Amazon adventure

Brasil Observer - May 04 2016
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(Leia em Português)


Shaun Alexander starts a new monthly column by exploring the Amazon near the city of Manaus


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When I’m not editing the English version of this newspaper, I’ve taken a very keen interest in travelling Brazil. The Brazil I’ve known for the past 10 years has been the southwest corner, but what fascinates me most about Brazil is its crazy, chaotic but beautiful diversity. There is so much more to explore in this enormous country, and I have been challenged by the founders of this newspaper to get out there and see it. So that’s exactly what I am proposing to you right now.

Every month, I’ll go to a new place in Brazil and tell you about my experiences. The photographs with this article you can also find on my instagram account (@shaunalex) and I am also developing a specific YouTube account, Um escocês no Brasil. Coming soon.

First stop was a place I’d dreamed of visiting before I even knew it was in Brazil: The Amazon Rainforest. As a nature lover and keen follower of people like David Attenborough since I could walk (friends at school used to call me ‘Nature Boy’), the Amazon had always been pretty high on the list of places to go. But it’s a difficult place to get to, no matter where in the world you are, even when you live in Brazil. This trip would always just be a taste of what is an enormous region, so it was decided we’d head right for the centre: Manaus, the capital city of the state of Amazonas.

We stayed about 20 minutes drive outside the city in an enormous, colonial hotel on the banks of the Rio Negro called Tropical Hotel. Being a short trip, we could only really sample the delights of the Amazon rather than delve into them. So, in our group, we decided to do a couple of day trips. First was a boat trip up the Rio Negro, where we visited an Indian village some 30 kilometres from Manaus.

In actual fact, the village homes families from several tribes who live in a world between their original culture and that of modern day Brazil. They are used to visitors and perform dances for every boatload that comes by. The tribe is real but their way of life isn’t as presented. They are modern, all the kids take boats to school where they learn Portuguese, and much of their original way of life is lost. Being located so close to a sprawling city like Manaus means it was inevitable, but it’s great they can keep some of their traditions alive and can display this to visitors. The people were extremely welcoming and friendly and I loved meeting them in their village.



While there, our fast boat whizzed us to another location on the opposite side of the river. Here, we swam with the legendary pink river dolphins. Although totally wild, these animals are used to the guides who hand feed them in water, in a place where tourists can get up close and personal with these amazing animals. They swim beneath your feet as they take turns to jump up and grab fish from the hand of the guide, who knows most of the animals individually. This is an experience not to be missed.

The final experience of our boat tour was seeing the Meeting of the Waters. It is a great sight to see where the mighty Amazon River officially begins. I found the change of temperatures between the waters (Rio Negro is very warm, Rio Solimões much cooler) both shocking and fascinating.

Along with that, we also took a short walk through a nature reserve and ate lunch on a floating restaurant. I should mention, the food in the region is quite unique. If you like fish, this place is heaven. I literally tried a different type of fish every day, each prepared in their own special way. The local fruits and vegetables – too exotic and numerous to list – are also incredible, while you must also try the many, many ways they prepare tapioca.

Another daytrip was to the small town of Presidente Figueiredo, which is about 100 kilometres north of Manaus. Here, there are dozens of waterfalls in the jungle, and we had time to fit three in during the day. If you find yourself struggling with the immense, humid heat of the Amazon, this is the place to go, for the small rivers and waterfalls here are icy cold. A dip in any of them is an exhilarating and breath taking experience for the cold water alone.

I didn’t have a great deal of time to explore the city of Manaus in great detail, although I did walk around the Municipal Market and also visited the world famous theatre, with its stunning design.

Four days is not enough time to explore the area of Manaus, let alone the Amazon. What it gave me was a tiny taste, and I want more. I want to learn more about this marvellous rainforest, the animals that live there, and the great body of water that flows through it. It’s possible to stay in remote lodges in the jungle for days isolated from the world but in comfort. This sounds perfect. I realize there are many states that encompass the Amazon, so I should have to think about the next Amazonian trip. Having said that, I have more to learn about the city of Manaus too, so I will definitely be back for more.

A highlight for me was taking a walk to the Ponte do Rio Negro beach in the evenings, swimming in the bathwater-warm water while watching the most intense sunsets and thunderstorms I’ve ever seen, as they illuminated the horizon. If you have any tips of where I should travel for upcoming columns, get in touch with me on social media.

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