There are moments in the jungle where time does not seem to exist. The sun, a jealous lover, seeks to find a stray foot or arm outstretched from a colourful hammock so that it may bite and burn while we consume the stillness around us. It entices us by casting shimmering rays to catch the crest of two silver dolphins as they break the surface of the black water, forcing us into motion to ooh and aah at the sunlight bouncing off their slick skin. The wind, more than a gentle breeze, picks up a few fallen leaves and lays them horizontally in the sky before dropping then disinterestedly as a few small yellow birds stay grounded to watch the display.
We are lazy and content, lulled by the gentle sway of the hammocks when Mateus asks us if we would like to see an anaconda, emboldened from surviving the one night out in the open, we decide it is a good idea. A forty-minute boat ride later and we are at the home of Mateus’s friend who, as it turns out, has both a sloth and an anaconda as pets. A couple of scantily clad children run around, one of whom, upon seeing me, thrusts a sloth into my hands. “It’s like a dog, except it can’t run away” Mateus informs me and I think young girl says that it’s name is Betina but I am too distracted by the unwelcome feel of it’s fur in my hands and by the actions of her younger sister to actually pay attention. The younger sister, a shirtless, curly-haired child of no more than three, eagerly gets beneath the giant snake that her father carries and smiles sweetly at me before she places one hand on her hip and raises the other so that it supports the anaconda held above her head. The snake is almost four meters long and I can’t help but wonder if the child does not look like a tasty little snack; tender, juicy arms outstretched and appetising. The father eventually puts the snake on the ground and instead of backing away, I am transfixed, camera in hand as I hear the question “What do they eat” and Mateus’s laughter filled response of “Tourists”.
The snake moves slowly but not without menace; she seems disinterested in us and the man tells us of how she recently killed a chicken but did not eat it. I wonder if she’s saving herself to eat one of his kids but decide that is perhaps a question that should go unasked. Not too far away from us, there is a red structure made from corrugated iron and with the unclasping of the door many chickens stumble out, eager for freedom, innocent to the fact that their freedom will come at a hefty price. There is a quickening in the moment of the snake, it reaches a log, it’s body flattening as it curls upward and over, it’s muscular body latent with power. I look down at my clenched fists and release them to see the impression left by my finger nails and I know that I can’t possibly watch the rest.
The snake man is disappointed and Mateus gives me a wry smile, no doubt remembering my overly girlish squeals when, cloaked in darkness, he caught a baby Caiman and asked if I wanted to touch it. I am brave, I think to myself as I get on board the motorised canoe that will take us to the next adventure. I am brave, but maybe just not Amazon Jungle brave.