Saturday, June 7, 2014

Day 5 - Jewel of the Amazon

I set my alarm early, so as not to miss Maria’s pick up, but I needn’t have bothered. I woke up at about 5:30 and got up to realise that my room had one of the best views going in Manaus. After photographing the Teatro Amazonas for the nth time I decided to get packed and start the day proper. I walked down 12 flights of stairs to reception only to find out that I should have gone up just one flight instead, for the café de manhana. A wide selection of goodies were available and I ate my fill.

Manaus from my bedroom window at 6am

Manaus Panorama

DEETed up tut eye balls

The jewel of the Amazon

The view north - notice the Arena Amazonia

On the roof

Manaus next to the Amazon


I got downstairs as my watch said 8:50 so I reckoned I had ten minutes before Maria came. As 9:00 came and went, I suddenly got a bit of a panic on. If she doesn’t come, or if she’s late, it could mess up my plans, so I thought I’d walk to the Amazon theatre anyway, pay a quick visit and then come and see if Maria had turned up. I told the reception guy my plan and I think he understood.

Off I went, down the streets that I had already explored a few times, via Google Street View. It’s amazing how you just know when it’s a left turn just by doing this. I arrived at the theatre but when I went in the lady said “It’s not open yet. It’ll open at 9” Of course I didn’t realise she’d said this so she got a member of staff that spoke English to come and tell me instead. “But it is already way past nine” I was about to say, when the penny dropped. Manaus is in a different time zone from the rest of Brazil. Oops. So I walked back to find Maria there. In terrible Portuguese I just about managed to  tell her my plan, which was basically to take a look at the Arena Amazonas where England will play Italy next week.

walking away from the hotel

Magnificent Theatre

Walking back to the hotel having realised Manaus is one hour behind Rio

This was a bit of a disappointment. I’d thought she’d at least be able to take me to the car park so I could walk around the ground but no, it’s all closed off – mainly because it’s not finished. It looked quite bad actually, and for the first time since I got here I began to doubt Brazil’s commitment to this World Cup. Crikey, a week to go and the outside of the ground still looks like a building site!

Arena Amazonia looks nice

Then she took me to get some stuff from the pharmacy – aspirin, antiseptic cream and some mouth wash. There was a very friendly young lady who helped me get tablet form aspririn rather than powered to dissolve in water. After that I was dropped off at the Theatre, with a bit of an awkward atmosphere, as there was still about twenty minutes to go of “my hour”. I must say I felt a bit ripped off. I’d paid R$60 for nothing really. I could have got a bus to the stadium and walked to the theatre and saved R$58. Maybe something was lost in translation but I think Maria knew I knew she was ripping me off.

So, then, back to the most magnificent theatre – the jewel of the Amazon, built on the wealth of the early rubber industry. I went on a guided tour and the young, slightly camp, English-speaking guy was very good and explained all about it. It really is an astonishingly beautiful and impressive building. They were going through a final rehearsal for an opera they are staging for the world cup which looked pretty good too, albeit a bit “modern” for me.

Me trying to be impressed by the modern opera being rehearsed

Some nice bottoms there, I can tell you that!


Anyway, after that, I walked via a few market stalls back to the hotel and checked out to a bit o a drama. The credit card machine didn’t work so the receptionist had to write down my card number details. She said they’d get payment later. I hope they do so for the right amount, or I’ll have to award the guy from Fife another tick.

So I just sat and waited, trying to stave off the urge to sleep. Suddenly Rodriguez from Amazon Village Tour company came in to reception pick me up and immediately whisked me off. He impressed me very much, not only with his excellent English but also his smart conversation. His colleague drove us to the dock where we got on the boat and set of down the absolutely vast Amazon. We went through the meeting of the waters (where the dark waters of the Rio Negra meet the light waters of the Amazon) and then turned left up a relatively small tributary. As we bombed along Rodriguez spotted some fishermen about to make a big catch so he urged the pilot of the boat to bring us up close along-side theirs so we could witness the scene – thousands of fish flapping about for their lives as they were hauled in by the basket load. Rodriguez bought a box of about 100 freshly caught fish from them for R$30and then we sped off to the “Amazon Village” eco tourist place.

Fishermen homing in on a big catch

I was given my key and came to dump my bag before heading straight back again for a canoe trip followed by a hike through the jungle, just like I did in Borneo.

Sweating cobbs in the Amazon jungle
It was quite exhausting and a tiny bit scary as Alex (our tour guide) jokingly gave us the impression he was lost and that we might have to camp the night out there. I was impressed that he managed to find the where the canoe had been tied to a tree even though we went in  big round circular route. Anyway, after that, we rowed back to the village. It was cool for me being in the front as I had to steer the canoe past various trees. It was also good to do a bit of exercise. After a really fantastic evening meal, we went out again in the dark looking for caiman. We only managed to find a tiny one but it was cool to hold a crocodilian in ones hands.

I was bush wacked by the time we got back and went straight to bed.
Somewhere in the Amazon rainforest (but conveniently close to Manaus)

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