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Amazon March

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  • paulpc1
    Photo link for this story is: http://share.shutterfly.com/osi.jsp?i=EeANXLVy3cNmrM_g What a great time to go to the Amazon: Holy Week. And I taught a man to
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 26, 2005
      Photo link for this story is:

      What a great time to go to the Amazon: Holy Week. And I taught a
      man to fish!!!!!

      On St. Joseph's Day, we took the plane down there. From the embassy
      went I, a colleague from the consular section, and someone from the
      Public Affairs Office along with her daughter and her mother. My
      colleague and I were going to rough it at the same hotel I stayed
      last time. However this time I was not allowed to take my lures as
      carry-on. I was a bit worried that they would not show up in
      Leticia, and I would be bumming. I told the security person that
      last time I was allowed and there was no problem. Her response was
      quite professional: "I don't know who was on duty but they were
      wrong. You cannot take them on." I said thanks and ran back to get
      this piece checked in. As a gift, I let them hold my chicken hearts
      while I ran back. They did not seem too pleased, but their rules…

      The flight was uneventful, and alas all the luggage arrived. So I
      was happy. There was a Colombian couple who also were going to
      Heliconia Hotel and they seemed nice. At least they were not rabid
      Anti-American…Actually we have not run into any of that. We said hi
      to one another but it was difficult to converse since the 60 HP
      outboard was blaring. I was smart enough to bring a book. Before
      the motor got up to speed, we had a chance to talk to Edgardo as
      well. He is sort of the caretaker of the operation. When I told
      him of my concerns about losing my lures in the cargo hold, he
      offered that I could leave them with him. What a guy.

      On the way in everyone else was oohing and ahhing, but as I had made
      the trip before, I was deep into my book. I looked up every so
      often in case a pink dolphin decided to greet us. I missed the one
      that did, but my buddy Tim saw it. I was able to point out about
      200 yards where I saw a boil of water which turned out to be another
      pink dolphin jumping. I was praised for my good eyes.

      We got there about 4:30 or so. Elidio smiled when he saw me.
      Perhaps it was his "Oh no, another group of gringos" smile, but it
      seemed a bit more when he saw me…If you tip well the first time,
      they remember you the second…we entered the hotel refectory to find
      others present. Turned out that there were two Dutch guys and an
      Italian who were studying at a university in Bogotá, and two German
      women. They were all pretty nice.

      Edgardo asked if I wanted to go night fishing for catfish. I said
      sure. So after dinner at about 8:00 PM, Elidio and I hopped into
      the canoe and headed out into the darkness. We had about a ¾ moon,
      but that and Elidio's mastery of the area made sure we did not run
      into any dolphins or trees. After about an hour and 15 mosquito
      bites, we gave up. We had no lucked. Hmmm. Skunked the first
      night out…not a good sign.

      We went back, our heads bowed in shame, but luckily everyone was
      asleep. But we were ready to return the next morning. I got up by
      six, and was at the refectory waiting to be fed. Normally,
      breakfast is served at 7:30 or so, but since I was going out early
      to fish, Elidio's wife was up cooking me some eggs and toast and cut
      papaya and hot chocolate as well as coffee…remember, if you tip well
      the first time…

      We tried at the mouth of the effluent where we turned to get to the
      lodge. I got quite a few strikes and about 2 sardinelas. Then
      after another 30 minutes of no action, we went to another black
      river/brown river junction. In that place I managed to lose the
      first mini-Rapala. I was using only Rapalas as lures to get the
      sardinelas, or payarins, or whatever would come up. I was using a
      1.5 inch Rapala with funky colors, certainly not indigenous to the
      Amazon. But it seemed to work. A huge sardinela grabbed it and
      gave a good fight, He popped out of the water a few times, but
      before I could land him, he ran under the boat and disappeared with
      the lure.

      At that time I engaged in some cultural exchange with Elidio. I not
      only taught his America's favorite four letter word, but he had the
      golden opportunity to learn about another word, which has twelve
      letters and describe someone who commits an act of congress that is
      illegal in about 48 states. This exchange was not just one way. He
      taught me the names of some of the interesting fish of the Amazon.

      For example, he had caught a blue and white catfish looking creature
      that actually looked like e fish fetus, one that had not fully
      developed. It reminded me of those half-baked creatures from
      Demolition Man that Wesley Snipes released before they had finished
      gestating…this fish is called a carnero. Not good for eating, but
      has very sharp teeth. His second cousin is the candiru, that inch-
      long catfish that is very small and is attracted to urea. When
      people are relieving themselves in the Amazon, this fish has a knack
      for swimming up the urethra (true story!!!). That would not be as
      bad, but to make it worse, he had backward-leaning spikes so he does
      not come out right away. It takes surgery.

      Elidio said that this fish is only in the agua turbia (brown Amazon
      water), and not the agua negra (black water that has a high tannin
      content. I guess tannin has lots of good uses (mosquito repellent,
      curing hides, keeping out candiru, so it is my best friend now.

      He also told me about the only fish we will catch during the high
      water season (the water had actually risen rather than dropped since
      I was here in January) are the sardinela, piranha and catfish.
      Although I would rather have a stab at the pavon (peacock bass), or
      the suribim or the payara, I will take what I can get, and get I
      did. We ended up with 12 sardinelas and one catfish. There is a
      picture with me and all the fish I caught that day. Turned out that
      Elidio, his wife and his son also wanted to get pictures with those
      fish, so I did.

      That afternoon we returned, but only caught two more. We ambled
      back to the lodge to find a few more people. A woman and her (what
      I assumed were) her three children. Her daughter-in-law works at
      the embassy, and her son spent time in the US training with Purina
      and such, and he has a cattle farm, and is trying to grow cocoa for
      export. Apparently cocoa is an up and coming crop, and perhaps it
      will be a good bet under the TLC (Spanish for Free Trade Agreement,
      that the US and Colombia are trying to iron out). I wish him luck.

      I just read my book that evening and got settled in for another
      day's fishing. We got up early, and headed out in search of
      piranha. We gave ten casts to the two mouths of the river to no
      avail and continued to the place which had been productive for the
      two Dutch guys on Monday. Since we had to take an effluent to the
      place, it gave us the opportunity to try again for some sardinelas,
      since the chicken hearts were not working this time. Using that
      same small Rapala, I managed to catch four sardinelas, enough for
      cooking and a couple for bait. After ten casts with no strikes, we
      headed to the piranha place. I got more of that bayou/Everglades
      sensation as we passed through the swamp that might have creatures
      lurking around. There were creatures, we heard them , and saw what
      looked like a blue jay and a really cool colored butterfly that was
      indigo and deep gray, both of whom got a kick out of wither
      following us, or racing past us and waiting for us to come join
      them. We also saw a few dolphins that would break water. That is
      really neat thing.

      We got to the place, and it took about twenty minutes for us to get
      a bite. Elidio caught the first piranha, the smaller Colombian
      version. Then I struck gold! I had a hard time lifting this sucker
      out of the water. It was about two and a half pounds but fought
      like it was more. It is a rather ugly fish, but I dare you to tell
      him that to his face. He has these nasty rows of teeth that could
      (and do) go straight to the bone and only stop when they meet the
      other set of teeth. They will easily slice a finger off if you are
      not careful. Good thing I brought my pliers. Then I caught another
      big one, and three smaller ones. After a while they stopped biting
      so we returned home.

      I got a few pictures of those fish, but this time on one wanted to
      get their pictures taken with the piranhas. I got applause from the
      crowd as I returned yet again triumphant. Amazing how a stick full
      of fish can start a conversation, just like taking a dog for a walk
      or having a parrot on your shoulder.

      That afternoon we returned but only got a few sardinelas, but no
      piranhas. Elidio caught a catfish, and I lost something that bent
      my rod into a nice arc before breaking my line. That was all the
      excitement we had. That night, the others went out to go look for
      caymans. One night as we went out for catfish Elidio shined his
      light on something in the water. I was able to get a picture of
      it. To you it will look like a picture of their small dock, but if
      you look closely at one of the vertical poles, you will see a speck
      of amber near it. I swear that is the eye of a cayman…They came
      back with some pictures of some baby caymans and seemed to have a
      lot of fun.

      The last day of fishing found us back trying to get more sardinelas,
      and we managed to get a few. Interestingly enough, while waiting
      for Elidio to get the gasoline for the boat, I cast my lure in the
      water near the lodge shore. I actually got a baby barracuda, a
      small sardinela and another type of fish. To be noted here is the
      size of the fish. I took a picture of the lure and the three small
      fish next to a book I was reading so you can see the size
      comparison. Interesting what small fish will go after…

      That night we continued fishing but all I got was the carnero again,
      about four of them, and nothing else. We headed back to dinner. It
      was Marta's birthday so we had a small party, and she dressed up
      like some indigenous person, but seemed overwhelmed by all the
      attention she got. We sang her happy birthday in all the languages
      represented there: Portuguese, Spanish, English, Dutch, Italian and

      Back to civilization. Not much on the way home, but a good time was
      certainly had by all. I will be going back in August or September,
      so if you are interested in going, let me know.
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