By Marie Claire published
Swimming with the Pink Dolphins
Leaving Manaus harbor, the Parisians haul their bikes onto the traditional Amazon River boat and sail away.
Watch a video here:
The river is wide and mighty. You can barely make out its edges. The craft enters a branch of the river that penetrates deep into the jungle. After an hour, the girls stop in the Sao Tomé village, a meeting point for pink dolphins.
Indian woman Marcia Ferreira Mesquita works there everyday, striving to protect this endangered species from extinction. The motorcycle girls trade their helmets for bathing suits and dive in with her. Marcia calls the dolphins that immediately come and swim among the bathing girls. The river's red waters colors them a surprising shade of pink. Louise D is ecstatic, and tries her hardest to communicate with them. Dolphins are compassionate animals. They are being involved in a therapeutic program with handicapped children; the sound waves they emit are soothing, and help boost self-confidence and self-esteem. The girls harvest these positive vibes and take them back with them on the boat that is now taking them to their next destination: Tatulandia.
First Encounter Around Bath Time
The girls from L'équipée had barely disembarked onto the wooded dock when the community chief came to welcome them, in perfect keeping with local custom. Eight families live here, from different tribes each with a name more evocative than the next: The people of nature, the people of the day, the people of the night... (Dessana, Tukano, Tuyuca, Tariana, Kobeua).
After the presentations, and as nighttime descends, the girls are invited to join the community's women to share the bath-time ritual with them. They laugh, they talk, or at least they try to. They compare, imitate each other while the children play and splash around... The river's dark water has something ominous about it, but the presence of the women all around is benevolent and reassuring. At last, they all share the same meal together in silence. Each woman has prepared a different dish. It is a true feast. Soon, bedtime comes.
The girls put up their hammocks in a roofless house with a palm-leaf roof, and quickly go to sleep. A TV hums somewhere. A generator purrs. Somebody is snoring. And the sounds of the jungle are all around.
Initiation to the Secrets of the Beauty Ritual
After a fidgety night, the girls are woken up by the rooster... at 4:30 am. Breakfast has to be gathered in the forest: Small red berries that the men go pluck barefoot from the top of the nurturing trees. "We take a special pleasure in eating and drinking. We take our time and we enjoy," says Cindy. A party has been organized to welcome the Parisians, and they are all invited to join the community women as they prettify themselves for the occasion.
Here, makeup is 100% natural, made with products from the forest. A red paint made from Urcum, traditionally used to shield their skins from the sun and mosquitoes, which they apply to their bodies, earning them the nickname "redskins"; a black paint made from Genipa, which has curative and anti-bacterial properties; the clear Genipa juice turns black when it corrodes, and is used to make temporary tattoos that last several weeks. The whole morning is spent drawing the paintings that express welcome and sharing, with graphic motifs reminiscent of animal hides.
The girls comply with this ritual, impressed and a little stunned. "It's a very emotional moment," Cindy explains. "The Indian women explain that they don't emphasize their eyes or lips, but that to feel beautiful, they paint their tribal patterns all over their faces and bodies." As a final touch to their preparations, the Indian women take off their western clothes and exhibit their nudity.
Traditionally, the body is a means of communication and expression that shouldn't be hidden. These Indians have a very close relationship with nature, with which they form an inseparable whole. This very intimate bond has to be lived through the body, whatever its shape or color! At last, it's time to dance. "The men invite us to join the dance, they lead us with strength and precision, and we are carried away by the music and the determination in their steps."
The End of the Road
The day comes to an end, and the members of the community accompany the girls back to the boat. "We share long, intense looks," recalls Cindy. "I try to capture their strength and energy. I want this moment to last as long as possible. We leave the Amazon with a heavy heart, each of us feels the need to be alone for a while. We have to end this amazing adventure, and it's really, really hard!"
It's the end of the L'équipée girls' journey in Brazil. Relive the best moments of their adventures throughout April and May at the Road to Beauty.
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