Saturday, March 6, 2010

Circle South America: Manaus Brazil

Dear Family and Friends,

They told us it was a big city in the middle of nowhere but OMG! We were not prepared for this sprawling establishment in the middle of the rainforest that is the Amazon Basin with a population of 2 million (same size as DALLAS!). Manaus is a thriving metropolis, choked with traffic, people, resort beaches, new high rise condos (about $ 700,o00 US per 2 bedroom) and an active port which imports everything and exports timber, oil, natural gas, rubber and several agricultural products.

Started by the boom in the rubber trade in the late 19th century, Manaus was founded in 1669 and developed into a very rich outpost in the middle of the jungle. Manaus means “mother of the gods” and was taking from the local Manao tribe, the indigenous people of this region of the Amazon Basin. Manaus expanded rapidly and had several notable buildings, including the largest opera house in South America. When rubber trees were successfully transferred to Southeast Asia in the early 20th century and synthetic rubber was discovered, Manaus fell into an economic slump and severe disrepair. Revived by the burgeoning timber, oil, beef, soybean, sugar cane and coffee industries, this city of many facets is once again an economic powerhouse.

Manaus has an international airport with direct flights to Miami and several European capitals. It lies on the confluence of the Rio Negro and the Amazon River. The “Black River” and the Amazon merge at the entrance to the cities port called the merging of the waters…the white water of the Amazon and the Black water of the Rio Negro forming a very specific line of dark and light water which refuse to merge for about 15 miles. We took a boat tour out to where the two meet and I hope you like the photos.
We also went up the Rio Negro to a portion of this tributary that went deep into the rainforest where we saw cranes, egrets, and multiple flora and fauna rarely seen by anyone outside this magical place. Note the color difference on the trees. That dark to light line shows you how far the river rises during the rainy season. The rise in the river averages 18’ and set a record of 24’ in 2009. They also have a large gauge in the port with the year dates indicating the height the water reached in each year. The homes on the river are all floating homes and rise with the river when it floods. Homes that are not floating get flooded every year and the people have to leave and stay on higher ground for six month each year. I hope you like the photos.

Manaus is 720 miles from the mouth of the Amazon. It is as far as we will go up the largest river in the world. However, this is only one third as far as our ship could go. In fact, our ship has the capability to go all the way to Peru on the Amazon, another 1,500 miles. I guess we will have to do that another time. What an amazing place.

There are resorts here that would encourage us to come back and the opportunities to go up further into the wild and wonderful Amazon Basin are intriguing, to say the least.

We are on our way down the Amazon River. It took us three days, against the current, to get to Manaus. It will only take us two days, going with the current, to get back to the Atlantic. The volume of water coming down this river is simply mind-boggling. It is over 7.5 TRILLION gallons per day! So until we get to Parintins, God bless you all.

Jud and Vicki

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