The amazon

Trip Start Jul 03, 2006
Trip End Sep 08, 2006

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Flag of Brazil  ,
Thursday, July 27, 2006

So we took a step back from the luxury and high life of Brasilia and ended up with over 58 mosquito bites on my legs (faye) and a stomach cramp. but what happened in between was worth hundreds of bites. Despite what people claim about the amazon quickly becoming an over inhabited, dangerous place with not that much wildlife, our experience has taught us that this is not the case at all. we arrived in manaus (a city in the middle of the amazon of over 2 million people) by plane (one we almost missed cos they cancelled that flight) and we were immediately thrown by the heat and most of all the humidity. the airport is very modern and busy but when you walk outside it is decorated with lots of pools of fish with giant turtles. not something you would find in Dublin airport. We were immediately come upon by hungry amazon sales men who insisted to us that their tours were superior and had a chat with two of them to get a general idea. even though it is not considered smart we went with our first, called amazon riders (very recommended and so after a discussion about how the tour would be we booked into our hotel and I showered with a cock roach watching. we arrangedto leave for our tour the next day at 7.30 and take their motor boat to their lodge, over 130 km away from manaus. we wanted a genuine jungle experience, so we wanted to get as far away from manaus as possible. The boat was very small motor boat/speed boat but wasd great and we shared it with the two guides, Sean and I, a girl from canada with her husband from England, and then an Israeli Guy ( we did not see eye to eye at all and for me, he was the only negative part of the amazon tour).
On the boat ride through tiny short cuts and wide open river we saw so many wonderful things. we spotted a big water snake right in front of our boat, lots of monkeys including tiny squirrel monkies that were very close to the boat and so adorable. when we finally reached the lodge after 4 hours we were pleasently surprised, it was modern and the bedrooms were lovely and clean, and yet it was still in the middle of no where. The lodge was floating (as many of the houses and lodges are here) so Sean and I decided to cool off with a swim in the amazon, our first but certainly not our last. we jumped off the deck into the clean cool although murky water and swam around. swimming in the rivers was gorgeous and seems to be what the indiginous people do a lot as many kids were during our trip. after a really deliciuos luch that was veggie friendly, we hopped on the boat again to do some pirana fishing 9 i know its not my style and I ddnt take part but its subsistence, not sport). The natural beauty was already transfixing and there were so many fish in the water, 4 different species of pirana, all quite viciuos. After this the group got in for another quick dip in the river and waited a little while for the sun to go down (it doesnt take long in the amazon, you are literally on the equator) so we could go watching for alligators.
we caught three, only one of any notable size and the guide explianed to us ionformation about them before putting them bac. even though Sean and I had already done this in the pantanal, this time it was more interesting.
We went back to the lodge and had another good dinner, (they had pirana) and then stayed up and chatted for a while with our fellow travellers. after that we got some rest as we knew that we would be camping in the middle of the jungle for at least the next two night.
the next day we woke up for a sunrise boat ride that was beautiful but I was so tired I dont think I properly appreciated it. after breakfast back at the lodge, it was off to find a place in the jungle to camp. we traveled for about an hour further downriver until we turned off into a small inlet of water. here the guides turned off the motor and paddled through as we dodged branches in our way. we pulled up about 20mins later and our guides got out the machetes and started clearing a way through the dense jungle. we arrived at a spot not far from the water and were amazed when the guide declared that this would be our camp. after much macheteing and tree dragging the dense jungle had been turned into an open square. in about another half hour the guides came back after alot of hacking a few meters away. they brought with them a good few logs, all of calculated strenght, lenght and shape. within another few minutes the had created a structure to support 5 hammocks and put a roof over our heads. everything in this camp had been made from scratch with the exception of hammocks, mosquito nets and a pot. other little miracles they made were plates, large leaves cupped over and kept in place with spikes from a tree, spoons, carved from wood, and an impressive table all of wood. that afternoon we went swimming with pink and grey river dolphins(the only hting worthy to convince faye to jump into the deep dark water of a wide lake, for me it was more out of necessity after 24hours of non stop sweating. it was a magical experience as they would surface 2 metres away from us in the water. the water was also so warm we could stay in till it got dark and after a quick dry we went for a night canoe. the only thing we spotted on this trip was a giant and deadly pink toed tarantula.
after a dinner of roasted chicken, the remains of which were later pinched by a vulture while we out, we went to bed. a quick nip under the net didnt seem to fool my mosquitos as i woke up the next morning to the howl of howler monkeys and the itch of my many bites. the second day we went on a forest trek and saw some poisonous frogs and spiders and other things you wouldnt dare to touch, even with the inviting colours. these treks give you a real idea of the jungle density as it is difficult to see any distance to the left or right. sfterwards we went to a natives house. it was not the bones through the nose and the feathers in the hair that i had kinda expected but remarkable resourceful people who manage to make a living solely from nature. nearly everything in the house had been made by hand and was very impressive. after that visit we said goodbye to the english couple and headed deeper into the jungle to find our next camp. after a while on the boat we went through a pictuesque flooded forest and arrived at a camp our guide had built on another tour. our bed that night was under a roof palm leaves that was like something from robinson crusoe. afterthe hammocks had been hung up and a fire started, unfortunately the fire was beside an ants nest. about 50 of these little guys crawl onto you the moment you have a foot near them and just start biting. these bites are quite sore and its very hard to find and kill the ants. after lunch we cleared a trail in the forest of any leaves and once it got dark we went on a night jungle trek. this was so exciting as we could hear large rustling in the bushes right beside us. it was also in pitch black as we could only flash the torches on and off like fireflies so as not to scare the wildlife. anytime we heard anything all the torches went off and we stood in the complete darkness of the jungle. not even moon or starlight can penetrate the jungles thick canopy. it was a thrilling experience.

after another night in the jungle(petrified because of our guides stories) we woke up, bitten as usual. i had been woken up early because of the incredibly loud wailing of howler monkeys, the second loudest animal in the world after some whale. after brekkie we went to another native house. it was a small wooden house by a beautiful lake and the people were so friendly and nice. we brought a small toy from manaus for the kids which opened up an impossible conversation with them that was spoken so fast with no acceptance of our lack of understanding. this day we went for a much needed swim and afterwards a canoe through a flooded forest. that evening we had a gorgeous dinner and a welcome sleep indoors. the family themselves were amazing. the grew all sorts of foods and made farofe by hand, this is made from manioc(much like a potato but 80%poison) and involves a long process of different stages. the father was a fisherman and in the evening he would put out a small net to catch fish swimming into the reeds. theses were then gutted by one of the daughters and later fed to us. in the middle of the night the dog killed a chicken so that moring we watched a chicken being plucked gutted etc. all of these lovely sights were done on the kitchen floor usually as we ate. after breakfast we did the long ride back to the lodge for lunch then onto manaus. we had to take a different route as the water level had dropped, making many streams impassable. we arrived back into the port of manaus and checked into our hotel.

today we went on an exploration of manaus. we visited the chaotically organised port that has so much life and vibrance. it is full of people selling, working, carrying bartering, shopping. this city grew up at the port and its importance to so many poeple in overwhelming. there is so much happening its hard to take it all in. we also visited several of the large markets by the port. the banana market was amazing as we saw thousands of bananas all being moved or sold or simply thrown from seller to seller. another huge market was faninating. one part was all amazonian fruits af all shapes sizes and colours, then herbs for cooking and medicine occupied the next part and finally a fascinating fish and meat market. the fish ranged from small pirhanas to meter+ long catfish. all with different colours and markings. the meat was also fascinating. huge slabs of meat were been cut by machetes and there were all sorts of body parts ranging from giant tongues to a skinned sheeps head. this end of the market was slightly rushed as fayes face indicated a sour mood approaching so we quickly vamoosed to an indigeous crafts market which was also very interesting. anyway we better go collect of fresh laundry(cant wait)
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