Saturday, May 19, 2012

In the Amazon Jungle--Iguana Tours--May16-19

My 3 night and 4 day trip to the Amzon jungle began with a cross town drive to the water taxi area in the industrial area of Manaus. I was the only passenger in this high speed boat across the Rio Negro with a short stop at the mixing of the waters where the dark coffee colored Rio Negro ran parallel with the coffee latte colored Amazon for miles before combining. We continued crossing the Amazon until,we reached a boat landing. Again there's lots of flooding and I heard the the flood has hit an all tie high watermark.

I joined another couple from the UK on a 2 month holiday as we then drove about an hour to another boat landing. On the way there were several areas where the river was crossing the roadway with up to 1 to 1 1/2 feet deep.

At the next boat landing, we each got into different speed boats for a 1 1/2 hour journey down the river to the Iguana Tours Lodge. For some of the journey we went through narrow, twisty passages where branches from both sides grazed the boat.

 

As we pulled up to the lodge, I was greeted by five guests and three staff members. Jerry, the owner, from Guyana greeted me and showed me around just as lunch was almost ready. His two staff members were Damien and Tieton, both were local natives who spoke English well. Three of the guests were leaving that day: a Swiss fellow, a Dutch woman who was an engineer, and a German woman who was finishing up her research thesis on the feasibility of using the Brazil nut wastes for charcoal briquettes.

 

There were now just 3 of us for the afternoon tour to see the grey and pink dolphins, birds and monkeys in the Amazon jungle. The fellow was Guillmo from France who was living in Moscow while he finished studies at the Russian Film Academy and his girl friend, Anna, was from Russia. She is a transactional Psychologist and spoke four languages. I was confused for a bit because one of them would,say something in Russian and the other would respond in French and vice versa or sometimes in English.

 

We first went fishing for piranha with no luck and then we went up into the jungle canopy that was now flooded looking for wildlife. Jerry would kill the engine and he would quietly paddle us into the narrow parts where we would see fleeting glimpses of the capuchin monkeys swinging from tree to to tree or a pair of Toucans taking flight along with other birds too numerous to remember.

Sunset at the Iguana Lodge
 

On the seond day, we got up just before dawn to catch the birds taking their first morning flights. Lots of white egrets were taking flight around schools of fish. We again checked several inlets for more wildlife before returning for breakfast.

After breakfast we headed up the Juma River to visit a local family plantation of pineapples and bananas. right around their home, they had planted a variety of fruits and vegetables for their own use including peppers, lemongrass, ginger, mangoes, bananas and other plants. Chickens were every where even inside the house where a hen was trying to hatch her eggs.

We then headed to the plantation area and along the way we saw where old plantings abandoned were now being taken over again by the jungle. Apparently the soil in the Amazon is very poor because the heavy rains each year wash away the humus into the Amazon River. to enrich the soil for the plantations, they do the slash and burn which generates potash so that after the burn the soil can support about three to four years of pineapple and banana crops. The process is then repeated as they move the crops around their native holdings.

He showed us the starters they use for the new pineapple plants as well as digging up a manoic root, chuck full of poisonous cyanide. The family here had a manioc factory that processes this deadly plant into manioc meal, but it was under water.

We then returned to the family home and went inside to savor a pineapple we had picked up because a skunk had partially eaten it. While in the home, we checked out the crafts they were selling. I picked up some bracelets and necklaces along the a masks made from coconut shell trumpeter feathers and piranha teeth. As we were leaving the woman asked if we could send her a picture of her home with the big flood.

In the afternoon we went canoeing where normally we would have hiked. we had a hard time navigating without running into overhead sticks. One place we got stuck by some mad ants that covered a log by our boat. They were so mad that they jumped into the water and entered our boat so we called them pirate ants. It was an exhausting three hour canoe ride.

We also came across this tiny birds nest along the waterway with two chicks inside.

 

Since we didn't catch any piranha, we figured it was safe to take a dip in the Amazon by the lodge. Very refreshing.

Later a fierce rainstorm blew in just before dinner.

After the rain passed, we went out after dark to catch the cayman. Our guide, Tieton, used a flashlight to spot the caymen's eyes. He then quickly grabbed it firmly at the throat. He then had me hold him. He just warned me not to loosen my grip around his neck or he would get very agitated. No chance of that!

Today we will be doing our jungle walk with Tieton showing us plants and animals that are used for shelter, utinsels, medicine, or food.

We would amble along for a bit when Tieton would stop and show us a bark that could be chewed to prevent malaria and another one to control diaherra.

 

He then found this one nut that had three chambers and then ask which of us wanted one. I agreed and then learned that they were not nuts but larva!

Well, I volunteered to eat it and so I did. It tasted like a creamy brazil nut, but nothing I would go out of my way to try again.

After that I needed a bit of water, so Tieton cut this bit of vine and water dripped out.


We then came to this ant nest and he had put his hand into it and had the ants crawling over his arms and then he squashed them and explained that the smell of the crushed ants were a good mosquito repellant.

 

For two nights I have been staying in this cottage even though I just paid for a dorm bed since it was now their low season.

 

 

We are now leaving the comfort of this lodge to camp out in hammocks in the jungle.

We got there and strung up our hammocks as it got dark while Teiton got the chicken laid out over the fire, while the rice was cooking in the pot. Some banana leaves provide us with a clean table top where the chicken was laid out along with the ever present pineapple.

In the morning we waited for the morning coffee to heat and the eggs to boil. Some folks toasted their bread while waiting.

 

 

After we broke camp, Jerry took me to a rubber plantation where the owner demonstrated how he would get the latex and then use it to make boots and pouches. After dipping the boots in latex, he would use the thick smoke to cure the rubber before putting on another coat. He would repeat this process several times.

 

 

Jerry said that this guy was only now doing this for tourists that Jerry brings to him for a bit of payment and that this way of life is dying out.

I am now at the end of my Amazon Jungle adventures except for the two hour boat ride back, followed by an hour drive over flooded waters by a maniac driver followed by another one hour boat ride across the meeting of the waters and finally a half hour drive through Manaus to the Gol Hostel.

 

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