Scouting, research or just plain spying – I totally identify with that quote – much of my travel back in the day with Greenpeace was justified by; “We’ll need information.”
Oh, I just realised that I left you all hanging at the end of my previous episode (that would be the one entitled TRAVEL ADVICE). What was that mysterious light? Were we in mortal danger? Would we make it out of there alive? That last question I can answer immediately – I wouldn’t be writing this if dead! As for the other questions please indulge me while I give further background as to how we’d got ourselves into this predicament.
Prior to doing direct non-violent actions it is vital to conduct physical research on prospective targets. This is for myriad reasons, most of which are prosaic; legal, safety, accessibility, costs etc. But a far more basic but fundamentally vital question is always; is it physically possible to do the action? No amount of desktop research will solve this conundrum. The only way to find out is to get off your ass and visit the site.
I always enjoyed these forays. But these seemingly innocuous jolly jaunts, whilst normally pleasant excursions, could sometimes lead to problems. Not least of these would be being arrested for spying. That happened to me three times and all of them quite scary. If you’re still interested I’ll relate these adventures in a future blog.
Research – Back to the plot – or rather the Amazon rain forest.
We’d successfully reconnoitred the meat processing plant, got the photos and started to make an action plan.
Next thing we needed was to find escape routes for when we eventually did the action. This is for safety’s sake. We’d done some pre work on Google earth and had a kind of a plan. The first one was across country on dirt roads. We quickly discovered the land was private but at my insistence we continued. My reasoning was that on the day who would care if it was private or not if it meant we’d not get our heads bashed in.
For any scouting missions it’s always necessary to have a cover story. This is both for safety and to ensure you don’t prejudice the action prematurely. These masquerades can range from the sophisticated down to plain simple.
For this particular adventure I opted for the lower end of the scale. This was a subterfuge that had stood me in good stead in the past
the eccentric, verging on nutty, Brit abroad.
For those who know me will confirm this is easy for me!! And my two Brazilian colleagues would be my guide and driver.
As we proceeded down the private road it was extremely bad luck to meet the owner travelling in the opposite direction in a huge 4 x 4. He blocked the road and Wayne got out to chat with him. It quickly became apparent that Wayne was not doing so well. Just when I was wondering what to do an owl, I kid you not, an owl, a spectacled owl, in the middle of the day, landed on a gatepost not more than 5 metres from the farmer.
I quickly jumped out with binoculars around my neck, sun hat (a pith helmet would have been perfect!), shorts and camera in hand. The essence of the classic bird watcher. I loudly whispered “Ficus Benjamima” to the guy and pointed at the owl and started taking photos.
Ficus Benjamima? For those of you with a biological bent you’ll probably recognise this Latin name. And for the pedants you’ll also recognise it as a botanical name and most decidedly not a flying plant! Goddam it this was the only Latin I could think of just then. Ficus Benjamima is actually a common houseplant.
Just in case any of you are still confused
I pretended to take photos before the owl flew away. When it did I immediately grabbed the owner’s hand and energetically shook it while over profusely thanking him.
He assumed I was some weird Brit bird watcher. As he walked back to his car I saw him make the classic finger circling gesture on the side of his head indicating a crazy guy. To his credit Wayne responded by rolling his eyes.
Anyway, it seemed the guy had bought our cover story.
But he told us to leave his land.
As we drove back into town for our previously related encounter with the police I made two interesting discoveries. The first realisation was that during the encounter with the farmer I had forgotten to switch the camera on. The second, even more revealing (pun intended), discovery was that I’d forgotten to remove the lens cap from the camera. OUPHS but PHEW!
Oh, I’ve just realised that at the beginning of this tome I promised to tell you what happened with those mysterious lights I ended my previous blog with. But I got carried away there and just now realised I’ve run out of time and space to tell you all what happened with those mysterious lights. So, bugger it, you’ll have to wait for my next epistle