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SPORTMAN'S QUEST: From the Village to the Queen

Editor’s note: Over the next several weeks, in celebration of Dan Simmons’ new book, a collection of his Sportsman’s Quest columns, the PVT will be running previously published pieces authored by Dan. For more information about his book, check out the bottom of this column.

“The young boy screamed and ducked as the jaguar sprang from the tree. They always go for the throat and never miss, but this one did,” said Genival, the boy’s father, who then ran after the big cat screaming and waving his machete. “The cat took off.”

The family had been picking Acai berries from a palm-like tree and the young boy had lagged behind on the trail — always dangerous in jaguar country.

Genival has come a long way from his Bari Indian tribal beginnings to being one of the most respected river pilots on the Amazon’s Rio Negro River.

The Bari live upriver near the San Gabriel on the Colombia/Venezuela border, an area of many native tribes. As a young boy in the early 50’s he saw paddlewheel boats on the river. They were involved in the rubber and chicle (gum) trade; he was fascinated and always dreamed of life on the river.

Part of his world also consisted of hunting and fishing for the family table. He began by getting fish and turtles with his bow and arrow, spear or with traps. Later he hunted deer, Tapir, Capybara and large alligator-like Cayman with an old Pombo, a 20-gauge muzzle loading shotgun, for which he used a bottle to keep his powder and caps dry. Later he graduated to a 16-gauge CVC single-shot, with cartridges - he grew up a boy of the jungle.

His first job was gathering rubber from the Cringe trees and gum from the Souva trees, but he didn’t like that, so as a young man he told his dad, “I’m going out to see the world.” He traveled on the stern wheelers a couple of times as a child and never lost his dream of working on the river, so he signed on as a deck hand on a merchant boat. It was a riverboat freighter and he did everything from shovel coal to loading freight. Never losing his love and fascination of this lifestyle, he continued to work his way up to be the Master River Pilot he is today.

This is where his path crossed that of another dreamer, Phil Marsteller. Phil is the son of missionaries and was raised on the Rio Negro. He had the dream of one day operating fishing expeditions on the river, and contacted Genival to help him research the possibilities.

Phil would first refit a riverboat into a luxury floating lodge and call it the Amazon Queen. When he had it completed he called Genival once again, down from the upriver town of San Isobel to be its pilot.

Captain Phil Marsteller wasn’t finished though; he went on to build one of the world’s most unique lodges, the Rio Negro Lodge. Genival was always by his side, as his first fishing guide and river pilot. He’s still with Phil today, but now he pilots the more luxurious Amazon Queen II.

Have there been more adventures? You bet! There was the time Genival’s uncle and sons were harvesting gum chicle. They had with them three dogs. “They were good hunting dogs and they took off after something; we could tell by their bark they had treed a jaguar. Then one yelped, and we knew, one dead. Then the second one yelped, and we knew, two dead. The third dog then came running across the trail, wounded, and it was getting dark. Uncle looked up in a tree as the jaguar jumped. He raised his muzzle loader shotgun and fired. We don’t know what happened to the jaguar, but we found the third dog dead and went home.”

So it is in the Amazon jungle.

There are also stories of anaconda eating children along the river and piranhas taking chunks from adults.

So it is on the Amazon.

Another story, not related to the wildlife, but very significant in Genival’s life happened when he and his uncle were crossing the river in a canoe. A storm came up, with torrential rain, thunder and lightning. His uncle cried out, “Saint Peter, why are you making this storm so hard?”

“There was a boom then and the smell of sulphur. Uncle slumped over in the boat with sparks in his eyes, like electrical charges. He was okay, but he never complained to Saint Peter again.”

So is the life of my river friend, Genival.

We enjoyed great fishing for Peacock Bass and other fish with lots of sharp teeth. While on the Amazon Queen, we ate well and saw new country, but the best part, as always are the people you meet along the way.

Note: Genival passed away last month (Nov. 2013). He was a friend and will be missed.

What’s New

A great gift for all of your hunter and fisherman friends or family.

The hardcover book “Sportsman’s Quest,” with over 100 wild game recipes, is available. It will take you to places you remember, and places you dream of going. The backdrop is hunting and fishing adventures, but you will meet extraordinary people who you will get to know on a first name basis.

There is Genival, an Amazon native who was raised in the jungle, but became the well-known river pilot of the Amazon Queen. You will meet Chris Klineburger, who is a pioneer in exploring and opening new hunting regions, introducing the world to international hunting as we know it today. There is “Buck” Bedard, a Marine Corps general who, along with his sons, is a passionate conservationist and sportsman, or the lady librarian who has an extraordinary passion for bow hunting. They and many other friends are exceptional individuals; you will join them, as they hunt, fish and explore not only the world, but what it means to share in man’s heritage and traditions. They also share with you many of their favorite wild game recipes that they’ve enjoyed around the campfire and in the kitchen.

To order, or for more information call Dan Simmons at (775) 727-9777.