Sunday, September 25, 2011

36 hours from LA finds us deserted in the Amazon

En Route to the Amazon

Good travels are never without much transit and waiting. After 2 long 8 hour flights, a layover in Panama long enough to get our passports stamped, but not long enough to explore, we arrived in Manaus, Brazil.

Manaus was our launching point into the Amazon. Their ATMs refused to give us cash after 9pm, so with no Brazilian Reis on hand, we holed up in our hostel. The next morning we grabbed cash, and were on our way to the Amazon. We had done much research, albeit in a short amount of time, as to what tour company to travel with. We compared prices, preferred the black river with less bugs and less animals and wanted maximum time in the crazy jungle and minimum time in a comfortable lodge. So, we finally settled on Amazon Antionio Jungle Tours ( for 3 nights and 4 days of jungle adventure.

Amazon Day 1

We took to local VIP bus 2 hours to a small town, where we hopped out and onto a motor boat. Cruising 45 minutes on the Urudu river, we only saw a few locals, but otherwise, the Amazon was all ours!

Boating along the Urudu River in the Amazon

Now this is vacation!

Arriving at our Amazon Antonio jungle lodge.

Jane and I had both been rather busy at work, and felt like we barely made it onto our plane in one piece. But here, Jane and I would soon learn the art of chilling with the help of this dock by the river and the tower in the background peering over the Amazon.

We were based out of this lodge and took overnight trips and mini-ventures into the jungle.

Medicinal tree

When we first arrived, our guide took us on a 30 minute medicinal walk. We learned about natural products of the Amazon used to treat different problems. I was all about this since I had just taught a lecture on using native trees to extract taxol, a molecule to cure cancer. Yes, I can't help but think of science wherever I go.

After a jump into the river to cool off, relaxing lunch and another jump into the river (a common theme of our time in the jungle), we were off to sleep in the jungle overnight with our guide and an Austrian couple.

Jane successfully carved her own wooden spoon with a machete.

It was not as easy as it looks. We also made our own plates our of banana leaves. We cooked the food we carried (chicken, sausage and rice) over our campfire and avoided drinking the stream water although our guide insisted it was OK. Good times.

Amazon Day 2
Waking up in my hammock at the crack of dawn.

We slept in hammocks under a tarp. They were actually pretty comfty. The jungle on the other hand was quite loud at night! Thank goodness I came prepared with my earplugs.

Hiking in the forest at 7 am.

We didn't have much luck seeing animals on this hike, but we did see footprints of a jaguar. We weren't sure if we were trying to track the jaguar down, or if the jaguar was trying to track us down. When the guide asked Jane and I what we expected to see in the Amazon, I replied "trees" and Jane replied "birds." We have very realistic expectations.

Climbing up one of the largest trees in this jungle.
You didn't think I could venture into the jungle and NOT try climbing or swinging around, right?

Lunch back at the lodge. A typical meal. We were well-fed indeed.

Paddling through the flooded forest.
We loved being on the water.

Trees in the water in the flooded forest

Piranha fishing!

This was our sole catch of the trip. Without much instruction, Jane and I were trying to devise our strategy based on watching our guide and logic. But in the end, I looked over and exclaimed to Jane, "You look like a madwoman!" Jane yells back, "Well, I think this madwoman got a fish." Indeed she did. I guess there is a method to the madness. Then we jumped into the river for a swim.
Sunset on the river

View from the tower.

Antonio's tower was definitely the best asset to his company. Ingenious. 5 stories high hovering over the Amazon. We wish we could just take this view, fold it up and put it in our bag. Then no matter what craziness we encountered, we could unfold this scenery and just chill.

Spotted: Cayman!
We lucked out. Our guide saw the eyes of this cayman at night, and caught it.

Amazon Day 3

We started off with an early morning hike.

Crazy vines.

We spotted toucans, wild boars and monkeys. Not a bad trek at all!

Me and Jane attempting to do a domestic craft.

Yeah, that did not work out so well. I couldn't figure out how to braid with 4 strands, and Jane couldn't efficiently carve holes into the beads. We couldn't believe that we had to cut our cerveza/fanta/tower time short to do this. At least we modified the bracelets so that we could finish earlier, and get on with the day.

Waiting to descend down the path to the dock.

Hammocks ready. Off to sleep on the beach.

We were determined to catch some more piranhas with our detailed strategy - less chicken bait, fresh chicken, yank like a madwoman. That failed. We caught more logs and tree branches than anything else. We confirmed that our guide had bought fish to cook, and weren't counting on our sub-par fishing skills for food. So we called it quits and went for another swim as the sun set.

Grilled fish for dinner.
Fish number 2 was nothing short of magical. By far our best meal.

I think our guide learned that us crazy girls like to swim and like our fish.

Amazon Day 4

Not a bad view to wake up to.

Our night on the beach surpassed our expectations. Just us and the chatting frogs under the full moon in our hammocks. Such a hidden secret. Everyone should totally do this! We found it much more enjoyable than sleeping in the thick of the jungle.
Pineapple before the storm.

Did I mention that our oars also doubled as the prep block for fishing and our meal plates? A crazy storm came. We quickly put up a tarp and slept it out. It is the Amazon afterall.

Visiting the locals.
We saw their house and the maniorca farm that looked suspiciously like cannabis. Hmm...

Dropping off some batteries to the local fisherman.

Professional Chillers

By the end of our 4 days in the Amazon, we were pleasantly surprised at how good we became at chilling. I did not expect so much down time, but apparently because of the heat, nothing happens between 1 and 3:30 every afternoon. No animals are out, so all we did was chill.

Chilling on the dock.
Jumping into the river, our favorite past time.

Chilling in the tower.
It's not easy being professional chillers!

Oh beautiful Amazon.

We definitely had an awesome time in the Amazon. It was hot and humid, but we found relief in the cool water. The nature was beautiful. For the most part, it was just us and the jungle. Jane has decided that she is done with jungle. I probably have at least one more in me. A great relaxing way to start our trip.

1 comment:

sharock said...

i wanna be a professional chiller!