The next time I feel like complaining about my job, I hope I'll remember Amadeo, and stop my whining.
One of Amadeo's many responsibilities at Ariau Jungle Lodge is to take people on caiman spotting tours, so they can get an up-close-and-personal experience with the crocodilian reptiles that live along the Amazon. Since the caiman are most active at night, these tours happen after dark. Here's a photo of Rui and Amadeo standing at the front of our canoe, using a large car-battery-powered spotlight to scan the river banks, looking for the caiman.
Once you spot a caiman, Amadeo has the job of leaping out of the canoe onto the reptile's back, clamping the caiman's jaw closed with his hands. Here are a few photos of Amadeo, catching the caiman that would be our example that evening:
Once he had the caiman's mouth securely closed, he brought it back into the boat, so we could get a closer look.
Here's Rui showing how part of the caiman's tail had been eaten by piranhas.
And showing us the caiman's tongue:
For those who can't view video, here's a photo showing off the Caiman's teeth.
I happened to be seated in the front of the canoe just a few feet from Amadeo and the caiman, so I had the opportunity to tickle its tummy and to watch as Rui and Amadeo determined that it was a female.
The next day, I asked Amadeo if he'd ever had an accident with the caimans, and in response he showed me the scars on his wrists where he'd been bit by them. I thought he deserved a big tip.
I was totally impressed at Amadeo's willingness to quietly do the dirty work that was required to help us have a nice trip. Not only did he clean our fish and catch our caiman, but when we landed at places, he'd jump into the water to pull us to a dock (or improvise a dock with planks), so we didn't have to get our feet wet.
Amadeo guided the canoe on several of the 45-to-60 minute journeys we took around the area. One time after getting mud on my shoes after visiting a native village, I decided to wash my shoes in the wake of the canoe, and Amadeo kindly reminded me to hold on tight so I wouldn't lose a shoe in the Amazon.
Here he is with his machete, ready to help us make our way through the dense jungle:
All of the Ariau Jungle Lodge employees were very helpful, like this guy, who carried our luggage up the stairs from the canoes to our rooms.
Rui was the only English-speaking guide I met at the lodge. He is very knowledgeable about all of the medicinal uses of the plants in the Amazon, about the legends of the native peoples, and about all of the birds and animals we saw. He went out of his way to help me have a comfortable stay. Here's a photo of him pointing to a three-toed sloth that he happened to notice in the trees near my tower:
Edi, who picked me up in Manaus and helped me make the two hour journey upstream to the jungle lodge, was raised in the jungle. The first time she looked into a mirror or learned the alphabet was when she was 15 years old, when her family moved to the city because her mother insisted that the children should get an education. Now she speaks five languages.
The Amazon is an amazing place to visit, and one of its pleasures is meeting the wonderful people who work there!