Water or Gold

I could clearly see the sand banks of Jurura that the seasonal low water levels had exposed. The calm dark waters of the Nhamundá river reflected the blisteringly hot sun and deep blue cloudless sky, while in the foreground sprawled the lush greens of the jungle. Several times I had walked to this point contemplating and planning the swim across this landmark of my adventure whilst waiting for my current walking companion Valdo to return. To cross would take me from the border of Pará into Amazonas and into a different time zone.

A few local children were flying homemade kites made from fishing line, sticks and plastic carrier bags. I asked them if it was safe to swim. They laughed and one drew a line in the sand about six meters long saying “Jacaré (Caiman) this big here.” Nonetheless, based on local advice (and allowing for the exaggeration factor) and my own experience so far, I had calculated that it was safe enough to swim across. I have, after all, swum every body of water, every river and tributary I have so far come across. I thought back to the early stages and the Marajó’s jungles and rivers, which had been incredibly difficult to cross, especially at the high annual flood season. In hindsight, if I had known what I was letting myself in for, I probably would have taken the much much easier and safer but less interesting route through all the connected roads on the other side of Baia de Marajó via Belem. It would also have saved me at least two months of my time. Then again, I felt that the most easterly point of Marajó was the truest location of the mouth of the Amazon as it pours out into the Atlantic ocean. Anyway, I wasn’t about to pass on this latest swim because of local kids’ advice.

I was eager to swim across to Jurura, and waiting for my walking companion Valdo, who had still had not returned after going home to vote in the elections, had been frustrating. He also had the other backpack and gear. I was relieved when he finally returned, and we got going straight away the next morning.
I swam the 3K across to Jurura then started the traverse to Urucará.

Again I changed the route after a few very tough days walking near and beneath the power lines. It was dangerously steep closed forest, unbearably hot with thousands of bloodthirsty mosquitos, so that we only made 7K in two long uncomfortable days.
I decided to risk a much quicker and more scenic route along the dried-out banks of the Amazon. Amazon river levels change dramatically from high river rainy season to low water dry season, and with current low water levels the big lakes (lagos) had been separated from the main river apart from a few small rivers, so the route was walkable – just.

As we walked along a section of rock freshly exposed by the receding waters of the Amazon,  I noticed Valdo picking up rocks and jokingly saying “ouro” (gold).
I was feeling philosophical…
“What do you think is more valuable, Valdo – fresh water or Gold?” I asked.
“Gold, of course,” he shot back.
“Hmm. It would be great to find a nugget of gold here, but you are really lucky where you live – you have an abundant supply of fresh water in the Amazon basin, while in some other parts of the world many people don’t have enough and sometimes people die because of it.”
Valdo grunted.
I said “If you were in the middle of a hot, dry plain far from any rivers and you were given the choice between finding fresh water or gold what would you take?”
No reply.
“You can live a whole life without gold, but you can’t live more than a few days without fresh water, that’s why i think water is worth more than gold. What do you reckon?”
Valdo remained silent, but at least I had convinced myself.

On this last leg I’ve seen much more diverse wildlife than before, with too many insects, birds and animals to list, and most of them too fast-moving to grab a camera and capture images. I imagine it would be an ornithologist’s dream to walk through the wetlands here, where there is an incredible array of brightly coloured and different sized birds. One large tree alone had at least 50-80 Hoatzin sitting in its branches on the riverbank.

I am now in Itapiranga, ready to head on to the big bustling hot tropical jungle city of Manaus, international gateway to the Amazon rainforest and sited at the mouth of one of the bigger tributaries – the Rio Negro,. Where the Negro meets the Amazon is the famous “meeting of the waters”, and another expedition landmark for me.
Ahead of Manaus the roads are few and far between, and looking at the map I see just a green ocean of rainforest to cross.

I would like to thank Piotr Chmielinski  for following my journey and for the kind donations gratefully received. The money is covering all my Delorme Inreach costs. ThankYou Piotr!



Header photo: The low waters of the Amazon expose banks of rock in places. Urucará: Amazonas: Brazil



A community we stayed at near to Faro Brazil: Amazonas



Walking along the riverbank from Sao Sabastiao to Itapriranga wasn’t as easy as it sounds. Amazonas: Brazil



Nature’s way of cleaning the environment; Vultures (urubú) near Oriximina: Para: Brazil



Giant vitoria regia water lilies, we passed many natural pools and lakes on route to Itapiranga: Amazonas: Brazil



The dried out but precarious riverbanks connecting lakes to the Amazon river: we crossed many along the banks of Amazonas



Santa Maria community. People gave us a small boathouse to sleep in with great river views: Santa Maria: Amazonas: Brazil



The low waters at dry season reveal thousands of golden sandy beaches. Faro: Para: Brazil



The route I took from Faro to Itaprianga as shown in the Delorme Inreach tracking map


Map: Pan and zoom to see more detail

6 comments on ‘Water or Gold’:

  1. Clive Maguire

    Great stuff again Pete. Those dead-straight power line tracks look so inviting until you’re actually in one! An overgrown, tangled, dangerous, secondary forest nightmare. Your decision to stick to the banks was inspired – pity the water levels are going to cover them all up in a few months (although I’m sure you’ll deal with the situation with ease as usual). Take it easy on the road, and we’ll see you soon.

  2. sharon bird

    well done pete. your nearly there. hopefully you can have a rest and sort things out when you get to manaus. x

  3. Paul Casey

    Brilliant, keep your spirits up! Great pics. Have a cold beer for me when you get to Manaus!

  4. Gregg

    Well done Pete hope all going well.

  5. steve smallwood

    Hi Pete
    been following your progress look like you are having quite a adventur how much longer do you think your walk will take.
    take care of yourself

    • Pete

      Hi Steve, Thanks for following.
      Not sure now, another 18 months maybe, thats if i manage to get a sponsor on board! Will talk soon on Whats App!


Leave a comment