South American Odyssey Part 2

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May 18th 2015
Published: May 18th 2015
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"Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer" Anon

Saturday 16th May 2015

Today we returned to South America. It is three months since we were last here and we have missed the travelling. To venture forth in ignorance of exactly where one is going, or where one will be in a few weeks’ time, is such an exciting sensation, which brings forth a wonderful sense of freedom. We have bought our return tickets and travel insurance and we feel richer already, anticipating what the next eight weeks might hold. The anticipation, the trip preparations and packing, as well as dreaming of possibilities, is enrichment itself, before one even leaves home! We are pleased with our packing. Viv’s rucksack weighs just 12.5 kilo and John’s weighs 13.0, which means we are travelling light, as one should, if the aim is to enjoy the travelling as much as the destinations. We are firm believers in this. We have always said that the trip starts when we lock our front door at home, rather than at the point of arrival at any destination; love the getting there!

We left home early, at 5.45 a.m. to make
Chiringuito, Rio de JanieroChiringuito, Rio de JanieroChiringuito, Rio de Janiero

Closed at last; 4.00 a.m.
the 45 minute car ride to Alicante airport; our son and daughter-in-law, Nick and Mam, drove us there. They have our dog, Mutley, as a lodger for two months! Our flight to Madrid was on schedule and we landed there at 9.45 a.m. Madrid was bathed in sunshine, yet there were still traces of snow on the mountains to the North; it looked beautiful. Madrid is a great airport, fourth largest and busiest in Europe, twelfth in the world. Since both legs of our journey were on the national airline, Iberia, we didn’t have to change terminals, landing and taking off from Terminal 4, and our rucksacks went straight through, leaving us a leisurely time for breakfast with only our hand luggage to carry; an effortless journey, although a long haul, with a ten and a half hour flight from Madrid to Rio de Janeiro, a distance of 8159 kilometres (5068 miles). We crossed the Equator en route and landed in Rio at 5.45 p.m. local time, which would be 10.45 p.m. in Spain and 9.45 p.m. in London. It was dark already.

When arriving at foreign airports, one has to brace oneself for the onslaught of
"Where is our yacht,John?""Where is our yacht,John?""Where is our yacht,John?"

Manaus Marina, Rio Negro, Amazonas
taxi and hotel touts in the arrivals hall, so we were pleasantly surprised to find minimal bombardment in Rio. Our taxi driver was honest, indeed the metre was totting up slower than expected; we had already asked at the information desk what the approximate fare would be, and it was less. The only problem was, he got lost! This meant that we got lost with him! Eventually, we found the Hotel Plage beside a small beach on the island where the airport is, after a forty five-minute journey, which should have been fifteen. Our driver reduced the fare, which impressed us. The hotel was cheap but OK except that outside our bedroom window was a chiringuito (beach bar) which was pretty noisy on a Saturday night. Pity we were so tired after an eighteen hour journey, otherwise we might have joined the party. We just had a few beers there then went to bed, but we didn’t get much sleep. Samba drums started around 2 a.m., and the BBQ was lit at 3 a.m. By 4 a.m. the bar closed its shutters. Our alarm was at 4.30 a.m. Hey Ho! The joys of travelling!

Sunday 17th May 2015

The taxi booked for 5 a.m. didn’t arrive, so the hotel phoned for another one, but we got the plane to Manaus OK. We have only seen Rio in the dark so far, but we will be back here in a few weeks’ time to explore the city properly. As the plane took off, we could see just how spread out the city is, and how magnificent the setting, with a backdrop of mountains, the Sugar Loaf silhouetted against the black bay, strung with a ribbon of light at the break of dawn. The early Portuguese explorers thought that this huge bay was the estuary of a huge river, so since they arrived here in January, they called the place the January River, the Rio de Janeiro.

After a four and a half hour flight, we arrived in Manaus in the Amazon, at 10.30 a.m. Time in Manaus is one hour behind Rio, GMT – 5, CET – 6. It was a hot, humid sleepy Sunday morning, with the whole day stretching ahead for us to enjoy! We planned to spend our first Amazon day doing very little, giving us a chance to acclimatise to the high humidity, and
All aboard, including the rucksacksAll aboard, including the rucksacksAll aboard, including the rucksacks

Rio Takuma Acu, Amazonas
to chill out; this we did. We didn’t want to stay in the city, however, so we were heading for accommodation in a lodge to the east, on a tributary of the Rio Negro, called the Rio Takuma Acu. Manaus sits beside the Rio Negro, which joins with the Rio Solimoes, to form the Amazon.

From the airport, we were met by a driver from the lodge, who took us to the riverside where we boarded an open boat, with a canopy and an outboard; we had it all to ourselves (apart from the driver). A journey up the inky waters of the Negro then into the T Acu brought us to the lodge. We were met with a welcome drink and air conditioning! Such luxury. We need to make the most of this because next week we are going further into the jungle and will not have any air con, not even a fan when we plan to sleep out in hammocks on a jungle “safari”. It is 30 degrees today with extremely high humidity. Girls, forget doing the hair if you come here. It stays permanently soaking wet! We are fortunate, however, that it isn´t raining and it is very lush and beautiful. We have seen some beautiful red and green lizards and some unusual birds around this area, but we haven´t ventured out far yet to see the wildlife. We will soon! Our lodge is lovely. Some people were going off this afternoon to an island inhabited by a monkey colony, but we declined. We are too tired! We´ll go another day. Instead, after lunch, we had a siesta, with the air con on full blast. We notice that there are candles, together with a box of damp matches, beside our bed, so the air con might not be permanent! We shall use it while we can! One surprise is that there is Wi-Fi in the main reception lodge, so we can publish this blog sometime. We didn´t expect there to be any. We are told that it is a bit slow and spasmodic, but sooner or later it will work! Furthermore, our mobile phones work here, as does the data roaming, so we can be in touch if need be. Our frustration when travelling in other South American countries, on the Pacific coast, was that our mobiles didn´t work. Oops! There goes the electricity. Darkness and heat again! So, anyway, this will do for a first blog. We shall write more in a few days’ time, after we have explored a bit. If the electricity doesn´t come back, then we shall both be slimmer by the next time we write, having sweated off several pounds without moving!

Additional photos below
Photos: 9, Displayed: 9


Little Red and Green lizardLittle Red and Green lizard
Little Red and Green lizard

About 30 centimetres in length

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