Man its hot in Manaus

Trip Start Sep 10, 2007
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Trip End Ongoing


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Monday, October 1, 2007

We arrived in Manaus late Monday night and David (the guy from Gero Jungle tours) picked us up. It was nice not to have to worry about being ripped off by a taxi man at the airport. Arriving in Manaus we were hit by a blast of hot air, my good I´ve never experieced anything like it, we are definitely near the equator (about 200miles south of it). First impressions of Manaus is what we expected it to be - not a very nice place. Nothing special, just a gateway to the jungle. One thing I was surprised by though is the amount of industry here. There are lots of factories here, such as Honda, Samsung, Nokia and loads more of big multinational companies. Apparently, there are big tax breaks for companies to set up here, so they take advantage of it. One stipulation is that they have to employ local people which is good eh!
The next morning we started our jungle tour. We met our guide Tarik, our first sigting of the Amazon was at the port in Manaus. The port is a busy spot and because the level of the river is constantly changing (rising or falling depending on the season), there is no real pier, just a mud slide into the water and boards as the peir, its hard to describe and we didn´t get a photo, sorry. Its the dry season here now, so the river is dropping by about 2cm per day, the locals are a bit concerned as the normal rate of decrease is 0.5 cm per day. Anyway, hopped into our river taxi and our first stop was the meeting of the waters, this is where the river Negro (from Columbia) and the Silimones (from Peru) meet (they are collectively known as the Amazon after that, however most Brazilians refer to the Silimones as the Amazon). The Negro river is dark (alkaline) and the Silimones is a much lighter colour (acidic), so when the two rivers meet it is very distinctive. However they don´t mix for about 10miles. This is due to the difference in temperature, density and speed between the two rivers.
We had to get another taxi and another river taxi before we reached our jungle lodge - Araninha Jungle hotel. It was just what we imagined a jungle lodge to be like - spiders, birds, lizards look alikes roaming freely indoors! around and monkeys outdoors much to Orla´s delight! there were only 5 lodges, so there are never that many people staying there. Our tour is for 4 days and 3 nights, so we had a choice of beds or hammocks, we decided to go for the beds though, we want to get a bit of rest!
We arrived at the lodge at about 11:30 and we went out on the boat for our first jungle tour at 3:30, the wait nearly killed us we were so excited. There was a storm on while we waited, it was amazing really to see how fast the dark clouds approached and then suddenly the wind started, I mean really it was suddendly, we were both shocked at how fast the weather changed. One minute we were sunbathing and the next it was lashing rain. This only lasted about 10mins and then the sun was out again-unreal.
Boat trip
Our first jungle excursion was a boat trip, at this point we discovered that it was only Kieran and I on the tour, the place is really quieter than normal, great success for us, we had 2 guides all to ourselves - Tarik and Oussie. Tarik is from Northern Brazil and Oussie is a native of the Amazon but he had no English so Tarik was our translator and guide. Some of the animals we saw were caiman, grey and pink dolphins, black vulchers, a parakeet, a king fisher, an iguana the list is endless really, we saw alot.
The houses here are all scattered at the side of the river, they are mainly floating houses, as the river is changing level all the time. As its the dry season now, we saw a house that gets flooded with water during the wet season. Half way up the walls the difference in colour indicates how high the river comes.
It started lashing rain again during this boat trip, so we got nicely soaked, great fun though as it is actually really nice to get wet and then dry off in a matter of minutes, its so warm here. What was a shock was the temperature of the water, it is about 20°C, really nice. The river water is used for washing here by the locals (and by us for the next 4 days). Its a lovely red colour but it is warmer than any of the cold showers we´ve had so far, so not too bad, however, it really does smell....hmmm!
None of the local houses (floating houses) have electicity here so at our jungle hotel they put on a generator for 4 hours a day, which is from dusk until about 10pm, then its lights out and candles on. To be honest we were so wrecked everynight that we were asleep at 10. Breakfast is at 7, so we were up well before that getting ready for our adventures. As there is practically no electricity here, then there are no tv´s, computers, radio etc. Strange being in a place like this but it was nice (for 4 days) to live a very simple life. The natives live off the river and the forest, they have everything they need here. As well they don´t have washing machines, so you see people washing there clothes in the river, its really like something you´d see in a movie.
Night-time
Night time is Orla´s favouite time - not.....the noises are unreal here at night, so loud, frogs, monkeys and god knows what else. All these were new to us as we tried to get some sleep inside a mosquito net. Also the heat made it pretty hard to get to sleep.
Day 2
The next morning, we were up at 6:30, twas like being back at work, a bit of a shock to the system! The breaky was lovely though (scrambled egg- a bit of a change from ham and cheese sandwiches!), the food here is really good we have to say, we won´t lose weight here anyway. During breakfast some monkeys were jumping around in the trees trying to pinch some fruit. Good to see that and the Slovenian couple with us for breakfast went out to get closer and take some photos and the guide said under his breath to him `´They will go away, this is not Africa where the monkeys will come and steal your camera`. He was right as soon as they appeared the monkeys ran off. We also had some class of a rodent join us for breaky, like a huge giunea pig...nice eh, its called a Capybara.
Jungle Walk
So we set off on our walk, the first strange thing to see what that we need a machette to clear the way for us to walk, well I guess no one had been there before, so good for us eh. The fact that there is only 4 of us is great as everything is done at our pace now and we could ask as many questions as we liked - it was great. The area where we were walking is flooded in the wet season.We saw various useful trees - for medicinal uses, antibiotics, vicks for headaches and colds, milk of magnesium, the trees that is used in Channel No5 Perfume, that smelt good, ones for getting water from if you are caught in a hold without water, ones for making rubber and rope from (we made a bracelet from this tree), also a tree that the indians believed would give you greater accuracy when you were spearing fish. Saw a tree where an insect drills a tiny hole in the nut of it and lays the egg in the nut. The egg grows and the insect breaks/drills its way out of the nut when it is ready.Birds like to eat these nuts, they are tasty Kieran and Tarik tried them, I passed on that one.Apparently, they tasted like coconut..hmmm ya right! 
Came accross a wierd smell and aparently it is the scent that monkeys leave after they´ve slept in a place.We tracked wild pigs and armadilloes, unfortuntely we didn´t catch up with them. We saw a snake pit in a swampy area, but saw no snakes (I was delighted but Kieran was very disappointed), they are difficult to see as they camoflage themselves so well. We saw wasps, bee and ant nests. Tarik picked up a palm full of ants and rubbed them onto his skin, this is a old method of repelling mosquitos apparently. We saw a lizards tail flying around the place, the lizard will break off its tail if it gets caught., this is a means of escape for them and they will quickly grow back another tail. Saw a poison arrow frog - Mary Mac you´d love him! a small little thing. The indians make the poisonous tips for their darts from this frog. Heard a bird that immatates all other animals or whatever noise it hears e.g. it barks like a dog..cool. We saw lots of spiders, massive hairy ones.....these were bird eating spiders, thats how big they are.We did see a pretty spider - known as the wedding dress spider. We made it back alive for dinner anyway, and we were starving, it is stange as at home on a hot day we´d have no appetite at all, but I guess walking for 4 hours in about 30°C and 80% humidity would make you very hungry. Also, you have to wear a long pants and long sleeve top when walking in the jungle as the flies would ate you alive, it may sound distingusting but we were sweating like pigs....you end up having at least 3 showers a day....nice cold ones. Then the lunch was stew......nice and hot...but we ate it sweet we were so hungry.
Piranha Fishing
To be updated
Visiting Local  People
To be updated
Sleeping in the Jungle
I was terrified and would never again do it but Kieran loved it. Slept in Hamocks and with just a mosquito net around us. I didn´t sleep a wink worrying that a big spider would creep into my hamock, not good, the longest night of my life. Listening to all the animals moving through the jungle at night and the different noises of birds etc and the snoring of my 3 buddies......glad I did it, but will NEVER EVER again sleep in the jungle again.

Saturday 6th October
In Manaus we had to do a few jobs after getting out of the jungle - Internet, washing and organising our way out of Manaus. We had always planned to take the boat from Manaus to Iquitos in Peru, however, when we arrived in Manaus we realised that the river is about 40km wide and we would have no hope of seeing anything while on the boat. It is also not a very safe way of travelling, according to the locals. We had thought this previously; however, we still wanted to make sure that it was definietly not an option. So back to basics and booking flights.....booked a flight to Porto Velho for the next morning for about 120Euros each, another score for us, as the boat would have cost us more than that, so nice one.
Saturday night in Manaus is nice and alot better than we expected. There is a lovely square with the Teatro Amazonas in the middle of it. Manaus is known as the Paris of the Amazon. There were lots of people around, eating outdoors, kids with their little motor bikes whizzing around the place. There was a good carnival atmosphere here and Orla got really good wine, so it was a pretty good night. We didn`t meet any other gringos, which was a bit strange but an indication of  how off the beaten track the place is.
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