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Matt Norman

Arrival in Logging Camp


Posted from: Atalaia
One last adjustment to the camera and we swing it out over the water on our 25’ crane to film some passing shots of the boat. We have travelled ahead on a smaller, faster boat in order to rig this and not hold our journey up. The shot works well by having the camera drift across the water and up over a tree as the boat passes. It really captures the landscape that we are passing through in one smooth shot.

Matt at work with the crane
Matt at work with the crane

After two long days of journeying on the boat, the river has become very narrow and we are making painfully slow progress as we are having to stop to chop down large tree branches that have fallen and are blocking the way. None of us really know what to expect of the loggers we will be staying with as it’s an emotive subject and it’s easy to pre-judge them as villains of the ecosystem.

On this leg of filming we have two new crew members. Jungle guide Dudu is a great character, instantly bringing a fun energy to the team. The other is Dr Ruben who has joined us for this leg as it has been deemed particularly dangerous due to the use of chainsaws. He’s actually massively over-qualified, being a practising surgeon, so if legs and arms go flying we’ll be well looked after. There was a running joke that he’s actually nicknamed Dr Death and is only with us in the jungle because he had lost his medical licence to practice in the city, but I’m sure that isn’t true!

Late afternoon and we finally arrive and pull into the riverbank. It’s a steep slippery climb up and we are met by 60 year old Pepe and his 19 year old son Boto. There are big smiles as they instantly make us feel welcome and gesture to the open sided shelter that we will share with them during our stay. There's a chain system between us all to carry our large pile of kit from the boat and we lay some plastic sheeting for the camera boxes and make claim to what space is left in the tiny wooden shelter. It’s everyone together, loggers, crew, boat drivers but we all get on well so will be fine. As we are all sat there under the shelter feeling rather pleased with ourselves the whole floor suddenly collapses due to the weight but is quickly mended by young Botoe who makes things look simple by quickly chopping down a small tree with an axe and re-propping up the floor.

The crew's camp
The crew's camp

The loggers here are legal in that they have a licence to fell a quantity of selected trees, saw them into four metre lengths and float them down the river. Theirs is a very hard life and they will be out here in this isolated camp for up to six months. Slowly the loggers finish their day and join us back at the shelter. In all there are about eight of them ranging in age from 19 to 60+ years.

It’s early evening and a logger turns up with a woolly monkey over his shoulder that he has shot for supper. The hair is scraped off the monkey, it’s dismembered and barbecued over the fire. Even the head is sizzling away. Luckily I’ve a few freeze meals left as I’ve had the runs for days before after eating similar monkey feasts but Rob tucks straight into it and is still picking monkey from his teeth hours later when we call it a night.

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