National Geographic : 2003 Aug
floodwaters draw back from the forest floor, and animals as well as humans move toward the Amazon's larger rivers and streams in a pri mordial quest for food and water. But shortly after we departed the camp, our scouts came upon fresh signs of the Flecheiros, a piece of coiled vine and a chunk of masti cated sugarcane left on the path. "These are from right now!" Ivan Arapa whispered excitedly. Just ahead we found fresh footprints. Possuelo read the skid marks left in the mud and said: "He saw us and took off running." He raised his hand for silence and sent word for all to maintain visual contact with one another along our single column that stretched far back into the forest. For the first time since our journey began, Possuelo strapped on his pistol. Minutes later, our trailblazers glimpsed a pair 14 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC * AUGUST 2003 of naked Indians as they dashed across a log footbridge and vanished into closed jungle on the far side of the river. Possuelo tried to reas sure them of our peaceful intent, calling out into the forest: "Whooo! Whooo!" Only the forlorn cry of the screaming piha replied. And last night, another first: Possuelo posted sentries to keep vigil as we slept fitfully in our hammocks, straining our ears above an eerie, reverberating chorus of frogs for any snapping of twigs or rustling of leaves that could signal an approach by the Flecheiros. As we got under way this morning, Possuelo ordered the men to leave behind a machete and a knife as a peace offering. Does Possuelo suppose the Flecheiros will subject our campsite to the same sort of forensic scrutiny we have brought to bear on theirs?