Tapajos by night

I've been living in a Munduruku traditional village for one week today.

Every morning I wake up to the chorus of calls from the forest. The bird sing and rattle, the crickets chime, and the roosters crow as the light filters in through bananas palms and the mosquito net that hangs over my hammock.

I'm in love with my new bedroom: A platform filled with hammocks that I share with 20 other Greenpeace people; it has a thatched roof and no sides.

Breakfast is served between 7am-8am, and like all our other meals, it’s shared with the Munduruku. 

After breakfast it’s time to do chores, and we all pitch in to keep the camp clean and comfortable. The facilities Greenpeace have built here, some of which will be left behind for the Munduruku, are impressive: Three sleeping huts, an office, a kitchen, compost toilets, showers, a water pump system for the whole village and a heavy duty solar power system.

Morning chores at Tapajos camp

It's also been really great to see how the team at Greenpeace Brazil have managed the relationship with the Munduruku. They’ve had someone building the friendship with the Munduruku for three years now. They’re really careful about making sure we respect their way of life, whilst also offering to share information, and do workshops about things like recycling and solar power. Every step of the way, they have made sure that we’re not just taking the Munduruku with us, but that the Mundurku decide where we go.

It’s a real privilege and pleasure to be here working on this important project, and knowing that over 1 million of you are with us in spirit is amazing. I know the Munduruku are thankful for the support, and it really helps bring the issue into the international spotlight.

Lunch and dinner at the camp always include rice, beans and mandioca 'flour' alongside whatever other magic the kitchen crew create.

Mandioca is the Mundurku's most important and prolific crop, and along with their catch from hunts, it forms the basis of their diet. It’s the root of the plant they eat, and when I was visiting the neighbouring village, I was able to help in the final stages of its processing.

Ruby Powell cooks Mandioca

We flipped it around with paddles inside a huge wok set into a clay firebox to keep it moving so that it dried but didn’t burn. It was hot work in the heat of the day, but eating the still warm morsel was well worth it.

If I'm back in the village after lunch, I like to return to my hammock for wee nap or to read or write. The other day I noticed one of the hens was also taking a rest in my neighbour’s hammock and when she returned she was happy to see it had left her an egg!

After rest time, I can normally find some other volunteers to head down to one of the igarapé (small streams) that are on either side of the village to cool down. One is to the south, past the mandioca plantations, and it has the deeper pool. There I often find the Munduruku’s beautiful and free children jumping off the bridge into the water. Munduruku value their children greatly, and myth has it that you will turn into a bird if you hit your child.

This igarapé to the south is a damned spring where the water is pumped up from, and the pipes create streams of water to bathe under. This one has the forest hanging over it and hundreds of butterflies flitting and swooping about. There are colours I've never seen before, including the bright electric blue of the giant Morpho butterfly, which at first I thought was a small bird. Cobra have been seen at this stream, so I am always careful to look around before choosing my spot!

This village has not escaped the Brazilian’s soccer obsession, and it has a football field behind it. Every day the women play between 5pm - 6pm, and the men play between 6pm - 7pm. They are amazing – so agile and fast, true to their reputation as great warriors. I play with the women every day that I can, and always leave the pitch dripping in sweat with muscles aching, while my Munduruku team mates are casually wiping a few drops from their foreheads. 

Ruby Powell plays soccer with the Munduruku

Sundown comes around 7.30pm, and the village's elevated spot above the mighty Tapajós provides stunning views of the sunsets, night after night. The elevation also means that this isn't one of the villages that would be flooded if the SLT hydrodam was built – instead it would potentially be left an island, and the Munduruku living here would lose the hunting and fishing grounds that are essential to their survival.

It's hard to fathom that the Brazilian Government and international construction companies are considering destroying such a precious place, which as well as being a pristine rainforest and habitat of thousands of unique species, is a critical ecosystem for the worlds carbon cycle.

At night, the forest is alive with noise. The most distinctive sound is that of the Guariba - waist high monkeys that hang out in gangs and roar like a chainsaws to deter predators throughout the night. The Milky Way stretches out above, and it's always great to spot the shining Southern Cross.

Tapajos camp by night

The last activity of the day is a full Greenpeace team meeting where we get updates from the campaigns, communications and logistic teams, as well as find out who will be going on demarcation, river or forest trips the next day.

I have been on a few trips, both up and down the river. It's always amazing to see the grand rainforest along the river’s edge, and all the beautiful and bizarre birds with their vibrant colours. When the day is hot we swim in the river to cool down, and when it’s cold, we swim in the shallow beaches to warm up.

Tapajos rainforest

What’s heart-breaking to see is the sites of illegal gold mining, which scar the region and leach mercury into the waterways. If the SLT mega hydrodam and the other 42 planned dams for the Tapajós basin were to be built, they would cause the levels of mercury and methylmercury to accumulate in the food sources that the Munduruku people rely on for survival.

The Munduruku have made it clear they will oppose the SLT with their lives if necessary - because their lives depend on it. 

It should never, ever come to this.

Please stand with us and sign and share the petition. Talk to your friends and family about why it’s important. Tell them to pass it on too. Because Brazil doesn't need these hydro dams, but the Munduruku need the Amazon - we all do.