Adventures with Judith and Lucio

“Be at the port at 8am” he said. “We’re going to pick camu camu.” We had no idea the adventure that awaited us. We embarked on a wooden pecke pecke with Judith, her brother Alberto, her boyfriend Lucio, and Fabio. Lucio loves to teach us all about the native plants and animals, and if he were any plant, it would be camu camu. This non-citrus fruit has the size and flavor of a key lime, with the tough skin of a plum. It's very sour and acidic, and has 10 times the amount of Vitamin C as an orange! Brian, Lucia, and Fabio were swinging from the bushes growing in the water like monkies to reach the ripe maroon berries. As the boys gathered the fruit, Judith and I rinsed it in the river water, pureed it with a pestle, squeezed it through hospital gauze to strain out the seeds and skin, and mixed it with sugar and water to make the best juice ever!

Brian pulled out his Nimbus 2000 fishing pole, and our compadres pulled out their fishing line tied to a scrap of wood, and they were off. Brian fell behind in the first 5 minutes when his long cast caused the lure to lodge itself below a sunk branch. "Sacrifice the lure and keep going" he said to himself. We caught small catfish that were quickly thrown aside on the bottom of the boat to be used as bait... I learned later that dinner in the villages sometimes consists of 5 of those little fish, and they are very tasty. Luckily Lucio had the insight to bring some bigger fish (that I learned how to scale and gut) to fry up to feed the six of us, along with a pot of chicken soup.

We saw a lush toronja (grapefruit) tree growing up a hill from the riverbank and stopped to talk to the family and buy some toronjas from them. We climbed up the hill to find their house- a wooden platform on stilts with a palm leaf roof and some long branches tied up to make an open fence along the perimeter of the platform. They had some fishing nets and clothes hanging on lines in the house and backpacks hung on nails. Below the house many pigs and chickens, and a few water buffalo were wandering around lazily. Mister Buffalo was very intrigued by Judith's pink floral umbrella left on the green grass, and having never seen a pink floral umbrella before and misinterpreting it as a patch of actual flowers, he moseyed over and geared up to take a bit, but not fast enough for us to rush him and save our one hope of shade for our 2 hour boat ride home. Not only did Alberto and Fabio pick toronjas, but they grabbed a few sidras. Sidra is a citrus fruit that tries very hard to be as sweet as an orange, but with grapefruit ancestry,
it doesn't quite cut it.

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