I never in my wildest dreams thought I travel here

Trip Start Jan 13, 2012
Trip End Apr 09, 2012

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Flag of Brazil  , State of Amazonas,
Sunday, February 5, 2012

Saturday              28/01/12             at sea 25c Hot but overcast with a few showers, quite
gusty, caused by the trade winds so the Captain tells us. Hopefully it'll calm down soon as I haven’t slept well for the last two nights and as a result my back’s now playing up with the constant tossing and turning. As a result of not stopping at Georgetown, Guyana we’ll now be at sea until Tuesday although Monday we have to dock at Santanna station for the authorities to board and check our passports and more importantly our Yellow Fever vaccination

 Sunday                29/01/12             at sea 29c   Hot but overcast at times  

Woke this morning to discover the toilets not working, having then spoken to the cabin steward he informed me that the whole deck was effected, oh dear.  After breakfast outside I tried the public washrooms on other decks only to eventually discover that ALL the ships toilets were out of action, bloody hell this is going to be more than inconvenient, eventually after some 4 hours the systems were restored, ah.

This afternoon we entered the bar marking the point where the Amazon empties between
42-53 million gallons of fresh water PER SECOND into the Atlantic, slowly but surely the Steely Blue sea we’ve been used to for the last 10 days is being intermixed with the brown muddy waters from the Amazon river.

Monday               30/01/12             at sea 25c   Hot and very humid

By 07:00 we were anchored in the mouth of the river waiting for customs and health checks to be completed, eventually around 09:00 we commenced our journey up river. In a very short time we could see small communities and single house on stilts along the rivers edge all with satellite dishes pointing directly upwards, that’s a dead giveaway that you’re on the Equator. From time to time we could see Eagles circling over the forest canopy but too far away to get a good close up even with bins. The river is without doubt the dirtiest I’ve ever seen, its liquid mud with trees, branches, and all sorts of flotsam floating about.

Just before dinner I was looking over the side of the ship when this enormous black thing jumped out of the water landing with a resounding splash, was it a manatee, no, was it a dolphin no, it was the trunk of a tree about 8 foot long and some 2 foot in diameter that we must have gone over causing it to submerge and be dragged under the ship, once clear of the ship it shot to the surface like a cork out of a champagne bottle.

Tuesday               31/01/12             Alter de Chao 35c  Very hot with high humidity

This is a tender port meaning the ship cannot berth alongside a quay and we have to be
tendered from the ship to the shore using the ships motorised lifeboats. Anyone who’s gone through this process in the tropics knows what an awful process it is, first you have to queue to board the boats in the heat and then as the boat slowly fills up with its allocated 120 people the claustrophobia and lack of ventilation starts to kick in, it’s a blessing to get going even though these boats have a keel of sorts you bob along like a cork in the sea, not a great experience.

There’s not much at this port it’s more of a stretch your leg stop, although there’s a local market and of course the local folk selling all matter of trinkets from blowpipes , jewellery, and masks to all manner of items made from the local Piranha there’s  key rings, whistles, knives, to full sized dried and preserved Piranha mounted on plinths. After a couple of hours walking along the embankment taking photographs and visiting the market it was time to make our way back to the ship wringing wet with sweat and absolutely knackered.

I can’t tell you how much I was looking forward to a cold shower, however since venturing up stream there’s been no cold water as such from the basins or showers the river water  temperature is 29c and I think the water is used, purified and processed before being piped to the cabins, resulting in  a tepid cold water, anyway even a warm shower was a blessing, ah.  

Wednesday       01/02/12             Travelling up stream 32c   Hot and very humid

I can’t tell you how good this is I’m sitting in the Crow Nest bar updating this blog whilst looking out of a full length window watching lads canoeing out to us as we pass by, I’ve just watched a pink Dolphin surface a couple of times although unfortunately they don’t seem to spend much time on the surface, preferring to keep just below the water so all you often see is their back and then the flipper as they descend under the water again, surreal.

I forgot to mention the bugs yesterday, the ship is covered in bugs and beetles, they’re all over the floor, railings and every nook and cranny, ranging from the size of Ladybirds to some two inches long, Unfortunately there’s so many of them especially on the floors that they get trodden on and the staff have to keep sweeping them up. But it’s the moths which are the show stoppers, absolutely amazing, every colour, shade, pattern, and size you can imagine; many are wider than the span of my hand, a fantastic sight. Apparently last night (we missed them) we had fruit bats invade the buffet restaurant open seating on the rear of the ship, fortunately they all left before sunrise though.

Thursday             02/02/12 Manaus, Amazonia, Brazil 35c Very hot & sunny with very high humidity

The Captain told us last night that we should be arriving at Manaus slightly earlier than anticipated so he was going to slow the ship down so we’d be able to see the famous meeting of the waters (more on this later) around 06:00.

Up like the dead at 05:30 after an awful night having been awake since 02:00 and just not able to get to sleep, turned the alarm off and decided I’d have to forgo the spectacle it wasn’t a problem anyway as we’ve booked a river tour to see the waters on Friday, so it’s back to bed and try to catch up on my sleep.

06:00 the Captain announces from the bridge we’ll be at the confluence in 5 minutes, so now that he’s woke me up from a short but deep sleep I may as well go up on deck to see it. It was well worth the effort to see the waters running side by side without mixing. I usually like to be up on deck regardless of the time when we arrive in a new port so I was pleased not to have missed our arrival really.

We cancelled a tour we’d already booked and decided to risk making our own way around the back streets and markets to see the real Manaus, and it was well worth the effort. Manaus is a big under developed bustling city with signs of poverty everywhere but despite that it’s vibrant, interesting and not half as dangerous as I was expecting. We visited the local market which is a sight to behold; the fish market is probably the best I’ve ever seen with not one fish I could recognise, there was everything from small fish the size of Sardines to massive slabs of freshly filleted sides of fish which at a conservative guess would weigh in the region of 15Kg. One of the interesting things was that an awful lot of the medium sized fish were being slashed by the fishmongers and then placed on display. You know how for some fish recipes it says to slash the fish 3-4 times and season or whatever before cooking; well these guys whilst not even looking at what they’re doing but talking to either their customers or other fishmongers rapidly slash the sides of each fish with a razor sharp knife approx. every 2-3 mm scary stuff which I won’t be repeating when I get home!

After 30 minutes walking through the fetid side streets we emerged back on the road adjacent the river (promenade is far to an elaborate word for the road) and started to skirt our way round the side of the city to get to the Cultural Palacio Rio Negro. The pavement is in a shambolic state and is really a large service duct covered (at one time) with concrete slabs which become the paved surface, unfortunately every couple of feet the slab has disintegrated leaving holes of varying sizes from the size of a tea cup to big enough to drop a body in! So it’s a case of picking your way through very gingerly, as stepping into the road to avoid them doesn’t look like a good idea.

Eventually we arrived a small but really nice park that wasn’t on any of the maps we’d got, by this time we were soaked in sweat and needed a rest so we wandered through the park and discovered dotted all over the place were steel works of art from figures of people to airplanes, it was an oasis in the desert. We then discovered that in fact the Palacio Rio Negro was at the rear and as there was the biggest darkest cloud looming ahead we opted to nip in quickly: to be honest there wasn’t much inside but it was interesting enough for a 15min walk around.  

Having left the Palace we turned towards the city to see the other sights we were interested in passing the local hawkers, and stalls selling everything from fruit pulp drinks to mobile phones, we visited the Teatro Amazonas where went spent some time taking in the sights. By now we were soaked in sweat and getting quite tired when just off the square we discovered a small plaza complete with bar and restaurant so it was a no brainer. Suitably refreshed on the way back to the ship we discovered a Carreforre supermarket, and Makro Cash & Carry, why didn’t I take my card?  We took in the church of the Conception, the Municipal clock and the last of the market stalls before arriving back at the ship absolutely drained but having had a great day.

Friday                   03/02/12 Manaus, Amazonia, Brazil 32c Very hot & sunny with very high humidity

Today we took a tour to go out to the meeting of the waters and a trip up the estuaries of the Amazon taking in the Flora & Fauna. The meeting of the waters is where the black river Negro and the muddy Amazon river meet, flowing side by side for some 4-5 Km. The reason they stay separate is that there’s a temperature difference of 6c caused by the darker body of water absorbing more heat during its long journey downwards, and until that equalises they remain two separate bodies of water travelling together, but side by side, before finally succumbing and intermingling making one enormous muddy river.  On the way back to the ship we could see the sky darkening and very soon the heavens opened, boy did they open, 15 mins later the skies were blue and to all intents and purposes the rain never happened.

It seems absurd that in this enormous river of mud and silt lives the beautiful Pink Dolphins,( I’m sure I’ve read somewhere that they’re blind) these are quite unlike the ones we’re used to in the Med and the like, they appear to be quite shy and you rarely see the whole animal, usually when they surface it’s just their back and tail you spot or occasionally they’ll roll over so you can see their under belly, only once did we see them actually clear the water, we’ve come to the conclusion it’s too much like hard work for them so they just take it easy. In addition to the Pink Dolphins we’ve also seen the Grey ones so it’s been memorable trip.

There’s a regular double decker passenger boat service up and down the Amazon, nothing
unusual about that you may think but they don’t have any seating and only a few cabins, instead you hang your own hammock from the roof and that’s your personal space for the duration of the voyage. The hammocks hang there side by side like bats in their roost our guide previously informed us that many romances start on these journeys, the mind boggles.

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