Spot the big beaked bird, it's a game Tucan play
22.02.2012 - 25.02.2012 25 °C
When we walked through arrivals in Manaus, there was no one to greet us, but we noticed a chap holding a bit of paper chatting to his pal. As we approached we saw our names and he said we had to wait an hour for another person to arrive on a different flight. When an hour was up we eventually found him down the other end of the airport and we got a two hour bus ride to the Rio Negro. From here we were ferried, or motorised canoed, up river for 45mins to our Amazonian lodge.
We were met by the family and had welcome drinks of some local tropical fruit juice. Mel and I dropped our bags in our spacious lodge and went to have a beer in the hammocks overlooking the river and sunset. Dinner was fantastic, all made with locally grown ingredients, as were all our meals. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were all huge meals, with fresh bread, fresh fruit juice and awesome cakes. We quickly buddied up with our fellow guests, a couple of Canouks, a French and German couple and a half Japanese, half French, Australian wannabe body building, bikini model, covered in tattoos.
We went out for a canoe ride to an indigenous village of about 100 people. The village was built around a football pitch, which was used when they played other villages, as a main community social event. All over Brazil there are goalposts everywhere, on every beach, town square and in the middle of the planet's biggest forest, they really do love their footy. There was a tropical thunder storm so we stopped for cover and Mel bought a bracelet and a coke. The bracelet broke three days later, but I doubt there's a returns policy. The best bit of the trip was being in the canoe going through the flooded jungle channels. At one point we saw a 2 or 3 yr old Jaguar running down a branch that we floated under, he could very well have jumped in with us.
We also took a canoe ride to an area where Amazonian pink river dolphins play. At first we all thought it a bit fake when a chap with a bucket of fish fed a few of the dolphins, but it was still great to see them. We were close enough to be literally knocked off our feet a couple of times and have one breach and nearly bite my nose off. The bloke and the bucket of fish disappeared and then it was just us swimming in the river and the dolphins came back. They swam with and played with us for a couple of hours, it was a brilliant, once in a life time experience. The sunset from the lodge hammocks was beautiful and we'd had a very memorable day.
The lodge kept a pet Macaw, who ate Brazil nuts, and a couple of Dalmatians, one of which had a horribly disfigured head; she'd survived a fight with a snake.
It was time to go jungle walking. We stopped to see gum trees and their rubbery sap, we tried jungle fruits and learnt how to build a shelter to protect ourselves from predators. We learnt about jungle communication, basically banging on big tree roots, and how to drink water vines to survive. We also saw how to make rope and how it helps (between your feet) to climb trees to see where you are. After a demonstration I was first to volunteer to have a go, how hard could it be, after all, I've been climbing trees for 30yrs. I managed to get up about 30 centimetres. It was impossible. I realised that I haven't actually climbed a tree for about 20yrs. I still did better than the only other person to try :-). Back at camp our cunning plan of always buying duty free wine paid off as a tropical storm set in. With the rain still drizzling, we set out for a spot of piranha fishing. One of our group caught three and another chap caught one, but Mel and I were unlucky only feeling a few bites. We did get to see their teeth, but again it was just great to be out on the river ducking in and out of the flooded forest.
Looking forward to a hot shower, we left in a canoe at 9am downstream, back to 'civilisation'. The chap meeting us upon arrival in Manaus had said it was fine to visit the Opera House on our way back. We told our lodge hosts this and arranged to leave half and hour earlier to accommodate it. When we got off the canoe and into the transfer van, the driver also said fine. We'd been recommended viewing the Opera House and as Manaus was the first place in South America to get an electric tram and impressive structures were built on the back of the rubber boom before the great depression, we wanted to check it out. Our driver stopped at what seemed a random open shed front on the street where six chaps sat doing nothing (or 'South American working'!), he then stated it would cost us so much to go to see the Opera house...here we go again...Call your boss I said, I wanted to speak English to the guy I had arranged it with at the airport three days earlier, rather than a driver who had just joked with his mates how much he could screw these gringos out of. The airport transfer chap didn't remember us of course, so I gave him a piece of my mind. In fact he took the brunt of all my South American built up annoyances about miraculously appearing fees, trips being double booked, trips booked by someone else that cant be cancelled but other cheaper ones than can etc etc, scam scam. This bloke got the full 'you've hidden costs, caused us wasted time, disappointing end to our trip' speech. We got our free trip to see the Opera House and it was impressive, took the photo and continued to the airport. Why does everything have to be so hard?
The flight was delayed for half an hour, of course. As we flew out of Manaus we passed over the place where the Rio Negro (black water) and the Rio Solomines (muddy water) join to form the Rio Amazon, it's called the meeting of the waters. It's quite a sight as the waters don't immediately mix but run side by side for a couple of hundred metres. Our Amazonian experience was a truly amazing few days that we'll never forget.