We had just covered more than three hundred kilometres of scorching, winding and at times perilous tracks and roads that cut through the jungle. For most of the way we were dodging trucks, coaches, cars, domestic dogs, dehydration and sunburn. Now, finally, Valdo and I had arrived at the bustling, humid tropical city of Manaus, international gateway to the world’s most famous river and rainforest. Here, where the black waters of the Rio Negro merge with the contrasting light brown Solimões (Amazon river), I had arrived at a point more than 1400 kilometres from my starting point at the mouth of the Amazon.
That was over two weeks ago, and although Manaus is a key staging post for me, and I have a list as long as your arm of things to do before moving on, I’ve had to backtrack to Pará and Porto de Moz (my previous blog explains all). It has been a logistical nightmare returning. It has proved risky, time-consuming and expensive, but I felt I had no choice, if I was to truly traverse the whole of my original route. On my return to Manaus I still have to do a sponsor pitch, swim across the turbulent meeting of the waters, find another walking companion, edit video, update the website, get new gear, plan the route to Coari and get moving again before the rivers start to rise. At their peak, the rivers will inundate the floodplain I hope to traverse. This várzea will be impossible for me to walk and so vast it will defy any attempt to swim it.
My planned traverse here in Pará is across uncovered várzea, full, a few of the locals insist, of man-eating caiman of 5 or 6 metres. Full or not, I need to get across, and after speaking to many local people here in Porto de Moz (where I’m currently writing this blog) I’ve been told that in fact the giant Caiman population has practically been wiped out in this area over the last 10-15 years and only a few remain. The locals see them as the enemy and also as food. I can understand that extracting a few for food is probably sustainable, but what are the consequences if all are removed? I read a report the other day re-affirming my belief that all living things are connected and interdependent…
“The number of wild animals living on Earth is set to fall by two-thirds by 2020, according to a new report, part of a mass extinction that is destroying the natural world upon which humanity depends. The analysis, the most comprehensive to date, indicates that animal populations plummeted by 58% between 1970 and 2012, with losses on track to reach 67% by 2020. Researchers from WWF and the Zoological Society of London compiled the report from scientific data and found that the destruction of wild habitats, hunting and pollution were to blame” Read the full report in the Living Planet Index
I have been hearing different popular Brazilian music in the streets and waterfronts of the cities and towns I pass, but one artist that seems to currently dominate the music scene (and my iPod) here at the moment is Maria Mendonca. Thanks Maria, for keeping me company through some stormy nights in my hammock! Also a big thank you to Clive Maguire (author of books on the Amazon including the Amazon Handbook and – under the name Keir Farrell – his own story On the Amazon) and his wife Naice for their continued support, storing and at times sending spare gear out to me from their home in Manaus. They have also put me up while I am briefly based in the city resting and recovering during ‘the eye of the storm’ of this crazy adventure (“louco”, as Valdo frequently reminded me). Watch out for Clive’s forthcoming novel Watershed, to be released in 2017.
More info on my return trip to Porto de Moz, and after I have swum the ‘meeting of the waters’ across the Rio Negro and the Amazon.
This blog is marked on the main map page as Manaus. I wrote most of it there, but am publishing it from here in Porto de Moz.
Facts and figures – Manaus
Manaus or Manaós before 1939 or (formerly) Lugar de Barra do Rio Negro, is the capital city of the state of Amazonas in the North Region of Brazil. It is situated at the confluence of the Negro and Solimões rivers. With a population of more than 2 million, it is the most populous city of both the Brazilian state of Amazonas[ and the Amazon rainforest.
The city was founded in 1693–94 as the Fort of São José do Rio Negro. It was elevated to a town in 1832 with the name of “Manaus”, an altered spelling of the indigenous Manaós peoples, and legally transformed into a city on October 24, 1848, with the name of Cidade da Barra do Rio Negro, Portuguese for “The City of the Margins of the Black River”. On September 4, 1856 it returned to its original name.
Manaus is located in the middle of the Amazon rainforest, and access to the city is primarily by boat or airplane. This isolation helped preserve both the nature as well as the culture of the city. The culture of Manaus, more than in any other urban area of Brazil, preserves the habits of Native Brazilian tribes. The city is the main entrance to visit the fauna and flora of the Brazilian Amazon. Few places in the world afford such a variety of plants, birds, insects, and fish
Pan and zoom map below to see more detail