A Guide Who Never Saw the Jungle; Amazon Fires and Casey Crying from Pain
Casey posted a new blog with surprising reflections filling holes in the story we have so far. It covers the last few weeks when Casey had to find a way from Nauta, across two major rivers (the Maranon and the Ucayali) and the treacherous spit of land between them, and then on to Requena on the east bank of the Ucayali (upper Amazon). Casey said the route had been bothering him for months.
"I just could not see a way across, and even at low water the route seemed impossible."
We learn more about the strange, unprecedented situation which led to him finding his new guide, Jorge. Casey was just walking around Nauta on the west bank of the Maranon, trying to figure out where he would swim the first of the mighty rivers. He just ran into Jorge and they struck up a conversation.
Jorge explained he was a math teacher who was out of a job. Within minutes of the conversation, Jorge offered to be Casey's guide. “I need money for my family and my children,” said Jorge.
Casey was so elated to have solved the highly stressful problem of finding a walking guide that he may have overlooked something critical.
"I was [...] so pleased to have a found someone to walk with – that I just assumed my new companion had at least some experience of the jungle. But no. I quickly discovered that this was Jorge’s first time walking or sleeping in the rainforest."
Jorge was fond of repeating the refrain, "You are MY guide". Was this unsettling for Casey? "It was very brave, very foolhardy or very desperate of him to join me..." said Casey. Despite the unusual circumstance, this journey seemed to have worked out well.
As followers, we also had no appreciation of how dangerous the two perceived the spit of land between the rivers. Casey said they had heard stories "about the giant caimans, anacondas and venomous snakes we would almost certainly fall prey to en route." Caiman are a South American species of alligator. Of course, the gloom and doom did not materialize. The worst they saw was a few large caimans jumping into lakes on the east bank.
Also the east bank of the Ucayali, which Casey had originally called "impossible terrain", turned out instead to be many kind and hospitable villagers in pueblos and a surprisingly fresh-cut track leading to a winding sandy road to Requena.
Currently, Casey has been very actively addressing the problem of the extensive Amazon fires which have received considerable media attention.
In his new blog, he writes extensively on the subject, explaining how politics led to commercial and agricultural interests desiring ever-larger clearings. He describes the tragedy of massive amounts of precious species of plants and animals and their intricately complex biodiversity being destroyed.
But he also explains how villagers and local communities have been doing a slash and burn technique for "hundreds perhaps thousands of years", though on a much smaller scale.
Finally, he conveys how cool and "naturally air-conditioned" the rainforest is under the canopy and the stark difference to the baking heat of the cleared areas. He explains that the rainforest seemed to have evolved a complex ability to self-heal and protect its own complex biology, including from such external factors as climate and lightning. In contrast, the cleared areas just became a baked, dry tinderbox.
Casey, now in Requena, says he has been virtually paralyzed by pain from the extraction of an abscessed tooth, followed by a 'dry socket' infection. He commented that it was one of the only times on the trip that pain actually brought him to tears. On September 8th he reported that he had eaten his first solid food - soft scrambled eggs with milk.