Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Amazon

Greetings blog followers!

I'm back with one of my latest adventures, and might I say that it was easily one of the coolest of my life...a week-long trip to the AMAZON JUNGLE!

So, let me say that my knowledge of the Amazon was probably equivalent to most Americans who once saw an episode on the History Channel, once read an article in National Geographic, or once viewed the movie Anaconda.  Thankfully, those few instances were enough to peak my interest in booking a trip, and thank god I took advantage of it!

We had our Spring Break at the end of last month, and much to your possible dislike of what I'm about to say: I was tired of beaches.  Beaches to Brazil are like Walgreen's or Starbucks to cities...they're at every corner.  I've taken advantage of plenty of beach time and thus, was inspired to be a little more adventurous and see another side of Brazil that I had not yet gotten to know.  Insert 6 day boat trip through the Amazon Jungle as the perfect fix.

We flew to the west side of the country, landing in Manaus, right along the Rio Negro (Black River) and the Amazon River.  The city of about 3 million is a bustling port town that embraces its robust indigenous culture and sprawling natural resources.  Our stay there was short though, simply stopping at the market to pick up some snacks before boarding our boat and hitting the water.

"Rustic" had a new definition when it comes to our trip.  We boarded our two-story wooden cruiser and were off in a heartbeat.  The main level housed a mini-kitchen where all of our meals were cooked, two simple toilets for guys and gals, and a shower head that pumped water from the river to stay relatively clean for the week.  Towards the front was a table for us to eat and then the captain's quarters.  Upstairs was a mini-veranda for taking in the sun and then a covered deck where we hung our hammocks to sleep at night.

At first, I wasn't sure what we were going to get ourselves into and didn't know if the trip would be an absolute blast or if we'd have way too much down time with nothing to do.  I was, indeed, excited about disconnecting from phone/internet for a week despite what time we might have to kill.  It quickly became evident though that our time in the world's most rich area of wildlife was going to be the trip of a lifetime.  After making a quick stop at the meeting of the waters (where the two rivers divide impressively in distinct colors due to acidity differences), we made our first stop for a quick jungle hike where we saw a number of lizards, monkeys, sloths, and a few Cayman (essentially alligators) in their natural environment.  I was impressed...and there was a level of extreme coolness factor to the fact that you saw the animals (at first bringing you back to your childhood days at the zoo) to only realize that you're in the Amazon Jungle and that these animals are not being held captive in some glass container, but rather are living their lives the way they should be.  At the same time, you then realize that you don't have a glass window protecting you from these animals in the odd chance they would want to attack you.  This brought a new level of excitement to the trip.

The scenery was ABSOLUTELY BREATHTAKING.  And the natural peace and quiet was refreshing.  We would cruise along the river for hours and I found myself simply staring at the pure beauty of this incredible place.  We would dock in little nooks along the riverside at night to avoid potential storms and would enjoy the most magnificent sunsets/moonrises highlighted with a backdrop of shining stars and the sound of thousands of species of nocturnal animals making their appearances known to their counterparts.  It was quite simply, the most awesome and peaceful evenings I've had in my life.

During the days we would cruise again along the river to our destinations while simultaneously spotting incredible wildlife.  I was thoroughly impressed with our guide.  A 16 year veteran of the Amazon, this man not only spoke beautiful English, his talent at his work was superb.  His ability to spot these animals amidst the dense forest was mind boggling...and he could identify species from far away.  His stories were priceless and it was evident that he was the best in the business and in the area as we encountered local communities that treated him like a treasured friend.  We took a few piranha fishing trips during our days, which was probably one of my favorite things.  We took out our old cane poles and attached fresh meat to rudimentary'd place the line in the water and these vicious savages would attack your cane ruthlessly!  We even caught one that was so big and powerful that the guide held it up to a thick tree branch and the piranha snapped it in half...a clean break.

At night, we would take out our canoes and flashlights and went night hunting for nocturnal animals.  Our favorite was searching for the Caymans.  You could spot their eyes along the waterline, and we were even lucky enough to catch a few and hold them in the boat.  Check out the pictures at the end of this post.

Other trips included stops to local indigenous communities where we viewed special rituals and learned about their way of life.  We were enlightened with such rudimentary living styles and it put into perspective, again, the type of life I'm living in the bustling city of Sao Paulo, home to some 18-24 million depending on how you count.

Pictures really do tell the story in this one, so look away!

And if you ever have the chance to take a tour to the Amazong, GO!  IT WILL BE ONE OF THE COOLEST THINGS YOU EVER DO!


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