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Day 14: Upper Xingu to Brasília

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A river on its way to join the Amazon, 2,500 kilometres (1,550 miles) north.
Michael Palin - BrazilBecause of its blessed combination of the Andes and the Amazon Basin, Brazil generates ninety-five percent of its water needs without any recourse to dams or irrigation. This, together with abundant land and generally benign climate, gives it an enviable potential for cultivation on a huge scale.

'They say God is Brazilian,' he smiles, 'and sometimes you have to think it's true.'

By now, the forest cover is beginning to break up. Gerard's pointing out the cleared squares of land right up against the trees, testing the limit of the protected areas.

'What happens is that someone will buy some land that isn't protected, cut down the trees and sell it on to someone who'll put a few cows on it. And cows really don't do well on soil like that, so after a few years he'll sell it on to some big company for soya, which grows just about anywhere.'

I ask him if reforestation is an option, but he shakes his head adamantly. It's just too expensive. Better to use the money to save what's there already.

Below us now is the Planalto, a big, stable ancient rock-mass that covers almost half of Brazil. 'Nothing but farms from here to Porto Alegre,' says Gerard, half in wonder, half in sadness. Porto Alegre is, after all, over 2,000 kilometres (1,300 miles) from here. I look down at the colossal, treeless fields beneath and the sudden steep escarpments with waterfalls spilling off them and realize, to my regret, that after two weeks I've finally left the rainforest behind.
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The outskirts of Brasília have dug deep into the forest.
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  • Series: Brazil
  • Chapter: Day 14: Upper Xingu to Brasília
  • Country/sea: Brazil
  • Place: Wauja Village, Upper Xingu River
  • Book page no: 74

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