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.
This is the piazza in front of the opera house.
We toured the opera house (the Teatros Amazonas) and sat in on a rehearsal of their symphony orchestra.
The interior was all gilt and velvet.
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!
I had never seen so many bananas in one place.
There were piranhas for sale in the fish market section. Later I will show you me catching some.
Arowanas were also for sale. These fish can reach 6 feet.
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.
Here we are being greeted by some of the villagers.
This is the chief?s son in their native dress.
We climbed to their ceremonial house and joined them in dancing and singing. The chief is in the blue headdress.
The boat ride back to Manaus was uneventful.
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.
The food was quite good and the service was spectacular. A special dinner layout illustrates the eating part of the trip.
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.
Here?s a group taking off for piranha fishing.
Winding through the vegetation, we had to push logs and stuff out of the way.
Success! We caught about 30 fish, but threw them all back. We used chunks of beef for bait.
Another trip was to a small village of indigenous people. That is the chief in the blue headdress.
Our guide showed us how to open a Brazil nut pod.
We stopped to see monkeys on the way.
And also caught sight of a sloth in a tree.
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.
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.
A young girl was washing things in the river as we passed.
We stopped at another local house to see a fellow who had caught an Anaconda.
His family found us amusing.
The sunset was spectacular on the Amazon as we returned to the riverboat.
I will end my Brazil journey here and I hope to see you soon on my next trip.