Filling in my gratitude journal I reach question five, something simple and near in sight? My response, monkey. To witness this unique animal playing in its natural habitat raises a smile, gratitude; I then watched it swing, jump and climb throughout the canopy before returning to my journal.
Coming from Australia, the sight of a monkey is foreign, as is much of what I have witnessed and experienced in Brazil. We started our journey by visiting the small community of Caroca, located along the Rio Arapiuns. I write ‘we’ because fellow Bravehearts 777 runner Liz Douglas has joined me, a Kiwi "girl on the run" (@liz.girlontherun) who decided last minute that the call of the Jungle was too much to resist, packing her bags and hitting the trail. As we approached Caroca by small boat, my surroundings had an immediate impact on me; I was captivated. The land was indeed beautiful; however, I did sense a harshness to her, a feeling of tread lightly. I imagine Australia presents herself the same to foreigners, one minute they are captivated by her beauty, the next, cautious of her allure. Immediate respect for land was within me.
We had both decided that the best approach in adapting for Jungle Marathon was to get as close to race conditions as possible. We achieved our intent; the humidity was stifling, the land unforgiving and communication with others challenging. Not to mention the screams of unknown animals that echoed loudly. The sudden removal of electricity, wifi, phone reception and other creature comforts for eleven days, although challenging at first, only enhanced our simulation. Our communication with the villagers was aided by an old Portuguese to English dictionary, left by a foreigner dating back to 1972. Inscribed on the second page was the following, 'This dictionary represents Portuguese spoken by those from Portugal, not to be confused with Brazilian Portuguese. The language, although similar, varies in the pronunciation'. This variation resulted in many laughs at each other’s expense, breaking down walls and providing humility to all who attempt a translation.
It wouldn’t be uncommon in this situation to see only barriers possibly resulting in both cultures withdrawing to converse only with their own. We did not find this; we found common ground by utilising all senses to engage in conversation, we become completely present as we listened and watched, read body language, pointed and drew pictures to send and receive our messages. I have grown to rely so heavily on technology to stay connected that it has resulted in me becoming disconnected. I'm guilty of disengaging in daily conversation with others, often opting to instead hide under the safety blanket of my smartphone or email. It was refreshing not to have the technology to connect us, no google translate or any other means. The desire to truly know and understand each other was enough; it allowed us all to communicate by engaging in whole present conversation. Look, listen, feel, respect.
After only taking a small number of steps during our first training run I was suffocated by the humidity and drowned by perspiration. I did, however, draw from my days in Ipswich for motivation, the ones that had me running in the Christmas holidays depleted from the heat. It took us a good few days to settle in and find a degree of comfort within this environment. We run daily, sometimes twice. One in the morning before breakfast and one in the heat of the day before lunch. This regime supplemented with increasing bodyweight exercises on the hour or cumulative on days completion, 1600h. As our training built daily so to our resilience. After about day three I found myself comfortable and becoming more productive, looking to be regularly engaged. I built a bush gym and explored the area thoroughly, finding new trails and ways of making a connection to the land. My daily practices become fine-tuned and then concrete. My morning routine consisted of a cold shower, box breathing, meditation, gratitude journaling (coffee included) and of course making the bed. Being stripped back to simplicity allowed me to see just how simple the process is. I had become so focused on personal growth and becoming a better person that I was hindering my progression. My eagerness to evolve was to the detriment of my actual growth. By not allowing myself time to absorb previously gained knowledge and understanding it thoroughly, I have denied myself wisdom. I needed this time to dissect, examine and re-build my knowledge base, taking a customised approach to building a better model.
We have since returned to Ater do Chao, situated on the edge of the Rio Tapajos. Alter do Chao is where we will finish our race preparation and then board the boat for the Amazon on 05 October. The accommodation and lifestyle have again been very different to what I am accustomed to, however, both our hosts through Airbnb have been most welcoming, ensuring our stay is as authentic and pleasurable as possible.
In two day's time, we leave for the Jungle Marathon. Both Liz and I feel ready and confident that our training has prepared us for what lies ahead. From Australia to Brazil, now into the Amazon.