We awoke in the remote Brazilian town of Pimento Bueno this morning to an odd twist of fate. We anticipated that our entry point to the fabled Rio Roosevelt would be determined at a meeting in a tribal Cinta Larga village a few dozen miles away. But instead it was determined by tragic events in the nation’s capitol, Brazilia, a few thousands miles away.
Yesterday, hundreds of Amazonian Indians had gathered there to protest the government’s lavish spending on Brazil’s hosting of the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament, rather than on health & education services for native peoples. Ugly confrontations erupted — involving teargas, guns and even bows & arrows. Sadly, casualties resulted.
Overnight the tension rippled to our village. Among the protestors were Cinta Larga chiefs, including our key contacts. This morning federal police here in Pimento Bueno advised us not to enter their lands, even if they granted us a meeting. And so “Plan B” was put into play.
We continued down the highway towards a Rio Roosevelt entry point beyond the Cinta Larga reserve. A country road took us deep into rural Brazil. We passed expansive ranchlands cut from the jungle, sleepy farm towns, horse carts & friendly folks keen to point us in the right direction. But hours into our odyssey the road steadily deteriorated as long stretches of steamy jungle became more frequent and we finally got all 3 vehicles mired in a deep muddy quagmire.
Fortunately, a lorry piled high with farm workers on their way back to the “fazenda” happened along. In the dark, they helped extract us from our dilemma and alerted us to a nearby farmstead where an alternate river access might be available.
That quagmire brought another odd twist of fate because tonight we hit the jackpot at the “Rio Branco Fazenda.” Farm hands at this 30,000-acre ranch greeted us — 8 mud-caked surprise guests — with a warm welcome, a hot meal, warm showers, and a bunkhouse. They also alerted us that easy access is available through their farm fields to the Rio Branco, a jungle river that will take us to the Roosevelt. So with a little luck sometime tomorrow we will reach water’s edge.