We boarded Sunday afternoon, and stayed until Thursday morning. Living on a boat for that long with so many people (there were 29 exchange students, 2 guides, and the boat’s crew of 4) was quite the experience…but that’s not even the half of it!
The boat had two levels, the upper level being where we all slept…in hammocks!
The deck on which our hammocks were hung was completely open, with only a railing to lean on…in other words, hang on to your stuff or it will be lost forever! Fortunately, I don’t think anyone left their belongings in a precarious enough place to see it lost to the river. The boat had 4 bathrooms, 2 for boys and 2 for girls. Each one had a shower inside, and there were also 2 showers on deck, but since it was completely exposed, we could only use the two showers on deck while wearing bathing suits.
On our first day on the boat, we went to where the two rivers that make up the Amazon, the Rio Negro and the Rio Sorimões, meet. It is truly amazing, because each river is a distinctly different color and they stay separate when they meet, so you see these two different colors of side by side. The Rio Negro is the darker one, called Negro because it is almost black, and Sorimões is the brown colored river:
Later that day we went on a short hike in an area that is underwater for half the year:
After that, we went to visit a native tribe! The tribe that we visited survives off of tourism in this day an age, which is sad, but it was really a great experience. They performed some of their traditional dances for us, and it was really neat. I filmed a little bit of each dance; the real thing was much longer of course, I only filmed short clips, but they’ll give you the idea:
We stopped our boat for the night at a beach, where we all swam in the Amazon River until we started to see lightning. We got back on board before the storm started and sat in our hammocks in the dark, the only barrier between us and the rainstorm tarps that were hung around the deck like blinds on giant windows. It was pretty intense!
The next day, we went into the actual rainforest, the part that is very dense and really crazy. The humidity inside the forest is awful, so even though there is nothing but shade, we were sweating like crazy. There were lots of bugs and spiky plants and crazy things! Unfortunately we didn’t see any animals other than a tarantula, probably because the sound of 30 people tramping around scared all the other animals away. Although it was a difficult hike, it was worth the effort; how many people can say they spent two hours walking around in the rainforest?
That afternoon, we went fishing.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to catch one, but it was still very fun! To fish for piranhas, you bait your hook with a small piece of meat, and then you thrash the end of your fishing rod around in the water for a few seconds. This attracts the piranhas, and then you catch them! The clever bastards kept on eating the meat off my hook without actually biting the hook. However, a number of my friends caught them, and it was really very funny because we weren’t using actual fishing rods with a reel, just sticks with fishing line tied onto the end, so every time someone caught one and jerked the line out of the water, the fish would go swinging around over everyone’s head, and all the girls started screaming for dear life. It happened every time. It was HILARIOUS!
When we took our catch back to the boat, the cook made a piranha soup! It was actually pretty good…piranhas are just a fish in the end, so they taste just fine!
That night we went out again, this time to catch jacarés (caimans- a subspecies of alligator)! To catch them, you go out at night, and, being very quiet, shine a flashlight around the river. If there is a caiman around, you will be able to find it by shining the flashlight in its eyes, which glow when the light hits them. We took 2 boats (each boat is the size and shape of a canoe, but it has a motor). One boat caught a tiny one, a baby, and my boat caught a larger one, which was probably about a foot and a half long. We took turns holding it, and after I had already passed it on to someone else, one of the guides warned us to be careful, because even at that smaller size the caiman is capable of taking of your arm. Thank you for telling me that AFTER I hold it, buddy. Thanks.
Now, there is one very important thing that I forgot to mention about our boat trip: on Tuesday, people started getting sick. Every day, different people were having diarrhea, throwing up, et cetera. No one knows why, but we are guessing that it is because of the water or the food. Luckily for me, I didn’t come down with it until the last day. I stayed in my hammock most of the time (even though the hammocks really were not all that comfortable). It was the last night that was the craziness: So many people were sick that many times that night we would be woken up by someone throwing up over the side….or someone falling out of their hammock and throwing up on deck…or someone throwing up over the side and then fainting. It was absolute madness! The next morning we were all relieved to be back in Manaus, where 9 of us who still weren’t feeling great stayed in the hotel, and the rest went to a different city to see some waterfalls. Unfortunately, I was one of the ones who stayed behind, but it was good for me: I slept for a few hours, ate a little bit of lunch, went back to sleep around 2 pm and slept (only getting up to go the bathroom various times) until the next morning. We had one more day in Manaus, looking around the city some more, and that night we went to the airport to fly to Fortaleza!
Next post: Fortaleza. How did you guess?