No roads lead to Manaus. Smack dab in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest, the only way to reach Brazil’s seventh largest city is by boat or airplane. I was lucky enough to fly in and then board Iberostar’s Grand Amazon river boat, the only hotel/ship in the area.
The bustling boat docks are more akin to floating bus stations, with boats crammed in and brazenly advertising where they are headed. Men carrying oversized packages – I saw one guy with three buckets of tar balanced on a piece of wood on his back – load onto the ships via planks.
For the most part, the ships appear to be a “standing room only” type of deal.
But some ships – probably for excursions up the river that last several days – have a few hammocks strung between the beams.
Manaus itself is a city of about 1.8 million people (more than Philadelphia!) that is located where the Rio Negro and the Rio Solimões converge, creating the swirl effect seen above. The dark, black-ish water is the Rio Negro, while the murkier, muddy-looking water is the Rio Solimões. It really was a sight to see.
For the most part we cruised along the Rio Negro (although the ship also has a leg on the Solimões). The water is so dark and glass-like it clearly reflects everything on the surrounding banks. I kept trying to capture the perfect mirror effect, but no pictures seem to really do it justice.
Manaus is a far out destination, but one that is well-loved by ecotourists. On one boat trip, we breezed by the Ariau Amazon Towers, a collection of wooden towers built in the rainforest that are connected by raised catwalks (not a design decision, but instead a way to avoid flooding as the river rises and falls). Our guide told us the room with the balcony pictured above used to belong to Bill Gates – which also might explain why there is a huge cell phone tower outside of the hotel, the only place where we could get any reception during the five-day trip.
Stay tuned for stories of ant attacks, feeding pink dolphins, caiman hunting, visiting an indigenous village, and consuming copious amounts of cocktails.