Whereas I came from a land roughly split by the classical forces of colonialism, first the Dutch, then the Germans, then the all high-and-mighty limeys themselves (and even then after that, JFK insisting that the entirety of West Papua go to Indonesia because of Communism or some bullshit), Brazil has been fucked on a much grander scale since the beginning.
But, talking to you now, you know that’s not where this particular venture started.
No, I had been taking a brief but thankful respite back to the low hills of west central Alberta when I was contacted. Turns out a friend of an old roomate of mine from back in Red Deer heard about what I did and dug around to find my contact information.
The brief phone call went something like this:
You found Dan back when my family needed to get word to him, she said, voice surprisingly steady (Oh Dan, the first modern hipster I met, told me about caravans and dumpster-diving and emo music. Back in ’99).
Yes, I said, not bothering to mention how difficult that had been.
How far are you able to go to track someone down? She asked.
I said I was comfortable enough traveling, with a willing passport, and I didn’t have that big a fee.
And at this point, she gave me the brief introduction to her ‘intrepid’ cousin Ava. Her words, not mine, though her tone suggested that maybe Ava was crazy instead.
Ava, the rogue journalist, raised on a healthy diet of Hunter Thompson and his apostles. She had stayed out of trouble well enough the past few years, made a few big breaking articles to various websites, then vanished. The last anyone had heard from her was a postcard from Manaus, a backwater Amazon landing in Brazil.
We arranged some terms, I got my rainforest guidebook out, read as many wiki articles possible before the flight, and practiced some broken, nervous Portuguese on a kindly woman on the plane itself.
Clearing customs twice is always a terrible experience (more on that in a bit), but I ended up just fine in Rio, then less fine in Belém, where I realized the need for a guide and/or bodyguard.
Ava had most certainly been exploring the Amazon with some ethnographers and/or botanists, probably trying to observe some of the 50-70 as yet uncontacted tribes of the great, heavy river. What her cousin and family suspected was that she was digging up dirt on joint mining interests tearing up the land along the waterways, while the government turned a blind eye. Well, I might have filled in those last few gaps.
It’s surprisingly easy to find *gringos*, if you ask around the expat population, especially scientists or tourists or whoever looking to go downriver. Ava left a trail, whether she wanted to or not.
After determining that was mostly accurate (or so I hoped), I stayed in the local Canuck bar (would you believe there was one?) for two days, until I met and hired Darren Graham.