“Hey, lady! Want to meet my pet?”
Boca da Valeria. Ever heard of this place? It’s a tiny village in Brazil. If someone offers you the chance to visit here, grab it. It’s not the greatest experience you’ll ever have, but I guarantee it will be an experience you have never had before.
Boca da Valeria is located on the great Amazon River in Brazil. For some people, this tiny village is just not there thing. But for others, it is the perfect out-of-the-ordinary adventure.
Wooden boats line the shore, while people line the tiny boardwalk. You’ll find pushing your way through the crows of villagers (many have come from miles away because they heard a ship was in) suffocating. The children grab at your hands, and by the time you’ve walked a few feet, you can have six strangers clinging to each hand. Large brown eyes watch you quizzically, wondering (I think) how much cash you have brought with you.
You will be escorted up the path where you will see dozens of merchants and children, of all ages, offering something to amaze and intrigue a visitor. Tapirs, monkeys, lizards, colorful tropical birds, piranhas with big teeth, and spiders like the tarantula this boy is holding.
The children (the older ones have commerce down to a fine art) know little English, but they do know how to say, “ONE dollar,” or hold up a single finger indicating they want cash if you take their picture.
For some visitors this is troublesome; not for me. The children are not being harmed, they seem genuinely happy and healthy, and if this is a way for a poorer peoples to make a little income, then so be it.
If you visit Boca da Valeria, take dollar bills in one pocket, and little gifts in another. I brought a few bags of tiny shampoos, soaps, and conditioners which were well accepted.
Caution: Never bring out the entire bag of gifts — you will be swarmed like sharks in a feeding frenzy. And watch your pockets! These children are quick and will help themselves to something hanging from your pocket.
In addition, DO take villagers up on their offer to take you for a $5 canoe ride up the river. They will take you to their homes, another village, and make you feel quite welcome.
Wishing you safe and happy travels,