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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Meeting of the Waters

The meeting of the waters just downriver from Manaus is one of the most extraordinary sights you could ever imagine. "O Encontro das Aguas" as they call it in Portuguese, is a natural phenomenon that is worth a visit to Manaus just to see.

The Rio Solimoes and the Rio Negro (The Solimoes River and the Black River) meet and go on for miles as they mix together in a hodge-podge black and brown patchwork. The Rio Negro is the northern tributary of the Amazon River and it is said that the water is black because of the type of vegetation that grows along its banks forming a kind of "tea" that is dark and clear, not murky.

When we lived in Manaus years ago we had a small aluminum boat and outboard motor and we often enjoyed the beaches and tributaries of the Rio Negro. We even ventured out to the meeting of the waters a few times, especially if we had someone visiting us. We had to show them that spectacular sight.

The Rio Solimoes is a brown, murky river - muddy. It is the southern tributary of the Amazon. And as these two rivers join, they not only form the "meeting of the waters" but they also form the mighty Amazon River. As these rivers join, you can barely see the other side. As you can imagine, to cross it requires loading your vehicle onto a ferry - there is no bridge. But the ferry is one of the good and inexpensive ways to see the meeting of the waters. You'll want to get up to the highest place possible on the ferry to get the best view.

Another way to see the meeting of the waters is to hire a local tour guide. Many of them speak English, or at least enough English to get by. This will get you an up close and personal look at the meeting of the waters.

There are also larger tour boats that take many tourists at once. This is probably your most expensive and least risky option.

If you're looking for good accomodations while in Manaus at discount prices search: Discount travel search.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Traveling to Manaus

The most common way to travel to Manaus is by air. We have gotten there overland by bus from Caracas Venezuela, but that was an adventure meriting it's own blog entry in itself. I would not recommend that route today for Americans because of the political environment there.

You can also arrive by ship, or boat, but the boats will be coming from other cities along the Amazon and the ships I have never done so I can not give any advice there.

Manaus is the largest city inland along the Amazon River. You can fly there directly from Miami and many capitol cities in Latin America, however many of the direct flights to Manaus have in recent years been re-routed through Sao Paulo. This can add up to 24 hours to your travel
time if you are not aware. I thought it was bad a few years ago when we flew from Porto Velho to Manaus (about an hour long flight) Then from Manaus to Sao Paulo to catch the international flight to Miami. Exactly 12 hours after leaving Manaus, we were flying directly over Manaus at 35,000 feet. It is in direct line between Sao Paulo and Miami, however that is about an 8 hour flight, compared to the 5 hours if we could have flown directly. However my last trip from Porto Velho to Dallas beat all my previous records - 36 hours from door to door. Most of that waiting in airports in Brasilia, Sao Paulo, Miami, Charlotte, then finally Dallas. Sometimes the cheapest flight is not always the most direct, but if you don't mind flying a round about route and waiting in airports, and have limited funds, this is one way you can go. But be sure to research thoroughly the best prices and routes before committing yourself to a purchase.

Many people do not allow for the long travel time to get to the Amazon and they are exhausted when they arrive. So I recommend that you allow at least two days for travel, if coming from the States, and more if coming from Europe or Asia.

Once you get there, the things you can do and see in Manaus are many. And that will be the topic of my next posting.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

How to Travel the Brazilian Amazon Part 1

Having lived in the Amazon basin for over 34 years and travelled back and forth many times between the USA and Brazil, I have learned a few tricks, and also plenty of things NOT to do. Over the next few postings I would like to share some with you.

Many consider the Amazon to be a mysterious place with wild hostile indians, anacondas, piranhas, jaguars and exotic insects. And this is true. Others are expecting an Indiana Jones type adventure, and are shocked to find that Manaus is a highly industrialized city of 3 million people, and Belem, at the mouth, is also a highly populated area. Porto Velho, where we have lived for 28 years has grown from under 100,000 to over 400,000 and the projection is for it to reach 500,000 in the next few years as construction is begun on the hydroelectric dam on the Rio Madeira.

In the next post I will talk about some of the things you can do and see in Manaus.