtlander rangefinder camera and lenses I had recently purchased.  The camera and lenses were tiny and fit into a small, waterproof Pelican case.  

We would be camping overnight, but these were only semi-primitive places, thatch-covered verandas with hammocks slung for sleeping.  This was "adventure" travel at its easiest.  We were met by a guide who drove us to the river where we joined some young Italian fellows for the journey.  We would be together for the next few days.  

The high mountain jungle lining the river was incredibly beautiful.  It was a true jungle but without the deadening heat.  The days were warm and the nights chilly, the water cool coming running from the mountain tops.  Sometime that day, we put ashore for lunch and a little exploring, and that night we had dinner prepared for us at the camp.  I was taking a malaria drug, but it seemed unnecessary.  Eating outside in the cooling air as the sun went down, I don't think there was mosquito one.  The Italians were curious about my camera.  They had only been around for less than a year.  It was smaller and lighter than a Leica, but appeared to be much the same.  

As night fell, lamps were lit and we had some drinks from a bottle someone had brought.  Soon, everyone began to ready themselves for a night sleeping in a net, each of us wondering how that would work out.  The trick was (you know if you have ever slept in a room full of men) to fall asleep first, for if you were last, you would never get to sleep for all the snoring.  

Getting into a high hammock is awkward as you try to slip your ass into the sling and then roll your body into the banana sling without tipping over and falling out.  Once in, however. . . it was surprisingly comfortable.  I fell asleep while some of the others were talking.  All night long, gently rocking, I slept wonderfully.  Gloriously.  The malaria drug I was taking was slightly hallucinogenic I was to find out later when it was taken off the market.  Apparently, there were people who were traumatized.  That night, however, I had the most beautiful, high-technicolor dreams I ever had, the colors more saturated than anything in reality.  Magic dreams in a mysterious jungle.  

My god. . . it was such a thing.  

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