Floating harbours, wonderous opera houses and incredible wildlife...To recover from those days and nights in Rio, we relaxed on the long seven hour flight to the Amazon city of Manaus, 1,500 km from the sea and a major port in Brazil (Brazil is the size of Europe).
Manaus, just extra-ordinary
1,500 kilometres from the ocean, and the second biggest port of Brazil. Manaus is downstream from the confluence of the Amazon and the Rio Negro, one flowing over a rock bed so a dirty grey colour, and the other from a muddy base, which makes it so dark it's almost black. Having different textures, the two flow together for 8kms or more beyond Manaus before they merge into the same texture and colour. Off Manaus we also saw freshwater porpoises, sleek with black backs and pink bellies bow-riding our boat.
Edge of the jungle
It's on the edge of the jungle and was the rubber capital of the world during the boom in the 19th century. The boom lasted until a dastardly Englishman smuggled some plants out, and started growing them on the same latitude in Malaysia. Some years later - world price collapsed, and the barons went bust.
At the height of the boom they built Rococo-style over-the-top ornate houses along the waterfront. The harbour is floating, and a remarkable feat of engineering. It was designed in Britain and towed over by sea. The market, designed and built in sections in France. is like Les Halles in Paris.
The Opera House is in the style of the great opera houses of Europe, and performances take place during a short season every year. The drive up to around the opera house is cobbled, but the singular thing is that the cobbles are made of clay and rubber so that the carriages of the barons and their late-comer friends did not make a noise and disturb the performance.
Manaus has re-invented itself and is an important industrial city once again. It is a free port, and exports one million motor cycles a year.
A world away
Within a short time sailing up river we were in the jungle, the river still miles wide, bordered with trees, and a tall canopy. At a small lodge with individual wooden cabins in a cove the jungle is alive with the noise of birds, irritatingly high up in the canopy, maybe 60ft up, and invisible. All of 500 meteres could take an hour as we stopped so often at something of interest - a tree with medicinal bark, a poisonous frog, squirrel monkeys ekeing their way through the lower trees, a pool alive with life. Manaus was a world away... Contact Original Travel