mud-covered, drenched, ragged, thin, cut-up and smelly. It’s been two weeks of smashing through whitewater rapids, slogging through knee-deep mud and hacking through thickets of razorgrass and swarms of malarial mosquitos, bullet ants, and thorn-covered vines. The rainforest, as you may be aware, is a place of great diversity, and never fails to run out of interesting and beautiful things to bite you, tear you, poison you, infest you, burn you, and drown you. I crawled out yesterday, and I look like a kurdish refuge who just lost a fistfight with a veloceraptor.
As you can probably tell, it was an awesome trip. Here’s a sneak preview.
It was also an exposure to a very sad and troubling story, and for all the rainforest’s spectacular beauty and diversity, painful and otherwise, it was always offset by the ominous signs of invasion. The Rio Platano Reserve, both its wilderness and its Pech and Miskito indigenous inhabitants, are under a major assault by guns, drugs, and cattle, and it is utterly without protection. Having documented the apallingly abundant signs of illegal dynamite and poison fishing and hunting of endangered species with fully automatic weapons, collected the testimony of indigenous people being forced off their land at gunpoint by huge drug-cartel-backed Ladino cattle ranching operations, and seen the massive clear-cuts of wood left to rot because it cannot by legally sold, the airstrips for landing drug-carrying planes right inside the National Park, and the men brandishing 30-clip pistols and talking about how many people they’d killed while transporting cocaine through the Miskito coast, it’s hard to know where to start: with anger, frustration, or despair. However, there are some very passionate, intelligent people working hard to get the Miskito coast some attention, and if it’s not exactly a hopeful situation, neither is the fight lost. I stepped into the middle of a very big problem with a lot of forces pushing and a lot at stake in the middle, but I hope my work on this film to expose and engage the problem will be a small step in the right direction.
While I work on the film, I would love to get information or hear stories from anyone else with experience in the Miskito area. Clearly, this tiny film shot in just over two weeks on my often-fogged and muddy glass is not going to be sufficient to the problem at task, but I hope the testimony it provides can be a tool towards protection, presence, and management of this unbelievable, freaking beautiful world treasure.
In the meantime, stay tuned for updates on the expedition adventure, from the headwaters of the Rio Platano all the way to the sea, one paddle-stroke and machete-chop at a time.