Up the Amazon

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September 6th 2009
Published: September 7th 2009
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Our river boatOur river boatOur river boat

We swung our hammocks middle deck just about in the middle of the boat.
We should have first met the Amazon rainforest from the window of our bus on the way from Cuaba the Porto Velho but all we saw was cows! Miles and miles of cows. The road we were travelling along was only paved in the 1980s, the improved access led 350,000 people to flood into the area grabbing land and clearing 20% of the forest in Rondonia state.

Next hop was a flight to Manaus - the city at the centre of the Amazon basin. From the plane the enormity of the forest becomes more real: 600km of trees and that’s just a corner. It also show up the way that the forest is being nibbled from the inside out and losing chunks round the edges. We were pretty much flying along the line of a unsurfaced road and could see spidery arms of smaller roads reaching out into the forest on each side. All the way wherever there is a road the trees are disappearing - Swiss cheese forest!

From Manaus we headed up river by boat - the busses of the river. Two nights chugging up river gave plenty of time to swing in our hammocks, read our
Rainforest from the skyRainforest from the skyRainforest from the sky

With a few bits cut down
only book (could have read a library full) and watch the water slipping by. The river was big, always over a mile wide and this is only one tributary over 1000 miles from the sea.

We were glad we decided against taking a cabin opting instead to sling our hammocks with everyone else. A bit cooler, better view and plenty of time to get to know the people on each side (or, as the Lonely planet says, extra bragging rights). At meal times the cook came and tapped us on the shoulder to make sure we didn’t miss out. First time round we were trying to miss out! But the food was good and we soon learnt the routine. Rice and beans all the way.

We wanted to make sure that we got to see plenty of good “virgin” forest so we booked ourselves in for a week in the Mamirauá reserve. This is a large area (1.2 million hectares) of várzea - forest that floods each year with nutrient rich “white water” flowing down from the Andes. The seasonal difference in water level is usually about 12 meters. This year the flood was 17 meters covering an area bigger than England.

Mamirauá is a Sustainable Development Reserve this means that the forest is managed to a strict set of rules ensuring environmental protection. Local communities are actively involved in the management of the reserve and benefit greatly from a healthy ecosystem. Catches of economically important fish have increased and a system of timber management allows for local needs alongside a sustainable level of harvest for sale. Communities within the reserve provide wardens to patrol the area and prevent poaching. There is an ecotourism programme in the reserve, where we stayed, which is staffed by local people and profits are distributed annually to the communities within the reserve based on a points system - breaking the rules looses points. We felt it was a well run reserve for the people as well as the wildlife. The only problem mentioned was jealousy, with people outwith the reserve excluded from utilising the natural resources or working in the tourism programme.

Although wildlife was not so easy to spot as in the Pantanal, with the high trees and thick leaf cover, it was most definitely there. We could hear it, the howler monkeys were incredible - low rumbles, almost like thunder, that travel miles and go on for hours. We spent most of the mornings and late afternoons in canoes, with our local guide, drifting along the river banks and trying to identify birds and beasts with the help of Portuguese-English translation picture books. Sloths were the coolest, and coati the cutest. The coati spent so long watching us, that we got stiff necks first and decided to move on.

After lunch each day we took a siesta in the hammocks, because it was too hot and humid to move. On Thursday the humidity broke with a spectacular tropical storm, of course as we were miles from home looking for monkeys with one of the Mamirauá researchers. Then we were cold!

Something we thought was very cool is that lots of the trees fruit as the water is rising so that the seeds can be dispersed by fish!

We are typing this somewhere over the Atlantic on our way home 😞 It’s been a fantastic holiday 😊 😊. Obrigado and obrigada Brazil and the Brazilians.

Additional photos below
Photos: 14, Displayed: 14


Jaguar footprintJaguar footprint
Jaguar footprint

As close as we got to actualy seeing one

They dont run away but can hide very well.

Nice sunset to end this trip

7th September 2009

Well done!
Dear Viv and Matt, I'm so glad that you made it! Amazing trip! I hope to see you soon!
7th September 2009

Looks like you had a wonderful time in the Amazon, we particularly like the coati and the hammocks!

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