After breakfast this morning, I decided to have a quick look at the zoo before we leave Manaus. All of the animals were in great condition, even though they were in fairly small cages. There was a jaguar there, and when I walked around he was perched up on a wooden platform in his enclosure. He just looked so majestic!!
I continued my way around the zoo, most of the animals I had seen in the wild, so I just read the information boards. That's the one thing about seeing the animals in the wild, they don't come with an information board, so a lot of the time you don't even really know what type of animal it is!! Hence my really descriptive ways of naming animals... Like a raccoon like animal!!
They were feeding the howler monkeys, when out of no where these other monkeys appeared. They were these yoda looking monkeys... And I hadn't seen them before!!! The zoo trip just paid off!!
Anyway, it was getting close to the time that we needed to check out and meet our guide, so I walked towards the exit. To exit, you actually needed to go past the jaguar enclosure again.... and as I did I noticed that the jaguar was now patrolling the bottom of the cage. I soon came to realise that the jaguar should probably be in the Guinness book of records as the fattest jaguar in the world. Just a couple more kg's and his guts would have been dragging along the ground!! Somehow I don't think he is on a Jenny Craig diet, nor getting the daily recommended exercise for a jaguar!!
So I collected my bags, and walked the 12km to get to the reception desk, only to find out that pretty much the entire hotel has also decided to check out at the same time!! The queue was long!! So I patiently waited my turn and checked out. I then met Marko our tour leader for the next few days in the amazon. This guy is seriously smart, and he knows his s***!!! He served in the Brazilian army, doing 1.5yr stints in the Venezuelan jungle, and finally retired as a Major after a helicopter accident. He now travels around the world lecturing at different universities on the amazon and in particular Amazonian fish!!!
We walked down to the pier and jumped aboard our boat. The boat pretty much looked like a paddle steamer... the only difference is that it had a motor!!! We climbed our way to the second level of the boat and made ourselves nice and comfortable on the deck. Before we knew it we were off and sailing down the rio negro. We sailed past Manaus, and saw the commercial side of the town. Many container ships were waiting for the all clear to dock and off load their cargo, only to reload and set sail again.
We continued straight past Manaus, and started to see a change in the landscape. No longer were the banks towered by large buildings, piers and docks. Instead we started to see more forest and floating villages.
As the river systems in Brazil are constantly flooded for half of the year, the villages based all along the amazon and it's tributies, are in fact floating. It is the same for petrol stations, shops, even the piers are designed to float.
After a couple of hours on the water we then saw off in the distance a change in the water line. As we approached, we realised that we had in fact reached the highly acclaimed meeting of the waters. This is where the rio negro (black water) meets the rio solimoes (yellow water). The water runs side by side, and never mixes. It reminds me of oil and water.
After we all took in the marvels of the meeting of the waters, we then continued on our boat journey. We had veered off into a lake system, where there was some impressive forests lining the river. This type of forest spends much of its time submerged by flood water. Then out of no where I spot it..... a pink dolphin. Did I just see that right??? I called out that I saw a pink dolphin... But it had submerged itself into the river system again. Maybe I did just imagine it. Then a couple of seconds later it resurfaced again!! It is real!!! Far too quick to get a photo though!!! But this time I had witnesses!!!
We arrived at a little island in the middle of the lake, and here we were destined to have lunch. We tried a couple of varieties of local Amazonian fish. Both were very delicious!!!
Once we finished lunch, we then went for a walk along some board walks, towards the amazon lily pad garden. Sounds pretty. Of course along the way we came across monkeys. Some shy, some down right ballsy!!! I have been lucky enough to see quite a few more varieties of monkeys here in the amazon!! I'm always keen to see any wildlife!!
We made our way to the lily pad garden. There weren't too many lily pads there. But the views of the lake system, with the green forest overhanging it was just stunning.
We made our way back to the floating restaurant where we had lunch. We weren't lead back to the boat, rather we walked around the outskirts of the building where we had a surprise waiting for us!! It was time to try our hand at piranha fishing. So we all sat down on the seat, and our guide Marko arrived with our fishing sticks. I would like to call them fishing rods, however it was simply a cane stick with fishing wire tied on to it, at the end a sizeable hook. Marko added our beef bait to the hook, and handed the 'sticks' to us one at a time. He then madly thrashed the water around with one of the sticks to stimulate the piranhas!!! My line was in the water for about a minute. I then felt a tugging. Oh my god I've got one. So I pull my line up only to find that the cheeky b******s had stolen my bait. About 3 of us lost our bait in the first couple of minutes. So we reloaded the bait.... round 2. My line was in the water for another couple of minutes.... I then felt a tug.... oh my god, another one. So I pulled up on the line, and as my line came up out of the water I had a fish on the end. 'Ive got one, I've got one'. No sooner had I hit finished saying that I had one.... The fish managed to jump off my line!! Argh, the one that got away. I don't think it was a piranha though, I think it was a catfish. Still exciting!!
Then Kathy caught a fish..... This time she managed to keep hers hooked. Marko came across and unhooked the fish... Sadly not a piranha, another cat fish.
I could have quite happily stayed there all afternoon trying to catch a piranha, however it was time for our boat to set sail.
So again we set off, we sailed along the shores of the lake. Again I was lucky enough to see another pink dolphin. Wow, 2 in one day!!!
We sailed out of the lake system and back onto the dark, nutrient rich rio negro. We sailed back towards Manaus, again seeing the bustling port and river way. As we sailed past Manaus, a huge storm started brewing. The boat had to detour slightly in order to miss the high winds, lightening and biblical like rainfall.
Missing the storm front completely, we did notice a remarkable drop in temperature and humidity. It was really quite comfortable. We sailed for another couple of hours, until we approached the amazon forest. Here we were very lucky to see toucans soaring through the skies. Almost welcoming us to the amazon forest.
We then started slowing down, we had arrived at our accommodation for the night... The amazon ecolodge. We disembarked the boat, and made our way along the board walk and up the beach to the reception. We were welcomed with a local fruit cocktail, which was delicious and then off to our cabins.
My first cabin was really cute. It had a couple of single beds, and beautiful decor!! I'm very happy. Then I hear the boys (who are sharing a room) piping up from their cabin. Next thing I hear 'michelle, do you have 2 single beds?'. Yep sure do. ' can we swap, our cabin only has a double bed'. Hahaha, for some reason the boys didn't want to canoodle tonight. I think the idea of spooning wasn't their thing, and I don't think there were enough pillows to make a sufficient enough barrier down the middle of the bed. So I changed rooms with them..... and everyone was happy!!
We then all met at the bar and had a beer to welcome in the amazon!! We were also issued with flash lights.... we were to use these when walking around at night. Just to make sure we didn't step on any snakes!! Fair call!!
We had a lovely group dinner, and afterwards we had a movie night. The movie was a documentary which followed the amazon from its origin in Peru, all the way down to the Atlantic Ocean. It was so interesting to see Manaus on the documentary and recognise a lot of the sites that we had seen either yesterday or today!!!
We then made our way back to our cabins... Madly scanning the pathway for vipers ready to attack our ankles!! Lucky for me no vipers lay waiting for me tonight!!!
I'm now in my cabin, and the jungle sounds are amazing. The mating calls of frogs, the insects chirping away, and the absence of traffic and sirens is somewhat relaxing!!