Been watching ‘I’m a Celebrity…’ which is becoming quite tiresome now. I’m sure it didn’t ALL involve eating and drinking animal products in past series. Anyway, I was thinking that all those ‘celebrities’ are quite lucky to have lights. The rainforest can be a creepy place at night. Imagine it without the lights. Black. Complete darkness. Like being inside a cave except you’re surrounded by the constant, electrical hum of life. Croaks and chirrups and shuffles and squeaks and coughs and…and you don’t know where it’s coming from or what’s making it. My brother and I used to camp out on the river sometimes in Brazil, but we always stuck to a beach on the Araguaia, chucking a couple of waterproof ponchos and a mosquito net over some sticks. Once we got canny, (seasoned ‘adventurers’, oh yeah) we even found ourselves a couple of semi-comfy bedrolls. There, under the open sky, it was distracting to hear the turtles coming up onto the beach during the night, river dolphins surfacing for air, maybe a caiman or two, but actually in the forest? Scary. Some of the locals used to hunt lowland paca (click the link for a quirky video of the little fella that’s very good to eat) by going into the forest at night and stringing a hammock high in the trees over a paca run. They’d wait for the animal to pass underneath and shoot it.
My brother and I decided we’d go into the forest one night with our friend Marco to try a similar deal but we didn’t last long. The forest was dense. Unlike the forest in ‘I’m a celebrity…’ this forest was thick and almost impenetrable in some places at ground level and we thought we’d lucked out when we found an opening at the edge of the trees, with a narrow track leading deeper inside. So we switched on our torches and held our assorted weapons ready for the first paca.
I don’t think we made it more than about a hundred metres in there.
After a short while of creeping about like great hunters, we encountered a heavy smell that settled over and smothered the usual odour of the forest. And as we progressed further in, the smell grew stronger. A kind of musky smell, with an underlying hint of decaying flesh. Being brave souls, we pressed on until we came to the end of the track which was a kind of cul-de-sac of death. A hollowed out lair, scattered with bones and scented with the rotting corpses of forest animals. Something lived there, though I have no idea what, and it liked meat. We shared a look, turned around, and decided the jungle was no place to be at night.