Amazon Rain Forest & Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Moira Mc Dermott on 12 April 2001

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My journey to Brazil was eagerly anticipated. I arrived in Manaus at around two in the afternoon and went straight on to a river boat to travel out to the "Meeting of The Waters". This is where the rivers Rio Negro and Solimoes meet and form what is known as the Amazon River. The waters travel together for a distance of some 8-9km before finally becoming one amazing river. Tired as I was I could not help but be completely overawed by the sight that lay before me. The city of Manaus lies 1,500km from the Amazon River mouth and yet ocean going ships can (and do) sail into Manaus. Once the mighty Amazon finally reaches the ocean its force is such that it pushes potable water out to sea for a distance of over 100km. Ancient mariners knew that they could pick up drinking water without putting in to shore. At some points the river is more than 40km wide! The fascinating facts surrounding Amazonia are seemingly endless.

Our journey continued next day with a 56km riverboat ride to our destination on the Rio (River) Negro. We stayed at the Ariau Amazon Towers Hotel. The hotel is built on sturdy stilts elevating it to Rain Forest Canopy level; the various Towers are linked by aerial walkways affording guests the most unbelievable rain forest and river views. The accommodation was standard, the hotel staffs, from housekeepers to river guides, were wonderful. It is almost impossible to capture in words the magnificence of what we saw and experienced. The colourful (understatement), gorgeous and hideously noisy parrots, mischievous woolly monkeys, seriously slow three toed sloths, could all be spotted from a leisurely stroll along the walkways - just getting from your room to reception was an adventure! The programme which we followed took us out onto the lengths of the river every day for activities such as Piranha fishing - I caught one and, fortunately, it fell off the hook before I landed it in the boat as I was a bit worried about attempting "catch and release "!! - Caymen spotting where the locals not only found these reptiles (a bit like an alligator) but plucked them out of the water with their bare hands so that we could get a better look at them! The jungle hike was very interesting and we had to travel quite far to actually get to some dry ground. Walking in the rain forest was slippery and quite dark. We had started off very early so that we would be finished our hike by the time all the snakes became active. We visited the small village of St Thomas which consisted of a few small houses, tiny school, a soccer pitch and a little shop come meeting place. Many of the houses on the Amazon are built on raft like structures and they are towed to different parts of the river depending on water levels. A highlight of my visit was sailing out into the middle of the river well before dawn, cutting the engine and sitting waiting for daylight. As the sun rose the river came alive with colour, the howler monkeys earned their name and the beauty all around was almost too much to comprehend. We were then lucky enough to catch sight of fresh water dolphins – there was no end to the magnificence of The Amazon River system.

After four days we reluctantly made our way back down river and onto Rio de Janeiro. My first thought was that Rio would be dull in comparison to what we had just experienced. However, Rio de Janeiro never disappoints!!! The scenic beauty is awesome; the people are loud and proud!! Everywhere was noise and fun and wonderful, wonderful music - cocktails on Sugar Loaf Mountain with a Brazilian Band playing, four wheel drive excursion through the Tijuca Forest, staying in the Sheraton Hotel in a top floor room with a view over Rio to the floodlit Statue of Christ The Redeemer, it was like living for a moment “inside” a full colour postcard!!! In Rio we danced and danced and wanted never to leave!!!

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