Soon after the epic climb of Mount Roraima, we felt like Fitzcarraldo from the beloved Verner Herzog movie. We struggled for two weeks through jungle, dry savanna and mountains and finally arrived in the Amazon opera house in Manaus. Unfortunately, we were not dressed in tuxedo and evening gown and didn’t have the chance to listen to Caruso.
Nevertheless, the experience was amazing. Built in the end of 1800’s, the Amazon theatre was a symbol of the prosperity of the region during the rubber boom.
The city was blooming during these years and became known as the “Paris of the Tropics”. A lot of families become extremely rich. As a symbol for their wealth they started building mansions and importing art from Europe. From that era, Manaus was left with a beautiful colonial architecture downtown.
Manaus is hot, humid, busting with life port city, probably the most isolated big city in Brazil. The easiest way to reach it is by plane or by boat.
There is one paved road which could be used year-round and it leads to Boa Vista and Venezuela. The other roads, like the famous BR 319 and are usable only during the dry season.
Our son Ivan Jr just finished his first year in university and decided to join us for couple of months. After six mounts being separated, we were eager to meet him at the Manaus airport. He arrived heavily loaded with spare parts for the car, Lindt chocolate and other threats from home.
Few weeks ago, our long-suffering car started to look strange, limping on one side. Ivan went under the car for diagnostic and when I heard cursing coming underneath, I knew we had a problem.
One of the rear springs was broken, which sounded like a show stopper to me. According to Ivan it was not the end of the world, we just needed to find a good mechanic and somehow to explain to him in Portuguese to cut the spring shorter and rotate it so it could fit. Easy, eh?
We were fortunate to find three Brazilian boys in Caseras, who understood what needs to be done almost without words and did a miracle patching it. But we knew we desperately needed new springs. That’s why our son arrived carrying couple of springs and struts, full set of brake pads and some other minor pars, total 30 kg of iron. When we opened the bags in Manaus, we found notes from both Canadian and Brazilian customs that inspections have been done. I could just imagine how the customs and security officers have scratched their heads looking on the X-ray these strange, looking like missiles tubes.
The next day after Ivan Jr’s arrival, we went to the jungle.
Back in Canada, a friend of ours told us never to swim or bath in fresh water in the Amazon basin. He explained in detail about all the parasites we could get into our bodies, under our skin or in our eyes. During our drive through the jungle and our unfortunate BR319 attempt, we saw lots of people fishing, bathing, swimming in the rivers and ponds. During our trek to Roraima, we crossed few rivers and took a bath in one of them, so our fear from parasites in the water was diminished. We couldn’t miss the swim with the famous pink dolphins of Amazon.
They are wild and free, but they don’t mind getting some free fish. Just a whistle and a bucket of fish from a local woman invited them for a lunch and a play time with us.
The tour included a stop at local Amazon tribe. The dance performance we got was a bit too touristy for our taste, but we enjoyed the amazing local crafts.
At one of the other stops we had a chance to hug a baby sloth and I kissed my fellow anaconda.
I am not sure if the anaconda living in semi-captivity wanted her freedom back, but I felt sorry for the baby sloth. He looked sleep deprived and definitely would have been happier in the jungle.
We also visited the floating village.
And the amazing gigantic Victoria water lilies.
The most interesting for the boys was the piranha fishing. Ivan Jr was the only one to catch one. Since I wasn’t sure if it was a real piranha, I tried to open the mouth of the fish with my finger to see if there are any teeth. Thankfully, our guide was quick enough, jumped and stopped me on time. Otherwise, I might have not been able to type this today.
Finally, we visited the “Meeting of the waters”. This is the place where Rio Negro, starting in Colombia, and Rio Solimões, starting in Peru, meet and form the Amazon river.
After the meeting, both rivers flow together side by side for more than six kilometers without mixing. The black Rio Negro is warmer (28 C), with more mosquitos and less wildlife species. The brownish colored Rio Solimões is colder (22 C) and is full of fish. It is truly enchanted place. Even the mosquitos, these little buggers and the scorching Amazon sun couldn’t spoil the magic.