Amazon pink dolphins

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I rode out onto the river with an english speaking guide in Manaus. This guy said he had a side-job teaching jungle survival skills to the US military – maybe that was true. But he spoke good english and I was staying in luxury at the Tropical and they recommended him. We had boat captains with us too and he served double duty as our fisherman. The boat wasn’t like anything I had ever seen before or since. Imagine an big boxy aluminum bread delivery truck with windows cut out of the sides and aluminum shelves welded to the side as beds.

imagine something like this but taller and box-ier
imagine a much older, run-down boat. taller. box-ier. with windows cut-outs and no glass

When we started off it didn’t feel like a river. The Amazon is so wide that it looks more like an ocean. I was there at “low river” and sandy colored dunes rose high the Manaus side of the river. I couldn’t see the other side The guide explained that the banks would be underwater at “high river”. This height of the river rises up about 40 feet in season. It’s kind of impossible to think of such a huge, long, wide body of water rising up so far.

searching for the opposite shore of the Amazon

Rio Negra

We travelled for southwest from dock on our way to vistas that make more sense to our Hollywood idea of what a riverboat ride in the jungle should feel like. When the brown waters of the Amazon join with the autologically named Rio Negra, the confluence of the two rivers creates a sharp delineation

Rio Negra meets the Amazon

Moving up the Rio Negra, the banks of the River move in closer and it finally feels like the jungle.

Rio Negra
trees growing in the river

The boat captain rammed to drove our vessel hard into the sandy shore to moor the boat for the night. We would spend the night hot. A thin mattress and a thin sheet on a hard metal bed protected by mosquito netting. Before retiring for the night, the captain did something strange.

He had a basketful of netting that he pulled out from some hold in ship. To one end of the netting he attached both a circular life preserver and an anchor. He attached the other end of the net to the boat and thru the anchor far out into the river. I couldn’t understand what he was doing. I don’t speak Portugese so I couldn’t ask him. But I couldn’t see any that anchor would hold the boat in the event of heavy rains. I just went to bed.

In the morning, I awoke later than the captain and the guide. They were making quite a ruckus towards the back of the boat. But I did smell coffee and what I hoped was breakfast. The captain was cleaning fish over the back of the boat and the guide was making breakfast. Breakfast was eggs and piranha.

It seems that during the night, as the river flowed thru our net, the piranhas flowed thru as well and got caught in the net. Something like justice I thought for the piranha to be eaten instead of the attacker.

We travelled up the Rio Negra for most of the next day. Deeper into the jungle. We moored in an area that the guide new for a hike into the jungle. When I thought about hiking in the jungle I had images of machete hacking thru thick fronds. Instead it was a forest walk thru huge strange trees. You hope to see exotic Amazon animals (and we did see a few brightly colored birds). Mostly I wanted to see the elusive cats of the jungle: Jaguar, Puma, Jaguarundi, Ocelot … but of course they were no where to be seen.

The trees of the forest are (or were) huge and strange. By the rivers edge I was obsessed with the mangrove growing on roots that held the tree trunk in the air. As we got further from the river, the massive size of the some of the trees was the star. By this time in my life I had spent some time in Yosemite Valley and the Redwoods are the only thing I had ever seen that compared.

mangrove trees on roots that look like stilts
deep veined roots at the base of massive trees

Pink dolphins

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