We stroll around the town of Jutai, shopping a bit of food to re-supply our raft before we continue the river journey. The eyes of the locals are following us, the presence of foreigners is clearly a rarity. They are friendly, as always. Back on the raft, we unleash our anchor ropes and drift into the eternal current of the Amazon River.
The weather looks a bit grey. In hindsight, I could almost feel something dramatic was about to happen. The horizon is packed with dense rain and the deep dark color of the clouds tells me that a rainstorm is approaching. Nothing we haven’t seen before, actually. The wind starts to pick up and we start to secure all the loose items on the raft to avoid losing anything when the storm hits us. It is a situation we have seen many times before: The front of the rainstorm hits us violently, but once we are inside the rainstorm, things are more calm. We just have to get through the first 5 minutes and then things calm down.
The front of the rainstorm hits us and it seems more violent than we’ve witnessed earlier. Large waves of more than a meter is also informing me that this rainstorm is, indeed, a bit different. We have secured all our things and are anxiously awaiting for the front to pass us. The wind-gusts drown any attempt of a conversation. Then it happens: Our entire roof is blown off.
That image will stay with me for many years to come: A loud, angry noise rips through the wet, stormy air as I turn my head. Our entire roof, a 25m2 zinc-sheeted roof is lifted from our raft and flies 20 meters into the air and crashes against the white-topped waves of the raging Amazon, 50 meters downwind from our raft. I look in terror at the spectacle. In some way it was a mesmerizing beautiful sight, nature demonstrating its total control and leaving us at its mercy. Then it dawns on me: “We lost our fuckin’ roof! Our roof!”. I look around and see the shocked, surprised yet calm faces of Misha and Peycho. It seemed like we all needed 5 seconds to really understand what had happened. “Let’s get to the shore” is our first conclusion, just to gather ourselves and discuss our options, or lack of same.
What do we do? The wind is raging around us and the waves are still increasing in size. Our spot at the river-shore is not safe, as the waves are growing larger and slams against the vertical mud-banks which collapses around us. A large mud-slide would be dangerous, potentially trapping us or inflicting further damage to our already amputated raft. We have to make a decision, now.
2 options are worth considering: 1) Try to sail back to Jutai and see if we can purchase something that will replace our roof. It could prove expensive and we might not find the right materials. 2) Simply continuing downstream to the next city, and try to sort out the problem there. It’s 300km to the nearest city, that’s around 5 days without a roof. We choose the last option and drift back into the storm, which slowly is easing its grip on the river. The waves are still rolling high, but at least it is safer in the middle of the river than it is at the collapsing mudbanks. We fight a bit, as the three of us didn’t all agree on the idea of continuing. I guess it is natural to “open the valve” and get some of the frustrations out of our system. We quickly shake hands and regain our team-spirit, we can’t afford to fight each-other; instead we have to fight our problem: We are in the middle of the rainseason in the middle of the largest rainforest in the world, without a roof. Essentially, it isn’t critical, it just means that we will get wet. Without a roof, we can’t harvest rain-water, which seems to be our biggest problem, other than the obvious comfort-problems.
The wind eases and 2 hours later the river is back to its normal state. We put up our tent and try to gather various pieces of plastic to form a make-shift roof. It seems to be working fairly ok. The sun peaks out through the clouds and at least our roof gives some shade. Another rain-shower shows us that the plastic roof is leaking like a sieve due to overlaps and holes, it doesn’t work too well. We do manage to guide the rainwater into our harvesting-system, so at least we sorted our drinking-water-problem. We start to laugh at the situation.
Then 2 days of constant rain hits us. The only dry spot is the tent, so matresses and electronics are stored there. We take turns to hide in the tent, but one guy has to stay in the rain to monitor our raft and route. It is a weird feeling sitting in the pouring rain in the middle of the largest river on Earth. It leaves me humble of nature and reminds me how simple life can be. “What the hell am I doing here?” I am thinking, as my soaked face is smiling in the lonely grey rain. “Luckily, I am waterproof “ I conclude. A bit of rain is not going to harm me. Or a lot of rain, for that matter.
Our life on the raft had almost become too comfortable after we got an engine and solar panel. It was like nature’s way of saying: “I am in absolute control and you guys are forgetting that. Boom! I take your roof, how do you like that, you arrogant humans ?!”.
“I am happy we lost our roof” says Peycho. “So am I, it was just what the adventure needed” I laugh.