Jan 3, 2012
1/3/12 - 1/3/12
• Day 2 Manaus, Brazil – Jungle walk and Monkey preserve
• Manaus Opera House
• Manaus Market
Eco-lodge in the morning:
Slept with open windows (screened) in the eco-lodge cabin. Surrounded by jungle sounds and jungle noises. There are 2000 types of bugs in the jungle of I remember right. When it gets dark the noises start. The smell is earthy and musty. The air is warm but I did turn off the air conditioner so I could hear the jungle noises. Pitch black dark except for some small lights along the path. I slept surprisingly well. Tried to work on my journal but was so tired that I ended up closing my journal and my book by 9:30 and fell asleep. That meant I was awake by 4:30 a.m. Before daylight. I didn’t get up but laid in the dark listening to the noises and enjoying the air. No hairdryer and high humidity - I think my hair dried in the late afternoon. I met Joan for breakfast.
Finally got up at 6 a.m., went to Joan’s cabin to borrow shampoo and then showered and headed for breakfast at 7 a.m. in the outdoor restaurant. . There was yogurt, omelets, fresh pineapple, bananas, great Brazilian coffee and tapioca pancakes. We find that wheat flower is unusual in Brazil – makes sense – they don’t grow it there. The juices are papaya, some other fruits that I don’t remember the names of – one tasted like coconut. Shared an omelet with Joan and met with our group at 8:30 a.m. for a walk in the jungle forest. Our guide was a woman, indigenous. She insisted we tuck our pants in our sox to keep the snakes and ants away.
Our guide was very interesting. She knows the jungle well. We walked a couple of hours. She told us about jungle trees and the medicinal uses, we saw a Sloth; we were in primary and secondary jungle forests. Once the jungle is clear cut it does not grow back like it was before the clear cut. The earth in the jungle is not very nutritious and it takes a very long time for the forest to grow back small. The regrowth will be small and never look like it did. Saw huge (like two feet long) termite nests. Saw vines that hold water that would be as fresh as the mineral water in our back packs. Also saw vines that would have poisons. The vines grow from the top of the forest down and anchor on the ground and then grow back up to the canopy again.
She talked about her grandmother who was a Shaman. She talked about her diet of fish and rice and vegetables. Little meat. Mostly fish. This is similar to what the guide, Anna, said about her diet the other day. Though we did have one guide say Brazilians like meat and that is causing ecological problems as growing cattle takes a lot of land and is harmful to the land.
We were covered in clothes, hats, DEET and sox. We were HOT and when you had the humid jungle we were REALLY hot. Some people literally had sweat running off them. Some of the travelers in our group are fairly old – like late 80’s and I’m surprised how well they managed this day. We had to walk under branches, step over downed trees, stick our heads inside tree trunks to see bats, and deal with the warmth and occasional snake spotting, sloth spotting and jaguar warnings.
But what a day. I think we were all knocked out about being in the jungle and enjoying the sounds, smells and the talk by our guide.
One interesting thing was the termite nests and ants nests which hang on the side of the trees and are literally several feet long and a foot think. The guide screamed at the ant nest to wake them up; then she took a bunch of ants in her hands and rubbed them together – smooshed them – and then had us smell it. The smell was like insect repellant and that is what one could use in the jungle for repellant. We saw plants that are used for prescription drugs in U.S. to treat diabetes, leukemia, cancer, etc. Saw the plant that is used to make Vicks Vapo-rub.
Some Rain Forest notes from our local Guide at the Eco Lodge:
• Molatato tree – wrinkle cure
• Rain forest never grows back – poor soil
• Primary and secondary forests
• Jaguars seen recently – traking care of their babies now.
• Wooly monkeys and 20 other kinds. Yellow faced monkey lives there. They are caught at homes as pets and confiscated. Prohibited as pets so brought here to re-introduce into the forest. Marcella who is in a case at the Monkey Foundation, has been released but ends up running over to the eco-lodge. She likes people so she wants to be at the eco-lodge.
• From the spot we were in at Manaus, the jungle continues to Columbia and Ecuador. The animals found in the forest include: Jaguars, wilds hogs, monkeys and spiders.
• Ants nest. Tabita (sp?) ants are used for medicine. Our guide yelled at the huge nest, the ants came out. She squished them in her hands and had us smell the result – it smelled like insect repellant. And it is used for insect repellant.
• Water vine comes from tp of trees.
• Bushmaster nake – dangerous. Also boa constrictors
• Power tree – BRIO (sp). Used to treat headaches, sinus, arthritis, itching.
• 18% of medicine comes rom rain forests and much is used for soaps and creams.
• Kupareba tree – oil – treat cancer. Use bark. Can buy capsules.
• Adarba tree – has a hollow sound. Use when you are lost – take a stick and pound and sounds like a drum and someone will hear you. Also used for drums.
Next we went on the motorized canoes to the Monkey Reserve. It was started 20 years ago by the owners of the Eco-Lodge that we stayed in. The reserve is for monkeys that are treated as pets, which is illegal. When found, the monkeys are then put in the reserves where they are watched for a bit by a vet and held in cages a while. After acclimating they are let out in the jungle but still fed part of their food by the reserve. Eventually they will end up in the jungle in the wild. Right now they had Marcella. She has been let out a few times but ends up going over to the Eco-lodge and wanting to be around people. They will keep working to get her back in the jungle. People visiting the Monkey reserve asked for a restaurant and that led to the Eco-Lodge as well as the restaurant that we stayed at. The “boys” were supposed to bring monkeys from the jungle for us to see in the wild but they never showed up. Our stay was short.
Back to the Eco-lodge, a stop at the gift shop where I bought my ACAI bean (?) necklace – lime green. Very nice. The young girl that works there gave me some chocolate made from ACAI – it was dark chocolate with the ACAI in the center. Very rich and very nice.
Took a quick shower. Had lunch at the eco-lodge outdoor restaurant and also a Happy Birthday song for Ruiz, one of our Portuguese guide’s, birthday and headed back to Manaus.
Manaus City Tour and Opera house:
We didn’t travel as far as we did on our way out as we didn’t do the whole trip by water. We came to a spot were buses met us to take us on a city tour. Manaus has almost 2,000,000 people. Many huge high-rises. Lots of poor substandard housing also.
Our first stop was the Teatra Amazonas, the Brazil Opera house which was built in the 1890’s when Manus was flourishing under a rubber boom. The house has been closed on and off, one time for 90 years. It has been open in the late 1990’s after its fourth renovation. Beautiful and very old. Manaus was called “the Paris of the Amazon” at one time. We had a tour of the opera house and the ballroom, spent some time in the square next to it, picked up a pair of earrings at a local shop and then back to the bus for a stop at the market. The market reminds you of Pikes Place Market but on a MUCH larger scale, especially the fish section. Late in the day, the activity is down some as most buying is done in the morning. There are 2000 species of fish in the Amazon. One of our fellow tourists was pick pocked in the market. He had a waist belt on that had some zippers. He wore it on the front of his waist. Someone quickly zipped open one zipper and took $80. Luckily no credit cards. He said it happened so fast that by the time he “felt” something wasn’t right, it was over. The market is crowded and kind of smelly. We went to the outside part that was stacked with watermelons and bananas. Then walked the riverfront (Rio Negro) for a bit and viewed the abundance of plastic garbage at the shore. The local tour guide told us it was worse than usual. We did see three people with humongous bags picking up the trash – I suppose to recycle. The river here was loaded with boats – from tourist boats to houseboats to dinner boats.
Some facts from the guides:
- Manaus means "mother of gods"
- Manaus is 6000 KM from Rio and 5000 KM from So Paolo
- Immigration here from other parts of Brazil, but not skilled
- 160 years ago Manaus did not exist. It was one of the richest cities in the world at the beginning of the 19th century because of rubber. It was the only city to export rubber for years. Government spent money on parks, buildings, etc.
- 40-50% of people in Manaus were born elsewhere.
- 8 hours to venezuela
- road to south closed. Environmentalist don't want it re-opened. Soybeans came. Clothes and food have to come from far away.
- People are called "monowattas" (sp?) -- residents of Manaus. They include Indian, European. Kobuchos (?) are white man living in the jungle. He calls it a very international city
- Economy is growing here and all of Brazil. Have oil. Very rich. exporter of beef, cow, O.J.
- Men have one year mandatory military service --18 year old males.
- In Manaus there are 50,000 more femails than males.
- Building materials were originally brought by "smoke ships" (?)
- Manaus had no planning -- rich houses, poor houses all together -- now doing more planning
- 75% of people in Manaus have running water.
- From Rio Negro -- no one drinks town water. Quality wasn't good. Now French company runs water company. Still no one drinks it.
- Lowest salary is $400 month. 25% minimum tax rate. Factories offer many social programs for workers -- health, food, transportation.
- Gas expensive. Monopoly by few people. Brazil has biggest reserve in world.
- Humidity is hard on houses.
- Only Harley Davidson factory outside the U.S. is in Manaus.
Back to the ship:
As you can imagine, we were sweaty and hot and tired and looking forward to our THIRD shower of the day. We had to board the ship at 5 p.m., loading to deck 5 so it takes a while to get aboard and then walking into the Air conditioned boat. Joan and I stopped at the piano bar for a glass of wine and a “aha” moment. We had been through a few adventures in the last 24 hours – the rain soaked ride on the boat to the Eco-lodge, Caiman (small alligator) hunting at night in motorized canoes, overnight in the rain forest, jungle walk. Hot, tired. Next to our rooms for a shower and then another glass of wine and trading stories with our fellow travelers. Some took trips where they slept in hammocks on river boats overnight, some took day trips and stayed on ship, etc. I think our trip was the best and glad it was part of our itinerary.
After dinner on the outside deck and a change to watch some local Brazilian dancers and musicians in the ship’s lounge, Joan and I headed to our rooms, exhausted totally! Still surprised what we had done in the last 24 hours. And that we did it. We are not the most adventuresome people in the world.