May 30, 2006
Remanso to Versalles Canoe Trip Day 11
We got another early start today, unsure how far we'd have to go. We stopped briefly at a single house on the Bolivian side and ate lemons with the girl who was there. She told us that Puerto Federico was coming up in Bolivia in a few hours, but was unsure of what lie beyond. The morning was characterized by a thick fog which kept us cool, even though it greatly decreased visibility. Still, the river was straight enough that navigation wasn't an issue.
When we arrived in Puerto Federico, we were greeted by Federico himself. He founded the town ten years ago and humbly named it after himself. We collected oranges from one of his numerous trees and brought them back to his home to eat. Craig, Gabriel, and I all wanted to try cayman meat, so when Federico's son arrived, we decided to offer to exchange a kilo of sugar for the croc. There seemed to be some miscommunication, though, because he ran to the back of the hut and returned with a plate of three large piranhas. They weren't willing to trade the cayman for the sugar, but they would trade for the piranhas and give us the cayman for free. That worked for us.
We ironically left Puerto Federico with two of the most dangerous animals in the world, ready to be put into our gullets. While in the canoe, Craig chopped up and cooked the cayman with curried rice. Surprisingly, it tasted like chicken.
We continued paddling the rest of the day, eleven hours in all. We knew there was some kind of estancia on the Brazilian side before Versalles, but we had no idea how much further it was until we finally saw it. When we pulled into the estancia, really just a small shack in a swampy area, the first thing we noticed was the mosquitoes. They were the worst we had seen on the trip so far. I only spent about five minutes outside the shack and the tent, but the mosquitoes acted quickly and accurately. Every inch of exposed or semi-exposed skin soon had bites on top of bites, and I haven't been able to stop scratching ever since.
I fried up the piranhas along with some rice on the wood stove in the shack. The fish were so delicious, not many extra spices were needed. Everyone else seemed impressed by the meal, but then again, I never told any of them that we didn't actually catch the fish.
After we finished eating, another group of campers started. One of them invited me to join in, so I had a second meal. The group was a bunch of pro fishermen, led by Jander Moro, who had his own fishing television program in Brazil. I couldn't believe the size of some of the fish he had caught in the river that day. The entire group was very generous, and we had a great time trading travel and fishing stories despite the mosquitoes.
Once again, we were told that we'd get to Versalles tomorrow, but this time we actually believed the people telling us. It's been eight days since we left Remanso in our canoe, and we have been in very high spirits lately. We can't wait to get to the party, and it's finally going to happen tomorrow.