Notes from the jungle (from written journal)

Trip Start Jun 30, 2010
Trip End Aug 15, 2010

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Flag of Brazil  , State of Amazonas,
Sunday, August 8, 2010

Day 1, Monday 2nd August

I cant believe I am actually doing this, Im trying out my dream. Currently Im lying in a hammock covered by a fine mesh mosquito net in a straw roofed tree house by the side of one of the many tributaries of the Amazon river. Geros taxi picked me up at 8.30, it was meant to be 8:00 but allow half an hour for the Brazilian concept of punctuality. I had breakfast and checked out of the hostel early. Gero introduced me to the rest of the group; there is a well travelled couple from Amsterdam, a Brazilian guy called Rafael who lives in Lyon, France, and his friend Nahel who also lives there and is French. There is also a couple who reside in California but the man is Indian from Mumbai and the lady is Brazilian from Sao Paolo. To reach our jungle lodge we were driven in a large jeep to Manaus port, from there we caught a a speed boat to a small village called Sao Pedro. On the way we crossed the distinctive meeting of waters between the two rivers, the Rio Negro and the Rio Solimoes. The colours can clearly be seen not mixing for miles, apparently because of the chemical composition of the two rivers. At this point we also came across the shy pink river dolphins who surprisingly swam near our boat. From Sao Pedro we had a 55 minute jeep journey again, before catching yet another speed boat into denser jungle. We arrived at the very rustic looking lodge in time for lunch. As a vegetarian I had beans, rice, salad, and fresh watermelon juice.

After a two hour siesta in which some people slept, whilst I chatted to a guy from India who had just graduated from Harvard! At 3pm our guide, Reuben took us for a long boat trip through the main river and its tributaries. Reuben is from the Wapixana tribe and speaks the same dialect of the Yanomani. We saw several species of monkey, a sloth, two large caimans and many exotic birds. We also paddled through sensitive plants and heard the loud cries of frogs. Finally, Rafael, Nahel and I jumped in and swam in the Amazon river. It was really warm and refreshing, the temperature is consistently 36-40 degrees celcius, hot and humid. On the return journey I spotted grey river dolphins which then swam near the boat. We also witnessed the Amazon sunset.

We arrived back for an early by Brazilian standards dinner, I had more rice, salad and a cheesy egg omelette they prepared especially for me. I also had a sweet red juice called acerola, beside the sweetest and least acidic pianapple Ive ever tasted. After dinner we put on long sleeves and lots of mosquito repellent, we were going caiman spotting. Because of the lack of light pollution stars covered the sky as the dug out canoe paddled through many rivers, looking very different than the sky in the Northern hemisphere. Also could be seen were many fire flies, looking like moving stars. Reuben was continuously on the look out for caimans, occasionally stopping the show us where his flashlight caught ones eye. For a split second he turned off his light, in that second he had caught from the water a baby caiman which most of us stroked but Rafael held; I would have but it was wriggling a lot and I was frightened Id drop it. He explained to us the basics about its anatomy and lifestyle before letting it back into the water. As Letta, the lady from Amsterdam said behind me, the price was worth it if only for the natural light spectacle. We went to bed early after chatting a little in the dining area, distracted by lizards on the other side of the mesh engulfing crickets. I finished writing this entry from a hammock by the river watching the sunrise as the light went out in my sleeping area last night-the generator is only from 7.30-12am. Its so wild and peaceful here.

Day 2, Tuesday 3rd August

This morning I woke up early, finishing yesterdays entry whilst watching the sunrise over the Amazon river. We had an early breakfast, I had the tapioca pancake of the region, fresh pianapple, a type of sweet corn bread/cake and passion fruit juice. From 8-12 we spent hiking throught he jungle. Our guide pointed out medicinal and useful herbs such as caferana, which is used as a natural abortion in native populations, beside a natural chewing gum which is produced in the same way as rubber from the trees. He also poked out of its hole a large snake (which quickly slithered off down the hill but was huge) and to my horror a tarantula, which he proceeded to pick up. For lunch they prepared me soya from the Amazon with my rice, beans and salad! The food is very good here. After lunch we went out on a boat to see a baby anaconda the native guide had caught in his fishing net, even as a baby it was huge! We then visited a native family who lived on a wooden hut on stilts. The rest of the group then did some piranha fishing... I watched being a vegetarian. We saw a huge iguana that was larger than a cat leap down from a tree from quite a height into the water. Dinner was the same as yesterday but still very good. Tonight Im planning on chilling out.

It would seem at night Brazil doesnt do chilling out, even in the Amazon. I went to a party over at some school in the middle of nowhere where there were some English students celebrating the completion of their voluntary project.Our guide, another native, Rafael, Nahel and two English guys went to the party (surprise surprise, the English guys got drunk). There was music and beer, lots of locals, mosquitos and a praying mantis! We reached there by motorised canoe.

Day 3, Wednesday 4th August

This morning after another interesting and very nice breakfast we went to some native peoples houses and peeled a pile of manioc for them. The family then gave us homemade sweet corn bread and cafezinho. We saw more river dolphins which came close to the boat. After lunch and a siesta we went looking for a sloth. The Indian and Brazilian couple left at lunch time. Reuben showed us one high up in a tree before finding another in a slightly less high one, which to our amazement he proceeded to climb. He bought down an incredibly cute and typically slow sloth, which three of us held. On the way back to the lodge we stopped and got out to walked a little in the forest, seeing the largest variety of tree in the Amazon rainforest, casually also seeing a caiman which had had its tail bitten off by a piranha. 

Day 4, Thursday 5th August

This morning we headed off to a local native home to prepare aai. Our guide again climbed a tree to pick a bunch; the small purple berries we then soaked in warm water, before crushing with a bottle, straining and adding cold water and sugar. While we waited we played football with two native children. The rain started and continued for half an hour, lasting our canoe trip back and finishing at lunch time. Tonight we go to stay in the jungle... Uh oh!

Day 5, Friday 6th August

Last night Rafael, Nahel, a swiss guy called Eve and two English guys, James and Rafael from London went by motorised canoe to a spot deeper in the jungle to set up camp. We bought hammocks, mosquito nets, a waterproof cover and food for dinner. Everything was cooked on a fire and we ate from leaves. As I accompanied the guide alone to find said leaves I found two tarantulas, much to my displeasure. The forest is teaming with them. To avoid the roudy flirtacious Brits, scorpions, spiders and mozzies I went to bed early, as did Rafael, Nahel and our native guide who had a bit too much to drink. The others went spear fishing while we listened to the sounds of the forest, howler monkeys, crickets, birds, a ten minute rain.

This morning we came back early after dismantling camp to eat breakfast and rejoin Reuben and our native guide. We went on a boat trip looking for a boa constricta but came back to no avail, at least we saw lots of big beautiful butterflies and a chameleon. The dutch couple, Nahel and Rafael left after lunch, so I continued with Reuben. That afternoon I visited and stayed with a native family, having my face painted with the natural paint of a red seed. I saw dolphins again swimming in the reflections of the sunset on the water, which was beautiful.

Day 6, Saturday 7th August

Today I awoke early to catch the sunrise again, also watching cappucini monkeys that were lurking around where I was sleeping and stealing bananas. Reuben and I went on another jungle hike, this time I saw two tarantulas, two maracajas (small black wild cats) that lept down from a tree, stick insects and another praying mantis. Also I got caught in the path of large ants, which Reuben told me are the type used for tribal rights of passage ceremonies. At 16 he experienced the initiation process of having ants covered your whole arms and biting; apparently they drink the hallucinogenic Iowaska to try and alleviate the pain but it doesnt work, just makes you trip. After two weeks of pain you can be considered a man. He also showed me other ants which natives crush all over their body to use as natural insect repellent, beside some lavae that is found in coconuts and used as a source of protein. Reuben has promised that with his language skills and as Ill be an Anthropology student he will repeat the 25 day overland canoeing and trekking mission to the Yanomano if I give him a months notice, as hell again need to get permission from FUNAI. I began the journey back to Manaus after lunch, after being hoarded with presents. Reuben made me a necklace from the seed of the coconut and natural fibres, a flute, a fan which he described as natural air conditioning, other people gave me paper flowers. Hudson, a guide in training who wants to study English in Britain said he will take me to the Rio negro beach for sunset as its beautiful. I most definitely want to return to the Amazon and make that long trek to the border of Venezuela to live with the tribe Ive read so much about, the Yanomani. Reuben is a crazy guy, I blame it on the iowaska.

Today, Sunday 8th August

The trip into the amazon jungle was amazing, I met lots of people and saw lots of stuff that made me think wow, it really is a world away from Europe. After hanging out with Hudson for a bit, at 9pm I met Nahel and Rafael at my hostel and we went out for dinner at a supposed Italian restaurant called Fiorentina, where we shared a pizza and had caiprinhas. Theyre really nice guys and Ill be sure to keep in contact with them, Nahel is moving to Warrick for university in September and Rafael will be studying in Lyon. We went out to a night club from 11-3am which we reached by bus. There we drank mojitos and waited for the place to get lively. Until 00:30 the music was pretty undanceable, a band playing rock music. Afterwards though the place turned, there was a great mix of remixed European and American music beside lots of tropical Brazilian beats. We danced a lot but had to leave at 3am as they had a flight to Belem at 6am. We got a taxi back to our hostels together.

As I woke at 6am this morning I have had very little sleep. Im planning to go back to the artesan market to buy more souvenirs, breakfast and generally soak up the atmosphere. I know I had planned 9 days just in the rainforest, but coming here I have seen there is a lot to do in Manaus and excursions can be made separately to organised trips. An hour and a half away there are some waterfalls and caves in a mountainous area of the Amazon which I will visit by bus tomorrow or tuesday, I also want to take a trip up the other river that feeds the Amazon, the Rio Negro, beside visiting the museums and science park in Manaus.

So far, sooooo good. :)

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mum on

glad you are back in one piece. It sounds absolutely incredible. Am I jealous? Yeeessssss!lol

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