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Keith Schofield

Floating through Ages

Posted from: Jarauara Community - Rio Japura.
The Priest was right. He's a Catholic and entitled to be I suppose. The Catholic faith is massively on the resurgence here. Maybe they all believe his theories on mosquitoes. Not a part of my body is munch-free.

I mounted a massive counter insurgence last night as I stalked each and every one down. Wearing my new camouflage jungle thong, I used my naked body as bait. I've invented the new stalking-slapping cheering dance. I must have killed at least a million. All except one. He is the most irritating thing on the planet. He even invades my thinking space. Not that there's much of that. I must give him a name. A random Brazilian name. He watches me all the time. I know when I fall asleep he will attack, and five pints of blood will have gone. He will be the end of me. He will haunt me till I'm safely back on the plane. And probably even then, I will engage in my stalking-slapping cheering dance.

Enough of the mosquitoes - I'm sure you get the point. Crack of dawn - and in the soft light we followed Bruce to the village, and searched for Donna Lourdes, one of the Presidents of the community. The children are so very beautiful - and the villagers so very gentle.

They seem to have reached a kind of idyll here. No individual greed. Just a wonderful communal spirit. She explains the role of the community within the reserve their tiny village nestles in - her wise eyes keen to enlighten us. We filmed lovely people fishing by the shore with nets, collecting manioc from sunken canoes then drying it by hand in clay ovens. Always a smile. Always friendly.

Surely there must be a dark side? We're here for four days. Maybe I'll discover it soon. We learn of the management plan for all of the communities within the reserve, and how the institute controlling the management plan interacts with them.

We learn from Manuel and a very sweaty Bruce how the village is forward-thinking in its ideas for conservation. We learn that these ideas have been handed down through generations to preserve the habitat and sustain its future - long before any institutes - and long before Bruce chops his way manfully through a huge log.

Manuel is impressed by his chopping ability. I am impressed by the blisters on his hands. Bruce really gets stuck in. His ability to engage makes filming a joy. He respects and is respected. I warily climb aboard the world's smallest canoe and float through a paradise that is a flooded forest. Quietly we paddle after Bruce and his equally small canoe with an expert fisherman called Tapioca - armed with only a wooden harpoon.

Keith boards 'the world's smallest canoe'....

My canoe is paddled by an expert jungle guide called Dudu - and is armed only with a huge camera, which is required to remain absolutely still at all times. Even the smallest ripple would distract the prey. To sit still and film while being munched by hordes of rampant mosquitoes was a little difficult to say the least - but to be here was like a little slice of heaven.

Drifting slowly through the trees in still waters I see lily ponds in the dappled light. Tarantula nests pass by on wise gnarled tree trunks. My trance-like state is broken as the harpoon flashes into the water. How he had seen the fish is incredible. How he had harpooned it is unbelievable.

Keith and Dudu in their canoe
Keith and Dudu in their canoe

The sequence filmed, I resume my trance - my lens performing a slow floating ballet on this most spiritual of stages. The lily ponds and dappled glades take on a deeper significance as I float through ages unchanged by history. A sacred untouched memory.

The fish astonishingly harpooned by Tapioca was not the prey he or Bruce had in mind. What they were after was the Piraracu. A giant remnant from the dinosaur age. Rare and difficult to find in this most ancient of habitats. Perhaps Tapioca shared my musings. Perhaps his ancestors fished here in exactly the same way. We needed to return.

Mosquitoes and backbreaking stillness aside, this for me would be a return to those echoes of the past to an incredibly special and spiritual place. I was still itching as Dudu spotted a sloth. It would take 16 years to film it moving 16 inches.

Its toe-curling deliberations on how to make its next move would put a chess grand master to shame. It moved as slowly as the trees and the ancient forest beneath it. It smiled as time stood still and we all dashed around sharing a few hours of its special world. Maybe he is right. The lily ponds certainly are.

Find out more about Amazonas wildlife.

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