Gateway to Jungle

Trip Start Jan 20, 2004
Trip End Feb 01, 2005

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Flag of Brazil  ,
Wednesday, April 7, 2004

I snuck up on the jungle by way of boat and arrived under the cover of the stars in Manaus, the glittering town with faded traces of the rubber boom that made the rich Europeans richer and the poor Brazilian labourers just as poor.

I was so eager to do stuff in Manaus. I found the city exciting and I just wanted to explore. The number one sight in Manaus, the Teatro Amazonas was first on the list. It is this massive old theatre built with rubber money for the rich barons to have their own piece of Europe in the middle of the jungle. It was larger than Teatro do Paz in Belčm and just about everything came from Europe. They even made a rubber road outside to muffle the noises from late arriving carriages as the doors were left open to keep the breezes circulating. Unfortunately the rubber road wasnīt entirely rubber. When I jumped on it, it didnīt spring back and I was a bit disappointed as it was just a bit of rubber mixed with cement and sand.

I also went to the Bosque dos Ciencia with Timo and Chris. It is a bit like the fauna gardens in Mildura, a bit of wildlife and a bit of flora. I saw a baby manatee swimming (it was very cute and swam like a human) two otters sleeping on logs and then later going into a frenzy during feeding hour ripping at the fish with their teeth while holding it in their paws. It took about 30 seconds to devour one fish and they would swim off for another and chomp their way through it. We also saw little macacos (monkeys), some tapirs were wandering around and then saw some turtles. There was a big eel in the turtle stream and Chris thought it was dead (even though I told him that Iīd seen it move) so he poked it on the head with a stick only to watch it take off!

After that we saw a croc and then some more monkeys, this time in a cage. We really wanted to see a sloth and asked a guard where one was, he pointed one out in the crook of a tree and I got a couple of photos of it sleeping. It started to rain so we took shelter in a little hut, watching massive turtles swim up to us, when Timo cried out "Thereīs a sloth" and started sprinting around the lake to where he had seen the sloth loping across the ground to another tree. Chris and I ran around too, and witnessed the sloth beginning to climb another tree.

The sloth chose a small tree and was trying to cross from one tree to another about a metre off the ground but over the lake. We were about 50cm from the sloth and I got some excellent footage of it trying to figure out how it was going to get to the other tree and almost falling in the lake in the process. It was bigger than a koala and had big talons that would grasp the tree trunk. It was grey with a spotty, mangy coat that had lots of bugs clinging to it and a grey face with black circles around the eyes. Not cute at all, but I can definitely understand why so many people fall in love with them. Whatīs not to admire about an animal that can stay in one spot for 6 weeks and just eat and sleep?

Ponta Negra
Chris was meeting up with his fellow Guern in Manaus. Nathan is an engineer on a big cruise ship that came up the Amazon to Manaus. This ship absolutely dwarfed the little tub I arrived in! I spent a couple of days with them and Nathanīs girlfriend Kerry hanging out in the city and taking a taxi ride with the devil himself to Ponta Negra. Five of us squashed into this little taxi after getting the driver down to R$20 when we really wanted it for R$15, however he would not budge. Obviously not happy that he wasnīt getting the R$35 he had initially asked for, decided to drive like a maniac. He wove in an out of lines like he was a V8 Supercar driver trying to keep his tyres warm, often leaving only a hairs width between us and another car. We almost mowed down about 20 pedestrians who wisely bolted when they saw the car coming at the speed of light around a bend. We took corners on two screeching wheels and raced along the straights at 120kmph. Red lights meant nothing to our driver except that the footpath was a better means of passing the standstill traffic. He wore an evil grin the whole time and laughed at our (admittedly halfhearted) requests to slow down and exercise more care. The one concession he made was braking suddenly when coming to an overpass that measured your speed, slowing to the legal 60kmph, to which Nathan made chicken noises to the driver. We finally arrived at Ponta Negra in need of a drink.

Later that night we left the disappointing quiet Ponta Negra for Crocodilos nightclub in the city where lots of crew from the ship were going to be. The club was full of Brazilian hookers hanging out waiting for a cruiseship bloke to approach them, buy them a drink or two and head off to a love hotel. It was interesting being one of the few non workers on the dancefloor. I think that they were a bit threatened by me, as I had my best Brazilian going out clothes on and somewhat resembled the hookers in dress but not in dancestyle. I was happy to be there and they were just waiting for some action.

I did end up finding a bit of my own action in the form of Sacha the Shark. It was a bit of a dare that Nathan initiated with his fellow crewmate that ended in a very easy pickup. Upon finding out that Sacha was Croatian, I tried out Lijepa Li Si on him, only to have him tell me that he didnīt understand what I was saying. He claimed to not know Lijepa Li Si, which I didnīt believe and caused it all to go a bit downhill.

Things I learned
* Sloths are very cool animals
* Never to recommend 10 de Julho Hotel as they deliberately give you a cockroachey, mouse droppinged room first to get you to upgrade. They also seem unable to give discounts, unlike other hotels in the area
* It is true about seamen searching out hookers when in port
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