Manaus, Brazil (day 2)
We got up early on Friday, March 2, because we were scheduled to take a boat trip and we had to be back before the ship left in mid afternoon. The river itself is very interesting. There is quite a bit of boat traffic (there are 70,000 boats registered in Manaus) & a lot of logs and other natural debris. In Manaus they actually have floating gas stations, and we have seen a lot of what appear to be floating lawns, large clumps of grass floating down the river to the ocean.
We were very lucky because the weather was quite beautiful that morning, while the people who took this trip the day before saw nothing but rain. The first part of our trip was in a two level Amazon river boat. We saw neighborhoods of Manaus with houses near the water on stilts, and some with river boats ashore (perhaps to be floated when the river rises, or else pushed into the water when needed).
We saw some villages on tributary streams built largely on stilts and others in which the houses actually float on the river. The children in these villages are picked up each morning by the school boat, which takes them to school.
At a fairly remote stop we transferred into 10 person canoes (which are actually boats with motors) for the trip to Lake January & through some of the flooded marshlands & streams.
We saw a number of unusual birds on this trip, some pretty butterflies, a sloth (hanging upside down with his head away from you), a caiman and others I wasn’t able to photograph. For example, this area is home to anacondas and the guide told us that the movie of that name was actually filmed here. Another form of wildlife that lives only in the interior of the Amazon is the pink freshwater dolphin. We didn’t see any of these and although some other folks on the ship said they did we have concluded that they are like pink elephants, which can only be seen when you are inebriated. I guess that sounds like sour grapes.
On Lake January we also saw giant water lilies. The leaves of these things are about five feet in diameter and there are about a dozen leaves to each flower (although the leaves float they are connected to the bottom of the lake by stems). The flowers only open at night and only for 3 days each, changing from white the first day to purple the third. We found them very interesting.
They took our boat off the lake & river & into the already flooded rainforest (the flooding will get much deeper by June but a few months ago this entire area would have been dry land). Our guide spotted a tiny wasp’s nest on a hanging tree branch & carefully maneuvered around it. But then the second boat came barreling past us & smacked right into the nest. Needless to say, this made the wasps very angry & they swarmed out (very tiny looking wasps), but the other boat had gone so fast that we were the only ones they could see. So we hightailed it out of there. As you can see, there are a lot of trees here deep in water and there were also a lot of yucky looking termite nests.
On the way back to the river boat we saw a 400 year old tree, which had an unusual root system and was tall enough that we couldn’t see the top through the rainforest cover. We also saw a house in the rainforest with a platform by the river covered with grass.
By the time we got back to the river boat it was pouring rain (did I mention that the weather around here is amazingly changeable?). We got in the boat & they pulled down plastic sheeting all around so we couldn’t see much, then we left to go downriver to the Meeting of the Waters. Manaus isn’t actually situated on the Amazon. It is about 3 miles up the Rio Negro river from the spot where the Rio Negro & the Rio Solimoes converge to form the Amazon proper. The water of the Rio Negro is very dark (hence the name) while the water of the Solimoes is light brown, like cafe au lait. Because one of these rivers flows faster than the other (I can’t remember which) & the chemical makeup of the water is different, the rivers don’t mix together immediately but flow for several miles side by side. You saw a version of this phenomenon in the episode for Santorem (which is pronounced with an accent on the first & especially on the last syllable, so it doesn’t sound like Rick Santorum, thank goodness).
Anyway, with the pouring rain we did not expect to be able to see much at the Meeting of the Waters. However, as I mentioned before, the weather here is very changeable and we did get a very good look from close up on this relatively small river boat.
Later, as the ship passed this spot, we saw it from a larger perspective.
Then the ship took us down the Amazon toward our last Brazilian stop in Parintins.