Brazil Part 6: Manaus

Reading this week:

  • Peaceland by Séverine Autesserre

This, my friends, I promise is the last installment of my riveting Brazil Series. Thank you for sticking with me for so long. Over the past five installments, I have described how my dad and I landed in Brazil, got on a riverboat, bothered a bunch of animals, and went on adventures, among other things. As I mentioned way back in the beginning, one of the major things that actually drew me to Manaus was visiting the Teatro Amazonas, which was a thing that I got in my head that I wanted to do, probably from Atlas Obscura (where so many of these blog posts originate).

After finishing the riverboat cruise, my itinerary had given us a weekend in Manaus. I think we spent the time pretty efficiently. The top priority, as I have said like three times, was of course going to the Teatro Amazonas. It was within easy walking distance of our hotel, so we uh, walked over there, and they offered regular tours. I demurred from thinking too hard about the impacts of the rubber trade on the people of the Amazon in my last post, but the Teatro Amazonas was built on their backs. The reason that Manaus is where it is is because it is about as deep into the jungle as ocean-going ships can get. Where those ocean-going ships were going was to haul rubber out of the Amazon, which of course was a big commodity. To get the rubber out of the jungle, the rubber barons mercilessly oppressed the indigenous people of the rainforest, forcing them to harvest vast quantities of rubber and drive themselves into debt to do it. The rubber barons got rich off of this, considering themselves more European than anything, to the point where they sent their laundry to get done in Portugal. Seeking some entertainment at home, they got together and built the Teatro Amazonas.

It’s certainly opulent. They spared absolutely no expense and on the tour they showed us a lot of the features. It even had an intricate ventilation system that came out from underneath the chairs to try to provide the space some air conditioning. It’s covered in busts and has tapestries hanging from it and all sorts of statues. I utterly failed to get a single good picture of the interior, so here is one from Wikipedia:

On the tour they acknowledged how and why the thing was built, but were very proud of all the intricate details that highlighted it’s place in Manaus. There were paintings all over the place of idyllic jungle scenes, and particularly impressive parquet flooring made of jungle hardwoods:

I used to wear shorts.

The theater is itself also set in a large plaza with a very nice fountain out front. After our tour dad and I hung out at one of the outdoor cafes across the plaza and enjoyed a beer while plotting our next moves.

The rest of our time in Manaus, and Brazil, was pretty quiet. We went to the Museu do Índio, which didn’t let you take pictures but where I was particularly excited to correctly identify an indigenous still. The museum itself was set within a convent and was a very peaceful spot, with gardens and flowers and if I recall correctly a nice-looking basketball court. We stopped for lunch at a small corner restaurant where everyone was distracted by a soccer game.

We spent the largest chunk of the next day visiting the Manaus Zoo, which if I’m reading everything correctly is run by the Brazilian army, I think to provide an opportunity for their soldiers to see what sorts of animals they’re likely to run into in the jungle. They did indeed have a variety of animals (some pictured above), house in a variety of habitats. Not too shabby a little zoo, and it gave us an opportunity to see more of the animals of the Amazon that we hadn’t been able to bother in person.

After that, our Brazilian adventure was largely done. We spent some additional time wandering around in Manaus a bit, seeing the sights, and at one point eating at a Brazilian steakhouse, or, as they’re known there, a steakhouse. Finally early the next morning we trekked off to the airport to catch our flight back stateside, having had a fantastic time in the great country of Brazil and enjoying our final cup of Brazilian coffee at the departure gate:

Brazil Part 5

Reading this week:

  • The Struggle for Zimbabwe by David Martin and Phyllis Johnson

Thank you for sticking with me on so many weeks of this Brazil journey! I promise this week I will wrap up the river cruise portion, and then next week I’ll probably do all of Manaus is a single post. And then! And then hopefully something noteworthy will be going on in my life, and I will make a note of it here. Until then, Brazil.

Now, we didn’t only bother wildlife and chop down trees in Brazil. Sometimes we met people! A chunk of these people-meets were in slightly more casual interactions. I thought it was great every single time we met another riverboat cruising down the river, because a lot of the time we would come alongside each other and the crew of each boat would presumably swap news or barter, with us exchanging ice for fish one time that I remember. And then we would cruise along our way. I also liked the see the people living along the river. Some were living on dry land, and had small herds of cattle and the like; when we got the best chicken ever, which I am still thinking about, it was just by stopping by one of these homesteads as we were cruising along.

It’s just tied up to a tree or something.

I also deeply admired the river houses we passed by. Since, as I have revealed previously, the river level changes dramatically over the course of the year, a large chunk of people live in houses that float, like the one picture above. These are built on the top of gigantic floating logs that provide buoyancy. If I couldn’t quite afford a whole riverboat in my retirement, I was able to easily imagine myself living a life in one of these floating houses. We only personally got to visit one (the one above), because it was also a store:

I loved this store. Talk about character! There was a big ole’ crocodile skull on the counter, for chrissake! (I guess technically a caiman). Hello my Super Amazing Girlfriend, this right here is my retirement plan: sell cold drinks, pans, and fishing nets out of a floating house on the Amazon. Dad, at my prompting, bought from this store the paddle pictured at the very top, versions of which we saw in tourist shops in Manaus for much more than whatever dad paid for it.

Another fun excursion we went on was to a rubber farm. I don’t quite have the room here to talk fully about the long history of exploitation when it comes to rubber harvesting in the Amazon (maybe I’ll touch on it more when I talk about Manaus), but we went to go see how rubber harvesting is done. Basically, you have a plot with rubber trees, and then the tappers will go out and cut grooves in the bark of the trees. The sap will flow out into tins that the rubber collectors have nailed to the trees, and that is how they harvest the raw latex sap. With that sap, the rubber harvesters boil it down until it becomes actual rubber. At the rubber farm that we went to, they also had a variety of small things they had made out of rubber, like a coinpurse or some rubber booties. Elso had dad make the item that he is working on in the above photo. To actually make something out of rubber, they would dip a mold into the latex sap, and then cure the rubber over smoke. In front of the ladies, Elso told us with a straight face that the device dad is making there was a rubber nipple used to help feed baby cows. Later, away from the women, he told us that dad had in fact made a condom. The thing made our entire cabin smell very strongly of smoke for the rest of the week, so, uh, things to think about when you’re trying to choose a condom brand.

Alright enough of people! Back to bothering wildlife. One of the last things we did on the river was to shake a sloth out of a tree. Yeah, I know, gimme a second. The guides had been talking about this all week, and it seemed perfectly normal every time they brought it up. I guess if you’re a sloth, and you’re in danger, your first line of defense is to look like a tree. If that fails, your backup defense is to just let go of the tree you are holding onto. This is not too dangerous in a flooded forest, because they just fall into the water and I guess sloths are good swimmers. So off we went one morning to find a sloth to shake out of a tree.

This all seemed fine until we were actually doing it. I distinctly remember us finally identifying a sloth in a tree and then thinking to myself “wait… are we the baddies?” This did not deter Elso and his buddies from zooming up the tree and shaking the branch that the sloth was holding onto. This sloth, however, was stubborn. Turns out, that might have been because she was carrying a baby on her back. I felt bad about this the entire time, let me tell you. But eventually Elso shook the branch enough that the sloth finally activated its backup defense mechanism and dropped into the water. The only people left in the canoe were us tourists, so Elso was soon shouting for us to grab the sloth. I, for once in this trip being the brave one, plucked up enough courage to snatch out of the water a poor little baby sloth who was just trying to get back to its tree. The mom made it to the tree and started climbing back up, while our new friend clutched to the canoe’s life jacket for dear life.

Once the guides had scrambled down from the tree, they helped us all pose for pictures with our traumatized baby sloth. Above is dad cradling the little guy. I actually demurred, feeling terrible about this whole thing at this point, but I still know what I did. Poor thing. After a round of pictures the baby sloth was placed gently back on the tree near its mom while we darted off back to the boat. Elso assured us that everything was totally fine, but still somewhere out there is probably a sloth that needs therapy and I’m sorry, baby sloth.

Like I said, that was our last major adventure on the river boat. After that we more or less head back into town, where we piled back into some cars to drive us to the ferry terminal and take us to Manaus. I had a great time on that riverboat, and I highly recommend everyone give it a go before the Amazon is entirely gone. Or maybe we can work harder to save the thing? Food for thought. But all in all, a very nice time:

We have a brief hiatus next week from Brazil content to talk about a different topic, but in two weeks I’ll wrap up Brazil entirely when I will relate about all my adventures in Manaus, and the real point of this whole trip: the Teatro Amazonas!

Brazil Part 4

On our last riveting installment, named Brazil Part 3, I told you mostly about all the animals we bothered while cruising through the Amazon. In this week, I’ll tell you about some of the jungle we hiked through. There was actually a lot of walking on this vacation for me having signed us up for a river cruise, though considering the cool things we saw, I’m not complaining.

The first thing I was fairly surprised to discover was how like, not strange the rainforest looked. The rain forest had always been this mysterious and exotic place in my head, full of vines and snakes and whatnot. It did in fact have vines in it that you could swing from, and we did that at one point (well, climbed like two feet up and swayed back and forth), but mostly the jungle looked a lot like a number of forests I had camped in as a Boy Scout:

On our hikes through the jungle, our guides tried to show us stuff about living and thriving in the rainforest. At one point, they had us eat a grub (or, at least, dad ate a grub, which he said tasted “like a grub,” and I politely declined). In the photo at the top they showed us how to make fans out of various palm fronds and whatnot, a very useful skill indeed. During one hike we trekked into the jungle and then after we got wherever we were going they told us to figure out the way back. Luckily I was a super-smart Eagle Scout and had studied hard in Navigation class and also noticed the guides had been making marks on trees with their machetes as we hiked along, and I managed to get us out of the jungle. I was very proud of myself. Another survival tip they showed us was that if you let the ants swarm all over you and quickly rub them off, they don’t bite, but do leave a small that discourages other bugs from biting you. Like the grub, I was also too wimpy to try this, but here is dad giving it a go:

These treks also couldn’t possibly go without us bothering wildlife, so here is Elso annoying a tarantula:

One night, we actually stayed in the jungle instead of our cozy bunks on the boat. This was a lot of fun. After we landed ashore, the first thing we had to do was to build ourselves a shelter. This was quite the undertaking. We were of course under the tutelage of our very experienced guides. Step number one was to clear an area to set up camp. This involved clearing away all the small brush and small trees from our chosen location. Dad had a blast doing this. Once he got hold of a machete, he could barely be stopped chopping down the trees that were in our way, and then harvesting the many many palm leaves that we needed to thatch our little hut. Look at him go:

Dad is on the left, Elso is on the right.

One of the things I remember most from this experience was it being hot. Out on the river, every single day was extraordinarily pleasant. Just the right temperature, and cool river breezes. But man, once you got into the jungle, it was boiling. The humidity was at 100% and there was no wind or anything to keep you cool. Just a whole lot of sweat. I was drenched. After finding four suitable trees to serve as the corners of our shelter, assembling it involved tying a whole bunch of sticks together. Larger poles served as cross-beams, and then small poles as the support for the thatching. The whole thing was assembled using tree bark as rope, a technique I later became very familiar with in Zambia but which was new to me here. After all that thatching was cut down, my own major tasks were trying to help tie stuff together and then handing things to the guides, who were clambering all over the structure. After the roof was on, all that was left was to hang up our mosquito-netted hammocks and settle in for the night. Here is the group posing proudly in front of the structure, and me with half my bodyweight in sweat in my shirt:

Dinner that night was the best chicken I have ever had in my life, as I mentioned all the way back in Brazil Part 2, cooked on a stick over an open fire. The only other exciting part of the night was listening for jaguars, which seemed to be about the only thing that Elso was actually afraid of. In the morning I think he reported hearing them, but I was too blissfully asleep by that point. In the morning we awoke to our guides making us a literal pot of coffee, which I found deeply amusing. We drunk it out of tiny little plastic cups, and all in all it was an excellent morning in the jungle:

And that is where I will leave you this week. Come back next week when I will finally reveal… the infamous sloth story!!!!

Brazil Part 3

Last week, in Brazil Part 2, I brought you, my very patient readers, many details about the river boat I stayed on, along with my dad and three German women, as part of a week-long riverboat cruise on the Amazon river and its many tributaries. This week, I shall bring you tales of… adventure!!!!

When I booked this river cruise (I don’t know if you’ve picked it up by now but I sometimes do an absolutely stunning lack of research before going on a trip) I had actually imagined that it would be just that – us on a boat cruising around a river for a week. This sounded great to me and still does. However, turns out this trip was gonna be chock full of adventure. The normal daily schedule for this trip was to actually go on two adventures a day – one in the morning, and one in the afternoon. After the boat cruised to some convenient location, we would pile into the canoes that we towed behind us and go off to look at the jungle. The picture at the top is me in one of the launches, with two of the German girls behind me. I haven’t brought it up yet, but the reason I had that mustache is because at the Academy you aren’t allowed any facial hair, but now that I was a Big Bad Ensign I was of course allowed to maintain my facial hair within normal “Big Navy” regs, which meant that I was exercising my freedom to grow a mustache. My grandma says it makes me look handsome.

Our guide, who I have mentioned several times at this point, was named Elso. He had grown up in the area and told us many tales of going off into the jungle as a kid with his buddies to go hunting and such, only swinging by home when they ran out of coffee or somesuch. He was extremely well versed with the jungle, its inhabitants, and how to find his way around and how to show us all sorts of cool stuff.

One brand of these adventures was going out and interacting with the local wildlife. In the above photo you can see me interrogating a caiman. I think this was one of our very first evenings out and about. The process of catching caimans wasn’t particularly difficult, at least for Elso and his other guides. They shined a flashlight to blind the poor critters for a sec, and then just snatched out and grabbed ’em. The tourists (us) could then pose for photos. In the downtime between caiman photos, we spent the time battling mosquitos. That was a very silly task. During this particular trek I really hated it when someone shined a flashlight, because then you could see the just absolute swarms of mosquitos surrounding us. It was a very, very dense cloud and I have never seen so many mosquitos since. We spent much of the trip rubbing salve over our many many bites.

As I’m writing this I’m trying to remember how much wildlife we actually saw. In some sense it wasn’t all that much, as we cruised down the river there I don’t recall seeing huge troops of monkeys flitting on by in trees or anything like that. We did manage to interact with a large chunk of wildlife, like the caimans I just mentioned, or during a memorable encounter with a sloth I think I will save for next week (not much going on, gonna milk this decade-old trip). I saw a number of animals from far away, as the above photo will attest (the top left photo is a sloth if you couldn’t tell, and the monkey was actually a rather close up one that lived at a lodge we stopped by at). In the mornings I also remember the howler monkeys waking the entire jungle up, and I remember seeing tree branches sway as they made their distaste at our presence known during one early morning trip. Perhaps the coolest thing we saw were some pink dolphins, which we caught only glimpses of. To make up for not having a photo, please enjoy this picture of at least one very pink creature bobbing around in the water:

“But wait!!!!” you exclaim, “What about the piranhas????” Well we did actually see some piranhas; in fact we went fishing for them. As Elso explained to us before encouraging us to jump into the water, the piranhas aren’t particularly dangerous at all during the wet season. With the forest flooded, they can go wherever they want to find food. It was during the dry season, when the piranhas got trapped in ponds with a limited food supply that they become dangerous. No matter what time of year, however, they apparently like steak. Fishing for the piranhas was a fairly straightforward affair; we put a small piece of the aforementioned steak on a fishing hook, and the only trick was you had to yank ’em out of the water real quick as soon as you felt a nibble. Here is me having caught one:

And here is dad proudly displaying our group’s catch for the day:

They later served ’em up to us for lunch. They were good, if a bit bony, and honestly the major appeal was the table-turning nature of it all.

And with that, I think I’ve written enough for this week. I think I can stretch the river boat portion of this thing out for like another few weeks, and then we’ll talk about Manaus itself. Should be a hoot, stick around! Until then, please enjoy this picture of an Amazon sunrise from a canoe:

Brazil Part 2

Last week, in Brazil Part 1, I left you off at the epic cliffhanger of finally, after a plane ride, a boat ride, and then a kinda long actually overland journey, arriving at our riverboat home for the next week or so. It was a pretty neat boat! Here is a more holistic picture of it:

This was a pretty typical boat style in the Amazon. Throughout our week of cruising around, we would pass a number of other boats that were very much like ours, except with different cabin configurations and the like. I would have liked to have figured out where they were building them, and I spent a good chunk of time fantasizing about buying one in retirement and just cruising around the Amazon (provided it’s still there). When we eventually got back to Manaus, it was clear that there were tons and tons of these types of boats:

What I was delighted to learn when we actually arrived is that we had come to the Amazon at more or less the perfect time, at just the tail end of the rainy season and beginning of the dry season. I was stunned to discover just how significantly the river flooded during the rainy season, with the water level being maybe 20 feet or more higher than where it is during the dry season. That meant that our river boat could go all over the place, cruising through wide river channels that in the dry season would be tiny little streams at the bottom of narrow valleys. At night, we would tie up to the very tippy-tops of trees just barely sticking out of the water. Since it was the end of the rainy season, the weather was mostly absolutely gorgeous, with nice breezes keeping us cool as we cruised through some of the world’s densest biodiversity. We did get a few rain showers, but safely ensconced on the boat those were fairly pleasant affairs:

As you’ve probably caught glimpses of, and of which you shall catch more glimpses, don’t you worry, along on the trip with us were three German women. They were very pleasant company to have on the trip, though I remember being very disappointed that they weren’t more impressed with my super cool Actual Naval Officer status due to my being a newly-minted Ensign (“And what do you do?” “Oh, I’m an Ensign.” [here I showed off my Naval Academy ring] “And… what is an Ensign?”). They were backpacking around South America I think, on a very impressive trip, and had opted to “rough” it by sleeping at night in the upper deck in hammocks. That was the option I was initially going to sign dad and myself up for, but at the last minute back in Maryland, unsure of exactly what I was willing and able to put up with in the world, I opted to get us a cabin. This is that cabin:

I took this picture towards the end of the week, and the cabin at this point bears witness to the debris of our many adventures. Since I had paid for the trip, I claimed the bottom, larger bed, relegating dad to the top bunk. The biggest drawback of the cabin, despite it being advertised as its best feature, was actually the air conditioner. This is probably because we had no real idea how to actually operate the thing. When it was running, it was VERY effective, and rendered the cabin freezing cold. We actually asked our hosts for a blanket (there had only been a sheet), a request to which they responded by looking at us confused and then bringing us an additional sheet. Horrible problems to have, I know.

One of the things I remember most fondly about this whole trip was the food. I promise, I have never had so much good food and so consistently as I did aboard that tiny little boat in the Amazon. The cook I remember as being a tiny, old, wrinkly, hobbled indigenous woman, and I swear I contemplated marrying her so I could bring her home to the states with me. Above is a typical breakfast spread, with fresh fruit and fried eggs and local cheese and stunningly good coffee and my absolute favorite, fried plantains. I would eat plantains every chance I got until I was ready burst. Lunches and dinners were also stunning, usually featuring fish just plucked out of the river, along with sausages and rice and of course more fresh fruit and toasted manioc powder to sprinkle over everything. To this day the best chicken I have ever had is a free-range one that our guide had purchased from a riverside homestead that morning and then cooked on a stick over an open fire in the jungle that night.

But that’s just the boat and the lifestyle. Next week, we’ll discuss…. adventures!

Brazil Part 1

As I mentioned somewhat in passing in my last post, back in 2011 I went to Brazil. To set the scene: I was a young, newly minted Ensign, having graduated from the Naval Academy like a month before. I was granted about 30 days of basket! (the exclamation mark is because I couldn’t remember that it was called “basket leave” until just now) leave, and wanted to spend it in some dramatic way. I chose to go to Brazil! Specifically, Manaus! The reasons for this were several-fold: 1) I had for some time wanted to see the Teatro Amazonas. I forget how I first came across the Teatro there, it was potentially on Atlas Obscura, but once I got it in my head I wanted to go that was that. I’m not even like, an opera fan. Next, 2) I wanted to see the Amazon rain forest before it all disappeared. The sense of urgency was probably prompted by both like, reality, and also a memorable display at the National Aquarium which showed in a series of LEDs the whole Amazon disappearing. I figured I should look at it before the illuminated prediction came true. And probably 3), people who go to Brazil go to Rio or something like that, and I gotta be hipster and different!

I had been planning this trip for a bit, but, lemme tell ya, not too well. I convinced my dad to come by offering to buy his plane ticket, which I thought would be relatively cheap for me because I had a voucher due to a disastrous series of events that went down in the American Virgin Islands just months before, but in a fit of Spring Cleaning I think I threw it out. That’s pretty irrelevant to the story, actually. I figured it would be nice to bring dad because I dunno, he’s my dad, and also because he spent several years in Brazil as a youth and I thought his familiarity with the terrain (not that familiar, he had never been to Manaus) would be handy. Bringing Dad along came even more in handy than I thought it would, because this being my first big international trip that I had planned I was pretty dumb (hence my “not planning it too well” comment from the beginning of the paragraph). I had been out of the country before, but other people had planned those things, and I just followed instructions. It was Dad that brought up unsavory topics such as “have you applied for a visa” to which my answer was “what’s a visa.” American privilege at work!

Because by this point we were pretty late in the process, getting the visa was another harrowing series of events involving an impromptu trip to the Brazilian embassy, beseeching mom’s lawyer cousin to act as our legal representative in picking up those visas, and then mailing them overnight to an at-that-point-unidentified motel in Florida where we stayed while watching the Shuttle launch. But it all worked perfectly! I was pretty stunned. If I was by myself this would have been a very short trip, involving me flying to Brazil probably and then flying right on back, if I even made it that far. As it was, travelling there went great, and the only downside was a pretty long layover in Panama which was boring. The only other solid preparations I had made in conjunction with this trip was buying some shirts and pants I thought would be rainforest-appropriate, and trying to study Portuguese only to never make it much farther than “Não falo português.”

The trip itself was to be split into two parts. The second part was going to be a weekend in Manaus, looking at all the sights. The first part was to be a very exciting week-long river cruise along the Amazon! Very cool I know! I was looking forward to this because I like the concept of boats! Dad as well! Awesome. I don’t remember exactly how I found the company, I think on Yelp or somesuch, but I had contacted them via email and I think had to provide a down-payment via international money order or something else terribly straightforward. This was 2011, I guess they might have had a website, but it couldn’t have been great. Nevertheless, I had sent the company my flight information, and we were expecting to be met at the airport by one of their representatives who would take us to suitable lodgings for the night.

And they did! Again it worked perfectly. Dad and I landed in Manaus and got through customs and a very nice lady met us there and between dad, myself, and this lady, we cobbled together enough Portuguese and English to confirm we were the people they were expecting and that we should get into the van. After getting into the van, we proceeded to drive into Manaus. She drove us to a part of town that now, in my worldy and cosmopolitan post-Peace Corps days I would probably find very very lovely, but back then in my cloistered youth seemed suspicious. We arrived at a corner that appeared to hold an office, and she turned around and asked us for the relatively large amount of money our trip had cost, an amount we had on us in cash (as we knew would be required), but which was a fact we were loathe to admit to here in the dark. Dad and I looked at each other, and then dad suggested to our host we pay after actually seeing the river boat, which apparently was amenable to all parties. She then drove us to a hotel and we checked in.

We awoke in the morning to discover that we had already achieved the end-goal of this whole trip, in that the hotel room had a lovely view of both some electrical infrastructure and also the Teatro Amazonas! Looking back at the pictures I had actually identified this the night before, but that makes for a less dramatic reveal. We had an amazing breakfast, and before long our friend was back to pick us up and carry us off to an adventure of a lifetime!

Here a lot of my geographic sense is going to break down. The whole time we were on the riverboat I knew we were like, on the Amazon, or near it at any rate, but I never had a solid clue of our exact coordinates. I only bring that up to say that it was quite the journey to the river boat from downtown Manaus. The first thing we did was see one of the sights of Manaus, which was the riverside fish market. I think the point of this part of the journey was to demonstrate some of the huge diversity of ichthyic fauna. There were a lot of fishes, let me tell ya! None interesting enough that I thought them picture-worthy, apparently, but I didn’t have a way to charge my camera the whole time I was in Brazil so I was worried about conserving battery life.

The next thing we did was to hop on a ferry to take us across the mighty Amazon river. This was super cool, because, as you’ve picked up by now, I like being on boats. Being on this boat gave us an excellent view of the economy of the river. Manaus is where it is because it is about as far up as sea-going vessels can travel on the Amazon. It’s kinda crazy to see cargo ships like the ones I captured above this far essentially inland. Pretty neat!

The big attraction in the middle of the river, however, is the Meeting of the Rivers. At this spot, the dark-colored Rio Negro meets the light-colored Rio Solimões to form I think the Amazon proper. Because of the different characteristics of the rivers, they meet but don’t immediately mix, allowing enthusiastic tour guides to park their boat right on the border of the rivers and provide ample opportunity for neat pictures. If I recall correctly, legend says the two rivers never really mix. So that is cool. After gazing at this, we had more river to traverse, and I remember admiring various ranches with cattle and other animals abutting the river and getting my first glimpse of something jungle-like. After a while we finally disembarked, and then there was a very long (it felt like) land journey in jeeps (or jeep-like things). To break up that part of the trip we saw several more sights, including very large lily pads:

And a cashew in its natural habitat:

Until finally, have a long and perilous journey, we arrived at…

The boat!!!!!!!!!

Aaaaaaand that’s where I’ll leave you for this week. Return next week, same time, same place, for the interestingly-named, Brazil Part 2!