July 3: The Momma Samauma

I’ll never see a bigger tree. This one is somewhere around 750 years old, and it sits inside Brazil’s Tapajós National Park in the state of Pará, about three miles inland from where the Rio Tapajós (the second-largest tributary of the Amazon River) cuts a nine-mile-wide trench through the rainforest.

I was led to the massive tree by a former rubber tapper (serengeiro) named Walter Raimundo Pereira Feitosa, who used to tromp the forest every morning collecting the latex that bleeds naturally from the bark of rubber trees (seringueros). Walter lives in a small protected riverside community called Maguari, where I spent a night during the visit. The hammock was relatively cozy, the fried river fish was excellent, and the vicious pium flies left my arms and stomach riddles in bites that itched for weeks.

Walter has in recent years turned to tourism for income, as the price of Amazon latex has been stuck in a low. Guiding treks to this samauma tree earns him a passing income, especially as he and others claim it’s one of the largest remaining trees in the Amazon. We also saw footprints from wild boar (peccary), which Walter said is one of the more dangerous animals to encounter in the jungle. Known to hunt in packs, peccary will aggressively go after humans. The trail was also marked with tall ant homes, what looked like small dirt chimneys rising from the mud.


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