Saturday, January 5, 2013
Sunday, July 29, 2012
These are the Tepuis of Venezuela. According to Mr. Fuller, who's a Geologist, these are some of the oldest rocks on Earth. The Tepuis are way, way bigger and taller than the mesas you see in Arizona. In fact, the tallest waterfall in the world flows right off the top of one of them. It's called Angel Falls. Mr. Fuller told us that the plants, animals, and weather on top of 'em are totally different than the ones in the jungle below the cliffs. The Tepuis are so tall, that the tops of them usually poke out of the clouds.
Anyway, Billy, Todd, Mati and I just got back from our first trip on the annual expedition that my Dad and his Campo Mata buddies go on each year. The adults fish for all kinds of monstrous fish in the jungle rivers, plus they pan the river banks for diamonds. On the first day there, they let us go out on the river with a new guide while they did their thing. Of course - as usual - things got out of hand pretty quick. Before we knew it, we were kidnapped by a band of diamond smugglers and taken to their hideout in the middle of nowhere...smack dab in the heart of the steamy Venezuelan jungle.
Since I'm writing this right now, you know we got away, but it wasn't easy. You'll hear all about that adventure some day soon. For now, we Machacas are going to kick back in our treehouse hideout for a while and lick our wounds.
Friday, May 18, 2012
Venezuelan cowboys aren't much different than the ones you might see in Texas. We call them Llaneros, because most of them are working in the savannahs, or Llanos in Spanish. The dead cowboy that we Machacas saw on the concrete slab behind the clinic in Campo Mata was one. He'd been shot in the chest, so it wasn't nearly as gross as the guy who'd gotten smushed by all that steel pipe my Dad's company uses to drill for oil. We didn't think much of it until we found his silver spurs at Pablo Malo's banana plantation. After that things got all outta hand. In the end, we figured out who killed the cowboy, but it wasn't easy. 'Course, you'll have to read the book to get the whole story.
Saturday, January 28, 2012
See all the sparkly lights? Well, they're not stars, and they're not bugs. Those are gators! It's what we Machacas try to stay away from when we're on a night mission in the jungle. There were plenty of them that night at Pablo Malo's plantation, even though the river was flooding a lot more than the one in this picture.
We're pretty good at telling what kind of animal eyes are reflecting off our flashlight beams: gators, anacondas, ocelots, tapirs and capybaras are some that we've seen before. But the ones you absolutely, for sure, never want to see looking at you from the darkness of the jungle are Loca's, Pablo Malo's demon dog.
Monday, January 2, 2012
Well here it is, at last! Those artists got it just right. It's bang on. That's me with Mati, my dog. We've just left Pablo Malo's banana plantation where things have heated a little bit, so we're high-tailin' it back through the jungle to meet up with Billy and Todd.
(Just click on the picture to see it a little better.)
Friday, December 16, 2011
This is the map of my neck of the woods. My house is on the Circle, and the Machaca's treehouse is in the jungle just below it. You have to go past Stupid Monkey's tree to get there. Keep going down the trail and you get to Pablo Malo's banana plantation, which is where most of the action in the book happens.
Campo Mata is a really great place to grow up. Check it out. Be sure to click on it to see it better!
Monday, October 10, 2011
We Machacas have a bunch of trails through the jungle that lead to our clubhouse in the mango tree. Every jungle fighter knows that you need to have lots of escape routes in case someone finds your hideout and attacks. Not that we'd just up and run if someone tried something, but it's better to be safe than sorry. Anyway, we're super protective of the treehouse, so we came up with a pretty clever way to find out if anyone's been sneaking around our territory. We call them threat threads. What we do is take some black thread and string it across each path. We tie down one end to a branch or tree trunk with a tight knot. The other end is just kinda tied loosely so that when someone walks by, the thread comes loose without the trespasser knowing. We always check the threat threads on each path to make sure the coast is clear to the treehouse so we won't fall into an ambush. 'Course we have to make sure they're high enough up from the ground so that all the jungle critters passing by don't trigger 'em, which is something we learned after the first couple of times a tapir or an ocelot came by in the night hunting stuff to eat. There's a threat thread strung across the path in the middle of this picture, but there's no way you can see it - which is exactly how we want it.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
This the kind of toad we have all over Campo Mata. Since it's usually pretty hot during the day, they come out like crazy at night to hunt for insects (and believe me, we have a lot of bugs around these parts). Anyway, the thing is, they like to hang around on the roads around camp and that means that our parent's cars run over them all the time. They get all squished. They're so big that, when they're smushed, they get flattened out to the size of dinner plates. After they get dried out by the sun, we can pick them up and throw them around like frisbees. We especially like to toss them at any girls that might be close by. Nothing like hearing them scream "Ew, gross!" and watching them run away. It's even better than tossing cow patties at them.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
This is my favorite dish from Venezuela. Our maid, Nelly, makes them pretty much every day. They're eaten around these parts kinda like tortillas are in Mexico. They're made from corn meal and they're great all by themselves, or even better stuffed with cheese and other things you like. I steal one straight from the frying pan when Nelly's not looking. 'Course she knows I do it. It's a tradition.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
We call the ants around here Machacas, which is also the name of our club. It's a name we came up with. We like it because these ants aren't afraid of anything and, when they're messed around with, they get together and fight back - no matter what or who's causing the fuss. That's how we are too - Billy, Todd and me. 'Course we sometimes get into a little bit of trouble every now and then because of it, kinda like what happened with Pablo Malo. You'll find out all about the problems we had with him in the book.
Anyway, these ants cut up whatever food they want with their sharp pincers and carry it back to their big old mounds. They can carry way more than you'd think. They also carve these highways all over the place on the ground to get to where their going. Back home, our grass lawn looks like a city map with all the ant roads and highways. My Dad really doesn't like them much, and he has a really cool way to get rid of them. You'll have to wait for the book to come out for that little secret too.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Folks around here always look for good reasons to have parties, and one of those reasons is to roast cashew nuts - kinda like people back in the States might get together for a catfish fry (which we do here too, only the cat fish are a lot bigger than me) or a crawfish boil.
This is a photo of the branches of a cashew tree. You can see the nut on the bottom of the red thingy. Folks from all over the camp spend the afternoon picking these things from all the trees in their back yards. Then we get together at the circle and pile all the nuts on a big flat pan and roast them over an open fire. My Dad told me that the nuts are actually poisonous until they're roasted, so you gotta make sure they're cooked all the way. Seems half the things in El Monte are poisonous. Once they're done, you shake some salt over them, like you would popcorn, and then you're ready to eat them. It's a lot of work, but it's worth it 'cuz they're delicious.
There are lots of other cool things to eat around here that we get from the jungle, like mangoes, avocados, tamarinds, yucca, guayabas, papayas and breadfruit. That's just a few of the tasty things we get from the plants. I'll find some photos of some of the weirder things and post them some time.
Monday, July 11, 2011
This is me fishing for piranhas in the river near Campo Mata. It's the dry season, so the river's not flooding like it was when we were trying to get away from Pablo Malo and his demon dog, Loca, that night. When it floods, the water turns all chocolaty brown and it rises all the way to the trunks of the trees you see on the far banks. Where I'm sitting would be totally under water and the rocks behind me would already be rolling downstream like bowling balls. By the way, piranhas are great in fish stew, which is just about the only easy way to eat them since they have so many bones in them. Also - you probably can't see them in this photo - there are always some caimans lounging in the sun on the sandy beach on the other side of the river. I always keep a careful eye on them 'cuz they like to sneak up on you.
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Billy and I are pretty darn scared of snakes, especially Billy. So when he found half of one of these things sticking out of a ditch we were digging around our treehouse, he dropped his shovel and ran away from it screaming like a girl. I figured out pretty quick that it wasn't a snake, so I pulled it all the way out of it's tunnel. The one we found in El Monte was a little bit lighter-colored than this one, but about as long and thick. Imagine how big your fish hook would have to be if you decided to use it for bait, and just think how big the fish would be that you'd catch with it!
Friday, July 8, 2011
This path through the trees is a dead ringer for the one we took looking for a bunch of ripe bananas, on the day Pablo Malo caught us trespassin' and things kinda got outta hand. I can't be sure it's the same path, but it should give you a good idea what it looked like. I can tell you one thing though - it sure is a heckuva lot scarier at night in the middle of a tropical rain storm. Not just because of all the thunder and lightning - which is bad enough - but also because there are lots of animals that like to go hunting for dinner when it's dark. I'm going to post a bunch of pictures of the kinds of jungle critters that we usually try to stay away from.