Three hours later, we entered a darker portion of the swamp, under cover of hardwood trees – a bit reminiscent of the deep south, but with more wild caiman. Rounding a thorny bush and avoiding a spiny trunked palm, I saw a yellow and black head jerk at the sight of my movement. “BLACK AND YELLOW KILLED A FELLOW” screamed across my conscious as I jumped backwards, bashing into Will and knocking us into knee-deep water once again.
Peering over the shrubs with wide owl eyes, I burst into an adrenaline-fueled laughter. I had to. It was a tortoise. We gringos can never be too sure of ourselves in an Amazonian swamp. Armed with Cipro and rubbing alcohol, we were not prepared to negotiate with a viper or a caiman, so we tend to keep on our toes.
While hiking through the swamp, I was struck with the desire to capture an image so purely swampish that while I am writing on my Mac during the hell beast that is a March in Maine, I will feel like I am breathing the lush air of the swamp once again. Six hours and 900 photos later, I left the swamp hoping I had documented in a single shot, the uncontained rapture I feel for this unique ecosystem. My attraction to the swamp stems from my childhood. On brutally hot summer days in central Illinois suburbia, I would don my purple bathing suit and fill a dirt-filled depression in the sidewalk with the icy hose water. I played for hours, content to sit in the mud, plastering my skin and making faces at passerby’s walking to the park.
Overturning our boots in the ditch next to the laundry line, mud, insects, thorns, sticks, seeds, and a number of unidentifiable objects spilled out, the rest sticking to our pants and socks. We arrived late for lunch, but covered plates waited patiently on the white tile counters of the cool kitchen. Leaving behind muddy footprints, we grabbed our meals and plopped on the wooden benches of the comedor. We devoured the fried yucca, chicken, rice and chicha morada, a local refresco made from purple corn. Full, happy, and showered, we settled into our respective palm thatched huts to do what everybody does during a hot Amazonian afternoon after a long day in the field: take a siesta.