I just arrived in Manaus deep in the middle of the Amazon rain forest this morning at 4:15 AM a bit battered and beaten by 6 days and nights on a riverboat headed upstream from the delta into the interior. Sleeping in hammock on the crowded boat was not very comforable at all, and the bathrooms were fairly substandard, but what the boat lacked in quality and efficiency was made up for ten times over by the unbelievable sensory experience of the Amazon. Oppressive heat combined with the afternoon doldrums where there is no breeze to cool you off. Then, taking a shower on the top deck in an incredible torrential rain beating down for 30 minutes. Surreal sunrises and sunsets, not to mention the full moon that just passed over. The end of the dry season means the waters are at their lowest points and the high water mark being a good 30 or 40 feet (10 or 12 meters) above the current point of surface tension.
Yesterday reached the dubius climax of the trip when the capitain in a fit of pure brazilian logic, spite, anger (whatever you want to call it), just couldnt wait another minute for me to get back to the bottom of the dock along its incredibly steep and precarious bridge—instead of arriving in Manaus at 4:17 AM—decided he would leave me stranded behind during a minor express mission to find a bottle of water in a tiny amazon village. The story from folks on board coraborates my suspicion that capitan did indeed blow the “warning” horn twice as they were throwing the moors from the dock imediately without the customary 2 or three minute wait. Some brazilians and other travelers I had befriended on the boat begged him to wait for me, but he only yelled at them to go away and threatened to throw one nice girl who was sticking up for me in the water! So I had a bit of a drama act to run down the riverbank to hire a small motorized canoe to chase down the big boat that was over kilometer away! Everyone on board was watching the events unfold from the three decks of the riverboat. It was a great moment of intense drama for many of the passengers whose only other exposure to that kind of action on the trip was the daily dosage of evening novelas (brazilian soap operas) piped in by a ginormous satelite dish on the top deck. Throughout the trip, I became hugely popular on the boat and had conversations with everyone, met some interesting locals and a few other travelers and overall had a pleasant time getting to know the amazon bugs from the sweaty confines of my hammock.
I realize now that it will take two weeks before i arrive back to Cuenca, Ecuador. Mainly due to the extremely slow process of upstream river travel. Tomorrow I catch another boat (wednesday 11th october) at 6pm to Tabatinga/Leticia further up the Rio Amazonas at the triple border with Colombia and Peru. Hop the border to Peru and head up another 12 hours by speedboat to Iquitos, Peru’s version of Manaus (big amazon city further up the Rio Amazonas). From there i head up a tributary river called Rio Napo into Ecuador for a trip of unknown length to the small town of Tena. I heard the Napo is really low right now, so it might be a because the boats are getting stuck in the sand. With that in mind, this morning i went to look for a flight to Quito to speed up the trip, also to allow me to hang out here in the jungle for a bit, instead of being restricted to the random schedules of the riverboats. theres no direct flight to ecuador from here, actually nowhere in brasil has a direct fligh to ecuador, the price (via panama!) is outrageous and so my only option is by boat.