by Todd Wendel
Our neon blue rafts must look pretty strange to the indigenous people I’m waving to onshore. Although I’m sunburned, bug-bitten, and sick to my stomach from the third protein bar I’ve eaten today, I manage to pull off a pretty convincing smile. The fact that members of this tribe recently killed 29 miners for poaching diamonds in this region is also pretty good incentive to put on my best “I’m not here for your diamonds” happy face.
It’s day five on the river and about two weeks since I stepped on a plane in Washington, DC headed for the jungles of the Brazilian Amazon. After three flights and two days of travel by car we finally reached our put-in point on the Rio Roosevelt. I can’t say I’ve ever journeyed so far just to get to the beginning of something. The river is amazing, as pristine and beautiful as we all imagined, and chock full of things that like to sting and bite. Between the sweat bees, wasps, gnats and mosquitoes we are all literally being eaten alive. My cameraman Ryan stopped counting bites on his arms when he reached 250, he just got bored.
To my dismay the only thing biting are the insects. It’s been another day without fish and panic is once again starting to build. I’ve been to this mental state before on a similar trip to the Congo and while we managed to come home with some great fish footage on that trip, I make a note to myself that this is the last time I will bet my career on catching a fish. For most people a bad day of fishing means running out of beer before 2:00. For me it means explaining to my bosses why I’m spending thousands of dollars a day on a fishing show that will have no fish.
Video Preview: “Zeb vs. Pirahna” — Zeb and the gang finally find a good fishing spot, but piranha steal the bait right off the hook! Will their luck ever change?
Thank goodness we’ve brought with us a secret weapon: Fabio. He’s 250 pounds of Brazilian beefcake and although he’s doing damage to our dwindling food stores, he’s supposed to be the best fisherman in these parts. I must admit as I watch him snag another lure in an overhanging tree branch my faith in his fishing prowess is beginning to waiver.
In his defense we haven’t had much time to fish. Around every corner seems to be a new obstacle for our team and although we’ve risen to each challenge they seem to be getting increasingly more difficult. Yesterday we encountered a rapid too dangerous to descend and spent the day carrying our equipment around it overland. Thousands of pounds of equipment: food, camping gear, even our motors had to be hauled through thick jungle to a point below the rapid where we could resume our progress. The day before that we came upon a footbridge spanning the river that we had to take apart log by log, and then rebuild to allow people of this region access to their hunting grounds.
As we round another bend the river picks up speed and downstream we hear the telltale sound that signals another rapid is just ahead. Will this one be passable? Or will today be another slog through mosquito-infested jungle? As I contemplate my fate I think of my friends back in the US with “real” jobs sitting in their cubicles. Man I love this job. Pass me another protein bar.
Don’t miss Monster Fish “Jungle Catfish“ premiering August 2nd at 10P et/pt.