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Fishing Piranhas

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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.

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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 cooler 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.

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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.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Brazil Tagged piranha amazon_rainforest Comments (0)

Meeting of the Water

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I got up after many hours of sleep too breakfast at 7.30am. Like lunch and dinner, it was now set up for breakfast. Bread, salad, ham, cheese, yoghurt, cereals, coffee, bacon, eggs etc. But now also water and juice to drink (without paying for). Today we were meeting in the reception at 8.15am to go to the Meeting of the Water. I was well on time, but Sergei and Svetlana were a no-show. Anthony and I had to start walking since we had to take the canoe out to the larger boat. And the large boat departed at a certain time. If we missed that it was all over. When we had almost gotten to the canoe the Russians came half-running behind us. Anthony was not satisfied with their behavior, because they had been late for each and every meeting at Amazon Ecopark.

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The canoe chugged away and we cruised for a while before it docked with the larger boat, in the middle of Tarumi River. There were many groups on this cruise and we sat down on upper deck, under the roof. Even though it was hot, the head-wind created a nice breeze in the shadow. Slow but steady we cruised to the Tarumi Rivers inlet, where the city of Manaus is. Manaus is a city that stretches along the water and consists of several municipalities. The first airport ever built in Manaus had its runway so short the aircrafts had to take-off using a catapult, just as jet planes on a hangar ship.


When the boat left Tarumi River and in on Black River (Rio Negro) we were still following the dockland of Manaus. We passed big cisterns and Anthony explained that’s where Manaus’ tap water was gathered from the river. In there the water was filtered and chemicals added, before pumped out in the water pipes. Short thereafter we passed a natural gas plant with one of those chimneys in flames. How great is that for the environment? Gas or oil is neither that much better, really. Yet, the cars in Brazil are built for gasoline and/or ethanol refueling. How come the Brazilians don’t refuel ethanol? Partly because the engines take more damage but also due to the cheaper gasoline prices, which won’t pay off. But that is all about to change thanks to rising oil prices. Just next to this natural gas plant was the loading port of Manaus who have had an important meaning for the city export. Because the only transport communications to and from Manaus is either by airplanes or by boat, that’s how remote the city is from the rest of Brazil that no passable roads exist.

After 3 hours we arrived at the highlight of the day – the Meeting of the Water – where Rio Negro and Amazon River meets. The confluence by Rio Negros dark, almost black, water and the sand-colored acid water of the Amazon River is a main tourist attraction in Manaus. The waters of the two rivers flow side by side for more than 6 km without mixing! This phenomenon occurs due to differences in temperature, speed and density of the two rivers.

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The boat circulated a couple of times on both sides of the Meeting of the Water before putting course towards the restaurant where we ate our lunch. Long tables were set under the trees in the shadow, with the lunch buffet in the middle. The watermelons there, shopped up in smaller pieces, tasted so darn delicious! So much better than back home in Sweden. After lunch we went for a short hike among the trees and stopped by a shallow freshwater lake, created by Amazon River. Now during dry season there wasn’t much water, but we could see the gigantic leaves (can be up to 3 meters in diameter) of Victoria Amazonica – giant water lily. The giant water lily grows naturally here in the Amazon and blossom for only two days each year. On the first day the flower is white, second day being pink.

When everyone gathered at the boat again a long cruise back laid ahead of us to the Amazon Ecopark. It actually went a little faster now when we cruised in fair wind, but it also meant a pretty much non-existing breeze. The heat became even more present now and even though you hadn’t made an effort you were tired! But we eventually arrived at Tarumi River and got picked-up by the canoe for a ride back to the sandbanks close to Amazon Ecopark.

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Anthony chose to walk back along the sandbanks the Ecopark. It was scorching hot in the sun and by now even I had a hint of a tan. So, then you know it was really hot and sunny ;) After a well-deserved shower and cool-down in the room, there was some relax time before dinner at 7.30pm.


When passing one of the lodges (where the Japanese’s stayed), they stood watching something. I curiously walked up to them and wanted to know what it was. They had some problems with one of the Macaws living at Amazon Ecopark, standing outside the door and trying to get in as soon as they opened the door. Ha ha! Perhaps it wanted to get in to the coolness, or get some food? What do I know? But it was kind of comic. Took the opportunity to get some great pictures of it since I managed to get pretty close up.


As mentioned, dinner at 7.30pm. Served as earlier as a large buffet with meat, chicken, fish together with rice, pasta and potatoes. After a long, warm day you fell asleep pretty fast.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Brazil Tagged amazon_rainforest meeting_of_the_water Comments (0)

Nature hike to Monkey Island

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After breakfast we gathered in the reception at 8.20am. A group of Australians joined my group and they had arrived yesterday. They were a happy bunch of elderly ladies who now after retirement traveled around the earth to see the world. They were really nice and we got along very well. The Russian couple honored us with another late arrival to the gathering. Anthony was moderately happy. But when all gathered, we started to walk into the jungle. Anthony told us it was very important we did not touch any trees or plants (unless he told so) since some trees/plants were toxic. It was also important for the group to stay together on the track so no one got left behind alone, since they had seen a Puma in the area with two cubs. Oh well, so they claimed… first you got scared as hell. But after some logical thinking, would they really bring tourists out in the jungle if there really was a puma nearby? Felt more like a made-up story, just to scare us.

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Another guide, an Amazon Native Indian, by name Antonio joined us and contributed with his knowledge and interesting information during our hike. Compared to me, Antonio was short a thin, just like his ancestors. That is necessarily for the Amazons to survive out in the Amazon Jungle. The Amazon children are taught to live according to the jungle laws by their grandparents. At 8 years old they are sent out into the jungle to survive on their own during 90 days. By then they have the knowledge about which trees who gives fluid to drink, which ones that stops bleeding wounds and which trees to sleep in. The trees chosen to sleep in, must be thin enough for a jaguar or puma not to being able to climb up. Therefore, it is very important for the Amazonians to be short and thin, so they can sleep in slim and thin trees. When an Amazonian hunt they wear only pants. The visible skin gets camouflaged and they cover the smell of human. During dry season they use formic acid and during rainy season flowers to cover the human scent. Anthony stopped by a tree with a large ant house hanging on the tree trunk. Even though Anthony had been very clear on us not touching anything, Sergei started to pick on the ant house and the ants got pretty upset and attacked him. He has himself to blame for that. But it was just what Anthony wanted to demonstrate. How the Amazons camouflage themselves with formic acid to be able to sneak up on their prey.


Anthony let the ants calm down and then took a stick and hit the house. Furious ants came out and wanted to know what the hell was going on. Then Anthony put his hand there and let the ants climb up his arm and crushed them to death. The scent, formic acid, is then spread and covers the human scent. Many are allergic to formic acid why the Amazon people are sensibilities at early age.

When the man in an Amazonian family go out to hunt, he only tells his wife he’s going out to hunt, never how long or when he’ll be back. The wife expects the man to be gone for 2 months. Hasn’t she heard anything by then, she waits another 2 weeks. Thereafter she telegraphs a message by using a special tree that transports the sound up to the crown and can be heard up to 50 kilometers in diameter. Anthony stopped by a tree just like that and demonstrated how it’s done. He grabbed a stick and hit the message “Hello” on the trunk. The tree did look very strange. The trunk looked in cutaway like a V and when you think about it you could understand how the sound accumulated in the tree and be heard at long range. And if we are scared of human being cutting down the Amazon, the nature helps in its way just as much. The trees here in the Amazons have large superficial root systems, just to hang on to the sand bottom and root. Due to this phenomenon the trees fall easily during storms, and according to the law fallen trees cannot be moved. According to Anthony, Amazonas itself will contribute in becoming a sand desert, even though the human devastation would stop tomorrow. But how do the trees receive their nutrition if they grow on a sand bottom? All nutrition is in the crowns, in the green leaves and flowers. When these falls down to the ground the trees have only a couple of hours to soak up the nutrition.


After an hour we arrived in an area without any trees, just a lot of sand like a desert. On distance we saw a few vultures sitting in a dead tree and look at us. Nice. Are they waiting for someone to break down so they could eat? Ha ha, almost felt like that. Slow but safe we walked towards Monkey Island. But really, there wasn’t an island but a peninsula. The monkeys there had been rescued and taken care of. The monkeys are slowly changing diet and rehabilitates before they released into the wild again. I guess you could call it a Rescue Center.


The monkeys presented were Woolly Monkeys and Red Faced Monkeys. When we were there, they fed the monkeys so we had opportunity to take pictures pretty close up. One woman, I think she was French, was chosen to have a monkey on her shoulder holding a piece of fruit for the monkey to take from her. Had been cool to try, but at the same time you never know what diseases they possibly could have in case they would bite.

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Monkey Island wasn’t that far from Amazon Ecopark, we had been walking in like a circle. It didn’t take many minutes to walk back and at 12.30pm it was time for lunch. Just as outstanding lunch buffet as the days before. Now I had no more jungle tours or excursions. Could just enjoy the afternoon and try to figure out where my checked-in bag was. I had not received any email or update about its whereabouts. It could be in Australia or Antarctica as far as I knew. I mean, how difficult could it be to get the bag on the very next flight? There must be X number of flights each day bound for Brazil… so what was the problem? Really bad! Took a power-nap in one of the hammocks suspended somewhat aloof by the reception. It was very peaceful to lie there and listen to the sounds, smell the scents knowing you had no time to care about. Last dinner at 7.30pm. The complex was pretty much empty. Guess the others were out on an evening tour. Almost at eight o’clock the dinner tent started to get crowded.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Brazil Tagged amazon_rainforest Comments (0)

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