Tarek and I arrived for our Manaus daytripping adventure by 1400 including an hour time change. The descent in to Manaus offered a gorgeous view of the Amazon.
Our bags came through right away, and we really enjoyed seeing this GOL baggage carousel flight identifier – so cute!
We were greeted at the arrivals area by a driver from the Amazon Gero Tour operator. This was the tour operator we booked for three days and two nights in jungle. The person who met us at the airport has us wait for about 30 minutes for another person who was also supposed to arrive on our flight, but she never showed us. This gave me the opportunity to finally try an acai smoothie, and it was delicious.
Then, since he had another person to meet and was running behind now, put us in a taxi in to town (and covered the expense as the transport to town was included in the tour package). Before being able to check in to the hotel, we had to first go to the tour operator’s office and check-in, confirm the itinerary, and pay. The office was small but there were several workers standing by to greet us. One took us in the back room and “explained” the itinerary to us. I say explained in quotes because he was barely comprehensible and we found out later completely omitted certain important details that would have made the trip much easier. For example, he mentioned that we had the option to leave some our luggage at the tour office in a locker. We didn’t understand why we would do this, since his explanation of the first day consisted of taking a bus to the lodge. We would later learn why. He also mentioned that we would be going to the south, which was more of a flood plain, and that the denser jungle was towards the north, where he said we could also go (however he implied that we WEREN’T going there on this tour, which I didn’t pick up one). I had assumed that we would be spending time in the dense and primitive Amazon forest, which turned out to not be an option (we later came to know this couldn’t be arranged through this tour company).
We finally confirmed our three days two nights (they accidentally has us down for four nights three days at first) in private but basic accommodations at their lodge. I thought I heard the word air conditioning but that what actually available at the lodge, we came to learn.
Tarek walked to the bank based another set of incomprehensible directions from the administrator to get the 900 Reais for the tour. I paid in USD ($290). I finished the arrangements and got a receipt. When Tarek returned and paid, he made friends with a Syrian kid who worked at the tour office and spoke at length in Arabic with him. He helped explain a few of the missing pieces of information and we also asked to be put with the best guide they had. His name was Amran (Dante was his nickname)
After checking in, we walked the two blocks to the hotel. On the walk, Tarek realized that he left his mobile at the tour office. So I waited in the 30 minutes line to check-in (a large tour group of Italians arrived just before us, clogging up the reception) while Tarek went to retrieve his mobile and apparently take a stroll through town – he returned with another acai smoothie. 🙂
I had finally completed by check-in when Tarek arrived and I asked him to finish his check-in. He didn’t understand because he thought he booked the room for both of us (I had booked one for myself earlier). We cleared up the confusion, finished checking in, and went to our rooms. I took a shower, and Skyped with some friends. The room was clean and had A/C, but was tiny.
After relaxing for a bit we met around 1700 to walk around town and eventually continue our culinary experience. We were recommended to a restaurant called Tambaqui de Banda by both Amran as well as a girl named Clara. Tarek and friends met Clara on the bus in Salvador, and we WhatsApp’d with her in reception to get a few recommendations from her.
We walked around the main square with shops restaurants, and food carts, saw the Teatro Amazonas (Amazonian Opera House), and walked down a large street nearby that had more shops.
We found an ice cream/fruit parlor on one of the corners and eyed the menu hungrily – we would try to come back for dessert after dinner but would fail as we think it closed around 2000. We would have one more opportunity to try for it on Monday, our final day.
There was a souvenir store we also look inside of. I saw a few items I liked so I asked about the hours (until 2000), so again we decided to leave that to the final day. We headed to dinner at Tambaqui de Banda as planned (tambaqui is apparently a type of local fish). The waitress and service was nice but slow. We decided to start with several new fruit juices – Acerola (like a small cherry), and Taperaba (citrus, but not quite like an orange).
I ordered a salad and Tarek ordered a fish soup. Two soups arrived, and I was glad of the mistake because it was delicious.
For our main courses, we ordered a fish coconut curry and grilled fish skewers.
They were both outstanding. Dinner took around two hours and was interrupted several times by musicians, beggars, and vendors looking for donations or selling their wares. We made sure our phones/cameras were attached to something even though we did feel quite safe.
We tried for the ice cream place for dessert but since it was already closed, we continued walking around looking for a Plan B. There was no good second option (although there was lots of stuff that we already had tried in the ice cream and cake families), so we went back to our rooms and slept around 2300.