Friday, July 18, 2008

Amazon River Boats, Piranha bites and a Jungle Lodge!!!

So the title just about summed up what we have been up to the past few weeks. We have not had access to internet long enough and fast enough to update the blog. But now we do. Yeah! We are currently in Salvador, Brazil and have been in Brazil for the past 3 weeks or so. It has been... an adventure to say the least. Some good highlights and some not so good I will begin to share with you.

When we last wrote we were leaving Lima, Peru on a plane for Iquitos, Peru and heading into the Amazon River region. We stayed in Iquitos for 3 days and even found a home away from home at a restaurant called "The Yellow Rose of Texas." Too good to be true! 4 lunch/dinners later there we were old pals with the owner Gerald who hailed from Houston. He was dare I say a Longhorn. We told him we were Aggies and he threw us out of his really he was quite nice and we had really tasty meals like Chicken and Dumplings, a yummy hamburger and the best frozen lemonade I've ever had. So with our bought hammocks in hand, we headed for our boat along with about 150 other Peruvians/Colombians/Brazilians and a few Gringos for Santa Rosa, Peru/ Leticia, Colombia/ Tabatinga, Brazil. It is a tri-border. After that and a night stay in Colombia we proceeded to get on another boat headed for Manaus, Brazil.

The boat trip down the Amazon River. What can I say? It was truly an amazing experience. We slept on hammocks for 6 nights, watched beautiful sunrises (5:30 AM-I know I can hardly believe I was awake at that hour either) and sunsets, and played with most of the children on the boat, I'm sure to their parent's delight. We ate beans, rice, pasta and the meat of their choice( heart of a cow at one point!) for lunch and dinner and had bread for breakfast. Luckily we had brought a few items with us and so we added fruit to our breakfast menu. The slow ride at about 10 knots an hour was like we were in a movie. We kept looking at each other saying, "We're taking a boat down the Amazon River." We saw numerous birds, dolphins, small villages where we dropped off anything from soda to bananas and really enjoyed getting to know some of our fellow passengers. There were people from The Czech Republic, Spain, Mexico amd Argentina on the boats with us as well. We now have all of their contact information in order to visit them sometime! Talk about networking!

The experience of the trip and all that it offered was amazing but there were a few minor things that detracted from this trip. One was the hammock. Who in their right mind would choose to sleep in a hammock every night is beyond me. We ended up buying a pool float and I tried to sleep on that beacuse the hammock just wasn't very comfortable. But unfortunately that started to deflate… so it was back to the hammock. The restrooms definitely needed attention after 250 people rotated through it on a daily basis. They did seem to get cleaned a few times during the trip which I was eternally grateful for. The water in the shower was actually river water that didn’t look too great in the river but came out semi-clear through the shower head. But 6 semi-sleepless nights later we arrived in Manaus, Brazil. It was a great experience, one which I’m happy I have had but have enjoyed the comforts of a bed and clear water the past couple of weeks.

So once we get to Manaus we immediately started to look for trips into the jungle. We opted for a jungle lodge instead of another night of sleeping in a hammock which in some of the tours available that was one of their high points for tourists. But having had already had that experience we said “No thank you. We’ve had enough nights in a hammock.” So we settled on a place called Acajatuba Jungle Lodge about 3hours away from Manaus by boat. We were the only ones on the boat until 2 families from Lithuania came on board halfway through the trip. The first question that one of the young girls asked Eric once she found out we were from Texas was, “Have you ever seen a tornado?” I answered “He’s actually chased them before!” Wow! She was truly fascinated by this. Onto the lodge!

We arrived around 6 PM to this rustic, natural setting lodge in the middle of the Amazon Jungle with a Guarana drink to toast our arrival. It is a fruit that is here in Brazil. Very tasty. Unfortunately they were out of ice at the time as the typical welcome drink is the Caprianhi. But we have been able to have our fair share in consuming those by now! So the jungle lodge was great. We met people from Israel, Denmark, Holland, England and even Texas! That’s right. A lady and her daughter from El Paso arrived the day before we left. We ate well, watched some beautiful sunsets, saw some colorful birds, viewed some pink dolphins and took a canoe ride through the flooded forest amongst other things. We also did a walking tour through the jungle where our guide Roby showed us various plants and trees that they used to cure anything from a headache to rheumatism. We saw giant ants that had a vicious sting and Eric and I each ate a grub worm. Good nutrients! There was an amazing tree that we saw called the Rubber Tree that was discovered in the 1800’s and thus began the rubber boom. Roby let us put the liquid of this tree in the palm of our hand and then rub it with a finger and after a few minutes it turned into a rubbery substance.

Another highlight of the trip was piranha fishing. We took a canoe which was our means of transportation out there and fished for about an hour and a half. I caught 3 and Eric caught 2 of these legendary fish. Eric even got to take home a present from them… a bite on his finger. One got off his hook and as he tried to pick it up out of the boat it bit him! Mean little sucker. Thank goodness it was a small one and not one of the bigger ones we caught. It certainly bled a lot. I ended up eating the one that bit him for lunch the next day! We also got to take home the mouth and head of one of them as a souvenir. So it was a very fun time doing lots of excursions, hearing the sounds of nature at night (minus a bar down the way that began pumping techno music around 10 PM each night on and off) but what could we do? It was a neat thing to partake in. 4 days and 3 nights later we were back to Manaus through means of a canoe, car and ferry. We ended up staying 2 nights with a very nice family that we had met on the Amazon boat trip. They had 2 precious children and it was extremely generous of them to take us in.

2 days later we flew from Manaus to Belem, 3 hours instead of taking another boat-7 days long this time! So last Wednesday we arrived in Belem at 9 AM, did some research on how to get farther East towards the beaches and opted for taking a bus. The planes turned out to be way too expensive. So we headed for the bus station, bought 2 tickets for a 36 hour bus ride the next day at 3:30 PM and then went to catch a local bus to find a hotel. That was not such a wise decision we soon found out. I was already on the bus as Eric began to get on. Suddenly there was a guy that shoved in front of him to ask the bus driver a question and a guy behind him trying to get on. They got off and 5 minutes later Eric realized that his wallet and my passport were gone. Through a Velcro and zipper pocket! Talk about a sinking feeling. So after a few choice words of anger and frustration we spent the rest of the day with the tourist police and the US Consulate office. The US Consular was very helpful and as I began the paperwork for a new passport they received a call that a Brazilian had found my passport on the street and was bringing it to the office. I didn’t cry until it was in my hands. 30 minutes later I had it and Eric and I both knew that we were very lucky. Christine, the US Consular, said that almost never happens. They usually get sold on the black market for big bucks. So a few tears later we were on our way to finally eat something and try to enjoy the rest of our time in Belem.

The next day we were on a bus to Salvador. Talk about wanting a bed again. Those were a couple of very sleepless nights as well. But we made it and are now in Salvador where we have spent the past few days and have hung out with a nice couple Claire and Andrew from Liverpool, England that was on the same bus trip. Salvador is beautiful. It is kind of built on a hill like Valparaiso, Chile was so they have an elevator and ascensor to get to different levels of the city. The city is rich in African culture as many of the descendents of the slaves who were brought here kept a lot of their culture and heritage so there is singing and music in the streets on a daily basis, brightly dressed women, beautiful paintings and yummy food.

Today we head to some beaches and will be beach hopping the next week or so. We hope that you are all well and sorry that it took so much time to get this update to you. Hope you have enjoyed it along with the pictures! Love to you all!



Carol Boerger said...

Erica, the Lord was showing how he is watching out for you with that return of your passport, among other things.
What an adventurous trip you are having! Thanks for the updates.
Carol <()><

Carol said...

I know your name is EriKa. Just had a senior moment.

Ellen said...

Sweet new shirt, Eric!

AA said...

I just ordered a book about the guy who swam the length of the Amazon!

Erika - Its fun to read your posts and to "hear you" in your writing. Very fun to read. Sounds like you guys are definitely having an adventure. So good to hear you got your passport back! what luck! but honestly, being stuck in some south american beach...I could think of worse things!

Take care and stay safe!

Anonymous said...

Hi you two, some great pics and stories. Hope you are enjoying the beach and having a couple of caipirinhas for us. Take care, Andy and Claire