Piranha Fishing in the Amazon, Part V

August 11, 2010
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This is the fifth installment in a series by Wayne Zanardelli, an IE guest who generously shared notes from his recent Amazon adventure aboard La Amatista. Get caught up with Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV here.

Today we go piranha fishing. We motored up river until we found a narrow waterway about 20 feet across that had cut through very high saw grass. We pulled into a small, tree-covered cove and broke out the bamboo fishing poles. Each pole was about seven feet long with an eight foot line tied to the end and then a small hook.  The bait was raw meat and chicken. We were fishing for red piranha, the meat eaters. Not all species of piranha are carnivores. I got lucky and caught the first one, a six incher. George grabbed the fish and removed the hook. The mouth on these things is scary big with razor sharp teeth. This guy was thrown in the basket and flipped wildly for about one minute.  George caught the next one and then Ginny, who caught the largest of the day, nabbed a nine incher (piranha don’t get much larger). Dan and I caught a total of eight and the group caught 27. Our driver strung them on a stick. We are going to eat these babies for lunch. During our fishing, a large howler monkey entertained us for 20 minutes. He was only about 15 or 20 feet away enjoying our attention. The river is two miles wide here and 65 feet deep. Further downriver it becomes six miles wide. We were back by 11:00 — in the rain, by the way. Lunch included our regular food and fried, freshly caught piranha. They were very good — there just isn’t much to eat.

We were out again at 4:30. We saw birds, naturally, but we also saw huge wasps’ nests and huge (two inches long) ants, the latter known to inflict extremely painful bites with the pain lasting 24 hours. Hernando said he was bitten by a wasp last week and his wrist was swollen to the size of a softball. Several years ago he was bitten by one of these ants and said it felt like a knife was thrust into his ankle. It is a reminder of all the perils that await a human in the jungle. We were back in time to catch the band and drink pisco sours. A little about the food on board: It is uniformly very good and not really very unusual. We have had a few different drinks like purple corn juice and green tomato juice, but for the most part we had orange juice, papaya juice, mango juice and bottled water to drink. We had some native fish that were very good, manioc, which tastes like potato and lots of plantains; but otherwise, it was all familiar and well prepared.

Sunset tonight was particularly gorgeous with all the water reflecting the brilliant colors of the sunset and tall trees at the horizon.  It is magical. This being our last night on board, the captain and his officers, crew chiefs and head chef came into the dining room.  The captain, a tall, handsome man, spoke to the group with George translating. It was a warm, humble, heartfelt and gracious speech. Everyone at my table was crying. I looked around the room and everyone was crying.  I’m not sure I can explain any of it except a strange, family-like bond developed in the seven days.