Thursday, July 3, 2008

Day 4: Tour of Bringing the Boy Home

Ever wanted to go deep into the Amazon but didn't have enough frequent flier miles or bug repellent? Well here's your chance! Join Nina Nelson as she gives you the full tour!

When I was writing Bringing the Boy Home I frequently looked back at the photo album I’d compiled from my vacation to the Amazon back in 2001. I had gone with my husband, my sister and my mother-in-law and it wasn’t hard to recall the sounds, sights and feelings of the rainforest after looking at the below pictures and re-watching the video. We stayed at the Explorer’s Inn Lodge, a research camp on the Rio Tambopata. Interestingly enough, we were the only people staying there except for: two students, the camp cook (from a local village) and the guys who were fixing one of the thatched roofs.

Okay, so let’s start at the beginning:

In Bringing the Boy Home, an anthropologist named Juan Diego picked Sara and Tirio up from the airport and took them to the research camp where they were staying. In reality, a fellow named Juan Diego picked our little group up from the airport and took us to the research camp where we were staying. But he was not a portly anthropologist--rather he was a young, thin research student who was staying at the Explorer’s Inn Lodge and paying for his room and board by playing tour guide. Below you can see the outboard canoes that we rode in for six hours on our way to the lodge. This is what I imagined Sara traveling in when she found Tirio floating down the river and it is also what I imagined the two of them riding in when they returned to the jungle a couple days before Tirio’s thirteenth birthday.

Pic 2 shows me (I’m the one without the mustache) and the “real” Juan Diego. I’m sipping the tea that the camp cook made for my bellyache. After Juan Diego explained that I had an upset stomach (in what I’m assuming was Portuguese) the cook picked up a machete, went out back, returned with a bunch of leaves and brewed me a tea. Half an hour later…I was all better. Cool, huh?

These are the huts where we stayed. No electricity, HUGE water bugs (roaches on steroids for those of you who have never lived down South) that kept leaping out from unexpected places and mosquito netting around the beds. Strangely enough, this looks just like the research camp where I had Sara and Tirio stay when they went back to the Amazon. Hmmmmm. I even have a little (or should I say HUGE) discussion between the two of them about the water bug/roaches!

As for the local party animals:

This is Pablo..or is it Pedro? Anyway, this clown and his swine brother used to be wild piggies but had become semi-tame after being fed scraps from the kitchen. They were a constant source of entertainment for us and I envisioned their antics a lot when I wrote about Sulali’s pet tapir, Tambo.

Another friend of ours was, Willie the Macaw. I used him as my muse for the parrots gnawing at the clay lick leading to Tirio’s tributary. Willie was rescued when some poachers caught him and tried to take him overseas to sell. Juan Diego told us the poachers stuff the baby birds in paper towel rolls and then hide them in their luggage. Grrrrr….I’d like to show those poachers what a paper towel roll stuffing feels like! Anyway, Willie was unable to go back to the wild and now lives at the lodge. Here he is hanging out with my sister.

Here I am feeling like I’m on the movie set of, Honey, I Shrunk the Author. This is a banana leaf. The locals use them as roofing material for their huts. I used them in the book as Mother Nature’s umbrella to shield Tirio from the many downpours I put him through.

And THAT was my experience in the Amazon rain forest. And THAT is what helped me to write Bringing the Boy Home. I just wish I could have added some howler monkeys or birds as background music. I guess you’ll have to go to the Amazon jungle to hear THAT for yourself.


Anonymous said...

Very cool, Nina -- I love the pictures!

TJ Brown said...

Great pictures... and I love this book!

Debbie Reed Fischer said...

Indiana Jones has nothing on you, you adventuress. I love the tea story. You should host a show on the travel channel.

Ellen Booraem said...

Wow, that is one huge banana leaf. I admire your courage going into the rainforest, Nina. I always wanted to join the peace corps, but only if they sent me to Sweden.

Can't wait to read this book!