L’équipée Girls, March 27: When The Amazon Rainforest Reveals All Its Beauty Secrets

After an early 3am start, the L’équipée girls set off for Campo Grande airport, leaving behind Fazenda San Francisco and taking with them the memory of unforgettable moments and the experience of life in the wilderness.

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All Aboard To Manaus

After an early 3am start, the ‘l’équipée’ girls set off for Campo Grande airport, leaving behind Fazenda San Francisco and taking with them the memory of unforgettable moments. To reach Manaus – capital of the Amazonas state and 3,000 km away – they had no choice but to leave their bikes behind and rent new ones upon landing. The atmosphere was hardly cheerful at breakfast, as they only had time to grab a quick snack at the airport. As a young surgeon who had barely just graduated, Louise B needed to fly back to Paris so that she could return to work. The girls rushed their goodbyes, for fear of being overwhelmed by emotion. Louise B was the first to board, leaving her orphaned travel companions behind. But the girls quickly regained their high spirits once they were on board their plane to Manaus – flying over the Amazon is quite magical, and full of promise. Upon leaving the plane, they were surprised by the stifling atmosphere that met them in Manaus: 32°C and 89 per cent humidity. They were also taken aback by the city’s gigantism (2.3 million inhabitants) and the monstrous traffic jams caused by the national demonstrations of the past few days. All this seemed to be in stark contrast to the quiet life in the Pantanal wilderness.

The Market For Miraculous Plants

The girls rushed to the local market before closing time. They wanted to purchase local remedies, reputedly much more efficient to face the big and small troubles caused by life in the Amazon. Here, under the massive Eiffel-style structure, are a thousand and one artisanal phyto-therapeutic products, made directly from Amazonian plants with allegedly miraculous properties. Snake-venom soap to fight skin problems, Andiroba oil to repel mosquitoes… the girls hardly knew where to turn. Fortunately, the women from the market were there to guide them.

Amazonian Beauty Kit

Cecile had suffered badly from mosquitoes in the Pantanal, and was hell bent on finding the perfect remedy. Her quest would allow the ‘l’équipée’ girls to discover many other treasures.

They were instantly attracted to Honorina Garcia‘s stall. An expert in medicinal plants, she recommended the famous Andiroba oil, extracted from a tree over 30 metres tall and extremely common in the Amazon. Very bitter, it is used for antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and healing purposes. It is also known to make hair softer and shinier. But mostly, it is used by the Indians to repel mosquitoes, the bearers of malaria and dengue. Honorina also recommended a soap with snake venom in it, apparently very useful to fight itchiness.

As they explored the market a little further, a stall specialising in local cosmetics caught their eye. Mariulza Mima praised the merits of ‘mulateiro da varzea’, a bark formerly used in tea form to fight age spots, lines and other signs of ageing on the face. A legend claims that Amazonian women used to bathe in it under a full moon to remain eternally young and beautiful – hence its name: the tree of youth. This bark has since been the object of many scientific studies and is now used to create cosmetic products. On Mariulza’s stall, Cindy immediately recognised the ‘bucha vegetal’, or loofah, that her mother loves so much. These exotic cucumbers, once dried, are the perfect tool to give yourself a 100 per cent natural skin scrub.

Before leaving the market, the girls must stop at the hammock seller’s. It is the most important accessory, along with a mosquito net, to sleep in the forest. Now all they need are new bikes to tackle the Trans-Amazonian Highway.

Tune In Tomorrow When…

The ‘l’équipée’ girls will meet the Dessana indians.

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