Norway’s King Harald made a secret trip across the Atlantic last week to fulfill what he claimed was a long-held dream: Visiting a rainforest in the Amazon and living for a few days with the locals. The trip was arranged by the Norwegian government-backed fund that aims to offset the country’s own carbon emissions by protecting the world’s rainforests.
While other royals from all over the world were gathering in The Netherlands to observe the abdication of Queen Beatrix and gala investiture of her son as the new Dutch king, Norway’s own 76-year-old monarch was wandering in a Brazilian rainforest and getting a glimpse of life among the indigenous Yanomami people. King Harald spent four days living with the Yanomami and sleeping on what the foundation described as a “simple hammock” under the same roof with the 120 inhabitants of the village of Demini in the Amazon River basin, not far from Brazil’s border to Venezuela.
King Harald’s visit marked the first time a head of state had visited Yanomami territory, according to Dag Hareide, director of the Rainforest Foundation Norway, who claimed the Yanomami were “proud and pleased” to receive him.
King Harald himself described the trip as “fantastic… absolutely fabulous.” He had been formally invited on the trip by both the foundation and the leader of the Yanomami, Davi Kopenawa. The king said he’d dreamed of experiencing life in the rainforest since working with the World Wildlife Fund several years ago.
He lived, ate and slept with the Yanomami, watching how they gather their food and needed supplies from the rainforest that surrounds their village. He had his face painted and was adorned with feathers in a sign of respect from the Yanomami.
With no reporters along on the trip, and little of the entourage that normally follows royal trips, King Harald could observe Yanomami life and “absorb his impressions from the rainforest in peace and quiet,” according to the foundation. He also followed a group of hunters and listened as they imitated calls of the wild to lure their prey.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that King Harald himself had insisted that he wanted to make the trip without the usual press and royal entourage, and that it be as little intrusive as possible, on the Yanomami’s own terms. An interpreter helped him communicate with his hosts, not least as he listened to their dramatic history that has involved lengthy struggles over territory. The king reportedly shared some of his own family photos with his hosts.
“We invited him (the king) here because he could see what he wanted to see, how the Yanomami live and how the rainforest fund has helped them maintain their lifestyle,” Hareide told NRK. The Brazilian government has been promised at least NOK 6 billion in funding through 2014 to help preserve the country’s rainforests.
For more photos from the visit, click here (external link to the Rainforest Foundation’s website).
For the foundation’s own account of the visit in English, click here.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
Please support our news service. Readers in Norway can use our donor account. Our international readers can click on our “Donate” button: