Wednesday, 4 March 2015

The Amazon River

8am start today ready for our big Amazon adventure. Our mode of transport for the day is a speedboat,  the Focker 205, and our captain is a Amazon villager called Milton. As we speed past the city we are reminded of just how important the river is to those who live here as they whizz around on motorboats going about their daily lives. 

The Amazon is formed downriver of Manaus after the confluence of the Rio Negro and the Solimoes rivers. The Solimoes is the Brazilian name for the river which starts in the Andes, the true source of the great Amazon river. There are several factors as to why the two rivers run side by side for 12km before they finally merge. Density, speed and temperature are the main reasons. The Rio Negro is a balmy 30 degrees whilst the Solimoes is only 26. I was thankful for this as we travelled upstream mid-storm as every time you get splashed, which is approximately every other wave, at least it is warm. 

Floating villages line the river and according to Milton prices are at a high. Per log, of which you need four to float a house on, it is R$10,000 (£2,200) and then building supplies on top. We visit one village and fish for Pirarucu fish, one of the biggest fresh water fish in the world. With size comes strength as they snap the dead fish bait off the end of my homemade fishing rod with absolute ferocity. 

Next stop was an unassuming shack floating idly by the banks. Open the door to be greeted by a sloth, a caiman and a boa constrictor... Oh and the local dog. These creatures were greeted with varying reactions: the sloth got a hug, the caiman a hesitant stroke and the snake a scream and a run in the opposite direction. 

After lunch we fed monkeys who had clocked on that humans will feed them if they pester enough. Clambering all over us, monkeys of all sizes clawed at the bananas we had swiped from the buffet table and followed us all the way to a lake where lily pads are growing. For only three days the lilies bloom at night and close in the day trapping flies inside them when closed. When they re-open, the insects fly to other lilies and voila, germination of a plant strong enough to hold an adult caiman. 

The next stop was a visit to an indigenous tribe who welcomed us in native dress of body paint, leaf skirts, headwear and not much else. We were invited to join in a dance dating back to the time when their gods introduced other tribes for them to share their heritage with. All the music was played on instruments made by hand from resources found in the jungle. 

Our last and most amazing experience of the tour was a swim with pink river dolphins. On Wednesdays you are not allowed to entice dolphins downstream with food (that's Brazilian law for you) so we took the trip 55km upstream to their natural habitat and got into the warm water. The mysterious mammals appeared without any sign and were all of a sudden upon us, thanks to the dark colouring of the river hiding anything under the surface. Whilst not as attractive as the typical dolphin, this variety have an unusual beauty to them. Their long noses are twisted at the ends to help search and catch fish hiding in the undergrowth and their pink colour glows under the orange tinted water. They are strong athletic creatures who easily pushed us over as they playfully fought for the fish we offered them. It was a magical moment I will never forget. Our hour long cruise home was much smoother as we were going with the flow of the river and we had uninterrupted views of the bank-side wildlife and local villagers.

Without a seconds hesitation, the Amazon has easily provided me with the best day of my life.