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Published: June 22nd 2014
I got packed and ready for my tour and waited for my pickup which was supposed to be at 8:30. At about 9 I called to make sure they were coming and the receptionist said they were. While I waited I hung out with Max and a guy from Croatia. The Croatian told us about the tour he went on the previous day in which the boat broke down. Instead of the the boat operator calling for assistance he decided to beat the engine with a hammer and float down the river for 5 hours. I called them again and apparently they had gone to the wrong hostel. So they picked me up an hour late and I met up with the rest of the group at the harbor. Our tour guide, Matt, is a Brazilian native that goes to school in Paris and works in Brazil over the summer. The other guy on the tour were couples Robert/Melinda, Andrew/Stephanie, and fifth wheel Andrew, who's is married but the wife didn't come. They were all from San Francisco. So far it seems like everyone from the US that I meet here is from Cali or Oregon. We traveled down the Rio Negro to get to the dolphin station. This river was huge! Much wider than the parts of the Mississippi that I've seen. If you didn't notice the water was flowing you would've thought it was a lake. Matt told us the river was at the second highest it had been in 50 years and it was between 20m and 60m (about 65ft and 195ft) deep depending on where you were. On the way we passed a floating ga station, which I had never seen before. The dolphin station was a floating platform with nets around it. The nets were to keep people in, but the dolphins were free to roam the river and come in whenever. I decided not to bring swim trunks since everything I was wearing was polyester. These weren't just normal dolphins, they were pink river dolphins in the Amazon. They looked like bottle-nose dolphins, but with deformed foreheads, more like 8-heads (ocho dome). They swam around us and poked us a few times. Every now and then they would jump right by us. There was one that stayed under the dock the entire time and creeped. One of the staff got in the water with use and waved a fish around to attract them. The dolphins would come for the fish and the staff would tease them long enough to let us touch it. The dolphins skin felt really weird. Way too soft and fleshy. One of them decided to swim through Melinda's legs and for a second she straddled and rode it in panic on accident. After getting out of the water we went to the other side of the station where we some some monstrous fish. The fish were Arapaima, the largest freshwater fish in South America, and these were at least 5 ft long and 400lbs. They let us bait a line (no hook) and dangle it in the water. The fish would grab the bait and come partially out of the water, then slam itself down so fast and with such force the line would snap. The scales of the fish were very large and rough. The Indians used them as nail files and decoration. Next we went to a mom and pop restaurant in the rainforest that also served as a small hostel. The family there owned the smallest dog I had ever seen and a pet monkey. We ate fish that only lives in the waters near the shore during the dry season, or in the low waters of the rainforest during the wet season. It eats fallen fruit from the trees or roots which made its meat very tasty. After lunch took the boat south towards the city and docked in the forest. We met the chief of the local Indian tribe. He told us he would love to stay and chat but the game was about to start (Brazil v Mexico). Apparently even Indians watch futbol here. Matt told us that he was one of the few remaining old school shamans in the Amazon and that he's a very influential and important man. BBC and National Geographic have come and interviewed him and he's given guest lectures at several universities. We put our bags in the reserve house where extra hammocks hung in case it rained during the night and we needed to get indoors. Afterwards we walked to the tree we would be climbing and put on our climbing gear. The gear was legit climbing gear, which eased some worry. When I looked up at the tree I could see our hammocks about 80ft up. It took about an hour for us to climb the tree, 1.5 hours for Melinda. After resting and enjoying the view of the river and the city in the distance we climbed back down. We went back to the reserve house to rest and help the guides start a fire. For dinner we went to a locals house and had fish and chicken... and Coke! After dinner Matt took us on a canoe on the river in the dark. We were shining our lights on the water and base of the trees to try and find the reflections of animals eyes and possibly find a crocodile and catch It with our bare hands. If the crocodile was less than 1.5m (4ft-5ft) then we could catch them. We didn't find any crocs, but we did find a 6ft snake in the trees and a bunch of frogs. Matt told us that since the river was high and the water went back into the rainforest the crocs were back there hunting because there was more food. The sounds of the rainforest were awesome. I just wanted to take my own boat out there, drop anchor, and sleep in the middle of the water. On the way back we saw lightning in the distance. If we ended up in the tree during a storm it could be dangerous for several reasons. One would be the high winds blowing our hammocks, another would be lightning striking us since we're in the tallest tree, lightning striking the tree and one of the branches getting split and falling 80ft with our hammock on it, or something from higher in the tree falling on us like a branch or another hammock. We got back to the reserve house and chilled by the fire for a little bit. I started to notice i had a slight headache and sore throat. The guides told us the storm likely wouldn't hit for a while and it was safe to go up. Melinda wasn't gonna make it so Stephanie stayed in the reserve house with her. Me and the other guys went to the tree and started our night climb around 23:00. Climbing in the dark took less time, but seemed harder, and have us a night view of the city which was amazing. After cooling down in the tree. We got into our hammocks. We had to sleep with all of our gear still on since falling out in the night was a risk, but we could take our helmets off, which felt amazing. By the time we got into our hammocks it was midnight and I fell asleep instantly.
The guides stayed up to listen for rain while we slept. Around 2 it started to sprinkle and woke us up. It stopped sprinkling, but the guides told us it would be a good idea to get down because they could hear a "big rain" coming. We climbed down and got settled in the reserve house with the girls. As soon as I got comfortable in my reserve hammock it began to pour. We woke up at 8 to Melinda running out the door to throw up. I guess the food didn't agree with her. We ate breakfast at the chief's daughter's house. We talked with her husband who was a German businessman. He was telling us stories about the Jaguar in the surrounding area and how once, while him and his wife were sleeping outside, it came up and looked in their hammock. The jaguar was about 3ft from ground to shoulder and about 4-5ft long. Another time he saw a jaguar attack an anteater and before the jaguar could bite its neck and kill it the anteater latched on all 4 claws to the jaguars back and neck so that when the jaguar killed it the anteater was still hanging on. Hang in there anteater! He was also telling us how the sloths in the rainforest can make fun pets for a couple of days as long as they're still young. Before you play with them you have to sit them in a bucket of water and wait for the parasites to leave. The chief arranged for us so see and participate in a ritual, which was cool. I had no idea what was going on, but it was still fun. They had us dance with them at the end of the ritual. Before we left I bought some of the family's crafts for people at home. On the way back to the city I found out that the people on my tour group would be in Rio while I'm there. When I got back to the hostel I peeled off the dirty clothes and took the best cold shower ever. After getting cleaned up I watched Australia v Netherlands. I was cheering for Australia. I walked around the city, searching through stores and vendors for an American flag, but after an hour I couldn't find one. As soon as I got back to the hostel a torrential downpour started. Once rain let up I withdrew some money and walked the 3.5 miles from the hostel to the stadium and it took around 1:15 to do it. I ended up walking through favelas to get there. Whoops. I also found out that if your phone is in airplane mode but your WiFi is on Google maps still works. I guess it just needs to ping of of signals instead of connecting. To give your location. On the way I stopped at a gas station and got a coke and 3 crunch bars as a snack for R$9, that's about $4! So cheap! Got to the stadium and bought some souvenirs for people. Couldn't find any USA stuff. Got back to my seat and met an Australian sitting behind me named Simon. He invited me to sit next to him and gave me a beer. We chatted about 2022 in Qatar, Australia, the game, and a bunch of other stuff the whole game. He was pretty cool. We decided to share a taxi after the game to get to FanFest since that's close to where he's staying and I wanted to see if the store was open. The game was awesome! I was cheering for Croatia. Croatia whooped Cameroon, especially after Cameroon got a red card. The Croatian fans were going crazy in the streets. Simon's friends found us after the game and we got a sandwich at the nearby gas station. All of his friends were older than him and talking about getting hammered. 3 Australians between 32 and 55 talking about getting blackout, plastered, hammered drunk in Brazil. I flagged down a cab and rode with the Australians to FanFest. It was closed so I took a cab back to the Teatro Amazonas and called it a night.
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