5-11-2005 "The last leads weigh the most"

A tour with the kids

The title is a famous Dutch expression that says that the last part of the work is the hardest - and it was. Happily we left Natal with a new fresh team composed by Janderson, Fabrisio and Gabi. The first reservoir on our shopping list turned out to be completely evaporated. The next one did not look much wetter and so it went on. Around mid-day we were walking around yet another reservoir, trying to find an access road when suddenly a head stuck out of a window: ‘My daughter, what are you doing outside under the burning sun. Come inside we are just about to have lunch.’ Incredible how friendly the people are around here.
About 3 o’clock in the afternoon we finally found a decent amount of water. The sun was burning when we put the boat in the water. The reservoir lay at the boarder of a medium sized town and many people were fishing. Some had wooden canoes, others simply peddled sitting on truck tires or - even worse - on some pieces of polystyrene held together with duck tape. They were using casting nets and standing nets.
We always talk to the locals before we start working so we set off to talk to the nearest by fishermen but when they saw us coming they started rowing in the opposite direction. It looked like they were fleeing away from us. Of course they did not stand any change against our 8 hp engine and soon we caught up with them. We told them we were students doing research here. It was obvious that they were very relieved. They told us they thought we were IBAMA officials. It is not allowed to fish in the reservoir and at irregular intervals IBAMA comes down here to confiscate all the nets. Poor people, we scared the hell out of them.
When we tried to reach the other fishermen that were now at the back of the reservoir we realized that we had chased away the whole fishermen population. They were rowing at full speed to the other shore trying to get away before we got there. There were at least 8 canoes rowing in front of us with each 2 men in it. As soon as they reached the shore they took their nets and started running. It was really an embarrassing site and I felt very bad about causing this panic. Some 4 brave men stayed where they were and awaited us at the shore. One had a big knife that he was holding demonstratively in front of him. When we told him we were students he started to shout at his running colleagues. ‘Cowards!’ ‘You look like women running away and getting terrified by a couple of students!’ Because he was still angry and still had the knife I decided to let this last remark pass – this was not the time nor the place to start acting like a feminist - and we started to explain what we were doing. The situation cooled down a little bit but then another problem surged. The most reasonable man told us it would be impossible to leave the nets in the water at night: they would most likely get stolen. We were considering contracting some people to guard the nets at night (it had to be two men, because it would be too dangerous for one to stay there alone).
Bom, we left the fishermen alone and wanted to use the last hours of light to get some work done. We took care not to get our engine entangled in the nets but unfortunately I hit one anyway. The nets were almost entirely submerged so it was impossible to see them. I had to cut the net to get out of there and spend an hour picking the net out of the engine propeller. Slowly we rowed back to the shore trough the maze of nets with the engine up. Not looking forward to any more confrontations with the fishermen we decided to get out of there.
After a small hour driving we found another reservoir: much smaller and situated in a rural area. The reception we got there was completely different. People were glad that finally something was happening in the village and welcomed us with open arms. The next day (when we actually got started there) half the village was there to see what we were doing. We installed our laboratory in a public launderette and had an audience of about 25 people that was watching Gige’s every move: how she was putting a filter on the filter device, how she poured 50 ml in the funnel, how she poured another 50 ml in, how she poured yet another 50 ml in, and again and again. How she then folded the filter, stored the filter and put another filter on the device repeating all the other operations. This with 7 different filters … To be short: Gissell did a great job entertaining the local kids, youth and elderly. Later we took the kids for a spin on the lake to complete the show. After that, one of the girls had already made up here mind: she wanted to become a scientist, wanted to travel to get to know our countries and wanted to come with us right now.
It took us some time to convince her that it was impossible to take her and then we set of to Caico, hometown of Janderson and center of the reservoir region. We arrived late and without advising Janderson’s family. Never the less his mother had a lanchi (dinner) ready for us in no time. This ritual kept repeating itself for 3 or 4 days. We would drop Janderson of at his home before leaving for the pousada and his mother would put dinner on the table. It was extremely nice to have home made food instead of always eating in restaurants and on the street!
At the mean time not only ourselves but also our equipment was running out of energy. All equipment ran out of batteries at the penultimate lake and furthermore we broke both the tube of the top-sediment corer and its backup. By now we are so well trained in trouble shooting that we fixed the problem in no-time (ahum ahum). With help of the iron saw that John told us to take along on the trip we ‘simply’ cut the tube. Now it was shorter but still worked. The saw had no teeth left at the end and I estimate that Janderson and I burned at least an amount of calories equivalent to 50% of our daily intake on this small project. :-)

A local fisherman

A big audience in Lajes Pintadas

Of course the other village kids wanted to go as well


Enjoying a home made meal in the house of Janderson

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