Day #11,050: The Amazon is one of those places I’ve had a high school crush on for quite some time. The sort of desperate infatuation that one assumes can only exist from afar, never to be realized. Or so you think. Somehow on this morning I woke up- next to my real high school crush, lucky girl- in… wait for it… The Amazon!!!
Well… technically, we were in our motel in Manaus, the largest city in the state of Amazonas. But… The Amazon!!!
After a quick breakfast that included reeeally strong Brazilian coffee, we headed out to the front of the motel and were immediately met by the Analvilhanas Jungle Lodge van, our transport into the wild.
Three hours later, and my lifelong infatuation crossed that most joyous line into full-blown reality: we were in the middle of the Amazon jungle. Mr. M & I were without words. Well… Mr. M had a few words, most of which concerned keeping a sharp eye out for snakes.
We were immediately ushered into a thatched bamboo, open-air room and informed of our activities for the next few days. On tap for the afternoon? Piranha fishing. Of course. Freakin’ piranha fishing.
First it was off to lunch, a massive spread of a buffet… complete with cupuacu ice cream (the fruit is much better in ice cream form)! Mr. M & I had a few hours before goin’ fishin’, and we decided to explore the lodge grounds.
At one corner of the grounds we found a wooden tower that you could climb for a bird’s eye view of the Jungle. Height-a-phobe that I am, my palms started getting sweaty and my heart rate increased with each step we took up the shaky wooden structure.
But the view from the top was beautiful and provided something of an overview of our place in the jungle.
Below the tower, we found a ‘hammock room.’ Why are hammocks not more popular outside Southern and Central America? They provide an awesome means of chillaxing.
We also found an unexpectedly stellar pool.
So amazing that we dropped the rest of the lodge tour, changed into our swimsuits and spent the rest of the afternoon in the water, peering out over the jungle and trying to wrap our heads around the fact that we were IN the AMAZON.
Somewhere around 3:30, we found ourselves stepping gingerly into a motorboat on the Rio Negro. The river is a beautiful tea color due to the leaf debris that falls in.
Mr. M & I sat in the back and quickly made friends with our guide Prakash. He taught us a few snippets of Portuguese (Tuto bem!) and then proceeded to school us on obscene Portuguese gestures. Which means I can now say ‘Thank you!’, ‘Good afternoon!’, ‘Have a nice day!’, and “F off, asshole!’ like a true Brazilian. We motored into a hidden little waterway, and Prakash passed out bamboo fishing rods and tiny pieces of raw meat to use as bait. I have never fished in my life (possibly because I don’t eat fish and thus, don’t want to hook one for no reason.. but more likely because I have the patience of a five year old child).
But when in Rome… so we tossed our lines into the red-brown water, and all of two minutes later, Mr. M reeled a tiny, splashing piranha up out of the water and into our boat! Ohmygoodness! My man can fish, girls!
Prakash unhooked Mr. M’s catch and sent him on his merry way. No hard feelings, plus our toothy fish got a mouthful of what looked to be Grade A Brazilian steak. One of our French boatmates caught one, too, and just when I was starting to get annoyed… I yanked one up! But apparently not fast enough, as the little devil flew off my hook and back into the sea. “Flying piranha,” Prakash called it. A rare breed.
While we sat quietly with our lines in the water, we stared up at the canopy above. A pair of toucans took off from a nearby tree. Swallows swarmed above the water, eager for the evening’s catch. It was beautiful and wholly surreal.
Prakash signaled to me to keep quiet and switched his pole with mine.
“Pull up!” He shouted to me. “Pull up, you’ve got something!” So I yanked on the pole he’d just handed me, and half-laughed and half-screamed as I pulled aboard a jumping piranha.
Piranhas safely returned home, it was time for us to do the same.
Our first day in the jungle wasn’t yet finished. After dinner, we headed back into the darkness of the Rio Negro for nighttime animal spotting. Zooming across the river in the black of night was a little magical; I almost didn’t care whether we found any animals or not.
Care or not, we found our first nocturnal creature immediately: the biggest tarantula I’ve ever seen.
Next up, two boa constrictors nesting in the trees. But Mr. M & I were honestly more in awe of the Rio Negro at night. It was so quiet and dark and majestic. As we zoomed back towards the lodge with spray from the river misting our face, a distant thunderstorm kicked up, and the cloudy grey sky started to flicker bright white.
Welcome to the jungle.
To read about the next day’s adventure visiting a local village in The Amazon, click here!
Details of the Day:
Accommodation: Go Inn Manaus is an excellent choice whether you’re using Manaus as a gateway into the Amazon, or if you plan to stay a few days (honestly, I wouldn’t… you can see the sights in one day, max… spend your hard-earned vacay time in the jungle itself). The rooms are small but extremely clean, comfortable, and safe. While they don’t provide mini shampoo/conditioners, you do get free wifi and breakfast… a trade I’ll happily make any day.
Tips & Tricks: I found the 3hr drive out to Analvilhanas Jungle Lodge to be a LOT smoother than I expected. I was anticipating the unpaved, Indiana Jones style, dirt-slash-log “roads” that we encountered in the jungles of Borneo, and instead I got beautiful paved streets… with lanes to boot! However, if you tend to get carsick, you might want to sit towards the front of the van or pop a Dramamine… the trip is, admittedly, a smidge reminiscent of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.
Remember your anti-malarials! Malaria is a real concern in the Amazon. Even though the Rio Negro is too acidic for most mosquitoes, the Amazon River itself is chock full of em, and it’s always worth keeping yourself safe.
**Because we’re currently in Brazil and many of our travels don’t include internet-friendly locales, my posts and responses may be a bit sparse. Apologies in advance!**