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Jungle Tripping

BRAZIL | Sunday, 15 February 2004 | Views [491]

Took the bus from Santa Elena in Venezuela to Manaus in Brazil. The bus journey itself was a boring 12 hours, however leather reclining seats made it a bit more comfortable.  It was a bit alarming to realise that like what seems to be every driver in Venezuela, the bus driver not only was drinking and driving, but drinking whilst driving with a line of empty Polar Beers across the dashboard.  Nearly had some trouble getting out of Venezuela, as we didn't have the necessary paperwork, but managed to sort it out (in our expert Spanish, of course).  We were a bit apprehensive about getting to Brazil, as our Portuguese is non-existent - however, luckily managed to meet this strange German guy who was fluent in Portuguese, as he had lived here for a couple of years.  Arrived in Manaus quite late that night and finally found a place with some space in a dark side street that looked very dodgy, but for $10 per night ended up being quite comfortable.  Big Brother Brazil seems to be a bit of an obsession here and is on most of the time - however, unlike in the UK there aren't any fat people to ruin the view (and seeing as I can't understand a word, it wasn't the conversation I was interested in).
The next morning at breakfast, we were accosted by a guy called Armstrong who was selling a tour to the Amazon.  It seemed to be quite comprehensive and the price was okay, so we opted for the 4 day/3 night package.  The only catch was that we had 1 hour to get everything ready and off to the boat, so after a hectic search for the essential mosquito spray, went down to the docks to get a speed boat over to the main boat, which had already left.  Unfortunately, the speed boat lasted about 3 minutes, before breaking down and we were stuck in the middle of the Amazon for about half an hour next to the petrol stations on the river, which  dominate Manaus dock.  Eventually, got to the main boat at the ´Meeting of the Waters´, which is where the Rio Negro (Black water) and Rio Amazonas (Yellow Water) meet and run side by side for several kilometres.  The reason they don't merge is because of their different acidity and temperature.  Saw a few pink dolphins along the way.  After a surprisingly nice lunch, went to an ecological park to see the giant water lilies and caiman.  One of the guys on the trip didn't like the way snakes were being captured so the locals could charge people to have pictures taken with them, so paid $35 to the kid to free the snake - only for the snake to be captured later on (without him knowing).  Spent the rest of the day piranha fishing, walking through the jungle and catching a caiman, before settling for a night aboard the boat drinking vast amounts of caipirinhi (40% alcohol concoction mixed with sugar and limes) and collapsing in our hammocks.
On the second day, we went for a three hour trek around the jungle, but didn't see much wildlife (except lots of big spiders and poisonous ants).  Learnt lots about how the various trees and plants are used for medicinal and practical purposes by the locals.  Went for a swim in the afternoon in the Amazon (which was unbelievably warm), before getting all our stuff ready for a venture into the jungle, where we were going to sleep for the evening.  Drank bottles and bottles of caipírinhi all night and sang songs until 4am, while fretting about all the spiders, snakes and poisonous ants crawling around us. However, just after I got into the hammock, these dangers paled into insignificance, as the tour guide decided to turn into a madman and wield his machete at us for making too much noise. Suddenly, the prospect of a tarantula crawling on you didn't seem that frightening.
The next couple of days were spent canoeing, swimming in the water, visiting an Indian village, doing some more piranha fishing (unsuccessfully) and predictably drinking lots more caipirinhi.  Played a lot of drinking games and managed to get this Israeli kid who was 18 drunk for the first time - he spent about 5 hours throwing up.  Returned yesterday, with unbelievable amounts of mosquito bites, ant bites, sunburn and lots of funny little stories.  Had a wonderful cold shower upon returning, which managed to get rid of all the ants and other disgusting things that were stuck in my hair. 
And so we are nearly ready to hit the East coast beaches of Brazil - I think we are going to the airport tonight, however we don't have a flight booked and may be there for some time.

Tags: I should have known better!

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