The German in the jungle


Sunset over the Tapajós river in Alter do Chão

An irritatingly loud voice abruptly jars me from my hammock dozing: “WO IST MEINE ZAHNBÜRSTE?”

Gerd decides 3am is the perfect time to shine his lighthouse-strength head torch at my face – presumably to check I haven’t stashed his precious toothbrush up my nose.

Mumbling noisily into his beard, my new best friend finally settles in his own cloth bed.

“Did you hear that?” whispers a wide-awake Sophie.

“How could I not, rude b*stard,” I say, slightly louder than I should.

“No, the noises in the woods,” she replies in a tone of excited fear.

I listen. In our wall-less, palm-leaf roof hut, in the picturesque Amazonian town of Alter de Chão, we have front row hammock seats for the daily performance by the forest orchestra.


Hopping mad: One of our friendly forest frog friends

Toads, frogs and an array of insects comprise the percussion section. Croaks, pops and rattles repeat in perfect rhythm.

The woodwind parts are being filled by feathered musicians whistling piercing melodies through the darkness.

Intermittently monkeys and wild dogs are providing panic-inducing solos in the form of high-pitch cackles and gutteral howls.

Then, another, much louder, less pleasant sound drifts into my ears. It drowns out the big forest band. Gerd begins to snore.

His inability to scrub the plaque from his gnashers clearly hadn’t played on his mind for long, as he has rapidly managed to fall into a deep sleep.

A false, irritated cough and a deft kick to his solar plexus as he hangs in his suspended bed to my left fails to make an impression on the raspy roar being emitted from his mouth – the jaguars growling nearby would fail to produce as many decibels as Gerd.

Just a few hours later, electronic tones from a mobile phone centimetres away snap me out of a sleep that required the cobbling together of a pair of toilet paper earplugs to fall into.

It turns out, of course, to be Gerd’s alarm. He falls out of his hammock and swears (I think) in German.

He fumbles around for his phone, but despite donning his fetching miner’s lamp he is about as effective as a speedboat in a desert.

When he finally manages to turn the bleep off I discover that 5.30am wasn’t even the time he wanted to rise and shine.

He crashes back into his hammock as the first rays of light creep over the canopy.

He starts to snore again.

I stuff toilet paper back into my ears and dream of napping with the animals.


Getting some much needed shut-eye after the sad departure of Gerd


About travellingtoothbrushes

We are a couple of journalists with restless toothbrushes. Our teeth scrubbers seem unable to leap out of their respective washbags to take up a permanent residency on the bathroom shelf. So, we've decided to let them live the way they want to and take them on a trip around South America...
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One Response to The German in the jungle

  1. Tia Annegret says:

    Oh Dear … that pains me…:-)
    I assume he helped you with the writing of “Zahnbürste” in the end??
    Die deutsche Tante!!!

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