Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Mom Edition - Part 2, The Amazon

For our trip to the Amazon we flew from Rio to Manaus and managed to score an exit row. For each of us! We were collected at the airport, put into a van, and driven to a dock. Waiting at the dock was a tiny little wooden speedboat to get us to the lodge. I thought Mom might freak out, but she actually did OK! Outside of Manaus, there is 1 road in the Amazon - they use the rivers as roadways.
Upon arrival, the most important part of the trip occurred -- I met Iurys. Iurys is a native Brazilian Indian - he grew up in a tribe but left at the age of 24. He had the most AMAZING stories to tell us about his life, including the ceremonial contest he had to pass as an initiation at the age of 19. Also, I fell in love with him. It was a pretty intense crush and I am certain he returned the sentiments. Mom was embarrassed of me.

Here he is putting fire ants of some sort onto himself. They do this and then rub it all over so that they smell like nature and other people and animals can't smell them coming. I am pretty sure he made this demonstration to show me his strength, though. Le sigh.

Also, he has a machete. And I now have an inordinate amount of pictures that look just like this. I mean I might even be a little embarrassed about how big of a crush I have on him.

We jumped into activities at the resort right away with Pirana fishing.

Look at those teeth - vicious! Interesting fact: The word pirana in portuguese is piranha. Piranha is also slang for prostitute.

Nobody besides our guides caught any pirana, but we did manage to catch an alligator (sort of). Apparently one alligator knows where Iurys takes people fishing regularly.

Iurys called him over just like you would call a dog over and held a Pirana above his head. [At this point I was paralyzed with fear as it was about 1 foot away from me and I was dangling a fishing pole with raw meat on it right in front of his face.] Iurys then told him to jump and the gator flew up out of the water, grabbed the pirana, and swam off to eat it.

I became un-fear paralyzed to snap photos, though! This guy sat and waited until he was told to jump before he grabbed the pirana. Now I want an alligator and I want to teach it tricks, too. Please mom?

After dinner that night mom and I headed down to the little ourselves. We had NO idea where everyone was, and we actually started to get a little worried that we had 4 days of staring at each other as our only entertainment in store. This place was remote so it wasn't as though we could go find a restaurant or anything else. As it turns out, we did have pretty much nothing to do each night - but only because we did so much each day we were pretty exhausted and wanted to sleep! We ate dinner each night (the food was actually horrible here) and played pool (which we are both horrible at) before crashing fairly early.

We did a hike through the forest which was beautiful. We learned a lot about different plants and wildlife. Iurys taught us how shoot a bow and arrow and a blow dart. And we just got to be out in the beautiful jungle!

SO green and lush! It actually rained during the entire hike, but with the canopy you couldn't really even tell. I came home really muddy, though!

We also visited a native village and at night we went in a canoe ride to look for alligators. The paddle canoe put us level with the water and if someone even thought about moving the boat would rock a ton. Once I got past the whole dark/alligator/I could fall in feeling, it was actually amazing. The little canoe got us back into parts of the river I would have thought to be inaccessible, but that were absolutely beautiful and so serene.

One day we took a day-trip to the meeting of the waters. It is the point where the Rio Negro (Black River) and the Rio Amazona (Amazon River) meet. Because the rivers are different colors, PHs, temperatures, and speeds, the water from the 2 don't mix. It is actually really neat to see. We stuck our hands in on the way back (we took a speedboat tour back) and you could feel the difference in the water immediately as you crossed over.

On the way to the meeting of the waters one of the tour guides grabbed a Boa out of the water and proceeded to let everyone hold it and pass it around. I was the only person who could not get over the fact that we had just snatched a snake out of the Amazon River and it was completely normal and an OK thing to do!

Pretty neat, huh? And it is even cooler in real life.

I may or may not have tried to steal this dog (and maybe a really cute baby, too. nbw.) - He was precious.

The houses all float and everyone has a canoe. Iurys told us that in these water villages the first thing you learn is how to swim and the second thing is to paddle a canoe. We saw a kid no more than 4 driving a little motor-powered canoe. Crazy. Iurys also said that you have to keep your chickens up in high cages because anacondas like chickens. We then saw small children swimming around underneath the chicken cages. Safe, no?

Iurys basically just ate the whole time - everywhere we went he was plucking berries and seeds and whatnot from plants and popping them in his mouth. He never stopped eating. And he just kept telling me to try it all, too. Some of it tasted horrible! But this was actually really nice - tasted like the fruit version of a sweettart! Samantha you would LOVE it (and I even said that to mom when I was eating it)!

Because I love him, I ate everything he told me to try - it is no small wonder that I did not end up in the hospital with some sort of poisoning. But his mother is a healer back in his tribe so I would have been OK. I swear I am not making this stuff up.

Our last day brought the most exciting of our adventures - MONKEYS! Just across the river is a reserve that was part of our resort - the Manaus zoo was apparently FULL of monkeys and the situation wasn't safe or healthy for them. So the owner said hey, I have this place and I want to rehabilitate these guys to the wild. The zoo said yes and now we have a monkey reserve. They feed the monkeys 20% of their daily food and they are left to forage for the rest like regular monkeys. Oh, also, they are adorable.
See, pretty stinking adorable, right? This is Patricia. All of the monkeys had weird American names like Amanda and Tony. Patricia just liked attention - you would give her a nut and she would sit there and let you pet her while she nibbled on it. But honestly, if someone gave me a jar of peanut butter and I was allowed to sit there and eat it I would let them pet me too.

Iurys told us that this little girl isn't very polite - she just kept trying to climb up me and they had to pry her off with the stick. Here's the thing, I didn't mind!

They fed the monkeys while we were there. They all ran over but took their time starting to eat - they eat in a hierarchy with the Alpha Male (Tony, he is the fat one on the right here) going first and the red-faced monkey (there is only 1 and they semi-adopted him into their little monkey family) last. See the baby? 3 months old :)

Moms isn't so down with the wildlife - so instead of touching the monkey for a photo she opted to be in the general vicinity of the monkey for a photo.

After the monkey visit we headed straight to the airport. I said a sad goodbye to Iurys and since our flight wasn't for several hours, she taught me how to play rummy. And we played rummy all the way to Salvador!

This is us sad to be leaving the Amazon. This was our third attempt at a sad picture. If you think this one is bad you really should see the first two.


  1. you are a better person than me...I could NOT handle that monkey near me..I have a fear...

  2. We really are not good at playing pool or making sad faces are we? Thanks for the great blog recap, this leg of the trip was my favorite, not just for the awesomeness of the Amazon Jungle but also because it was so cute watching you become totally SMITTEN with our 46 year old Indian tour guide :)

  3. You are too funny!