Brazil notes, July 13, 2006, 5:58pm
This is our second day on the Amazon river; our first real day.
Yesterday we boarded our boat, the Dona Selly II at the Tropical Manaus Hotel, and headed to the "meeting of the waters" where the Rio Negro and the Rio Solimoes meet (the Solimoes is the name of the Western/South-Western branch of the Amazon). The Rio Negro has a color like strong tea, while the Solimoes is kind of like weak tea with a fair bit of milk. At the meeting of the waters, one can clearly see the two independent streams of water moving side by side as they very slowly conmingle. The sight is interesting, and not to be missed, but it is far from spectacular. Then we headed upstream and into the boat for a substantial and tasty supper of catfish. After that, at 8pm, we went in a flat-bottomed boat to sail into the flooded forest know as an Igapo in search of wildlife and, in particular, caiman. We found a small one which our guide capured with his hands and which a brazen portuguese woman also handled and attempted to force onto her utterly bratty and thoroughly ill-mannered little child. Finally the hapless creature was released and we putted through daunting and impresive forest and saw the odd owl, tarantula, or other sight. It was quite impressive and awesome in the literal sense of the word.
- Today (July 13th) we were woken around 4am as the boat started moving upriver. We slept fitfully in our air conditioned little cabin until about 7:00am and had a hearty breakfast on eggs, cakes, fruit, tapioca bread, juice and coffee and then kept heading upriver. After noon we headed out into the jungle for an utterly fantastic hike with a local guide. Our standard guide translated his jungle lore (and injected his own ill-informed and anti-intellectual commentary as we walked). We saw a plant that smelled strongly of methol which is, apparently, callled a "vix-ou" (as in "Vicks Vap-O-Rub") tree
- the guide said it was the only name he knew of which mattered. ...
We also saw a colony of ants living on a tree that, if the tree was disturbed, would swarm out and sting the hapless attacker. Of course, we distrubed the tree and watched the ants, each about 0.75 inches long, swarm around. It was temping to let one sting me, just to see how it felt, but the discomfort can apparantly last 24 hours for some people. We also say a tree that exuded a milky substance that could be used for healing or gum, a tree that tasted of(and produced) quinine, and several other wonderful plants.
July 14. We fed fresh-water dophins from a dock and that was very complelling and fascinating. We had to stand in water to do it, and I treated my feet with all kinds of stuff after in the fear of getting a parasite. We got up at sunrise and took the canoe around looking for birds and just communing with the stillness. We had acocado ice-cream with lunch. I bought a wooden pirarucu fish, which is what we had for supper yesterday. The dolphins are amazingly, almost impossibly, gentle. We fed them halves of other fish.
Our boat the Dona Selly II had a length of 22 Meters (72 Feet). It had ten cabins with 2 bunk beds each. The cabins were small and I must have bumped my head 50 times on the low doorways, but I thought the boat was cozy and just about right as a tradeoff between comfort and immediacy with the actual environment.