Amazonian Adventures – Part 1

Manaus is a sprawling city of 2 million people in Northern Brazil, and is used as the gateway to the Amazon region. Early the next morning David came and picked us up from our hostel and took us to the tour company offices. We met the owner, Gerry, signed the necessary paperwork, handed over the cash and we were on our way to the Amazon. We were going to be based on Juma Lake, a tributary of the Amazon river where we could access the flooded rainforest and hopefully see some of the Amazon’s wildlife, including freshwater dolphins.

Landing in sprawling Manaus

To start with we were transfered from Manaus to the port, passing by a number of factories. Manaus used to be the world centre of the rubber industry and still a large number of tyres are manufactured there. it is also a major centre for the manufacture of Japanese cars (Toyota and Honda). From Ceasa port we then hopped in the first boat of the day, out onto the Amazon to cross ‘the meeting of the waters’.

Off we go on our Amazon adventure

This is the point at which the Negro river (a black inky looking river) and the Solimões (mud coloured) river meet.

The point where the two rivers meet as seen from the air....very impressive as they don't merge for 6km!

They actually flow separately but next to each other for 6km, they take this long to mix due to the difference in temperature, speed and water density of the two rivers. Putting our hands in the water either side of the boat you could actually feel the temperature change.

We could definitely feel a difference in the two rivers as they met...

We went across the river pulling in at the village of Careiro. From here we took a very smart car for about one hour, bouncing around a little bit over the dirt roads till we hit the river Parana do Mamori.

Car trip ends here....everyone out

Here we stopped for a comfort break and drank coconut juice directly from the nuts themselves, a first for Linz!

Wow this is fabulous..........very tasty

From here we had a fantastic ride in a speed boat, really going fast through flooded rainforests, and slowly across wider lake sections.

this is fast....... I hope he knows this river!!

 

The wider sections were often just mirrors of crystal clear water

Everywhere around us was the flooded forest with various brightly coloured birds appearing and disappearing from all directions.

Fabulous birds all around us

Then we finally arrived at the Juma camp house, our base for the next few days, located on the river just at the edge of Juma Lake.We hopped out and were shown to our cabin. We were staying in a fairly rustic hut, still, they provided mosquito nets and we had a little ensuite, admittedly with only cold water and an a temperamental flush but we weren’t after luxury, we were after some authentic Amazon living.

All the comforts of home....plus small frogs you can't see

A quick splash down and we were ready for lunch. The message that Linz doesn’t eat fish hadn’t quite made it so an omelette was rustled up and we were sorted. Straight after lunch our activities began.

Pick a canoe, any canoe and then grab your paddlesAlan our guide proved to be very knowledgeable and spoke excellent English

We met our guide for the week, Alan and our fellow guests. We were sharing the first days activities with a couple from the Czech Republic and a guy called James from the USA.

Our USA friend James keeps a close eye on our guide, Alan's best friend!!

We set off in a large wooden dugout canoe. It had a motor on the back but as soon as we entered the narrow channels through the rainforest Alan shut off the engine and it was over to us to paddle. We were instructed to paddle as quietly as possible so that we wouldn’t disturb the wildlife, giving us the best opportunities to see what we’d come to see. We were obedient students and the guide, Alan, was incredibly knowledgeable. From various calls and sounds in the bushes he was able to identify all sorts of birds. We saw our first jacana’s, who seemed to act as the alarm bell for the jungle, rising up and squawking every time something strange approached.

Jacana birds raise the alarm as we approach

We also saw saw macaws flying very high over head, we were only able to tell what they were because of the way they fly. We saw loads of Snowy and Small Egrits, a few herons and a couple of hawks circling around. Most excitingly though we caught our first glimpses of some monkeys. We saw movements in trees very high up and then there they were, running from tree to tree way above us but clearly visible.

Hope you can see the Monkey jumping between branches...

After 3 hours paddling in the heat we were ready for dinner and our bums were crying out for us to move off the hard wooden bench seats. After dinner we were back in the canoes again though, cayman hunting. Cayman are the Amazon’s alligators and we were out to ‘hunt’ some. We were told to put our head torches on and shine them on the banks of the river. Before long we saw red eyes glinting in the darkness back at us. To catch the cayman, Alan shined his torch directly into the animals eyes, it has a similar effect to a rabbit in the headlights scenario and then he was able to lean forward out of the canoe and grab the beast!

OK Colin...this is how you hold him....OK?

He was only going for animals no more than a metre long. A safe size apparently. Once caught he brought it in the canoe for us all to touch and look at. It was then thrown back in and we watched it make a quick escape.

Very glad your daddy isn't here!!

At one point Alan was part way through the repeat exercise when he suddenly leaned back very quickly. He had found the Cayman he had chosen for the second capture of the night was a metre long alright, from its snout to its front legs, overall it was  four metres long, a tad too big to grab!!

I don't know what all the fuss is about Colin :-)

Excitement over we headed back to the camp, snuggled up under our mosquito net and adjusted to the sounds of the amazon all around us as we fell asleep.

Next morning we were woken just before dawn so that we could see the sunrise on the amazon and hopefully see some dolphins. The light made the reflections of the jungle really amazing and we were rewarded for our early start by seeing some grey dolphins swimming all around our canoe.

 

Gorgeous early morning light....did you see the Dolphin Linz?

Linz even managed to glimpse a pink one but before Colin could turn to look it had gone. Pink dolphins are an amazonian phenomenon, and of the five freshwater dolphin species they are widely recognised as the smartest…..hence why they were more difficult to see than their grey cousins

After breakfast we were told to put on long trousers and a long sleeved top. We were going for a trek in the jungle. To get to the particular part of the jungle we were trekking through we had to take the canoes and paddle there. By the time we were done in the Amazon we were going to have arms of steel and our bums would hate us. Those wooden benches were numbing on the glutimus maximus!

Off to the flooded forest for a walk in the woods

We hiked, doing our best David Attenborough impressions and trying to take in as much information as possible from Alan our guide. He introduced us to the ‘Vick’s’ tree. The sap from which goes to make the Vick’s cold and flu medicine but has been used by Amazonian’s for centuries.

Linz visiting the Amazonian 'Boots' on our walk in the woods

He also showed us a type of ant that when crushed were a natural insect repellent. We also learnt about “Telegraph Trees” naturally hollow trees that when you hit them made a resounding sound that echoed for miles. This was how you stayed in touch in the Amazon and signaled for help if you need it.

Welcome to the Jungle Drums tree wrapping itself around Colin

We could go on, but it really was an interesting experience and we learnt a lot about how our ‘modern medicine’ is very often derived from plants and animals that the local tribes have been using for donkeys years. Maybe we’re not as advanced as we think we are! On the way back to the lodge we saw a very rare three toed Sloath. It was resting in the high branches of a tree and it took Alan’s keen syses to spot it first and then binoculars to clearly identify it.

In the afternoon we headed out in the canoes again, this time for some piranha fishing. Something that Linz was approaching with a great deal of trepidation. There is no way that Linz wanted a flapping fish anywhere near her, let alone one with teeth and a penchant for human flesh.

First Piranha caught...wrong type for the plate though

When the fishing rods were handed out she was not in line to get one. Colin, however was keen. Alan put us in a canoe on our own for this expedition and we headed off directly across the river from our lodge. We secured the canoes and then it was time for the lines to go in the water. Agitating the waters surface attracted the piranhas so there was a lot of splashing going on. Linz tried to make herself very small in the canoe! Colin eventually caught 4 piranhas, none were eating size though so Linz was spared having to sit in the canoe with the piranha looking up at her. The Czech couple caught an edible one and so did James, thankfully their’s stayed in their canoe! Activity over we then went for another paddle through the flooded forest.

A la carte fresh Amazonian Pirahna....Linz dinner's ready.....Linz??

Only having the two of us in the canoe we really struggled to keep up with the other four man boat and our guiding skills needed a bit of honing. We crashed into a few trees and had an assortment of scrapes by the time we got back. Not too much in the way of wildlife seen either, might have had something to do with our scraping and bumping about. however we were finally rewarded with the sight of our first Howler Monkeys.

Dinner and then we were out cayman hunting again. James from the US wanted to have a go at catching one himself. Alan went for one too, then very quickly backed off when he realised that the metre he’d been looking at was just the animals head. Not one to bring into the boat. After that we decided we were worn out from our activities and more than ready for bed.

Next morning we elected not to get up at dawn and were grateful we hadn’t as the morning was grey and rainy. We split up to do activities for the morning and we headed off with the guide for a bit more wildlife viewing. Yes, you’ve guessed it, out on the canoes yet again. Our paddling this morning was more than rewarded. We had wanted to see Toucans whilst we were in the Amazon. Not a minute after saying that, we saw two flying really high above us.

Honest they really are Toucans

A minute after that they swooped lower and buzzed the front of our canoe. We were amazed. Even more so when we heard a crash to our right and discovered that one of the Toucan’s had flown directly into a tree. It was like something out of a cartoon. It turned it’s head to look at us and thwacked the tree, it was hilarious as it struggled and fluttered to get itself out of the water. Alan thought maybe it was a young bird still learning the flying ropes. We just thought that God had answered our prayers.

One Response to “Amazonian Adventures – Part 1”

  1. Kathy says:

    Great pictures! Love the double rainbow,spectacular waterfalls!

Leave a Reply to Kathy

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