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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Red-Hot Brazilian Amazon Adventure

You need a very good reason to jump into a river swarming with piranhas, caimans, dogfish, stingrays, water snakes and electric eels. Heat was mine.

“If I told you everything that was in the water,” said guide Josh La Cruz, providing a short list of the notorious creatures populating the waterways of the Brazilian Amazon, “you’d never go swimming.”

With temperatures nearing 100 degrees and humidity close to 90 percent, I opted to ignore the river’s wildlife rap sheet. At that moment, boiling and sticky, I needed a dunk. So I plunged in and just as quickly scrambled out, not wishing to tempt fate. The South American sun had not driven me totally daft; I still had my fingers, toes and wits.

Brazil comprises 60 percent of the 1.4 billion-acre Amazon rain forest, and the hothouse jungle is stuck in terminal summer. “We have three seasons: hot, hotter and hell,” said Joyce Fernandes, a tour guide at the Amazon Theater in Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state in northwest Brazil.

I visited during “hotter,” toward the end.

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