By day the river is the colour of Thai milk tea
A ruddy orange mixed with sickly sweet condensed milk that swirls and flows in a glass in slow whorls of cream and rust, bending around ice cubes with effort in the tropical heat. The river is much the same, snaking through the jungle in long, languorous curves that are, at once, creeping and rushing through the forest.
By night she is carved of black opal
Polished to a high gloss shine and laid like a ribbon through the ghost of the ebony green banks, reflecting the fire in the firmament. We drifted, long and slow, through the silence, suspended somewhere between earth and sky. Craning my neck as far back and out of the banana boat as possible I watched as the southern cross danced across the mirrored surface of god’s own ballroom rippling in ancient reels with Mercury and Venus for her partners. A firefly flashed to life within arms reach, or perhaps it was a star dipped a little two low at the end of a cosmic tango.
We watched the caiman as the caiman watched us. Red eyes reflected in the torch light, hanging at the surface, almost within arms reach of the boat. Time stood still. One of the most ancient creatures on the planet; had he been waiting his whole life for this one moment? Had we?
I am sitting now, by candle light, at a table all alone in the dining room.
An open air structure, like everything else, with a thatched room and long tables, of hand hewn ceiba wood. Earlier today I sat here and watched tiny, precocious brown saddle back monkeys creep towards the fruit bowls, one eye on the staff, one eye on the prize. When the young man who sets tables in the evening and lights the chandeliers full of candles leapt after them with a broom I laughed and asked him in Spanish,
“You chase the monkeys often?” He rolled his eyes and answered, “Siempre,” Always.
We have had a jaguar prowling the grounds of the lodge since mid afternoon.
I see him now, spinning round and round with his little sister in the candle light. He’s seven, and spent the afternoon painting with our group. When that no longer held his interest he began creeping about and growling loudly to terrify the girls. Their screams when he appeared through the curtain that separates each room from the long main hallway were satisfactory to him and he continued the game far past the point when the girls thought it was funny. One of the girls from the Cameroon who has been quite concerned about predatory animals, snakes and other wildlife was his victim twice and was then found laying in the hallway half laughing, half crying. He is, by far, the most dangerous predator we’ve encountered thus far.
Some other photos…
We also planted iron wood trees today, and had “Henna with Hannah.” Fun was had by all.