Stories That Cross Boundaries: From the Amazon to the Atlantic

Photographs of my second boat trip in Brazil, from Manaus, in the Amazon, to Belém, on the mouth of the Tapajós River near the Atlantic coast. Read the story of this journey here.

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Fotografías de mi segundo viaje en barco en Brasil, de Manaus, en el estado de Amazonas, a Belém, en la desembocadura del río Tapajós cerca la costa Atlántica. Lee la crónica del viaje aquí.

Leticia to Manaus / De Leticia a Manaus
Travel / Viajes – 20152011-2014
My Nomadic Life / Mi Vida Nómada
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Nomadic Life: From the Amazon to the Atlantic

Day 1

Leaving Manaus on the morning of December 23, 2015, was not at all what I thought it would be. It’s midnight and I’m sitting on the top deck of the Amazon Star, the boat that will take me to Belém, thinking about how I was robbed last night. Just a few metres away from the hostel, two  men on a motorbike assaulted me and two other friends. It all happened so fast, and although my instict told me to run, the gun the thief had in his pants forced me to eventually allow him to rip my bag off my shoulder.

AmazonStar 3I tell myself it was a life lesson, I tell myself now I know better than to go out carrying things I won’t need, specially at night; as I try to forget all the things I had in my bag–sunglasses, two small note pads, a lock, a USB stick, my phone–I tell myself it could’ve been so much worse. But I’d had a long day and I wasn’t thinking clearly, and being so close to Christmas, the robbery shouldn’t have surprised me. People, desperate to bring presents home, go out in search of easy prey on dark nights in the city centre. I try to forget the robbery by looking up at the black sky of the Amazon.

Despite getting onboard at 7:30 am, there were only a few spaces left; I had to hang my hammock up in the middle of the crowded deck, surrounded by rows and rows of hammocks on either side. I think about how I could not only have a better spot but could have avoided the robbery had I slept on the boat the night before sailing. I know it’s useless to think about all the things I could have done differently to avoid the robbery, or my discomfort on the boat, but I can’t help replaying it all in my head in the darkness of the night.

The lights are still on when I go back down to the middle deck, which is so full of hammocks and luggage, I had to crawl under the sleeping passengers just to get out of my hammock. There are so many people, every movement triggers a tremour that shakes the intertwined hammocks, feet and heads dangerously close regardless of what position you choose. AmazonStar 19

While some people sleep, others read their Bibles and sing Christmas songs; I’m sure it’s hard for them to be stuck aboard a ship over the holidays, so they try to invoke a sense of normalcy during the long journey along the Amazon River. I still have hope that at least some people will disembark at the ports along the way, although I’m preparing myself for the very real possibility of being stuck among the crowds until I reach Belém, a city on the shores of the mouth of the great river.

Day 2

Most of the lights were switched off at 2 am, and past 7 am, they haven’t been turned on despite the darkness on deck, caused partly by the dim, grey sky (or is it smoke again?) and partly by the towels that hang from the ceiling, covering the windows, filtering the little light that comes in. Someone walked around, ringing a bell, just before 6 am to announce the start of the day.

AmazonStar 4

After a shower, I go into the dining room on my level and buy the big breakfast: for $10 Reales, I get juice, milk coffee, bread, ham, cheese, a fried egg, and a selection of fruit. There’s another breakfast for $5 Reales, which is just bread, milk coffee, and some sort of rice pudding. Sitting at one of the five blue tables in the room, I realise I’m the only person having the $10 Real breakfast; other than two couples who are sharing it, everyone else is smothering butter on their $5 Real piece of bread, hoping to make it more substancial.

We make our first stop in the port of Parintins, but only a few passengers disembarked. The day is cold (well, tropical cold) and the sky is completely white, contrasting sharply with the chocolate coloured waters of the Amazon. Lying between the bright hammocks that hang over the floor, which is already littered with garbage, I listen to snoring, crying, singing; I’m invaded by the smell of smoke that comes from the jungle; I keep reading until I fall asleep for the first nap of the day. As I fall asleep, I think about how different my trip aboard the Itaberaba, from Tabatinga to Manaus, was, more than two months ago already.

AmazonStar 13People’s excited voices and the silence of the engines woke me up from my nap. We made a quick stop at the port of Juruti, where I finally see blue skies, free of smoke. Wanting a change of atmosphere, I go upstairs to the top deck where there’s a completely different feeling to the relative silence downstairs: upstairs, where the sun and the warm breeze are strong, there’s music and people are having animated conversations, most of them drinking beers, taking selfies, enjoying the landscape and the journey. But there are so many people I can’t find a chair, so I sit on the floor and look out at the beaches and the dry trees of the jungle. It’s the same landscape I saw from the Itaberaba, although the vegetation isn’t as thick and trees are smaller and further apart, at least near the shore.

After a short but heavy rain, we stop at Obidos, in the state of Para, where there are little yellow school boats moored by the shore, one of my favourite sights so far. There are fireworks at sunset, probably to celebrate Christmas. With the air conditioning switched off and the windows open, it’s unbearably hot in the hammocks, and I’m still praying people will disembark in Santarem to spend the holidays with their families.

AmazonStar 17

I was relieved to see a lot of people were getting off at Santarem when we arrived just after 8 pm. Although I left my hammock in the same spot, I can stretch diagonally now without bumping into feet, elbows or heads, and I can even get out without crawling under everyone else. This is specially good news because I heard we’re spending the night at port.

AmazonStar 14

Day 3

My happiness and comfort of stretching out was short-lived; dozens of passengers going to Belem got on the boat in the morning, although there aren’t as many people as that first day we left Manaus. I also found out they sell hot ham and cheese sandwiches in the little cafeteria on the top deck, which would have been a much better option for last night’s dinner, since I bought (and couldn’t finish eating) a huge plate of meat, rice, pasta, and farinha.

AmazonStar 16

We left Santarem at around noon, and I saw a beautifully unexpected surprise: another meeting of the waters as spectacular as the one near Manaus. The waters here are turquoise and chocolate, and their dance creates a dividing line that contrasts against the green jungle that surrounds the river. My hope to see Alter do Chão now, instead of waiting until I return in nearly two years, intensified and then evaporated with our departure.

A few hours later, talking to a group of women who were tweezing each other’s hairs and popping each other’s pimples on the top deck, I hear we’re not arriving in Belem tomorrow as I expected, but early the following morning. This means spending one more aboard the Amazon Star. To deal with this new information, I drink beer. AmazonStar 23

Sitting there with a cold beer, trying to follow the women’s quick conversations in Portuguese, I notice the river here is much wider than before, giving meaning to its reputation as the widest in the world, even during the dry season which has exposed the riverbanks and beaches of the Amazon. After drinking too many beers, bought by a man trying to conquer one of the women I’m talking to, I finally go downstairs to eat and sleep.

AmazonStar 25Day 4

A lot of people boarded at Monte Alegre, filling up the boat even more than the first day we left Manaus. My anxiety over our arrival is only worsening with the claustrophobia. I slept crammed between the other hammocks, which are so close together it’s impossible to move without bumping into someone, or staying still without my neighbour crashing into me. We’re all on top of each other, and even the hallways are occupied with the hammocks and luggage of all the passengers who boarded over night.

When I wake up from a long nap in the afternoon, I look out the window and see the jungle. I know I’ve been travelling through the Amazon for over two months, but this is the first time I actually see the jungle in Brasil just as you would imagine it: thick, lush, green, vibrant vegetation hanging over the river. We sail by small communities who live in wooden houses that are barely visible behind the coconut trees and mangroves. The indigenous people approach the boat in their small canoes, waiting for the passengers to throw bags of food and clothes into the river. Under the strong sun and the blue sky, we slowly make our way through the narrow channel that gives us respite from the monotony of the last few days. I feel that, although I left the state of Amazonas behind, I only just arrived in the jungle.

AmazonStar 24

We make one last stop over night at the port of Breves and my anxiety hits its peak; I’m desperate to sleep far away from the girls who move my hammock all day and the man who snores all night; tired of the filthy bathrooms and crawling on the grimy floor; done with the R$5 beers and seeing the same curious faces that stare all day; I need to get off this vessel.

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Day 5

Unable to sleep among the crowd, I spend the last night awake, watching the sky as it goes from a deep black to a soft purple and eventually a bright blue. I see Belem in the distance, bathed in the light of sunrise, surrounded by AmazonStar 27clouds. The size of the city surprises me; the tall buildings by the river, the clean, modern port. I arrive at the hostel to eat and sleep and recover from this journey which ended up being much harder than I imagined, but also made arriving in this new city all the more satisfying.

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My Nomadic Life

Best of 2015 Travels

As 2015 comes to a close here in Belém, on Brazil’s north-east, I sat by the Amazon River to think about the past year and all the amazing places I was lucky enough to visit. I’ve been so blessed to do what I love and spend it with the people I love this year, so I wanted to recap some of my favourite travel moments of 2015.

Cheers to all your (travel) dreams coming true in 2016, whatever they may be!! Happy New Year!!

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Ya contando las últimas horas del 2015 aquí en Belém, en el nordeste de Brasil, me senté en las orillas del río Amazonas a pensar en el último año y todos los lugares increíbles que tuve la suerte de visitar. Ha sido un año dichoso que pasé haciendo lo que amo y con las personas que más quiero, y quería compilar mis momentos preferidos viajando en el 2015.

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I started the year in Colombia’s Pacific coast…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Empecé el año en el Pacífico colombiano…

 

 

 

 

 

Then I travelled to Colombia’s Central Andes…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Después viajé a la Cordillera Central de los Andes en Colombia…
 

 

 

 

 

I photographed the Tropical Market in Palomino…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tomé fotografías en el Mercadito Tropical de Palomino…
 

 

 

 

 

Then I visited Tayrona National Park, north of Santa Marta, on Colombia’s Caribbean coast…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Después visité el Parque Nacional Tayrona, al norte de Santa Marta, en la costa Caribe de Colombia…

 

 

 

 

 

 

I then flew to the USA and spent a few weeks in Washington DC & Maryland….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Después volé a los EEUU y pasé varias semanas en Washington DC y Maryland…

 

 

 

 

 

It was a dream come true to visit New York City…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visitar Nueva York fue un sueño hecho realidad….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I crossed the country to visit San Francisco…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crucé el país para visitar San Francisco….

 

 

 

 

And then I returned to Colombia and went to the northern-most point of the South American continent…

 

 

 

 

 

Después volví a Colombia y al punto más norte del continente suramericano…

 

 

 

 

 

Then I actually got to go back to the Pacific and see the Humpback whales…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Después pude volver al Pacífico y ver las ballenas Yubarta….

 

 

 

 

 

And to end the year, I travelled along the Amazon River to Brazil…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Y para terminar el año, viajé por el río Amazonas hasta Brasil…

 

 

 

 

 

To see the complete photo galleries, click on the photos or visit my 2015 Travel page. For more on my journey through Brazil, read about My Nomadic Life.

Para ver las galerías completas, haz clíck en las fotos o visita my página de Viajes 2015. Para saber más de mi viaje por Brasil, lee sobre Mi Vida Nómada.

Nomadic Life: Chasing Waterfalls in the Amazon

Growing up in the 80s and 90s, I was always told I could do and be anything I wanted, and I believed it. We, as a generation, were told to reach for the stars, that the sky was the limit, that the world was our oyster, that it was at our feet, in the palm of our hands; we were brought up to believe possibilities were endless and the only limits we would face were those we imposed on ourselves. I spent my life dreaming of the things I would do when I grew up, the places I would see, the things I would find, the love I would discover in everything the world had to offer, and I was determined to make those dreams come true.

Being a young girl in the 90s, I’m no stranger to TLC’s Waterfalls, which talks about sticking to the rivers and the lakes that we’re used to; and although I love TLC and I love that song, and I know it deals with much deeper issues like HIV and drug abuse, I never could understand how “dreams are hopeless aspirations / in hopes of comin’ true” was the kind of advice we were getting from three women who were obviously on top of their game. How could they be telling us not to chase waterfalls? How was chasing waterfalls, metaphorical or literal, a bad thing? I honestly think listening to this song only made me want to follow my crazy dreams more fervently.

Natal 5

Cachoeira Natal, Presidente Figueiredo

With every place I visited, my desire to travel and see the world grew stronger and deeper. Last year, when I was living in Palomino, a small town on Colombia’s northern Caribbean coast, I got a call for a seasonal job in the Pacific coast–probably my favourite place on Earth–so I packed up and left. It wasn’t the first time I’d moved around the country, or the world, on a whim, but it was the first time I realised it was the only life I knew, and finally accepted the fact that I simply cannot stay in one place for too long, nor do I want to. Once I embraced the possibility of a truly nomadic life, I started preparing to go to Brazil and see the country’s entire Atlantic coast, from the Amazon to its southern border with Uruguay, and everything in between.

Orquidea 2

Cachoeira Orquídea, Presidente Figueiredo

“Where did you go now?” was the first question I asked myself as I climbed a long, steep avenue in the small Amazonian city of Presidente Figueiredo, with nearly 30 kg of lugagge on my shoulders. Sweating and exhausted after the short trip from Manaus–a 2 hour bus ride that stretched out forever as I lugged my backpack from one bus to the next–I arrived at the Figueiredo Green Hostel, where I would stay the following week. When I walked in and heard the bossa nova playing, I knew I was in the right place.

Presidente Figueiredois the cupuaçu capital of Brazil, and although I was either six months too late or too early for the yearly festival, this delicious fruit that delights and obsesses me isn’t the only reason I visited this town; besides getting out of Manaus, where I was already feeling slightly trapped, I wanted to discover the jungle and find the water. Located about 100 km north of Manaus, the Amazonas state capital, Presidente Figueiredo is surrounded by tropical waterfalls that spring from deep within the jungle and are perfect to cool down the hot days of the Amazon rainforest.

Urubui Presidente Figueiredo 31

Urubui, Presidente Figueiredo

The first place I went to was Urubui, a small beach by the river, surrounded by kiosks and restaurants, about 20 minutes away from the hostel. The river rocks are porous, red and yellow, and form small billabongs, making it a perfect swimming spot to cool off and enjoy nature. The water is refreshing, a relief for the body which feels like it’s cooking under the oppressive jungle sun. But Urubui was only the beginning.

Orquidea 7

Cachoeira Orquídea, Presidente Figueiredo

On a sunny afternoon, I went to the Orchid waterfall, a much more natural place where you actually feel like you’re in the jungle. After a 20 minute walk through the trees, you can hear the roar of the water; a few minutes later, you finally come upon the waterfall, just a couple of metres high, that plunges into a rocky and refreshing natural pool. I ended up visiting it again just a few days later, unsatisfied with the short time I spent there before the sun set that first day.

Natal 12

Cachoeira Natal, Presidente Figueiredo

But the Natal waterfall was my favourite; it filled me  with so much joy that I seriously considered not going back to Manaus. Less than an hour away from the hostel along a dirt road is this wide waterfall where the water drops forcefully into a rocky pool, deeper than the ones at Urubui and Orchid. I let the water pound on my shoulders as I sat on the rocks, watching the jungle through the curtain of water. It was a cleansing of the body and soul, an energising and revitilising meeting with nature.

Orquidea 13

Cachoeira Orquídea, Presidente Figueiredo

And that’s the thing, despite what some of my favourite 90s songs say, it seems no matter where I go I’m always running into the water, toward it, chasing not only waterfalls but rivers and lakes, oceans and pools, and the rainbows they create. Water to me truly is life, and being under a raging waterfall in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest makes me feel so alive, it’s almost unbearable; like it’s almost too much life, too much joy for just one person to experience. And I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Natal 13

Cachoeira Natal, Presidente Figueiredo

Sitting under that waterfall, I realised that this is what I’ve been looking for, this is the road I’ve been searching for ever since I was dreaming of running away, of wandering the world, of discovering hidden treasures, of learning a new language, of giving up on stability and material wealth and embracing a Nomadic Life: I’ve always dreamed of the jungle, of the water, of the beauty of waking up to a bright blue sky smelling of sunshine, or even a grey one smelling of rain, and not knowing where I could be swimming next.

Urubui Presidente Figueiredo 3

Urubui, Presidente Figueiredo

Eventually, I had to return to Manaus to collect my temporary resident ID, but the jungle revived me, pumped me up with the energy to continue on this journey, to see my affair with the Amazon River through to the end–to the river’s end in Belém, on Brazil’s Atlantic coast–and to keep searching for water, for beaches, sunsets, novelty, and adventure.

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Nomadic Life

Nuquí: Ballenas / Whales

Desde la primera vez que visité Nuquí, en la costa Pacífica de Colombia, me enamoré de su arena negra y su selva color esmeralda reflejada en las aguas cristalinas de los ríos y el mar. Pero entre los meses de junio y noviembre este rincón mágico del país es aún más especial, siendo el lugar predilecto para las ballenas jorobadas Yubartas, quienes vienen a parir en las aguas cálidas de las bahías.

I fell in love the first time I saw the black sands and emerald coloured jungles, reflected in the crystal clear waters of the rivers and the ocean in Nuqui, on Colombia’s Pacific coast. But between the months of June and November, this magical corner of the country becomes even more special, as its warm bays are the chosen places for the Yubarta humpback whales to breed.

He tenido la suerte de visitar Nuquí ya tres veces durante la temporada de ballenas, y he visto a estos enormes mamíferos con sus ballenatos saltando y nadando en las bahías de Utría, rodeados de delfines y aves marinas. La temporada de 2015 fue una oportunidad increíble para ver este espectáculo natural.

I’ve been lucky to visit Nuqui three times now during the whale season, and I’ve seen these huge mammals with their calfs, jumping and swimming in the bays of Utria, surrounded by dolphins and water birds. The 2015 season was an incredible opportunity to observe this natural wonder.

Travel / Viajes – 20152011-2014

Stories That Cross Boundaries: Leticia to Manaus

I like to live in a world without boundaries, and tell stories that follow that philosophy; I should live like that, too. So here are photographs of my journey over the Amazon River, from Leticia, in Colombia, to Manaus, in Brazil.

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Me gusta vivir en un mundo sin fronteras, y contar historias que siguen esa filosofía; debo vivir de la misma manera, también. Así que aquí están las fotografías de mi viaje por el río Amazonas, de Leticia, en Colombia, a Manaus, en Brasil.

Leticia, Colombia
Itaberaba I – Tabatinga – Manaus, Brasil
Manaus, Brasil
Travel / Viajes – 20152011-2014

PNN Tayrona

Tayrona National Natural Park, located in Colombia’s Magdalena department on the northern Caribbean coast, is one of the country’s most popular parks. Travellers usually begin their journey to Tayrona deep in Santa Marta’s market, on the corner of 11th&11th, where a bus heading north-east shuttles passengers back and forth between the centuries-old streets of the city to the misty mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

El Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona, ubicado en el departamento del Magdalena en la costa norte del Caribe colombiano, es uno de los parques más populares del país. Los visitantes normalmente comienzan su viaje en el centro del mercado de Santa Marta, en la esquina de la 11 con 11, donde un bus rumbo al nororiente los lleva entre las centenarias calles de la ciudad y las nubladas montañas de la Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.


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A 2-hour trek through the jungle offers impressive views of the rough open coastline and the dense forests; hundreds of imposing rocks decorate the other-worldly landscapes.

Una caminada de 2 horas por la selva ofrece impresionantes vistas del agitado mar abierto y los bosques espesos que lo rodean; cientos de imponentes rocas decoran los extraordinarios paisajes.

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But beyond the songs of countless birds and the endless shades of green, beyond the cool rivers that run down the mountains and into the azure ocean, my favourite things about Tayrona are the natural contrasts that exist within it: a treacherous sea smashing into a tropical wonderland; rain clouds tinting the magnified colours of the sun-drenched forest; caimans that claim their territory between the sea and the mountains; ancient hints of a lost civilisation forcing us to remember those who came before us.

Pero más allá de las incontables canciones de las aves y los interminables tonos de verde, más allá de los ríos fríos que bajan por las montañas para desembocar en el océano azul, lo que más me gusta del Tayrona son los contrastes naturales que existen dentro de él: un mar traicionero que rompe contra un paraíso tropical; nubes de lluvia que tiñen los colores amplificados del bosque soleado; caimanes que marcan su territorio entre las montañas y el mar; pistas antiguas de una civilización perdida que nos obliga a recordar a quienes vivieron antes que nosotros.

Travel / Viajes – 20152011-2014

Nuquí & Termales

This will be the last post on my visit to the municipality of Nuqui, on Colombia’s Pacific coast, a few months ago. Nuqui and its surrounding townships, like Termales further south, are inhabited by fewer than 8,000 people, mostly Afro-descendents and indigenous communities.

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Ésta será la última publicación sobre mi viaje al municipio de Nuquí en la costa Pacífica de Colombia hace unos meses. En Nuquí y sus corregimientos, como Termales hacia el sur, habitan menos de 8,000 personas, en su mayoría Afro-descendientes e indígenas.

Nuqui and its surrounding areas attract tourists from all over the world who seek tranquility and a connection with nature rather than the internet. In the following photographs you can see the beaches, hot springs, surfing, sea turtle hatchlings, a New Year’s party in Termales, and more.

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Nuquí y sus alrededores atraen turistas de todo el mundo, que llegan buscando tranquilidad y una conexión con la naturaleza en vez del internet. En las fotografías que hay a continuación puedes ver las playas, termales, surf, tortuguitas de mar, una fiesta de Año Nuevo en Termales, y más.

Travel / Viajes – 20152011-2014

Jungle Beach / Playa Selva

jungle beach proof sheet

Colombia’s Pacific coast is a jungle-covered stretch of mountainous land, adorned with rocky bays and pristine rivers flowing down to the warm ocean.

La costa Pacífica de Colombia es una extension de tierra montañosa cobijada por selva espesa, adornada por bahías rocosas y ríos cristalinos que bajan al cálido océano.

The contrast of the black and golden sand against the intense green of the jungle is magical–a gift for the eyes and soul.

El contraste de la arena negra y dorada contra el intenso verde de la selva es mágico–un regalo para la vista y el alma.

This place isn’t for everyone, it’s a raw, wild place where Nature still rules and life revolves around the tides, the sun and the moon.

Este no es un lugar para todo el mundo; es un lugar virgen y salvaje donde la Naturaleza todavía reina y la vida gira en torno de las mareas, el sol y la luna.

Travel / Viajes – 20152011-2014

Yaigojé-Apaporis: Protegiendo la Selva Colombiana / Protecting the Colombian Jungle

Para celebrar el estreno del documental “Yaigojé-Apaporis: Conocimiento Tradicional para la Protección de la Amazonía Colombiana“, vuelvo a compartir la historia de mi viaje al Amazonas como traductora para dicho corto.
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To celebrate the release of the documentary “Yaigoje-Apaporis: Tradicional Knowledge at the Heart of Protecting the Colombian Amazon“, I’m re-posting the story of my journey to the Amazon as a translator for this short.

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AMAZONAS: Visiones De La Selva / Jungle Visions

Amazonas map 1

ubicación de La Pedrera

En mayo de 2014 tuve la oportunidad de regresar al Amazonas colombiano, esta vez para trabajar como traductora en un documental sobre la minería y la importancia del oro para las etnias indígenas del Resguardo y Parque Nacional Natural Yaigojé-Apaporis.

A continuación, una selección de fotografías del trayecto que me llevó, junto con el director del documental, Jess Phillimore, y nuestros guías y acompañantes de la Fundación Gaia Amazonas, a la selva colombiana. Viajé desde Santa Marta a Bogotá, de donde salimos juntos a Leticia, capital del departamento de Amazonas en el extremo sur del país, y su ciudad hermana brasilera, Tabatinga. De allí salimos hacia La Pedrera, un pueblo del que sólo había leído hace unos años en el libro de Germán Castro Caycedo Perdido en el Amazonas y con el cual había tenido una leve obsesión desde entonces.

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Amazonas map 2

location of La Pedrera

In May 2014, I had the opportunity to return to the Colombian Amazon, this time working as a translator for a documentary film on mining and the significance of gold for the indigenous ethnic groups of the Yaigoje-Apaporis territory and National Natural Park.

Below, a selection of photographs of the journey that took me, along with the film’s director, Jess Phillimore, and our guides and companions from Gaia Amazonas, to the Colombian jungle. I travelled from Santa Marta to Bogota, from where we journeyed together to Leticia, capital city of the state of Amazonas in the southernmost part of the country, and Tabatinga, its Brazilian sister city. From there, we left toward La Pedrera, a small town of which I’d only every read about a few years ago in German Castro Caycedo’s book, Lost in Amazonas, and developed a mild obsession with since.

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Para ver las galerías completas, haz clíck en los subtítulos / Click on the subheadings to see the complete galleries

Leticia, Tabatinga, La Pedrera

De aquel pueblo a las orillas del río Caquetá, levantado sobre puentes de madera, siempre preparado para las lluvias y la creciente del río que obliga a algunas personas a usar canoas para salir de sus casas, viajamos 10 minutos más para llegar a la sede de la Fundación Gaia, El Cocotal, donde pasaríamos la mayoría de nuestro tiempo en la selva.

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From this town on the shores of the Caqueta River, a town lifted above the water on wooden stilts, ever-ready for heavy rains and the rising of the river which forces some residents to use canoes just to leave their homes, we travelled another 10 minutes to El Cocotal, headquarters for the Gaia Foundation, and where we would spend the majority of our time in the jungle.

El Cocotal

Estábamos en el Amazonas para entrevistar y hablar con los jóvenes investigadores que participaban en el IV Taller de Sistematización de las Investigaciones Sociales Locales y el Proceso Régimen Especial de Manejo (REM) para el Resguardo/Parque Nacional Natural Yaigojé-Apaporis.

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We were there to interview and talk to the young researchers who were participating in the fourth edition of the workshop to digitalise the ongoing local social research to complete the Special Management Regiment process for the Yaigoje-Apaporis indigenous territory and National Natural Park.

Talleres / Workshops

Seleccionados de las siete etnias del territorio, estos jóvenes continúan su trabajo de aprender y compartir la sabiduría tradicional de sus ancestros y con ella conformar los puntos del REM que se le presentará a Parques Nacionales para consolidar la cooperación entre la entidad gubernamental y las tradiciones antiguas de los indígenas para el manejo del territorio.

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Selected from the seven ethnic groups of the territory, these young men continue their work to learn and share the traditional wisdom of their ancestors, and with it create the management plan that will be presented to National Parks to consolidate the cooperation between the government-run agency and the ancient indigenous traditions for the management of the territory.

Entrevistas / Interviews

También visitamos varios lugares sagrados durante nuestra estadía, como el Cerro Yupatí, un monte a las orillas del Caquetá. Desde la cima, se ve el río Caquetá y el departamento de Amazonas por un lado, y el río Apaporis y el departamento del Vaupés por el otro.

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We also visited several sacred sites during our stay, such as the Yupati Mount, a hill on the shores of the Caqueta. From the top, you can see the Caqueta River and Amazonas state on one side, and on the other, the Apaporis River and Vaupes state.

Cerro Yupatí / Yupati Mount

Caminamos por la selva espesa, llena de colores, sonidos y sorpresas, desde arañas hasta cerdos salvajes (los cuales oímos pero no vimos), y claro, muchos mosquitos.

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We walked through the thick jungle, full colours, sounds and surprises, from spiders to wild boars (which we heard but didn’t see), and of course, a lot of mosquitoes.

Chorro San Francisco / San Francisco Fall

Presenciamos los atardeceres amazónicos sobre el río, fuente de inspiración para quien los vive, y hora mágica para ver delfines.

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We witnessed Amazonian sunsets over the river, a source of inspiration for those who experience them, and a magical time to see the dolphins.

Atardecer / Sunset

Pero el lugar más especial que tuvimos el privilegio de visitar fue La Libertad. Este chorro sagrado es considerado el punto de origen de las siete etnias del territorio: es donde la Madre Tierra se convirtió en tierra, y de donde nacieron las poblaciones indígenas del Yaigojé-Apaporis.

También es uno de los lugares que la minería de oro busca explotar, ignorando las palabras, creencias y peticiones de las comunidades indígenas, quienes aseguran que la extracción del oro y otros minerales sagrados de la tierra traerá graves consecuencias para ellos y el equilibrio del planeta.

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But the most special place we had the privilege of visiting was La Libertad (literally The Freedom). This sacred fall is considered the place of origin for the seven ethnic groups of the territory: it’s where Mother Earth was turned into earth, and where the indigenous communities of the Yaigoje-Apaporis were born.

It’s also one of the places sought out for gold mining, an action in complete opposition to the narrative, beliefs and requests of the indigenous communities, who believe the extraction of gold and other sacred minerals from the earth will bring grave consequences to them and the balance of the planet.

La Libertad

El río estaba crecido por la lluvia y muchas de las piedras estaban sumergidas, pero La Libertad emanaba magia, pureza y fuerza. En todos los lugares sagrados parecía haber animales fascinantes; el más increíble para mí fue la raya que encontramos en una playa sagrada.

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The river had risen after the rains and most of the rocks were submerged, but La Libertad exuded magic, purity and strength. There seemed to be fascinating animals at all the sacred places; the most incredible to me was the stingray we found on a sacred beach.

Apaporis

Para llegar, debimos subir por el río Caquetá hasta una trocha, que después de cruzarla, nos llevó al río Apaporis. De allí fuimos hasta La Libertad y luego a la comunidad de Ñumi, donde pasamos la noche y hablamos con un curador tradicional, el viejo Jorge Makuna.

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To get there, we had to travel up the Caqueta until we reached a land crossing which led to the Apaporis. From there we rode to La Libertad and then to the community of Ñumi, where we spent the night and spoke to a traditional healer, old Jorge Makuna.

Ñumi

Regresamos al Cocotal y a los pocos días, con demoras por el clima impredecible de la selva, estábamos otra vez en Leticia y yo llegué a Santa Marta unas horas después.

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We returned to El Cocotal and, a few days later, after some delays due to the impredictable weather of the jungle, we were back in Leticia and I was back in Santa Marta a few hours later.

Puedes ver la historia original aquí / You can see the original story here

Visita el Archivo de Galerías de Fotos / Visit the Photo Gallery Archive — 2011-2014