Welcome to the (Amazon) Jungle

Waking up in Local Hostel Manaus, we pack our bags ready for our 8:00 am pick up which we found out was in Brazil time. We tried the local breakfast items which included tapioca, cassava and a random yellow melon. 

The first leg of our journey was in an “Uber” with a driver who only spoke Portuguese. “Um pessoa, dos pessoa, tres, quatro.” It appeared there were going to be four people in our vehicle so another stop on the way. At the next hostel, we picked up Ingo from Mozambique and we learnt that the language of Mozambique is Portuguese! We were driven down to a port where we were waiting to board our first boat of the day. Ingo went and ordered a guarana drink while he waited. He told us about this drink so we had to try one. Dory went up to order one and we used dive symbols while she waited to say that she had time and everything was ok. The guy in the cafe added guarana syrup into a blender with an avocado, milk powder, ice and peanuts. The result was delicious!! We also tried an Acai drink which was nice but the guarana was so delicious we could have it all the time. 

We boarded a small boat for our second leg of the day’s journey which took us out across the Rio Negro to where it met the Amazon River; the Meeting of the Waters. It was quite spectacular to see two rivers run side by side without mixing. We placed our hands in the water as the boat drove from one river across the next. It was apparent the Amazon River was much colder and we learnt it was because the water came all the way from the Andes Mountains. 

We exited the boat to find our third leg was in a rusted out Kombi van. It had character! We got some “travellers” at a local store which also sold bulk bags of animal food and single used Havaiana. Into the Kombi we went and boy did the Antarctica beers go down well in the heat. We climbed aboard and a local lady came over to try and sell us dried bananas. No one wanted any and Dory spoke Portuguese to her only for Ingo to tell us, “she speaks Spanish.” He translated what she said to, “what, don’t these gringos eat.” We took off across the red dirt with our mud tyres and holey floor. We drove through farming land, making stops along the way to collect eggs and drop supplies off to what appeared to be the driver’s family.

About an hour and a half later we arrive along the river where our next boat is waiting. We board this small boat and head along the Amazon River toward our accommodation at Alligator/Ipanema Lodge. The river is quite high as it is the wet season.

It was hard to believe that the 24m deep river is nearly empty in the dry season. When we arrive at the lodge, we meet the resident cat who looked very happy to be a lodge cat. 

We had a much needed swim in the river before our afternoon activities commenced. We were assured there were no alligators or piranhas in the waters outside the lodge… 

We climbed aboard our motorised canoe and headed off piranha fishing. We ducked and weaved amongst giant trees until we came to our fishing spot. Dory decided not to fish as she didn’t want to hurt any animals. There was a vegetarian in our canoe who must have been so happy to hear that because she then too said she didn’t want to fish. Usually, the piranhas are taken back to the lodge to be cooked however this canoe of six tourists agreed to throw them all back. Our tour guide, Eduardo (or Eddie), was laughing and could not believe this strange lot in his canoe. After throwing back all our catches, we motored along to a floating house with a large platform.

Dory had some straight cashaƧa with the owner but David never wanted to have that spirit ever again. David jumped into the Amazon River to enjoy another beautiful swim. We then enjoyed a canoe sunset; the first of many sunsets of the trip.

We started out the day with a sunrise bird watching canoe tour with five others from another group because our group were too SOFT for a 5:00 am wake up and the other guide had not shown up. We got about 20m from the jetty when we saw the other guide coming over to pick up his tourists (clearly he was on Brazil time). Our guide lined up the two canoes and transferred the others to their guide’s canoe over the water. The camera was ready in case they fell in!

So it would have ended up being a quick romantic private tour except we adventurers asked if we could paddle instead of using the motor so in the end it was us giving our tour guide Eddie the private tour!  

We heard so much bird life around dusk including macaws (the cockatoos of the Amazon) and the monkeys, and saw the most spectacular sunrise across the still glass waters of Lake Ipanema before paddling back to the lodge just in time to see our first Amazon downpour from the shelter of our lodge.

That’s when Dory was ATTACKED by a wild animal in our room! It grabbed her leg from under our bed and she jumped and screamed so loudly that Eddie came to check on us … only to find it was just a tiny frog that jumped onto her leg.

After a delicious breakfast, our next tour takes us to the Big Samauma Tree, approximately 50m high and 500 years old. From here, we continue down the river to see pink river dolphins, grey dolphins, macaws directly overhead, eagles soaring and then came the sloth. Now we had a running joke because I couldn’t see the sloth but everyone else could, so when I still couldn’t see it, Eddie said, “Help me up” as he climbed the tree to the very top to point it out to me. He gives it a little pat and tells us it’s actually a mother and baby before climbing back down. I did finally see it in the end but what was equally enjoyable was what Dory described as an “Orangutan up in the tree”, referring to our very ginger tour guide friend.

After getting back to the lodge, we packed an overnight bag (and beers) and headed off in the boat for an overnight jungle camp. We decided a 50min boat trip was a “two-can” trip :D After 15mins, we arrived. It turns out 50 was actually 15. 

We walked through the jungle to our camp which was a structure made from branches with a tarp overhead. We set up our hammocks with mosquito nets coiled around. Our guides built a fire and cooked chicken over the top. We were taught how to make our own cutlery from palm fronds using a knife or machete. We made bowls from leaves which we harvested from the jungle, although David thought it also made a good hat. We cut palm fronds to make a floor in our camp so our bags stayed out of the mud. 

Dinner was “delicioso!” but half of our group then left to go back to the lodge as they did not want to stay in the jungle over night. We sat by the camp fire and enjoyed our guide Eddie singing us an Ed Sheeran song. We went to sleep listening to the sounds of the Amazon; birds, insects and monkeys. There was a heavy downpour which was magic to the ears. The tarp kept us and our belongings dry. 

The next morning, the rest of our group came back to join us. We all had a campfire breakfast including a large pot of boiling coffee. We set off and trekked further into the jungle, learning medicinal information about plants. One of our guides coaxed a tarantula out of its burrow. It reminded us of a cat playing with a toy. We heard monkeys growling, tasted medicinal sap (apparently a hangover cure and one of the guides could not get enough that day!), smelt scented bark and saw so many interesting plants. Guide Eddie offered everyone to eat larvae. Dory was so eager to eat the larvae on offer that everyone was confused. She thought he was offering the Brazil nut then quickly turned down the larvae. But David was the only one who ate the larvae, it tasted like chicken... kind of.

We got back to camp, packed up and went back to the lodge. The rest of our group left as they were doing a three night stay not four. Two of them were actually catching the same 3:30 am flight as us two days later so we knew we would meet again. We really struck it lucky with our group. The next tour group were going back to do activities we had already done so we stayed at the lodge and had a relaxing afternoon in peace. 

The chef gestured for us to come out on to the balcony with her. She threw some chicken into the river which started bubbling from the piranhas. A small caiman then swam over and took off with a large piece of chicken. We realised this was about 30m from where we were swimming and they told us there were no caiman or piranhas there. The chef then got a hand reel and ended up catching a piranha off the deck. To our surprise, she brought it out on a plate for dinner especially for us. We realised the new group were all vegetarians so she must have felt bad that there was no meat on offer. And that, kids, was the day an animal was killed and eaten specifically because of a vegetarian.

Our adventure continues with a stopover in Panama.