bananal island, to

School’s out!Bananal Island is the largest fluvial island in the world, with a violent history.  Only several years before our visit, the local Javaés Indians had ransacked and taken over the park occupying the northern third of the island (on the Araguaia River, a massive Amazon tributary) they did not already control.  While both park and Indian reservation were closed to the public, that didn’t overly discourage Atlas and me.

“Colonel Fawcett – in search of the Lost City of Z – had the misfortune of traipsing around the Araguaia region early last century only to disappear and become permanently lost himself.  He left a note instructing that no rescue party be sent should he not return, which has been so thoroughly ignored that, so far, almost a hundred men have died contravening his last wishes.

“Atlas and I did not plan to join them as our own search, on a more mundane level, was for something far larger and presumably easier to find.  So even if foolhardy, we decided to redouble our efforts to set foot in the Araguaia National Park the next day.  You might wonder what compelled us to want to visit a, until recently, rain-inundated bog of an island – home to guerilla redoubts, incendiary Indians, and, it turns out, fleeing bureaucrats – and there is no straight answer other than to say that whenever a national park came within striking distance we struck.”  [To Belém & Back, p.100]  [please hover over images for captions]

About Ben

Ben Batchelder has traveled some of the world's most remote roads. Nothing in his background, from a degree in Visual & Environmental Studies at Harvard to an MBA from Wharton, adequately prepared him for the experiences. Yet he persists, for through such journeys life unfolds. Having published four books that map the inner and exterior geographies of meaningful travel, he is a mountain man in Minas Gerais, Brazil who comes down to the sea at Miami Beach, Florida. His second travel yarn, To Belém & Back, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. For more, visit

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