The first journey I can ever remember taking was a birthday present from my father. I was turning 5. At that point in time, my family (then my dad, mom and younger sister) lived on a camp that Dad had set up as part of a safari business he had just started. Dad was interested in an adventurous life that would match his rich imagination and feed his writing.
Getting to the camp required a several-hour-long trip by pick-up truck on a road that more often than not was in very poor conditions. I have scenes in my memory of sitting next to my mother and my three-year-old sister inside the sturdy blue and white Ford pick-up stuck in the mud as my dad and possibly a neighbor tried to figure out a way to get it out. At night at the camp we could sometimes hear the roar of jaguars, then abundant in the region, and the number one enemies of local cattle ranchers. On a walk with my dad one day, we observed a rattle snake calmly cross the road in front of us, a memorable event for me that was not really anything out of the ordinary for the few long-term inhabitants of the region.
I am not sure of the exact location of the camp within Bodoquena. I will have to ask my father. Hopefully the next time you visit my blog I will have that information for you. What I do remember is that we were on a high point of the Serra. From our tents, we could walk to a stream of crystal clear waters and waterfalls and to a cliff, over which the waters of the stream disappeared. To give you an idea of the height of this cliff, if you stood on its edge, like my dad and I stood that day, an adult cow grazing at the bottom looked the size of a pin head.
The journey consisted of a rappel expedition down the cliff walls. Interestingly, I don’t have memories of the whole trip, only of its first portion. Dad, probably relying on his military training, set up the rappel station using some of the large trees near the edge and tied himself to the rope. I was then tied to his back. Don’t ask me how, I have no idea. I am sure I was safe though, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this right now, 40 some years later. I remember placing my arm around his neck and holding tight as we descended to the first ledge, perhaps some 40 feet below. Here we stopped and untied from the rope to explore a cave my dad had been curious about. The only thing I remember is walking inside and noticing how cool and dark it got. Maybe a jaguar lives here, I thought to myself.
And that is as much as I can remember from my remarkable fifth year anniversary. Presumably we got back to the camp site safely to my mother’s relief. I never knew her to be very fond of my dad’s ideas for birthday presents…