During the second half of our trip, we found small signs that the global importance of the Amazon rainforest is being recognized locally. We spent a day with Paulo, who moved here when the Highway was first built.
He has given up ranching and instead signed up to a government plan for sustainable forestry management. Under the scheme, Paulo is allowed to selectively fell 10 percent of the trees on his land: thus, he extracts the more valuable timber trees while the great biological intricacy of the rainforest remains substantially intact.
Getting my hair cut in the town of Humaita, Cosmo the barber told us that, ‘Brazilians do not know Brazil properly. We need better teaching at school, to tell the children why it is important to preserve the forest, and what might happen in the future if things carry on like this.’ Sky Rainforest Rescue are helping to educate children more about the Amazon.
The final 200km of our journey to Labrea were the worst. The midday heat became unbearable, the humidity intensified and the road deteriorated to a cratered quagmire.
Reaching the Purus River was a great relief, and in the relief I was able to reflect on what a tough but magical journey it had been: the warmth of these frontier people, the generosity we experienced every day, the stature and beauty of the trees, the butterflies on the Highway, the stars, swimming in the rivers and the electric storms had been a pleasure to behold.
I had also come to understand that this vast region – the Amazon – is even more unique and important than I’d previously appreciated, and that the threats to the rainforest are manifest now.
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