The Amazon River lodge where we stayed caters to an international clientele. In the open boat that we used to get around in, our group of travelers included a 20 year old British girl seeing the world on her own, a German couple, myself and two sisters, a young man from New Jersey, and three Italian young men. Guiding the boat with the handle of the outboard motor was our Brazilian guide, Jorge, and his young assistant. The common language was English so we had no trouble understanding at least the words. Jorge ferried us along tree lined passages, through grass meadows growing in the water until we reached the open water just below the tower room that the girls and I stayed in. Heading up stream he came to a small town: a mission, a store and some houses. Along the banks, cows and pigs stood ankle deep in the water. Jorge explained that occasionally, one would fall victim to the teeth of the river, but, they had to drink. The people who lived there dressed no differently than people you might see in any rural area. In fact when we got out of the boat and walked along the trails through the rain forest, it looked amazing like the Southern US, except the trees seemed taller.
We then took in a ceremonial dance at another village. The villagers pulled the front of the boat up out of the water and invited us through the thatch hut village to a lodge. Along the way, they pointed out a snake skin stretched out on a split log. The skin was easily 18 inches wide and 14 feet long. Apparently, the predator had been caught feasting on a domesticated pig. Inside the lodge the dim light revealed several young Brazilian men and women in what passed for tribal garb: loin cloth, bare breasts, and feathers in their ample hair. We tourists were seated around the periphery of the lodge while the ritual dance was performed. Then they invited some of us to join in. Of course, I did.
Piling back into the boat, Jorge asked if we wanted to go to the beach. Laughingly, we affirmed that we did. He turned the engine up and headed back downstream to a cove with a sandy bank that looked very much like the place where we had fished for piranhas. He said he could put us out on the beach or we could swim to shore. No one seemed enthused about going ashore. Then he said that we could swim from the boat, but not to get into the water if we had any cuts or scrapes that might bleed. About that time, his assistant dove overboard. I told the sisters that if it was ok for him, then I was going to go in as well. The Italian guys heard this and laughed saying “No guts, Mr. Brave American!” Since they had called my bluff, I had no choice, so stripping off my shirt and handing my glasses to the girls, I slipped over the side into the dark waters of the Amazon and swam away from the boat.