Sunday, August 5, 2012

Flipper's Fabulous Cousin

In the Amazon, there is an amazing creature that flips, squeals and uses its' blowhole to entertain the masses. No, not Tarzan. I'm talking about the elusive pink dolphin.

When I made my way to the Southern Colombian city of Leticia in January, I was told to keep an eye out for these magnificent mammals. Apparently, they could be very shy and you had to maintain a keen lookout because they could emerge at any moment and then disappear just as quickly.

There are many theories about why these dolphins have a pink hue. The scientific explanation is that their capillaries are closer to the surface of their skin than other dolphins and therefore, the blood flowing is what causes the pink color. The street explanation is that they are all just fabulous.

As I explored the Amazon River, I was told two myths involving these dolphins. The first is that they are a sort of "shape shifter" that spend their days as loveable dolphins but when night comes, they transform into handsome men and beautiful women and go into local villages, mate and create illegitimate children. And, to think, you thought the guy at the club who could balance a ball on his nose or the girl with the perfect skin that water could bead off of were just visiting from the local circus.

(In retrospect, was this kid wearing a mask for fun or to hide his pink snout?)

The second myth was one in which the local women of the Amazon would trick the pink dolphins into emerging from under the waves. It is said that if a woman is on her menstrual cycle, she could swim in the waters and the dolphins would begin to jump with glee because they are huge fans of monthly cleansing and eating tubs of ice cream.

After learning so much about these fascinating animals, I couldn't wait to see them. We spent the entire day in a tiny boat scouring the river for a chance to spot our pink friends but as the day grew long and the sun was soon to set, it seemed as if our chances were growing slim.

Recognizing that our day was almost done, the tour guide offered us all a chance to jump in the river for a quick swim. I am not a fan of anacondas, piranhas or the horrific candiru fish that calmly swims up your urethra and lodges itself there, so I didn't even entertain the idea of getting in. But, the two girls of the group decided to go for a swim. As the murky, brown water swirled around them, I did feel a twinge of jealousy that I didn't take advantage of this opportunity but ensuring that my genitals weren't amputated because of a fish was far more important to me.

(The evil candiru that follows a warm urine stream and then sets up shop in your urethra.)

When the girls finished their swim, we got underway and headed back to civilization. As the boat sped down the vast river, dodging logs and other boats along the way, we saw it. In the distant, a pink blur appeared before us. The boat driver noticed and quickly steered us in that direction. Directly in front of us, two pink dolphins were basking in the remnants of the day's sunshine. As I snapped photos, I looked on in complete awe. I couldn't believe that I had been in the Amazon and been able to see this. It was truly a special experience.

As the dolphins disappeared under the water, we started the boat up and got on our way again. We all sat together, amazed by what we had seen and without a moment of forethought or appropriate hesitation, I turned to the girls and blurted out, "Oh wait! Which one of you is on her period?"

(The girls taking a dip in the Amazon.)

Looking back, it was obviously inappropriate to ask but how else were we going to bust that myth?

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Anonymous said... of my top 10 never say words. MLC

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