November 27, 2006
We waited all morning for a Bedford truck to show up. It was a long wait, but I had a book to read, and our patience was finally rewarded. We jumped on the roof and rode with the workers to a fork in the road. We were told that Surama was about five miles down the side road and hitching would be futile because there probably wouldn't be any trucks passing us all day.
We walked through the intense heat for an hour and a half. The open savanna had given way to a thick jungle which provided some cover from the sun. We stopped along the way for a break and decided to get a fire going to cook the cashew nuts. Plenty of oil spattered from them all over the frying pan, so cooking oil wasn't needed. By the time they were finished cooking, they looked and smelled like bratwursts, but they tasted delicious.
When we got into town, we were shown Rick's house, which was a nice place with plenty of airflow to keep cool during the hot afternoons. Surama didn't have electricity, but a few of the houses sported generators and I think there are even a few televisions in town. The houses were split far apart with over one hundred yards separating some of them, and by the look of it, the town appeared to be better off economically than the small Indian villages I visited in Peru and Bolivia.
Rick walked us over to Monika's, and she was happy to give us a tour of the animal sanctuary. We saw a few land turtles, an ugly snapping turtle, peccaries (a type of pig), aguties (a type of rodent), some three-toed sloths, a well-endowed tapir (it looks like a cross between a giraffe and a cow), some monkeys, and a capybara (the world's largest rodent), but the highlights of the sanctuary were the anaconda and the puma. The anaconda was at least six meters long and weighed at least 100 KG. When we walked in the cage to check it out, it started moving slowly and sticking its tongue out. Monika got freaked out and figured it smelled the blood from a cut on my foot. It was probably about to snap out and start constricting me, so we let it go. The puma had just grown to adult size and its face was covered with beautiful purple stripes. Its paws and teeth were huge, and I could see how it could easily overpower a human in the wild. Jaguars are even bigger. Someday, Monika's company will show up and start filming these animals as if they were in the wild, but nobody seems to be sure when that will happen.