Tag: Manaus

Mysterious Manaus

The boat arrived at four o’clock in the afternoon. There was no police check on arrival. Laureano led the way, I followed. Finally we stood outside the port buildings. I realised I should have e mailed the hostel, asking how much a taxi would be from the harbour to the place I was staying. As it was the driver over charged me, but since it was in reals, it didn’t bother me too much. Manaus Hostel is fabulous. Lots of wood carved animals, which are painted. A jungle in the courtyard! Lovely friendly staff. I settled in to my bottom bunk in the all female dormitory. Showered and changed. When I got back to the lobby to check my e mails and log in on Facebook, I found that Briyan, from the boat was staying at the same hostel! We arranged that we would go for a bite to eat, and may be have a beer as well! He walked to the hostel and it took him less then fifteen minutes, with all his luggage. He is also just twenty two years old!

We found a decent enough place. Both had a large plate of soup. Shared a beer, and walked back to the hostel. I normally don’t go out at night, so quite a novel experience for me! ( normally I am just too tired, after wanderings during the
day!) The next morning, I did my washing, had a lovely breakfast, and went in search of the main square. It was the hostel’s only disadvantage, too far from the centre! Yesterday I had spoken to the young man from the travel agency, Amazon Travel, which is situated inside the hostel. The Lonely Planet writes that it is slightly more expensive than other travel agencies! By sheer fluke, I ended up in the street of Gero’s travel agency, I hopped into the office and found out that their jungle trip, offering everything the same, except I get a bed, rather than a hammock, was HALF the price! I booked there and then, paid and went on my merry way.

The main square was fascinating. A young woman was just opening a museum. As I was in need of a toilet, I ordered a coffee and used their loo. My stomach is rather upset and I am wondering if it can have anything to do with all the carbs I have been eating for four days. I walked around the square and found the Theatre Amazonas. A magnificent building, build in the rubber boom era. I went in, received a half price old farts discount, and waited for an English tour to start. I was in awe. It was just stunning. There were just two of us on the tour, an unfriendly fellow from Queensland and me. The whole tour lasted less than half an hour, and soon I was to be on my way again.

I decided to look for Hotel Manaus, which is supposedly around this square somewhere. A man, speaking excellent English, asked if he could help me, and I told him what I was looking for. He told me he used to play cricket against Australia, in the Ian Chappell days. So we talked about cricket, of which I no nothing about, just being honest here! Anyway, I reached the hotel, he said good bye and I booked a room for when I get back from my tour on Wednesday. It is central, close to the harbour. When I get back from the tour I need to buy water, fruit etc. so a central place is what I need.

From the hotel I wandered to the harbour, where I booked and paid for my boat trip to Santarem. I met a lovely young man from Suriname, so we ended up sitting in his office talking Dutch! I have been trying to apply, unsuccessfully, to apply for an e visa so I can visit his country. There are problems with the website. As he had to get back to work, and I wanted to see more of this city, I left. Who would I bump into outside? Laureano, from Argentina. He had trouble contacting his couch surfing host, and for some reason or other, his phone wouldn’t work. We went back inside, I introduced Laureano to Stephen, from Suriname, who promptly let him use his phone! We then shared a beer, and both realised that we probably would see each other again in Santarem! This is one of the fun parts of travelling, bumping into people who you have met before!

I wandered back to the hostel, totally exhausted. My knee is still giving me too much grief for my liking, and although I had planned to go to a performance at the Theatre Amazonas, I was too exhausted to do anything else. Manaus is very hot, and humid. I can’t say it is a pretty city. The main square has been beautified, but the city could really benefit from a total overhaul. Here, too, all the buildings are just tagged. A lot of the amazing old buildings are derelict and falling apart, which is such a shame. I walked around fantasising of repairing and restoring these stunningly beautiful places, and bring the city back to its heyday splendour. This kept me amused!

Part of the deal with the tour company is that I need closed shoes to do a jungle walk. Unlike the tour company in Leticia, they do NOT provide boots! So shopping I had to do. I went to the huge market, which is housed in an incredibly beautiful building, but only sold souvenirs and fruit and vegetables. What I had not realised is that it was Sunday and all the cheap stalls were closed! Oops! Luckily I found a shop open with cheap canvas shoes! Just for one day! Hmmm! Wasteful!

On the way to the shops a lovely old man, from Colombia, selling something, called me over and asked where I was from. He was lovely, eighty years old, looking sixty. We talked about the state of affairs of the world, fixed all the problems of what we thought was wrong with it! He lives high in the mountains a week away and was in town to organise some paperwork for the government. He invited me over to his place, while pouring me some concoction, as my stomach is really giving me a lot of grief right now. Since he was drinking the same stuff, made from plants, I figured it couldn’t do any harm. It helped!

He was a shaman, from the mountains in Colombia, who has lived in Brasil for over forty years. A Pachamama worshipper ( Mother Earth) he proceeded to tell me the mythical believes of his native tribe. Since this always fascinates me enormous I sat down and listened for quite a while. My Spanish is getting so much better as I understood nearly everything! I did ask if I was allowed to take a photo, on the camera, which didn’t do him justice at all. His incredible energy, youthful appearance were much more evident in real life. Time to go! Searching for another toilet!

Amazing Amazonian Adventure II

At seven o’clock in the morning, I caught a taxi to Porto Voyager, Tabatinga in Brasil. This sounds like an enormous trip, but it is literally ten minutes. Tabatinga and Leticia run into each other. The check in had started, except it was for the FAST boat! Now this was interesting as Solange had told me that there was NO fast boat to Manaus, only to Iquitos! May be I should say, I understood that she said that!  What I understand and what is said is often NOT the same thing!

Anyway, waiting is what I had to do. Since I am an extremely patient person, this is not an issue. I made friends with Laureano, from Buenos Aires. Also with a young couple, Camila and Alan, also from Argentina. This was suggested by the Lonely Planet and also re enforced by the travel agent, so that you have people looking out for you and your belongings. Since I make friends easily it was not an important issue.Finally it was our turn to go and check with the police on site. Photos were taken, passports checked, and back in line to do some more waiting. It wasn’t very busy as most people came after nine o’ clock. The boat was leaving at twelve midday. After more luggage checks, dog patrolling the luggage in search of drugs, I presume, we could climb on board. I followed Laureano, as he seemed to know what he was doing. We claimed a spot on the top floor.

The middle deck was soon chokker block full, while the top deck was spacious and bare. I was also meant to find out where the engines were, so you could go as far away from them as possible. This was all too much to think of as I was to busy organising my Letician’ hammock, I bought at the market for twelve dollars and stuff. I had a problem. I had seen an old man selling white cords at the dock, not realising what they were and what they were for! Well, it is simple really, if you want to sleep in an hammock strung up on high ceiling hooks, you need to put an extension on both sides of the hammock. This is if you want to be comfortable!!

I was fortune enough that Brasilian Max had a spare cord which he lend me! Okay, now I was lump sided! I went back down to see if I could get back off to find the old man selling the cords. This proved not possible. It occurred to me after a while that I had picked up some bits of rope somewhere along the way, as I was planning to send a parcel home. Was it going to be strong enough? Luckily, Alan, who is extremely tall, helped me out there. I can’t reach the hooks! So here I was all roped up, hanging and ready to go. I was very, very exited.

Soon we left. I had to squeeze myself. I am on the Amazon, in Brasil! I wasn’t dreaming! My childhood dream from so long ago, finally fulfilled! I met two lovely young people, Sinnaed from Ireland and Janika from Germany. Thank god, I can speak English for awhile! Dinner was called early, didn’t look to appetising. Some sloppy soupy type meal, with big blobs of fat and meat floating in it. I fished for beans and potatoes, ignoring all the rest. I had not eaten lunch, so I was hungry. Mind you if all the meals are like this, I might start my fasting now!

Since I didn’t sleep at all the night before, I turned into the hammock early. I slept surprisingly well, waking up at three for a toilet break and some star gazing! The night sky is just amazing! I didn’t expect the river to be so enormous! I mean, I have sailed on the Nile, kayaked down the Zambezi river, I have seen lots of rivers in my time, but never anything this enormously HUGE! I wish the boat would switch off the lights at night so the sky would even be more impressive! It is all encompassing, infinite, beyond enormous, intensely black, stars galore, it is overwhelmingly stunning.

It is amazing how fast the days past. We made five stops on the way, each time more people getting on board! By now the top deck is getting cramped too! An old lady strung up her hammock, nearly into mine! I became aware that as a person living in Australia, I have an enormous sense of personal space, which Europeans, nor Brasilians seem to have! In the end I just moved my luggage, tossed her luggage from underneath my hammock, under her own hammock, and moved one end of the hammock onto a different hook. At least I no longer have her feet or her face in my face!

The second day we had an enormous storm, which didn’t affect the stability of the boat, like it would have on an open sea! We just needed to move all our luggage, to keep it dry!

One of the nicest things is that at meal time, elderly people have priority! So the long queue can be passed! When the kitchen woman came to drag me out of the long, long lunch queue, I thought I had done something wrong! But no, it was because I was an ” abuela” grandmother!! Well, I don’t mind pulling the age card once in awhile! About time old age brings about something positive! The lunch was much nicer, choices are rice, spaghetti and bread! Well, there goes Keto!! I just LOVE spaghetti and now I am getting it for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

The sunsets were just stunning! So we’re the sunrises! It pays to be an early bird! There are showers on board, for some reason on the upper deck we had less toilets for women than below. So up early, shower, cold, brush your teeth and having my coffee before anybody else is awake!! After five stops I tried to count the hammocks to see how many people would be on board. I asked the lovely kichen staff several times. I understood six hundred, but didn’t think this could be right! I counted, roughly, two hundred and forty hammocks, add the children who shared with the parents, and it came to about three hundred I reckon! Don’t quote me on this!!

One of the Brasilian women told me I was NOT on the Amazon, which shattered me completely!! But Sinnaed looked on google maps and there it was mentioned that it was indeed THE AMAZON! It wasn’t until I googled information about this mighty river, that I found out that it goes by a different name in Brasil! Also in Peru! So there you go, in English the whole long, over six thousand kilometre river, is called the Amazon!

After four wonderfully relaxed, gadget free, wifi free, days we finally arrived in Manaus! Only four hours slower then anticipated!! Next adventure to start after I have a solid sleep in a BED!

 

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