May 31, 2006
Remanso to Versalles Canoe Trip Day 12
We got up a little later than normal today because we believed that we were rather close to Versalles. We had breakfast with the fishermen and met an American named Jim who was with them. He wasn't around last night because he was in a tree stand hunting Southeast Asian water buffalo with a bow and arrow. The area around the camp is a Brazilian biological reserve, which is home to thousands of water buffalo, a non-native species. The government isn't quite sure what to do with them, so for now it just occasionally allows people to hunt them. Five of them are supposedly being hunted for the party, and Jim wanted in on the action. He told us he was a missionary. What a strange combo.
Our paddle today was rather insignificant. The river was almost completely straight with almost no islands to throw us off course. It would have been nearly impossible to get lost.
After about four hours of paddling, we spotted Versalles in the distance. Soon, we were pulling in next to several large houseboats. The party wasn't set to start until tomorrow, but a lot of people showed up early.
Soon after we set foot on shore, we were greeted by several people, including the mayor himself. They all had gotten word that we were coming from the various people we had met along the way. We were given space to camp in an open area of a man named Ricardo's house, free of charge.
Versalles is yet another small, charming river community. The economy is almost entirely based on agriculture, although a few small shops mainly selling alcohol had been set up just for the party by the Brazilians. This led to some trouble early on because I didn't have any reais, the currency of Brazil, and none of the vendors would take my bolivianos. Finally, I somehow convinced someone to exchange bolivianos for reais, so now I can buy beer for the party. It was my first experience in another country where I couldn't even pay for things with that country's currency.
Early this afternoon, a few men who appeared to be with the military took off in a motor boat. Tonight, they returned with a great prize: a gigantic water buffalo. The task of removing it from the boat was very difficult because the beast was so massive. It took several men to drag the body up the hill to a house, where the butchering will begin. We also learned that the rumors were true: free food for everyone. With today's catch and the food contributed by the neighboring communities, there should be plenty for all to enjoy for the next four days.
The photo album for this entry is here.