Landed at Brigadeiro Eduardo Gomes – Manaus International Airport just after 1am and it was a small airport for being an international airport. Now you were pretty messed up in your head and been awake for more than 24 hours. Because you don’t get any quality sleep during flying and especially not during turbulence in the air as it was during both the transatlantic and domestic flight. Even though it was after 1 am it was hot. Got fast through the arrival terminal and since my checked-in bag got left behind in Europe, I could just pass the baggage belt and go to my awaiting transfer to the hotel. My guide and driver to the hotel was named Peter and originally from Switzerland. Got the question if I spoke German since it was his native language, but considering my brain being out of function and my mental activity almost didn’t work, I preferred English. Due to love Peter had moved to Brazil and lived in several cities in the country before Manaus and he now spoke Portuguese almost fluently, which is why he now works as a translator within tourism. Perfect when you visit a Portuguese-speaking country as a tourist and don’t know much Portuguese. Almost right away he asked me if I had heard about the terrorist attack in Paris earlier during Friday. “No, what?” I answered. “What has happened?” I guess he was most nervous about whether I had flown via Paris and had any problems with my flights. But I hadn’t, since I flew via Berlin – Frankfurt. Time being late at night didn’t seem to bother him at all, he talked and gave useful good things to think about. So I just had to ask him if he wasn’t tired. I got the answer back that he was used to pick up tourists in the middle of the night. He also said that the Brazilians take the airplanes like we ride the bus, day and night. There is no law in Brazil to prevent airplanes from flying during night time, since no one seems to be bothered by the noise from the air traffic.
Arrived at Hotel Go Inn Manaus at 1.30am. Check-in went fast and I got my room at the bottom floor. So I could just crash into bed and try to get as much sleep as possible before my transfer to Amazon Ecopark Jungle Lodge at 8.30am. At breakfast the news on the TV was dominated by the terrorist attack in Paris and pictures were shown over and over again. How could that be such big news here in Brazil? I sat there for a while and managed to figure out that two Brazilian citizens were victims and hurt in the attack. After breakfast I packed down all my things and went down to the reception to inform the staff that in case my bag showed up, they could call the Amazon Ecopark Jungle Lodge. But in contrast to the night staff’s good knowledge in English it was not as easy with the staff working the dayshift. Even though there were several people working, one better than the other at English, it wasn’t easy to make them understand what I was talking about. But the Brazilian people must be very friendly and never treated me like an idiot for not speaking English. They called another guy who spoke English that I talked to, and who later explained to the staff in Portuguese what I meant. So it all worked out in the end.
During that time my transfer to the Amazon Ecopark had shown up. The driver spoke very little English, but said it would take about 20 minutes. After spending the morning in a well air-conditioned hotel, the humid heat hit me like a wall during the short walk from the hotel entrance to the car. It must have been well over +30 °C. After a while we came outside the city and the airport, which I had arrived last night, piled up on the left side right in the middle of the jungle. We drove along more and more solitary roads and the thought hit me… “Oh well, here I am sitting in a car with a complete foreign person”. But pretty soon thereafter we arrived at a harbor, from which the canoe would departure to the Amazon Ecopark. The boat was already there waiting together with a group of Japanese people and their translator. It was just me they were waiting for.
As soon as I sat down in the canoe it started to chug away on Tarumi River, a contributory to Black River which in turn is contributory to the Amazon River. It was really warm, even though the wind fanned during the boat ride. In the end of November it’s still dry season here in the Amazon and just about to change into rain season. During really warm days the Amazon water evaporates between 40 – 100 centimeters per day. It was clearly visible how much the water had evaporated day by day on all the sandbanks. And usually the water in Tarumi River is very dark, almost black, but now it was more of a muddy color due to the low water level. After a canoe ride for about 15 minutes we stopped by a sandbank and disembarked.
Since the water level was too low that the canoe couldn’t ride all the way to the lodge, we had to walk for a kilometer in the jungle. Our bags were moved by a tractor and trailer, while we had to walk in the heat.
Checked in at the reception and got my room key. Each guest received a bracelet that showed they had paid for all inclusive… or well, “all inclusive”… water and beverages were not included. You had to register all your beverages with a card and pay for it at check-out. At the complex there is 20 wooden bungalows, each bungalow has 3 rooms with separate entrance, veranda and bathroom. Each room has air-conditioning, shower and screened windows. The difference between the heat outside and the more cool air inside the room was obvious and after being in the room for a while you didn’t want to go out in the tropical heat. Now I had some time before lunch to explore the complex. At the reception I met my guide Anthony, English-speaking of course. I was going to meet up with him here at 3.20pm and together with two Russians we were doing our first excursion.
I kept on exploring the surroundings and eventually ended up in the bar, where the bartender Ivan offered me Cashew apple. Tasted strange, but okay. In Sweden we’re most familiar to the Cashew nut and not the actual apple (“fruit”). The Cashew apple (that looks like a fruit) grows on a tree and is oval or pear shaped and has a yellow and/or red color as mellow and is between 5 – 11 centimeters long. The real fruit of the tree is the kidney-shaped drupe growing under the Cashew apple and inside the real fruit is one single seed, the so called Cashew nut. Botanically it is a seed, but within the food industry it’s called nut. Went to the complex counterpart of a pool.
They had made an area called Natural Swimming Pool Area, with shallow pools with running water from fresh water creeks. Took the opportunity to cool down my feet during a day like this when the temperature approached +40 °C. The staff had said it was safe to swim, there was nothing dangerous. Oh yeah, but with the jungle just a few feet away it didn’t feel that way… Pretty soon I could hear and catch a glimpse of monkeys swinging in the trees and discovered fish swimming in the pool. And who knows, suddenly a 4 meter-long snake might swim by in the water…
At 12.30pm it was lunchtime. The dining area was in an enormous tent, in the middle of all bungalows. Each day a large buffet was served and as guest you could eat all you wanted. A lot of meat, chicken and fish served with rice, pasta and potatoes, all heated up on a gigantic iron stove that I initially thought was heated up by firewood but realized it ran on gas. On the salad table there were vegetables creatively dished up on big plates, together with bread. For dessert it was coffee, fruits, cookies and sweets. Jesus, you didn’t have to leave the table hungry, that’s for sure. After all this amazing food you fell into a food coma and lucky me I had some time to digest the food before the first jungle excursion.
I went to the reception with plenty of time before the meeting with Anthony and could use the complex WiFi, that’s the only spot. Even Svetlana and Sergei met up in the reception though in the very last second. Sergei didn’t speak many words of English why he had his wife Svetlana translating everything Anthony said into Russian. We got through the jungle to the canoes and cruised on the Tarumi River water.
After about a 10 minute cruise we disembarked and walked up the sandbank to the neighborhood homeopathic drugstore. Here you could find everything under the sun; roots, barks, nuts, flowers etc. considered having healing properties against various diseases or help with the potency.
We hiked the area and learned about the unique flora and fauna and saw a few Niña Pineapples. Anthony picked one and opened it with his machete and we got to taste it. It was so sweet and delicious!
After that we headed back to the canoe, because now it was time for Piranha fishing! After another 5 minute boat ride we disembarked at a long floating bridge. Anthony got us fishing poles and bait (pieces of meat) and we sat down on a chair each. Anthony showed us how to do, because it demanded some skills to be able to catch a Piranha on the hook. The Piranha likes being at the bottom of the river and to catch their attention we were supposed to hit the water surface with the fishing pole every now and then. Then you had to pay attention to your float, which you had to pull up with all your force as soon as it started to bob. If you didn’t pay attention enough the Piranha would just steal your bait. Sometimes you didn’t even notice they had stolen the bait, that’s how clever they were.
But after many “empty biting” I managed to pull up a Piranha on my own. We sat there until sunset and went back to the canoe. Now it was time for search for alligators, or Caymans as they really were. With the boat we got to a cove, where they knew Caymans would be found. Two of the staff members jumped out and went for a search. We guests had to remain seated in the canoe due to safety reasons of course. We could spot the two younger guys walk of along the shore since they held a lamp. Anthony told us they would try to catch a Cayman and bring it along so anyone who wanted could hold it. Now the guys were pretty far away so we could only see a faint gleam. Suddenly we heard intensive splashing and we understood they had found a Cayman and wrestled it. After a while the guys came back and cruised back to land with the canoe. We disembarked and gathered around the guys holding the Cayman. Anthony told us the Cayman was pretty young, about 3 years old. Of course I got to hold the Cayman (mouth was bound together with rope, don’t worry) and that was a pretty cool feeling.
Then we walked back to Amazon Ecopark for dinner at 7.30pm. It was the same structure with buffet for salad, main dish and dessert. So delicious! And you might not believe it, but you get pretty hungry even though it was close to +40 °C during the day. Important to hydrate as well. I guess that’s why water and beverages is not included, so they can earn some extra money on that. You fell asleep pretty un-rocked that night.