Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Amazonas adventure Day 3

No early morning activities, but I woke up at seven and went up on deck for a cup of coffee. We started to sail downstream toward Manaus, with the goal of seeing the Meeting of Waters, the black of Rio Negro (although it is actually dark blue) and the white (in fact, yellow) of the Solimoes. Ruben was very emphatic about the Amazon only existing after the two rivers meet. I have seen pictures, but you cannot imagine it from a picture - well, you can try. The waters do not mix for about four kilometres because they have different speed, different temperature and different chemical ingredients. It's truly amazing.

Manaus is a huge city. When I first started thinking about this trip, three years ago, I thought Manaus was a little village where you went by a tiny plane. There must be places like that further up the rivers, but Manaus has a population of 2 million and it isn't precisely a beautiful city, at least not from the river. We saw the famous Opera House and decided that we didn't need to see it again. The long stretch of shore was docks and oil tanks. And many boats. During the first two days we hardly saw any boats and just a couple of houses.

After Meeting of Waters we went upstream on the Solimoes (note that I am using the correct name!) to the place where we anchored for the night and took another canoe trip. I must say that it felt a bit like anticlimax, because we did some more fishing and some more caiman patting, but I may be unfair. The vegetation was completely different, and there were lots of birds – all because the Solimoes (note the name!) is six degrees cooler than the Rio Negro, which is simply too hot for most forms of aquatic life. Apparently, the gender of caimans is dependent on the temperature: in hotter waters they hatch as males and in cooler water as females. Somehow they must meet in between. Quite right, the Rio Negro caimans were boys and the Solimoes caimans were girls, whom we named Margarita and Josefina before Ruben threw them back in the river. By that time Viki became so brave that she held the beasts, and Enrico and Costa did too. I now regret that I didn't. I am not scared of crocodiles, not like snakes.

Fishing was fun too, and some of the fish were catfish that look like something from a horror movie. I didn't get any and mostly sat and watched birds in my binoculars.

Viki had to go back to Manaus in the evening because she had to catch a 1 am flight to Sao Paulo (for some reason, Brazilian airlines have these crazy flight schedules). We were all curious about how she was going to get there – helicopter perhaps? No, she said, James Bond style, by speedboat. We stayed on deck to watch her leave. There were all kinds of boats passing by, in pitch darkness, without lights. At ten sharp, Ruben came up on deck and beckoned to Viki: “Ready? Let's go!” Guess what? The promised speedboat was the canoe. Frankly, I wouldn't feel safe going in a little boat on the big, big river in pitch darkness without lights or life jackets. I am not sure Viki was so happy either, but did she have a choice? According to Ruben, it took no more than forty minutes. But by the time they gor back we were asleep because the next morning we we getting up early to watch the sunrise.
Enrico and Josefina

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