Big Boat, Small Boat: Brazil, Day 1
I woke up early enough in order to be able to eat breakfast and be off the ship as soon as the gangway opened. We only had an hour or so to explore Manaus, our port city, before we had to be at our meeting point to set off down the Amazon on our riverboats. I disembarked with Cassie, Will, Perri, Lexi and Will and we took the shuttle to the port entrance. Will was on a mission to find Havaiana sandals, so we let him lead the way. We crossed several streets haphazardly and ended up in the middle of the city. Manaus, in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon, is home to upwards of 2 million people, and is a bustling city. We followed Will from shop to shop, up and down the sidewalks where people were selling everything from food to remote controls to machetes. We stopped in a small café to try a Brazilian cheesy bread thing, which was really good. Will tried to communicate he wanted to find the sandals by saying “Havaianas?” and pointing in either direction, effectively making up his own little dance. We eventually found them in what could probably be called a Brazilian Wal-Mart, where I bought a couple of things and Will purchased an excessive amount of sandals. Running out of time and sweating our butts off, we hustled back to the ship in order to make our meeting time.
When our tour group left the ship, we learned that we had to walk in the Brazilian heat along the water, for what seemed like a mile. Of course I was the most awkward one and was pulling a rolling suitcase along with me, making my trek unnecessarily difficult. I kept running over peoples’ feet and having to lug it up curbs. I have now learned from this experience, however.
When our group got to the riverboats, we ate lunch and split up into our small boat and big boat groups. There were only 13 or so of us on the small boat, so we ended up becoming tight. We set out for the meeting of the waters, a place where the café au lait-colored water of the Amazon meets the black coffee-colored water of the Rio Negro, and they run alongside each other for a while, not mixing. I found it entertaining, along with the river dolphins we saw frolicking in the current.
After that, we headed to Lake Victoria, a small lake that grows exceptionally large water lilies, which I have only really seen in movies and am now happy to have seen in real life. These ones were huge though, with about a 3 foot diameter. We also saw a large caiman (alligator) chilling on the shore, and several other smaller ones swimming in the water, which I didn’t go anywhere near (we walked out onto a dock to see the water lilies). After a little souvenir shopping from the locals (I got my magnet), we headed back out on our riverboats.
We headed out past Manaus, and into the open waters of the Rio Negro. Fun fact: also it looks like a huge river itself, the Rio Negro is actually a tributary of the Amazon. Our boats headed directly into a storm, which poured rain on us for a time. It was a great small boat bonding experience as we lowered the tarps around what can only be described as the fence that encircled the boat. The entire thing was open-air, with little protection from the elements, but it was a ton of fun. After all of us got soaking wet in the rain, it was time for dinner. The local food was amazing; it included a lot of rice and fish dishes. I fell in love with fried and/or roasted plantains. I made a note to myself to find out how to do this and do it at home. It was a girl called Melissa’s birthday, and the big boat baked a cake and passed it over to us. The big boat people were really jealous that we got to eat some amazing cake and they got hosed. They were bitter for the rest of the trip. Small boat love. After our dessert, the boat crew made us some capirinhas, a local drink made from rum, sugar and lime juice. It was good but really strong.
After we ate and socialized for a while, we climbed into our hammocks and settled in for bed. I had two of my friends on either side of me, so they entertained themselves by swinging me from side to side. I think they were trying to annoy me, but all it did was rock me to sleep.