The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel which was not great, and prepared for our Amazonian adventure. At least the hotel (Go Inn Manaus) had coffee. We met our driver at 0810. Tarek was running late getting his stuff from the room so we waited with the other two people already picked up and waiting in the van about 10 minutes for her to come down. We piled in the van with our luggage (Tarek’s hiking pack, my hiking pack, and my carry-on suitcase), went to the tour office, and picked up more people. We had about 8 people in the van, and began our Amazonian adventure departing from Manaus and heading south.
After a 30 minute drive, we stopped at the banks of the Amazon and we were told we would be taking a boat across. Nobody really thought to give us an overall explanation of the plan, but rather fed us bits of information at the time they became relevant. Now we started to understand why having suitcases would be a nuisance. Tarek had to carry my bag across a dusty parking lot, through the ferry terminal, and on to a boat.
We waited for another 30 minutes for the boat to depart, and in the meantime made some friends with our fellow Amazon Gero Tour travelers. Tarek sniffed out an amazing local beverage – a blended coconut, peanut, and ice cream shake, which we shared on the boat.
Finally the speed boat departed and we made our way to the crossing of the waters – the intersection of the Rio Negro and the Rio Solimoes that created an oil and water-like confluence. You could clearly see the black water (more acidic) and clearly see the grey water (more habitable) coming together.
They maintained separation across the largest part of the river. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen, and was a great start to our Amazonian adventure.
On the other side, we docked in a makeshift area where fishermen were bringing in their catch. Again we had to lug the suitcase off the boat, across a dusty lot, and fit it in the back of a smaller van. We all piled inside, but with the addition of two new people (we had no idea who they were, but it turns out they were locals that we were just giving a lift inland), we barely fit. Tarek and I squeezed in the back with luggage spilling on top of us. It was a bumpy ride that lasted about an hour.
Then, we had to board another smaller boat – a makeshift canoe with a motor attached. Again we had to transfer our luggage from the van, down a large flight of stairs, and to the new boat. We waited about 15 minutes to board but eventually were on our way. Two separate motor boats were used due to the number of people, and Tarek and I had one boat all to ourselves (with the driver of course).
On the 20 minute ride we saw Cayman (alligator), birds, and the fish were a jumpin’. We finally arrived at the lodge right around noon, were informed that lunch was ready and that we would check-in after lunch. Here’s a few from the bar area at the top of the stairs once we arrived at the lodge.
Another very large flight of stairs awaited us and Tarek again had to manage the luggage. I was so thankful he was with me – not only is he an awesome travel companion, but there was no way I would have been able to manage the luggage myself on this boat, bus, canoe, and hike to the lodge.
First impressions of the lodge where we’d be spending our Amazonian adventure – it was run down but barely functional, with the basic necessities like plumbing, electricity, dorms, private huts, a kitchen, and a bar intact. The other travelers were mostly the backpacking adventure types on a budget, from all of the world. In other words, it was a hostel in the jungle.
Lunch was good – rice and beans, spaghetti noodles, beef, chicken, and fish arrayed in a buffet. A new fruit juice was available at each meal and was always a surprise (sometimes welcomed, sometimes unwelcomed). The meal the first day was the best, and then it got repetitive. By the final day neither Tarek nor I even had the appetite to eat lunch.
We finally got our room keys after having to ask about it (it felt like “island time”), and again there was confusion around one room or two rooms. Separate rooms eventually were arranged the confusion was sorted out. Each room had two twin beds and one double bed, with mosquito beds above each. No A/C, but a simple fan that was not adjustable and really pointed only above the double bed. Towels and a bar of soap were provided, and the bathroom had a sink and a shower. No internet, but this was a blessing to be able to fall of the grid for a few days.
According to Gero, the owner of the tour company who we arranged the tour with over What’sApp, the first day would consist of piranha fishing, Cayman spotting, and a visit to a village. We waited around until 1500, when apparently everything “restarted” again after lunch. We got unpacked a little and socialized with the other guests. Our first activity, we were told by one of the guides Ismail, was a dolphin spotting boat tour. We saw both the smaller and more numerous grey dolphins and saw glimpses of the larger, more elusive, pink dolphins. I got the money shot of a grey dolphin leaping in mid-air. It was wonderful, but obviously the plan went out the window. Then, we went for a swim in the Amazon for about 30 minutes (away from the piranhas of course). It was refreshing and warm, and we had a great time – it was probably a highlight for me.
On top of that we saw even more Cayman, and some locals.
We came back and showered, and played some more Basra at the bar area while we waited for dinner served promptly at 1900 each night. We came to expect three square meals a day at 0730 1200, and 1900. After dinner we found there was absolutely nothing to do, so we played cards, talked, read, and eventually went to sleep at 2100. We were totally off the grid and in full-on Amazonian adventure mode.