I survived the Amazon!
Growing up I had always been a little bit afraid of the Amazon and the rain forest. I had learned from Discovery Channel and Animal Planet all about the scary things like the poisonous snakes, Malaria, crocodiles, or that horrible parasite, the Candiru fish, that is known for swimming up the urethra of humans in the Amazon River. Despite that frightening image, at 21 I had the sudden curiosity to explore this part of the world. Before this study abroad experience in Brazil, I had never been to South America so I made a list of all the places I wanted to see and explore. Of course, time and money forced me to narrow the list down a bit, at least for the time being, but the Amazon remained at the top.
I started planning for this excursion early on in February booking the flight, finding a local guide, reserving hostels, etc. My friend Paul and I settled on a 3-day 2-night trip in an area in the Brazilian state of Amazonas outside the state capital, Manaus, as well as an extra day to explore the city.
The adventure officially began when the group of us on the tour got into the boat with the local guide to leave the city of Manaus. It was raining quite a bit (not surprising in the rainforest!), but it was actually quite refreshing. It cooled everything down and it felt great to be surrounded by pure nature after having been in Rio de Janeiro for months.
The first stop was the Meeting of the Waters where the Rua Negro and the Rua Solimões meet to form the Amazon River. I was surprised at how distinct the two rivers are as the bump into each other without merging. Nature is so fascinating! The scientific reason for this phenomenon is that the rivers have different temperatures and densities and the Negro moves at a slower pace.
We continued along until we arrived at this village, where we could have not have stood out more! Our different physical features and lighter skin were obvious enough, but we were noticeably foreigners by our clothes, bags, and cameras flashing. Everyone smiled at us, which was a nice surprise given the less friendly looks I see in Rio.
We then backed ourselves and our bags into a small van to head to the next pit stop. And yes, I am referencing the Amazing race because that’s the level of excitement I felt moving from place to place! It was rainy, and inside the packed van we swayed back and forth praying that we wouldn’t get stuck in the mud.
Another pit stop to see some water lilies!
From there we drove for about an hour to these small motorized boats.
At this point the rain reduced to only a drizzle as we left land again. It was such a great feeling to be out in the boat buzzing through the trees as we made our way out to the main river.
We took this boat to our final destination: the Ararinha Jungle Lodge. We quickly settled in and headed for the food. The lodge served many delicious local dishes including local fruits from the region. Nigel (the local guide) fun fact: only 20% of the fruits in the Amazon are edible, the remaining 80% are poisonous.
We dropped our stuff next to our mosquito net covered hammocks that we would sleep in later that night. After that, it was nonstop activity for the rest of the trip. Here are just a view highlights from the trip:
Fishing for Piranhas!
Sunsets and Sunrises in the Amazon
Nocturnal Caiman (Alligator) Spotting
Sloth Spotting: The local guide actually climbed up a tree to show us this sloth. I never imagined I would ever hold a sloth in the wild! And #GoGators 😉
Hiking through the Rainforest:
Nigel, accompanied by another local guide, lead us through the rainforest and taught us about the local fauna and flora. He showed us numerous poisonous animals, including spiders, snakes, and ants. As we passed different species of plants and trees, he pointed out the different uses for each one whether it be for a specific fruit, chewing gun, fighting infections, or other medical uses. Despite being slightly nervous every time Nigel found another poisonous creature to show us, I really enjoyed learning so much about surviving in the Amazon.
Walking Palms. These trees actually move over time! First thing that came to mind was Lord of the Rings.
Nigel showing us how to use this ant home as clay to make things. Just form and burn it in the fire!
Poisonous venom on that knife!
Larva grows in this nut. I couldn’t bring myself to eat it, but the guide and the rest of the group ate one!
Boa Constrictor. I have NEVER been capable of holding a snake before! I conquered many fears on this trip.
Mandioca (yuca) natural processing to make flour and Brazilian farofa
Overall, I had an amazing experience in the Amazon! It was well worth it and exceeded my expectations. Among some of the other things we did were dolphin spotting, swimming in the Amazon River, and canoeing at sunrise. It was a wonderful trip, and it motivated me to aspire to explore other parts of the Amazon. On the last day, we returned to Manaus in the late afternoon. We had a great time exploring some parts of Manaus, and it felt great to sleep in a bed again!
When we returned to Rio, the holiday was over and it was back to classes again, but I couldn’t wait for next adventure. One of the many advantages of study abroad is traveling and exploring the culture and nature of the country. Brazil has a very rich in both of those aspects and I’m taking advantage of that!
Até mais! Beijos