We are down to the final stretch and on our way to our last port. I’m officially done with classes and only have finals left! It’s crazy to think that in less than a week I will be back in Minnesota and my journey will be complete. These past few days of classes have been focused on reflection and how to make meaning of this trip of a lifetime. I still can’t believe it’s almost over.
Manaus was an amazing port. The port city itself wasn’t that exciting but Paige and I made reservations at a place right in the heart of the rainforest. There was a SAS trip going to the same place as well but we were too late to sign up so we reserved it independently. Two other teachers, my politics teacher included, and their wives were traveling independently as well so we were paired with them the entire port. That is something that is so different about SAS than any other school!
The first morning we hopped on our first boat ride. We stopped at the meeting of the waters where the two rivers meet. It is interesting because in the middle of the river you can see the two different colors keep the two waters separate. The Rio Negro is dark because of the tannin in the water and won’t mix with the other river. We were lucky to stay in an area where the river had tannin because mosquitos aren’t attracted to it so we didn’t have to worry about malaria as much as our friends did. After our hour boat ride we took an hour drive and got on a second boat to take us to our lodge. We finally arrived around lunchtime and were greeted by our personal guide Kenrick. Our lodge was amazing! The entire place was on stilts and all of the huts were connected by suspended walkways above the rainforest. Our hut was at the very end and looked over the river. We had a hammock on our porch that we could sit outside and look at both the forest and the river. We couldn’t have asked for more. For our adventure of the day Kenrick took our group out on canoes. We paddled 5km away and were surrounded by pink dolphins, jumping fish, and birds. It felt straight out of a movie. We went back for dinner and Kenrick gave us a lecture on the Amazon and the area we were in.
We woke up the next morning bright and early to start our adventures! We started off with a nature hike. It was a big surprise for us when our hike turned into a 4-hour trek through the rainforest. We were told to wear pants for our hike but unfortunately the closest thing we packed were capris. Kenrick told us that we needed to find pants because snakes and other animals were more likely to bite our legs when they saw our skin. We were officially scared out of our mind to go on this hike. He had us wear these leather leg straps to cover our legs up. We definitely went on our hike in style! We weaved in and out of the forest stopping to examine all the different types of trees and plants. Kenrick made us fans out of the trees trying to cool us down from the 105 degree weather we were hiking through. He challenged us to try a forest delicacy while we were there. We understood afterwards why he made us agree to try it before telling us what it was. Before we knew it Kenrick was heating our larvae over a fire. We kept telling ourselves this is a once in a lifetime adventure and we have to experience everything. And we sure did! We learned a lot about nature and living in the rainforest on our hike and I’m amazed by the diversity of animals and plants even within that small area.
In the afternoon we went to a local’s house to see how people in the Amazon live. He was a farmer and had multiple different animals on his many acres of land. What I was really impressed by was his pineapple farm! It was the first time I had seen pineapple being grown! The farmer said he sells them each for 75 cents to locals or stores in the city. After our family visit we spent a little time on the water piranha fishing! We tied our boat to a stick rising out of the water and within 30 seconds we had our first bite. I got a little too excited when I caught my first one that I ended up letting it fall off the hook and into the boat. I don’t know if you have ever seen the teeth on those things but they are terrifying! As a group we ended up catching about 20 piranhas and 15 catfish. We finished up fishing right after the sunset- a perfect ending to the day. We kept the largest fish and brought them back for dinner. I was surprised by how good it tasted!
Our catches for the day
When it got dark out that night we went caiman spotting. Caiman are little alligators and at night if you shine your flashlight on the water you can see their eyes reflecting back. I was a little nervous at the thought of pulling up to the shore and watching Kenrick jump out and grab it. After the first one we all calmed down a little bit. He passed it around the boat and we all were able to hold it. The rest of the night Kenrick took us on a night boat ride around the area, which was amazing with how bright the moon and stars were.
The next morning we had to get up early to start our three hour trek back to Manaus. I was sad to say goodbye to Kenrick who had become a good friend of ours in the few days we were there. When we got back we decided we should probably venture into Manaus a little to see what it has to offer. Right when you get off the ship there was a market that we walked around for awhile. We went to the Cathedral and ended up taking a tour of the opera house. The tour of the opera house was one of the funniest tours I’ve ever been on. I’m not sure if it was because of the language barrier but our tour guide gave us a pretty interesting tour. He basically only explained to us what each pillar was made out of- usually iron and marble. Then he took us to a mirror and started to explain that this is a mirror and it shows what you really look like. It was definitely interesting!
Kenrick and us
Now we are almost to Dominica- our last stop for the semester. We only have two days there and then we have four days at sea before arriving in Florida! Crazy to think about!