Well – finally got website back working. So – for all you worried folk out there – yes, I’m still alive. Although, yesterday morning, was very very close to standing on a Bushmaster snake. Guide was walking in front of me, I think he realised it was there just as he stepped over it, and leapt forwards with a yelp. I was right behind him, and figuring that if he was scared of something, I was probably not the right man to deal with it. Took a half step backwards, hoping he wasn’t concerned about something he’d heard behind us – then saw a bloody snake stretched across the path. Bang on where my next step would have landed. Don’t like snakes. Especially ones with a reputation as a “nasty brute”. Goddamn snakes.
Anyway – lots of news to make up for. Will describe Amazon, then create new posts for previous days/adventures, and hopefully can change the date on them to reflect the order of events.
Picked up by guy who sold me tour. Put into car with new guy. He drives me to another hotel, saying that we’re going to do a tour of hotels, picking up other tourists. Then, told to get out, into minibus with nre driver. A little worried at this point, but ends up all good. Arrive at docks. On way, passed a table on which was sitting 12 empty 600ml bottles of beer. 3, maybe 4, people at table. Well before 9am. Sweet.
Onto boat – went to the meeting of the waters. Where Rio Negro meets the Solimoes (Amazon). Very distinct line where black meets brown, kinda cool. Makes for some pretty boring photos though. Then – on to look at some giant water lilies. The’re water lilies, but big. Saw a monkey though. A couple actually, fighting. And a sloth – from a considerable distance. Makes for some pretty bad photos. Then – up the Rio Negro. Very very large river. And it’s just a sidestream off the Amazon.
Got to ‘river lodge’ – floating structure where we’re to stay. Floating on the flooded forest. (We left the Rio Negro, and went down a maze of streams, which is actually the flooded forest. On each side – the tops of trees. Below us – submerged forest. Pretty cool.) Went piranha fishing. After 30 minutes, the group of Sri Lankans who arrived with me (along with their brazilian workmate), and will therefore form my group, get scared of the thunder, and a little rain. Want to go home. Apparently, weren’t expecting rain in the rainforest. So – only one piranha caught by the guide, and thrown back. After dinner – ‘alligator spotting’. Drove around in the dark, in a canoe, looking for alligators with a torch. Sri Lankans didn’t want to come. Scared it would rain? Not sure. Just me, brazilian, guide, and a girl who works at the lodge. Saw the eyes of one gator reflecting torchlight. And guide caught one very small baby alligator. Pointed out it’s features, etc. Released. Also saw snake. Tiny tiny snake. Still don’t like it. Back to lodge.
Today I saw: monkey; sloth; alligator; piranha; snake; weird water-crawlie thing, looked like scorpion.
Heavy rain overnight. Kind of hope the clouds stay, so don’t have to get up at 5am to go in boat to watch sunrise. Seem to have caught Sri Lankan. Hope comes off. Take little motorboat across the main/actual river – and short walk through jungle. Pointed out various medicinal trees, hallucinogenic vines (have to be harvested on a special day of the month), a rubber tree, etc. After lunch, to a very touristified ‘native people’ village. They perform their little dances for us, including one where the guests take part, of course. All the women topless. The teenage girl with an obvious bikini line across the back didn’t seem too comfortable with this, but – it’s her culture.
Met large riverboat in mid-stream, got rid of everybody. Just me & guide left. A rather quiet and peaceful ride back to the side passages. Rubin takes me to an actual native village. (ie: actual natives, living in a village. Complete with the hated TVs, and the omnipresent hated church.)
Today I saw: river dolphins; topless native women; fire-ants; parrot; “night-owl”; lots of bugs & ants, bloody big ant bit me.
Loudest thunder I’ve ever heard overnight. “Paddle Canoe Trip” – just me & Rubin paddling a canoe through the forest. Pretty cool. Piranha fishing – I catch one on my second cast. Turns out to be the biggest of the day. I am good at piranha fishing. I catch one more reasonable size one, and 4 little ones to be thrown back. An overall tally of 9 decent sized ones to take back for eatin’. Paddle onwards. See a sloth. Catch it. Sloths are slow, and dumb. I found it’s movements comical. Paddle into trees. Cool. Big trees above you, around you, and deep in the water below you. Some points, where it becomes shallow, can finally see through the water just enough to see the ferns below the water surface.
Ate piranha with lunch. Yum. Motor back across the main river, to where we did the ‘Jungle Walk’ yesterday. Walk into jungle, just Rubin & myself. Much quieter, and faster than yesterday, despite carrying all my stuff, and other stuff for camping tonight. After a couple of hours – get to campground. Skeleton of shelter already set-up with branches/trees. Just spread a tarp over the top, sling up hammocks/mosquito-nets, and we’ve got a new home. Barbecue chicken for dinner. Recipe: cook chicken over heat. Once fluids run clear, put on rice, while placing chicken on higher heat. Once rice is cooked, leave to cool. Continue to barbecue chicken. Once rice is cool – give chicken five more minutes on each side at maximum heat. Serve with salt. Yum.
Today I saw: hummingbird; mockingbird; snail eggs; spiders, lots of bloody spiders; giant earthworm – huge.
Today I heard: howler monkeys; stupid giant beetle flying straight into a giant bright blue tarp.
Not much sleep. Go for a walk through jungle. See some kind of monkey. And a hole, which Rubin seems intent on scaring something out of. With his face very close to the hole. Gotta admit his dedication to his single guest. Nothing came out. Also, at some point, he stops. Says to me “There’s a wasp nest ahead, we’ll have to walk very very slowly. Okay?” Yep – sure. Can do that. “Okay… RUN!” – and he starts running. So, I ran, but a little slower than usual, as was trying to figure out what had just happened. Back to camp – raining very heavily by this point. Use my jacket to cover my pack, rather than myself. Rubin uses a couple of big fern leafs as an umbrella – discarded after 20 or 30 minutes. And – after some time, the goddamn bloody bushmaster as referred to above.
Back to lodge. Swim in the piranha infested flooded amazon forest. Shower. Cervejas. Catch the riverboat back to Manaus. Fairly cool sunset on the way in. Some more river dolphins. Swedish girl reckons she saw a pink one jump out. I didn’t see it, so I reckon nah.
Back in Manaus, checked back into my hotel. Expensive Churrascaria restaurant for dinner. But they had peas! And beetroot. Awful awful beetroot. And sushi. And sushimi. And, of course, lots of meat. But – most importantly – no rice that I was forced to eat or go hungry. So sweet. But, after a while, neither my cerveja nor my drinks menu turned up – so left to find a cheaper place for several more cervejas.
Today I saw: monkeys, bloody stinking Bushmaster snake.
And that was my trip into the Amazon basin. I also saw some wild duck.