Manaus and the Amazon Jungle
Trip Start May 10, 2009
48Trip End Nov 02, 2009
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There is a cool vibe in the city (which is roughly the size of Joburg by the way), as we arrived on a Monday morning, close to rush hour and it felt so calm and quiet, nothing like the chaos in most Venezuelan cities. We found our hostel quite easily and it was really great, packed with other backpackers and felt like a big house share.
We took ourselves on a city tour seeing the Opera House which was built during the rubber boom which saw Manaus become what it is today. The street outside is rubber so that the horse carriages wouldn't make a noice late at night...pretty cool building.
Luckily there was an in house agency and we booked our jungle trip for the next morning. 3 days of hacking, sweating and trekking through unexplored Amazon jungle. Awesome! Along for the ride were 2 others, Carl from Sweden and Tomo from Japan.
We were treated to what would be the first of many epic Amazonian sunsets. Being in a completely remote location with only trees, river, clouds and sky gives the most incredible views of cloud formations and combined with the setting sun is truly breathtaking.
After supper, it was canoe time again - this time to try catch baby caiman (crocodiles). Again we paddled into the swamps and tried to spot the little guys by shining torches into the bushes and looking for their little red eyes in the water. We spotted a few and almost caught them but they were a bit quick for us unfortunately.
After a heavy downpour we saddled up and hiked into the jungle carrying only hammocks, food, water and clothes (and bog paper) and led by our guide and his machete. Every now and then he would stop and cut a piece of bark or pull some leaves off a bush and explain how they are used for jungle medicine. It is incredible that they have remedies for malaria, mosquito repellent, rheumatism, asthma, colic, liver and stomach problems etc.
The last day (after another cooked feast for breakfast... the trend clearly doesnt end in the jungle) was spent hiking (or rather, hacking) through the jungle, literally chopping trees, ferns and bushes to make a path as we ventured into parts of the jungle no-one has ever been. Animal sightings are really rare here but we did see a group of macaws flying past as well as a very rare Harpy Eagle. The heat and mud were incredible, and we came out looking like you should after being dragged through the bush backwards, stinking, sweating, smelling, muddy and completely satisfied. 5 hours or so later we got back to the camp and made some crafts with the beads we picked up along the way. A further 2 hours back to the lodge for a shower, the most perfectly cold and glorious Coke known to man or beast, and then the boat/bus/taxi back to our hostel in Manaus.
At this point it is worth pointing out that Brazil is famous for its buffet restaurants where you pay per kilo. Yep. So getting back to the hostel (+- 9:30pm) entailed finding somewhere to eat. Thursdays are not good in our area, except for one such restaurant. However, this was not your average per kilo restaurant. It was a per kilo ICE CREAM PARLOUR! Yes moms, you can be horrified. Ang and I ploughed our way through half a kilo of ice cream, caramel sauce, cherries, sprinkles, smarties, merangue and just about anything else you can think of! (Yes moms, we did brush our teeth once the sugar rush had subsided.)
The next day we had booked our boat trip to Belem so spent the morning at a local animal sanctuary, which was rather disappointing as it was more like a zoo and not all that great. We did see manatees, electric eels and giant otters, but its not that nice peering at them in a cage, especially after we had just had a great jungle trip.
So, 4 and a half days of vegging out on a boat ahead...
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