Later that night, over glasses of wine and beer, we looked to the heavens. Since we were so far from civilization, the stars were brilliant in the night sky. However, looking at the constellations was a bit confusing since we were in the southern hemisphere and they appeared 'upside down'. Not that I really noticed, given I barely survived Dr. Drost's Astronomy class in college. But, I digress.
While we enjoyed the wonder of nature and contemplated the meaning of life, we heard a boat approach. This got our attention, since we were moored in the small lake to the side of the river and no other boats were there, or so we thought.
There was much Portuguese spoken rapidly and emotionally. Moving to the side of the boat, we saw that a small traditional riverboat was tied to our stern. We could see a woman and several small children on its bow. There was also a man lying in a hammock on the boat.
After much fuss, the mate untied the boat and it slowly backed away and slipped into the night. We shortly learned that on the boat were a woman, her 3 young children, and a new born. The man in the hammock was her husband (or brother - there was some confusion there). He had been bitten by a poisonous snake (although they were not sure what kind) and was very sick.
They needed fuel and were hoping there was a doctor on board our boat (which there wasn't). Knowing we were a good 4 days from Manuas - the closest decent size place, and none of the villages on the river we had seen were large enough for a doctor, much less a hospital, this was not good.
All we could offer was fuel (which we did). Since they did not even know the type of snake, I wasn't sure what type of anti-venom (if they could get access to any) could be used unless there was a 'generic" one available.
As the boat disappeared into the darkness, I had a sense of helplessness. I had felt the vastness of the river and the basin ever since we had left Manuas, but for the first time I realized how remote we were. This was the reality for the indigenous people of the area. Suddenly the thought of being 'off the grid' meant a bit more than just not having access to my email or the New York Times.