Saturday, June 19, 2010

Rurrenabaque & The Amazon

In 1997 Bolivia created Madidi National Park. 10% of the known species of bird on Earth live within the Park.

We did a 3 day jungle tour with our guide, Ismail, who lived in Madidi for the past 13 years. His oldest sister was eaten by an Anaconda when she was 12. His brother shot and killed a Jaguar in their house when it came into the kitchen. Ismail knew his stuff. We learned a lot about the medicinal properties of some of the native plants. But spotting wildlife in the jungle was difficult because the forest is so dense and the animals are sensitive to noise and very skittish.

Leaf Cutter Ants hard at work.

Red and Green Macaws.

Building a Balsa wood raft.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

River Boat & Porto Velho

The boat trip was memorable to say the least. This picture is of the top deck of the boat where we slept. If you can´t tell from the last post, the sleeping quarters got much more confined since we orginally hung up our hammocks on the day before departure. Sleeping in such tight quarters was a bit awkward because you bump into strangers all the time while sleeping.

When your sailing against the current, as we were, you get a better view of the river banks because they keep the boats close to shore to avoid the stronger currents in the middle of the river. Despite this, spotting wildlife besides birds and dolphins is pretty difficult.

Sunrise on the Amazon. Everyone on the boat is up by 5:30 or 6am because they begin serving breakfast from 6-7am and only serve for one hour, plus they often run out of food, so the earlier your up, the better chance you have at eating. In general our meals were actually really surprisingly good. In addition to the normal three meals, they had a few BBQ´s with steak or fish. Including one morning when they served steak at 8am with beers flowing freely.

Towards the end of day 4 there was a bunch of commotion on the boat. Someone spotted a deer trying to swim accross the river and everyone freaked out. A few of the crew ran to the small motor boat attached to our main boat and went off to get the deer. A minute later one of them had jumped into the river and wrestled the deer onto the boat and snapped its neck. They hog tied the deer and brought it into the kitchen.

Once we got to Porto Velho we met up with a med student from Couch Surfing who took us to this awesome Acai bar. This thing had guava, banana, apple, avocado, kiwi, strawberry, and some other cool amazon fruits, and of course acai.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Manaus & The Amazon

We finally made it to the Amazon. Manaus is a major shipping port 1500km inland from the Atlantic Ocean.

This is a picture at the meeting of the waters. Here the two main rivers that make the Amazon, the Rio Solimoes and the Rio Negro meet. The Rio Negros waters originate from Colombia, its dark coffee like waters are due to decaying vegetatian. The Rio Solimoes orginates in the Peruvian Andes and is cream colored due to the turbidity. The two rivers run side-by-side for over 15km because of the temperature and density differences, and once they finally do mix, it becomes the Amazon River.

The Manaus Opera House is this weird relic from the rubber boom. The building doesn´t really fit in with the rest of the Manaus. The Opera House took five years to complete and was finished in 1896. Everything besides the wood was imported from Europe by steam ship.

We got a chance to hang up our hammocks today and take a look at our boat to Porto Velho for the first time. The trip takes 4 days and costs 110 Reais (60usd) per person. While the boat isn´t cramped now, by the time we depart Manaus we should be stuffed in with hundreds of other passengers.

The night before departure we splurred on all you can eat Rodizio. That ended my month or so boycott of beef which started after Ihla Grande due to environmental concerns.

The Mercado at next to the docks in Manaus where you can see really interesting looking Amazonian fish being sold and butchered. They also have a fruit market with some cool jungle specialties.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


After our extended trip to Jeri we had a few days to kill before our flight to Manaus from Fortaleza. In Jeri we were lucky enough to stay at the same Pousada as Baukje and Marleen, two Dutch volunteers who were taking a long weekend away from their jobs in Fortaleza. Baukje is finishing up a degree in Physical Education and will be a teacher when she gets back to Holland. Marleen is also volunteering and in Holland she works as a psych nurse for convicted murderers with mental disorders. Baukje and Marleen were kind enough to invite us to stay with them in Fortaleza. They live with two other volunteers from Holland and a French and Brazilian, we all had a great time.

On our second day Baukje took us to her job as a volunteer PE teacher. She goes into the favelas in Fortaleza everyday and teaches kids 3-15 years-old new games and sports. The kids were broken up by age group and played a variety of sports and games led by Baukje, her roommate Isabelle, and other Brazilians. The older kids were a bit rowdy but everyone had a great time and the kids were very appreciative. I wish I had some pictures but I was nervous about bringing my camera into the favela. It turned out the safety was not an issue at all and everyone in the community was really friendly.

Another great thing about staying in home rather than a hostel was being able to cook with a full kitchen, which we took advantage of both nights. Heres a photo of Alexi, Isabelle, Baukje, and Marleen.