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Manaus, Brazil - almost 1,000 miles from the mouth of the Am

Jan 2 2012


January 2, 2012

• Do we take malaria meds?
• Manaus and Caiman hunting,
• Manaus – overnight at Eco-lodge
• Manaus – meeting of the waters

Lecture notes re Climate Change, World Bank, Economics:

Good lectures this morning on the SAS program, pre-port Manaus and Global “Weirding” as the lecturer called it. Mike Maniates gave a talk on “Brazil, Small Island Nations and Climate Change”. He discussed that less developed/poor countries will suffer more than the rich economies. And of course the rich economies like the U.S. and Europe use more of the world’s resources. There is a “Coalition of Small Island Nations” with no power but a strong moral claim. There is a poor world coalition which includes Brazil, India China and So Africa. They didn’t cause the problem of global weather change but will the results in “the shorts”. The U.S., Canada and Australia use most resources. China has surpassed the U.S. in emission but a high percentage of that is to make stuff they export to the U.S. If you believe the scientists that a 2% change in CO2 will change the world then an 80% reduction of Co2 is needed. The loss of sea ice has accelerated climate change faster than any scientists predicted. India and poor countries see control of CO2 as imperialism – rich world telling them what to do. Some groups work has show the U.S. owns 33% of the Co2 problem, Europe 25% and the third world suffers the most from climate change since rain feeds agriculture and they have no money for seawalls and oceans rise. There is talk of a “Climate Development Fund” so rich countries would help others and those credits would reduce our debt to others. The “Climate Development Fund” would be used to even this out – we know the U.S. won’t reduce CO2 by 33% so we would pay to help countries that are suffering because of us.

Contrary to what people in the U.S think, we give little foreign aide. People in the U.S. when polled think the U.S. gives 30% of budget to foreign aide; people when polled think we should give 5% to foreign aide; but we really give only 1% for foreign aide.

The economic might of the planet is heading east. IMF, World Bank built for U.S. and Europe. U.S. has veto power. India, Brazil, Viet Nam, So Africa and China have decided they have to go alone. This brings “multi-polarity”. Makes global cooperation more difficult. The major game in town now is climate negotiation. Obama has signed on the Global Exchange Initiative but not funded it (and he won’t until after the election).

Semester at Sea board and admins

It costs about $25,000 for a student to do Semester-at-Sea, earning a full semester of college credits and sailing around the world. SAS's educational component is run by the U of Virginia. On those voyages the average age is 22. On our Enrichment voyage the average age is 55 and that includes the three groups of students that are on board. Student scholarships are available. SAS just tried to break even on SAS program -- SAS is a non-profit. 1/3 of the cost of operation of the ship goes to underpaid faculty.

About Manaus:

Manaus is almost 1,000 miles from the mouth of the Amazon River. It is accessible only by plane or boat. It has 2 million people. It sits at the confluence of the Rio Negro and the Rio Solimoes, forming the Amazon proper. The two rivers flow side by side for many miles, different in color, mixing in eddies, “the meeting of the waters”. It grew during the rubber boom in the beginning of the 19th century. Some of our friends got to tour a “company town” built by DuPont or one of the big rubber companies and preserved as it was in the 30’s. On deck as we arrive at Manuas I'm on the deck thinking I wish I could bring the smell back -- it is a musty, warm pleasant smell. An earthy and pleasant smell. It it windy and overcast today. It is another "pinch me" moment as the ship moves into the Rio Negro, a tributary of the Amazon. The water is literally coffee colored with a brown froth against the boat. It was exhilarating to be on deck for the meeting of the waters.


Before we left the U.S. most of us were given Malaria meds by our doctors, clinics or public health districts. Earlier this week the ship doctor spoke on Malaria and the side effects of the drugs. I don’t remember his stats but I think he said in 20 years they have had one case of Malaria on the ship and that was a student. He suggested using our Deet (the nasty stuff) when in the jungle at sunrise and dusk (when the mosquitoes are out) but did not encourage us to use malaria meds. Joan and I and most of the people we talked to passed on the Malaria meds.

Brazil and oil:

Rocky spoke on oil and Brazil in the pre-port talk: 90% of new vehicles sold in Manaus are flexing – gas or ethanol. Ethanol from sugar cane is huge in Brazil. Didn’t go the “corny” route of production as U.S. (political choice in U.S. due to clout of “corn” states). Sugarcane, for one unit of energy, puts 8 units out. Corn barely gets more energy out that it takes to make it. Per speaker Rocky, after 70’s Arab oil embargo their motto is not “Drill baby drill” but “grow baby grow”.

I didn’t go outside for lunch because of the bugs on ship at Manaus. Ate a crowded early lunch as we are prepared to disembark. The ship was late – at least by an hour – docking in Manaus and then disembarking took a long time. Our 1 pm trip left about 2:30 pm I think.

Arriving Manaus

Just before arriving in Manaus, I was out on the outside deck watching the arrival. I wasn’t expecting this but witnessed the meeting of the waters for the Amazon and Rio Negro. The two rivers don’t mix for a long time due to several reasons, one of them being the acidity, which is what makes the Rio Negro black. It was absolutely amazing to watch. There is literally a line in the water, like a line in the sand, between the two bodies. The frothy wake around the ship, now that we are going up the Rio Negro, is coffee colored instead of white. It is such an amazing site. The Rio Negro is huge also –reminds one of the Amazon except for the color. We barely get into the Rio Negro and we are at Manaus.

Eco-lodge in Jungle:
Today we headed for an overnight at the Eco-lodge. We were met at the ship by a boat which had open sides and two levels that held 100 of us. Boarding was difficult as we disembarked from the fifth level of the ship down a long stairway and then had to climb some wooden steps up and down in the boat. Then another flight of narrow steps to the top of an open air ship. Our guide was a Brazilian man who spoke good English. We all had overnight bags with us so we were loaded up. We barely got underway and the rain started (rainy season here!). It poured and there was thunder and lightning. Soon the blue plastic (yes, even here in the Amazon) tarps along the sides of the boats were lowered to protect us from the rain. The rain poured into the boat in other ways and was running under our feet and chairs on the wooden decks so we loaded our bags onto our laps. Wild ride. Took 1.5 hours. Towards the end, the rain let up and we could pull up the tarps to see the landscape. Felt better and less claustrophobic. Manaus is on the Rio Negro, a HUGE tributary of the Amazon. The Rio Negro water is black. From the Rio Negro we went into another tributary and then another to the eco-lodge. By this time the river is not really wide and there is high grass on the sides of the river, so I’m thinking it is not very deep.

As we rode the guide told us much about Manaus and the area. Very interesting and he spoke very good English. The highlights are in my notebook! One interesting item, after the rubber trade bubble burst (by England I believe) moving rubber production to Persia (I believe), devastating Manaus’ economy with reduced rubber prices in another part of the world. The Brazilian government eventually created a free trade zone in Manaus in the 50’s and 60’s and Manaus now has 500 factories. The guide maintains that most of them are electronic factories so they are greener than most factories. Honda motorcycles employs 11,000 people in Manaus. Harley Davidson has its only non-U.S. factory in Manaus. He mentioned many other companies, including Sony and those types of companies.

We went under a large bridge that connects Manaus to the 3rd largest city in Amazon region -- a city of 100,000. The bridge was just completed in the last 4 months.

Some facts from the river guide as we went up the Rio Negro in a smaller boat to the Eco-Lodge.
• Here is the biggest National Park in the world
• Biggest fish estuary in the islands in the Rio-Negro and Amazon
• Rio Negro is 98% preserved -- lots of national parks. Balsa forest, eco-systems.
• Two seasons -- rainy and dry.
• No Dengue fever at Rio Negro -- acid water - mosquitoes don't like. No malaria.
• Indian reservations on the Rio Nego. Biggest reservation in South America.
• Other people are forbidden to go there.
• Brazil rain forest is 4 million sq miles. There are 6 million sq miles in Brazil. 60% of Brazil is the Amazon region.
• Taper is largest animal in rain forest -- big as a big or a small cow
• Insects and bugs are bio-diversity. About 80 million types live in the forest canopy.
• Beetles fly and can be 5" high.
• 100 years ago Manaus was rubber capital of the world. England moved rubber trade to Asia.
• In 1967 Manaus was declared a free port; 500 factories here; Honda makes motorcyles. 11,000 employees.
• 90% of factories are electronics like Sony.
• Rio Negro supports 500 kinds of fish (River of hunger)
• Amazon supports 2000 kinds of fish, more than the Atlantic.
• Guide - 13 days by boat to his place near Columbia Peru
• Sleep in boats -- there are hooks, you bring your hammock and sleep there. 5 x more expensive to get a cabin.
• Amazon is biggest tropical forest. Siberia has biggest forest in world but it has only 1 type of tree. Amazon forest has 40,000 plants and trees.
• Thames river transports in 1 year what Amazon transports in 1 second – 400 cubic meter in 1 second out of the mouth of the river.
• Amazon is young river. Erosion makes new islands; others disappear.
• Colors is due to sediment. 100,000 tons per day head to the coast. French Guyana is growing.
• Longest and most volume of any river in world. It starts in Peru. Amazon follows equator. (Linda: The Rio Negro is a tributary of the Amazon and other than the Amazon, it is the biggest river I’ve ever seen).
• “Talma (sp) river is the next tributary of the Rio Negro that we are traveling on and then one more tributary to get to the Eco Lodge. 1.5 hour ride from Manaus.
• Lots of rich people in Manaus. Also see many rich people living on boats in tributaries. He mentioned Tamsu river. Less storms in tributories. Corrupt mayor lives there. He supports education, at least. Guide believes people will continue to make better choices at election time.
• Guide stated, just as Anna (Santarem guide), that if people have food, they are not poor. We may think people look poor, but if they have food they are not poor.
• Corruption is getting better in Brazil – finally some prosecution of crimes.
• Gas stations are in the river – floating
• Brazil doesn’t import oil. Cost of gas is $2.80 per liter or $7 per gallon.

Upon arrival at the Eco-lodge, we walked up hill on a sandy beach to the hotel lobby which is open to the air. We had a glass of juice and then went to our cabins. Mine was part of a three-plex. You walk through the jungle along paths with cabins which are duplex and triplex type rooms nestled along the path. It is dark as the trees are high and form a canopy in the jungle. Joan is in the triplex next to mine. The rooms are small with a double bed, nice lighting, a small bath/shower, an armoire. Wooden floors. No hairdryer (I noticed right away!). The room has a small porch and shutters (with screens ) than can be opened to let air in the room. It gets dark about 6 pm. We headed for the open air bar for a drink before Cayman hunting. As we stood at the bar, the neighborhood parrot swooped in and walked around the bar, walked over to the container holding lemons or something, knocked the lid off it. Tried to drink from someone’s drink. Pretty funny. We had a glass of wine to prepare for night boat ride to hunt Caimans.

Caiman hunting on the river:
We went to the lobby to start our Caiman (Alligator) search in the night. It was still raining with some lightening. We waited a while and soon boarded the motorized canoes (they call them). The boats are wooden, flat bottomed and wooden and hold about 5 bench seats. We had two guides, young Brazilian men, one at one end running a motor with a propeller on a long arm and a propeller on the end. They seem to hold it high in the water. One guide is in the front of the boat with shorts and thongs and a light to look for the Caiman. The Caiman have red eyes when light shines on them. We took off. Other than the putt-putt of the small motor and the light of the fellow at the front of the boat, it is very quiet and dark in the jungle with lots of jungle noises. We went down the tributary and came across a pair of red eyes. They cut the motor and then try to close in on the Caiman, pulling it out of the water (and then returning it to the water again). Our guide never caught a Cayman but another boat had so we ended up meeting up with them where we could all get a good look (or a good hold if you were willing) on the Cayman. I have told my traveling friends that I felt like I was in a movie – it didn’t seem real – out on the tributary of the river, pitch black in a small boat looking for Cayman. The evening is steamy because of the rain, it is very dark and we are surrounded by jungle. Whew. About 8 pm we arrived back on the beach. Headed for the open-air dinner in the dining room.

Dinner and to bed:

We had a very nice evening buffet dinner with rice, chicken, beef, bread, salads and vegetables. We used our flashlights to find our cabins in the dark in the jungle. The jungle comes alive at night with sounds and it was wonderful. I opened the shutters in my room (screened) to sleep with the jungle sounds. Slept well even though I forgot to bring PJ’s as we brought only and overnight bag with us. I had to sleep in a t-shirt. Luckily I had an extra one – sweaty Deet clothes – ick! The shower was basic with no metal pipes but a small plastic hose. The bathroom was tiled and very clean. One towel only. The floor was wooden with a pretty crocheted rug. Will post a picture of the cabin. Found out the next day that some people had some rather large bugs in their room – one fellow chased it under the bed and then went to sleep. Oh my gosh – glad it wasn’t in my room: I would have had to sit on the porch all night. As if there aren’t bugs out there too, huh?

Posted by Linda K 19:00 Archived in Brazil

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