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Things to be scared of...


Positive jungle memories make up for a month of hell
Redmond O'Hanlon Writer
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I'm worried I haven't given you any idea of how extraordinarily beautiful it can be. I mean, how really wonderful. Something you never forget all your life. I mean, you can live on it.

[Q] The jungle?

Yes, I still have some of my best dreams, or the best bits of it. So a day, for instance, I'm thinking of. Not exactly a typical day, but it does happen a lot. So the water's risen 40 feet, which is kind of frightening. I have that dream, too, of water just in every direction for always. And in those big bongos, the dugout canoes, gliding between trees, quite near the treetops, in some cases, in a short forest. Lots of different types of forest, in the Amazon. So going along almost in the canopy, gliding silently. And Chimo wanted to show me his favourite place that didn't involve women. We got into the little curiara, the fishing canoe, with Culimacare behind me, paddling. And then slid out of the trees into this lagoon. It's called the Yacuta lagoon off the Siapa Emoni river. Wow. Beautiful sunlight and in the far distance there are these giant turtles. You see the shell and then the head, the little head. And 30 or 40 plumbeous kites, these beautiful, fluttery kites hawking termites, termite swarm rising up. And he paddled out quietly, but then these guys were sort of outraged or curious, or came very, very, very close. Four giant sloths and they've got a beautiful white patch here. They're brown and look really cuddly. And they went [sneezing sound], which means: who are you? Get out of our place. Huge. And you're only in a little tiny fishing canoe, and in Curripace, I think Culimacare said the equivalent of, 'No, you go away, we're...' So they're playing about all around us, and once you get to this clump of trees, and it's the sound of old men snoring, really loud snores.

And I look up, and there's the one bird I really have wanted to see everywhere, lots of them, the chenchena, as Chimo called it. The hoatzin. Now we now know it's related to the cuckoos, but that's only recently. It was always thought that it was a direct descendant of archaeopteryx. I mean, as you know, all birds are descended from dinosaurs, and the reason why is because its chicks have a little hook. So when they fall out of the nest into the water, as a harpy or whatever, so hop, bump – you jump into the water, and then when danger's over, you crawl up the tree. And then they lose their hooks later, but it looks so primitive, this bird. You can see the light through its straggly feathers. Beautiful, buffy sort of brown. About the same as a crow, a bit bigger than a crow. And anyway, we got right in amongst them. And they've got a punk, sort of, crest like this. Bizarre. And their faces are bright blue. And the eye is bright, bright red, scarlet. And they're leaning out of the tree going [squawking] and I think that means 'piss off' in hoatzin.

So those sort of days set you up for a month, you know. That's... it was just extraordinary. And then you creep away, and you haven't done any damage. I mean, it's all happening there right now.

British author Redmond O’Hanlon writes about his journeys into some of the wildest places in the world. His travels have taken him into the jungles of the Congo and the Amazon, he has faced some of the toughest tribes alive today, and has sailed in the hurricane season on a trawler in the North Atlantic. In all of this, he explores the extremes of human existence with passion, wit and erudition.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is a London-based television producer and director who has made a number of documentary films for BBC TV, Channel 4 and PBS.

Tags: Venezuela

Duration: 4 minutes, 50 seconds

Date story recorded: July - September 2008

Date story went live: 11 August 2009