Alto Aracá

Brazil – Alto Aracá, 2-14 August 2008

Image Because the last Aracá expedition was extremely successful Heiko Bleher went back this year, but much further up into the Rio Preto to Brazil’s highest waterfall, unknown on any map coming down from the remote Serra da Curipera. With Heiko and Natasha came two Germans, two friends from Russia and a couple from the Ucraine, to this unique place on place earth.

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The August 2008 expedition into the Upper Aracá, a right hand affluent of the Rio Demini, which again is a left Rio Negro arm, lasted for almost 14 days and was full of adventure and discoveries. Below a few photos taken by Yulia Krivich

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The Rio Negro north of the Rio Branco in August 2008 was almost at his highest level – most of the rainforest was underwater, only the treetops sticking out (one has to realize that some of those trees are 30 to 40 m high…)

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Interesting that below the mouth of the Rio Branco the Rio Negro it was very dry, in many places, like here in Ariaú, thousands of Pimelodid catfishes gasping for air, because of the little oxygen concentration (and millions normally die in nature during the so called ajú)

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The boat trip was very long – as first we had to enter the Demini to reach the mouth of Aracá

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Night collecting to photograph the species from that particular location the next day – even the smallest one, and to record them for the future generations – even after all forest is gone… (hardly anyone does this, or has ever done it in Amazonia).  One example is this completely golden Characids never seen before…

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At the last Indian village Kuki the old chief showed us how and where to penetrate the unexplored Igarapé Preto to reach one of the unique jungle site in Brazil, its highest waterfall region with several falls up to 400m high. No one ever lived there…

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We went with the large lancha as far up as we could (almost 5 days travel day and night) until no further go and than just two of the group, Kirill and Yulia, had the courage to join us (Natasha, Mario and Miguel from the lancha, and me) to venture into the unknown… But soon we got lost, as the only maps of the region (Brazilian governmental maps) are wrong (completely)…

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We travelled late into the night  – Kirill imitating “Titanic” (Leonardo DiCaprio) – only our boat was a little smaller. During lunchtime I ate in the refreshing water to escape from the killing heat, as we were exactly at the equator line. Mario and Kirill followed me

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The obstacles, once we have found and entered finally the Igarapé Preto, were unbelievable. Hundreds of tree crossing the creek but Kirill had two essential things to survive: Irish Whisky and the bush knife to cut the trees…

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One night we celebrated Kirill’s 40th birthday on a curve of the almost jet-black Igarapé 500plus km away from any civilization. During this occasion a Jacaré, almost 2 m in length appeared next to our campsite and was hunt down. We did not let it go to waste – its meat lasted us for several days. Large fishes to eat were absent or very few in this region

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We had an encounter with amazing flora and fauna – an untouched paradise…

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The igarapé was almost impossible to travel and go further up. More and more trees had fallen into it and to cut them (hundreds, some almost 1 m across) it took hours. After 3 days we saw that is was impossible to reach the waterfalls and return in time to the lancha. I had given orders in the event that we are not back in 3 days to return on the 4th day to Barcelos and to send some one to search for us…

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The wealth of small fishes was amazing and in tiny affluents, covered with leaf litter (millions of leafs metre high piles) I was able to find several new Apistogramma species and there was a specimen under each one of those leafs – thousands. In addition: many small characoids, tiny catfishes (loricariids, dorids and pimelodids) and much more. In one square metre of leaf litter 200-300 fishes of several families…

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After almost 4 days back to the main boat on the Alto Aracá (some of our companions thought we were lost), Kirill’s birthday was celebrated again with a cake made by Giulietta, the fantastic cook we had on the lancha LoPeix (owned by Miguel and with Mario on the command)

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On the way back we stopped and entered what is probably the largest and most unique – crystal-clear – tropical freshwater creek on Planet Earth. It has many amazing aquatic plant species (several unknown to the man and science) and hundreds of fish species (also many of them are have never been recorded before from Amazonia) dwell here like in paradise. I had discovered this creek in 2007 for the first time by any white man. Even piranhas seems to live here in harmony with all the fantastic characoids like Hemigrammus stictus, Iguanodectes geisleri (here swimming in groups) and so much more – this is just an eye-click of this unique over 60 km long untouched and unknown creek in Amazonia

I wanted to thank all the companions on this trip, especially Kyrill, Yulia, Peter, Friedericke, Andrey and Alla and also the amazing crew of LoPeix. Thank you all for your help and standing power to accompany me on such a difficult and unique expedition.

Heiko Bleher, February 2009

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