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On the Rio Negro and the Amazon

Teddie Watts

The final segment of my time in Brazil was exploring the Amazon Basin by riverboat and small launches off the riverboat.  We embarked in Manaus, where the Rio Negro joins with the Amazon.  Manaus is primarily a product of the rubber boom in the late 1800s.  The state governor at that time, Eduardo Ribeiro, transformed Manaus into a city with an opera house, brad Parisian-styles avenues, and Italian-style piazzas.  Rubber barons built fabulous mansions there and lived lavish life styles; one of the ?barons? even sent his laundry to England to have his shirts done properly.  The city?s heyday lasted only 30 years - by 1914 the rubber market was collapsing fast.  Today?s prosperity in Manaus is largely due to the creation of a Free Trade Zone in 1966 bringing many new industries and increasing the population to over 3 million people.

This is the mansion of one of the barons.

Photo by Teddie Watts


This is the piazza in front of the opera house.

Photo by Teddie Watts

 
We toured the opera house (the Teatros Amazonas) and sat in on a rehearsal of their symphony orchestra.

Photo by Teddie Watts

 
The interior was all gilt and velvet.

Photo by Teddie Watts
Photo by Teddie Watts

 
Our group toured the main marketplace in Manaus, the Municipal Market Adolpho, and we saw many unusual things?both animal and vegetable, pharmaceutical to frivolous.

This is what Brazil nuts look like in their pod.  Locals put fences around the trees to avoid getting hit on the head with a veritable cannon ball!

Photo by Teddie Watts


I had never seen so many bananas in one place.

Photo by Teddie Watts
Photo by Teddie Watts


There were piranhas for sale in the fish market section.  Later I will show you me catching some.

Photo by Teddie Watts


Arowanas were also for sale.  These fish can reach 6 feet.

Photo by Teddie Watts

 
The Manaus waterfront was exciting.  A group of us took an optional trip to visit a village of indigenous people about 2 hours from Manaus.  This is our boat.

Photo by Teddie Watts

 
Here we are being greeted by some of the villagers.

Photo by Teddie Watts

 
This is the chief?s son in their native dress.

Photo by Teddie Watts

 
We climbed to their ceremonial house and joined them in dancing and singing.  The chief is in the blue headdress.

Photo by Teddie Watts

 
The boat ride back to Manaus was uneventful.

Photo by Teddie Watts

 
Late in the afternoon, we boarded our riverboat and started up the Rio Negro.  We spent 4 days each on the two rivers. The boat was very comfortable; each stateroom had a balcony.

There is an open common area on the top deck with food and drink under a large canopy to keep the daily rain off. You can see the small boats on the fantail with the boom to lower them into the river for the daily excursions.

Photo by Teddie Watts


The food was quite good and the service was spectacular.  A special dinner layout illustrates the eating part of the trip.

Photo by Teddie Watts

 
You can see where the Rio Negro and the Amazon meet.  The Rio Negro is almost black in color and translucent.  The color comes from rotting vegetation.  The Amazon is cloudy and beige from the sandy bottom.

Photo by Teddie Watts

 
Here?s a group taking off for piranha fishing.

Photo by Teddie Watts

 
Winding through the vegetation, we had to push logs and stuff out of the way.

Photo by Teddie Watts

 
Success!  We caught about 30 fish, but threw them all back.  We used chunks of beef for bait.

Photo by Teddie Watts
Photo by Teddie Watts


Another trip was to a small village of indigenous people.  That is the chief in the blue headdress.

Photo by Teddie Watts


Our guide showed us how to open a Brazil nut pod.

Photo by Teddie Watts


We stopped to see monkeys on the way.

Photo by Teddie Watts


And also caught sight of a sloth in a tree.

Photo by Teddie Watts

 
A highlight of trip up the Rio Negro was visiting the pink dolphins.  Apparently the dolphins are pink because they live in fresh water.  They were also very tame.  The darkness of the water also shows up on this shot.

Photo by Teddie Watts
Photo by Teddie Watts


On the Amazon:  As we motored up the Amazon River, we saw several local houses.  They were located far up the banks, as the river varies in height 30-40 feet with the rainy season. It was about halfway to full flood level while we were there.

Photo by Teddie Watts

 
A young girl was washing things in the river as we passed.

Photo by Teddie Watts

 
We stopped at another local house to see a fellow who had caught an Anaconda.

Photo by Teddie Watts

 
His family found us amusing.

Photo by Teddie Watts


The sunset was spectacular on the Amazon as we returned to the riverboat.

Photo by Teddie Watts

 
I will end my Brazil journey here and I hope to see you soon on my next trip.


From Rio to the Rainforest - Second Stop: Rio de Janeiro

Teddie Watts

Our trip from Iguazú Falls to Rio was relatively uneventful.  Free-for-all boarding (instead of by seating zone) of the airplane is a bit unsettling, like musical chairs ? will I have a seat when the music stops??? 
 

Guide

Rio de Janeiro translates as “January River.”  Europeans first encountered Guanabara Bay on January 1, 1502.  The city was the capital of Brazil from 1763 to 1815 during the Portuguese colonial era. A later blog will have pictures of Petropolis, also known as the Imperial City of Brazil.  The Summer Palace of the second Brazilian Emperor is located there.  The population of the city of Rio de Janeiro is about 6,000,000.  Rio was Brazil’s capital until 1960, when Brasília took its place (a later blog will be on Brasília).  Residents of Rio are known as Cariocas.  Our local guide in Rio, Celso, was a good example of Cariocas.  He was always happy, interested, and quick to dish ?the gossip? about local people and places.
 

Castle

Sand

 

The city is divided into the historic downtown (Centro); the tourist-friendly and commercial South Zone with Rio?s famous beaches; the residential North Zone; and the West Zone.  There are large sand castles on each of the beaches.
 

 

Wall

 

Wall colors

 

Most flat surfaces in the city are covered with graffiti, and many buildings have security fences.
 

 
When we arrived at the hotel we met the rest of our group, as Iguazú Falls was a pre-trip excursion.  After lunch by the hotel pool we departed for the Urca district where we boarded cable cars to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain.  The 360-degree view was fabulous.
 

 

 
The next morning we took a cog train ride through Tijuca Forest up Corcovado Mountain to the lookout where the towering statue of Christ the redeemer stands.  The Obamas had been there the day before.  I got a face-on picture of the statue, but I thought the one from behind was more interesting.
 

 
The view from the café near the statue was spectacular.

 
In the afternoon, after a fabulous lunch at the famous Cafeteria Colombo (with a table full of different desserts), we toured Colonial Rio.  I didn?t take many pictures of the Baroque architecture, but got a couple of good shots of local color.
 

 
According to Celso, the top apartment once belonged to Carmen Miranda.
 

 
Girls of Ipenema!
 

 
The interior of a city government building.
 

 
In the evening, there was an optional tour of Rio by Night that included dinner at a typical local Brazilian restaurant.  Along with an extensive buffet of side dishes, waiters bring skewers of a variety of grilled meats and slice them on your plate for as long as you can eat!
 

 
After dinner we went to the ?Plataforma 1? theater for a folklore and carnival show.  We got a real taste of what Carnival must be.  The costumes were fabulous.
 

 
I took a couple of shots from the balcony off of our room at the hotel.  Two are the beach the other is a slope to the left of the hotel covered with a shantytown, or favela.  According to Celso, working class Cariocas live in these towns, as rent in the city is prohibitively expensive.
 

 
Bye for now.  Our next stop is Petropolis, the Imperial City.


Bud Break and Running Hare Vineyard

Jeff Smallwood

I love visiting Running Hare Vineyard. They’ve got a wonderful location in Calvert Co. Maryland. If you’ve never been there I highly recommend it. They have a beautiful pavilion and now that the weather is warming up, it’s a great place to take a lunch or snack and share a bottle of wine.

In addition, like the Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC, there’s an annual occurrence that you have to plan ahead for if you want to capture it in images. It’s called bud break. Read more about how I captured bud break in this article.