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Johnathan’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 26 Aug 2009

MapThe sun is out, the beaches are plentiful-Salvador is lovelyyyyyy!!!

It was now time for us to jump a bus across the Argentinan boarder to Brazil, then 2 more buses to our hostel. Sound complicated, nar it was easy-we are proffesional travellers now and nothing can stop us, not even not been able to speak a word of Portugese. We were worried though after reading in a travel guide that the boarder crossing busses don´t wait for you while you get your stamps and that you have to wait in the middle of no where for another bus. It was not like this at all though. We left with another couple from New Zealand who were crossing the boarder just for the day (to visit the Brazilian side of the Falls). The stop was just around the corner from our hostel and it cost 3 paesos (about 50p). The bus waited for us at the Argentinan boarder while we got our exit stamp and give us a bus ticket at the Brazilain boarder (about 1km between the two boarders) so we could get on the next bus without paying again. We got our entry stamps and had to wait about ten mins for the next bus. There were a few others waiting and armed guards at the boarder so it was really safe. Silly tour guide doesn´t know what its talking about, I´ll have to write an updated version! In Brazil the four of us jumped off to get the next bus together. Although we werent´t planning on heading to the Brazilian side of the falls just yet (backpacks to hostel first) we needed the same bus which was cool. Only problem was we had crossed the boarder by bus and had no Brazilian currency (unlike airports with ATM´s). While the three of them waited at the bus stop with the luggage I went on a little scout for a cash machine. Equipped with no Portugese in my arsenal my mission was sure to be tough. Instead I ran frankicly from person to person (scared Sian was getting our backpacks robbed of her) waving my cash card at people saying ATM???-proably not the wiseest thing to do on the streets of Brazil! Some kind person ushered me in the right direction anyway, probably thinking-freaky tourist! After trying a couple of ATMs I found one that took my card, thank god, got some cash and ran back-backpacks safe and Sian alive, also thank god! The four of us jumped on another bus that was just around the corner from were we had got off. We asked the bus conductor (Brazil still has them) were our destination was and she give us a shout, handy. We departed from the New Zealand couple at this point. We panicked been alone, still needing one more bus, especially as we had been dropped in the middle of nowhere-the countryside. Luckily there was a small bus stop with a few people standing by it (the only other bus stop) and we went over there to wait. We felt quite vunerable with our backpacks in the heat but luckily the bus we needed came straight away and it was free! The driver told us when to get off but to be honest I though he had been smoking crack becasue we got off and were in the middle of a field, seriously not a building in sight! A couple emerged from the foliage in the field and asked if we were heading to the hostel, they were going also so we followed. This hostel was a 15 min walk through the field, we would never have found it on are own lol.

Alas we found it and it was pretty impressive, an idilic hideawy in the countryside and guess what it was scouching!!! We had planned to be good Brazilian tourists and go and see the Brazilian side of the Iguacu Falls (even though Argentina´s is the most impresive) however, the sun was out and there was a pool and two lakes to relax by and swim in-you wouldn´t have left this place either so don´t dare judge us! We dropped our bags and pulled up a chair by the pool and ordered some drinks (Sian´s was a G&T with an obscene amount of Gin in so he had to put it in a pint glass!). It was blissfull just relaxing. Nice not to have any plans (well not any longer) and just chill in the sun. I went to order some drinks and the younger of the two receptionis (who was very welcoming and attentive) asked for the second time if we would like any food. Again I tried to explain we had some sandwhiches bt would eat tonight, he missheard and said ´o yes, the kitchen can make a sandwhich´ To save embarreshment of repeating myself (plus I was still a bit hungary after my baps) I agreed to order something. Before I knew it I had ordered a medium pizza for 2. Sian still thinks we paid for a small pizza, she was so angry with me becasue of our tight buget I couldn´t bring myself to say it was a medium pizza that cost around 8quid, ýou just can´t say no can you!´ The izza took yonks to come out, around three hours, tranquillity soon returned to our poolside speck lol. After the young pizza floggin receptionist finished work at 4 he invited me for a swim in the lake, until this point I was unsure if you could swim in it? We jumped in and god it was freezing the ducks swimming in it were also annoyed and got out and went in the other lake lol. It was reaaly nice just swimming round this lake though, needed to cool off. After our swim it was time for fishing in the other lake (ducks annoyed and got out again). We both caught a fish each, what a perfect day. After our brief romance it was time for him to go home, I miss him dearly! you may be wondering Sian was up to during this brief affaire, well she was having one of her many affairs with the computer; blogging. Unfortunatly for her, her relationship ended sourerly with the blog website crahing and her loosing 3 hours worth of blog, OUCH!!! After our tea and a chat with a different couple from New Zealand we packed up again and got an early night, our flight to Manaus was a 6am in the morning and we were getting there for around 4.30 so we were up around 3.30 I think.

We got up and got to the airport ok -10reales (approx 3quid) becasue of Sian´s foolishness but I wont go into that, am sure she will say its all my fault haha. A little tit for tat was nothing cmpared to the havock that was about to be released upon us in a few hours. During are flight, which took off on time, I fell asleep as per usual (on a row of vacant seats). I woke up to a raptuas applause from everyone onboard. Not because I had finnaly woke up lol but becasue the plane had been circling the airport for an hour and a half becasue it was closed and was now only about to land. We didn´t panic because we where due to remain on this flight even though it had stops in two ifferent places. Despite the delay this was confirmed over the tanoy. It gradually dawned on us though that we were the only to left onboard. Another steward cam over to us and said we had to get off. We tried to communicate saying we were goin to Manus and whats going on? Of course she didn´t understand and she ushered us off anyway. We came to a departure lounge and everyone was crowded around a desk waveing their tickets at the assistants. We got in line (Sian graually pushiung me closer and closer to the desk). As if the situation couldn´t seem any worse I saw a womens face drop when her ticket was re-processed. I just knew she had been put on a plane due to take of god knows when and that she was going to Manaus-that face spoke a million words (most on them unholy). Sure enough we got to the counter and after being passed on to a semi-english talking assistent (the seminess would really become apparent soon) we got our new flights, all two of them! The first talking off in around 2 hours (11.15am)-my face would have dropped like the womens but I already knew thanks to her! Ultimatly we were getting into Manaus for around 5.30pm when we were meant to be getting picked up at the airport by our Amazon guide at 12.30pm!!! We tried to explain this and the women did not have a clue. A nice guy behind us in line must have seen the situation we were in and our frustation (me and Sian getting quite irrate by this point-bit like that Easyyet show called Airport, only we hadn´t forgot our passport!) He offered to translate. We explained we had to be in Manaus for 12.30 becasue we had a tour booked and were due to be picked up by 12.30. Although he translated and the woment in return showed a glimpse of emphathy she said there was nothing she could do an that we should ontact the tour guide. Gutted! We stepped a side, Sian begining to blubber, and were montionless for a while-totaly at a loss what to do! Yes we had to compact the tour group but we knew that ultimatly we were going to miss part of the tour-the visit to monkey island! Sian then saw on the departure screen a flight leaving for Manaus at 9.30am. We went to the desk to enquire about this asking when we couldn´t be put on this flight. The same women replied, that is a different airline. We didn´t think it was and said no its not, come see. We had to point to the screen were it said 9.30, Manaus, GOL Airline. She said, o yes let me check. Clearly it was not just her lack of english that was causing us problems but the fact she had just got off the last space hip leaving Mars! She came back and said that is not longer going to Manaus anymore (despite it still saying that on thw screen). As it was now boarding we give up on this and when back to out final option of just arranging a different pick up time and missing our monkeys! We asked if there was internet neaby and the women said no, no internet, not possible. With no contact num,ber to all we were screed. Sian began to boil over, either about to cry or rip the womens face off. Either way the women saw this and as not to asue a scene took us to the VIP lounge. No amount of free tea or coffe was going to calm Sian, instead she started sobbing on the VIP lounge counch-VIPS watching! I rushed over to a small wireless room of the lounge were people were using their laptops. I knocked on the door and asked ´can anybody speak English´(yes, I felt like a twat doing this too, good comedy value thoug)! One guy raised his hand, with a slightly anxious look on his face! I asked, if he was using the internet and that was it his or a public computer. He said yes and that it was his. I asked if he knew if there was a internet cafe near by as I needed to send a quick e-mail (I knew there wasn´t and was really fishing for him to let me jump on his computer). He actually said there was one on the second floor outside. Sure enough I went outside and turned the corner and there it was. That women seriously was on another planet! We sent our email and planned to check in at our next wait in Sao Paulo airport. The rest of our flight were without delay and we got a reply saying that not to worry and that we would be picked up at 5.30pm and join the group. We were still upset that we had missed our monkeys though!

We arrived and our big concern over our bags (we were certain that they would be flying round Brazil somewhere becasue of all the changes) was not a problem. We were met by a repreentative and jumped in a car to the port. From here we got in a small motorised canoe and road across the estuary to our jungle lodge. It was a pleasent ride, moreso becasue it was dusk, that took around 25 mins. Although we had missed our monkeys we were hoping that we would not be too late for the evening meal and more importantly the ´aligator (cainman) hunting´. We saw some canoes pull out as we docked and some already out with spot lights. We thought we had missed them and were gutted. We got shown to our room, which was over a 5min walk through the jungle from reception lol. The room itself was lovely, a nice little hut in the jungle with plenty of birds and bugs for noisy neighbours! After we settled in it was time for dinner. A huge buffet!!! Just what we needed, the food was lovely. Unfortunatly in the airport I thought we might miss dinner and I launched a pre-emptive strike and eat a Mc Donalds so I didn´t demolish the buffet as I would normally have! During dinner our guide introduced himself and explained that becasue there was a lot of people doing the aligator hunt tonight we would do ours on our last night. He said it would just be the three of us so that would be better! He also said we would squeeze the monkey park in during our free time on the last day, yehhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!! All seemed well and we finished our dinner an retreated to the bar feeling rather large! We barely fitted one drink in before we rolled back to our lodge for some much needed rest!

Day 2 in the jungle and after a pleasent sleep Johnathan and Sian awoke to tropical bird song.

We strolled through our jungle walk-way thinking we would get lost on the way to breakfast becasue it looked very different from the night before. Luckily enough it was heavily signposted and even I couldn´t get lost. Breakfast was just as big as dinner. Loads to choose from. To drink there was tropical juices, teas, coffe, and most importantly a bowl of coco powder! To eat; fruit, a toastie machine, a egg station and lots of cakes-Brazilians like cakes for breakfast and as it hapens so do I!!! The best thing about breakfast though was the company; three parrots dropped in for breakfast and a chat. They are pretty much the lodge´s parrots becasue they always come for breakfast lol. They are as free as they can be though and often swooped over your head to steal the persons fruit from the table behind you. The biggest of the three, a big red one, had a perminant speck above the egg station haha. The other two, the less shy fruit steeling ones, were small and green. After breakfast you might find the red one hanging around the wall maps outside (were people offten congrigated) or in a near by tree, repeating his one english world - hello!

After breakfast it was time for our first trip - a boat ride to ´the meeting of the waters. This is a must see for anyone who goes to the Amazon. The meeting of the waters is the section were the Negro River meets with the Amazon River and its quite an impresive sight but more on that shorlty. We got on board a river boat, the kind you used to see in the deep south, Mississippie style. It was quite funny to see, I didn´t know these boats were still around. We got on anyway and had our orientation with our guide were he explained all about the two rivers. Apparently becaue of a new section of the Amazon River found in Peru by scienctist this River could now be classed as the biggest in the world (next to the Nile). Understandably considering it passes through 3 countires (one of which being Brazil-the 5th biggest country in the world by geographical area). The Amazon River starts in Peru, passes through Columbia and flows through a large proportion of Brazil. Us two little dots felt quite small floating on it when we heard all this! We sailed up the Negro River passing many sights. It was a mix of sights and emothions however. We intially passed through jungle and flooded rainforest but then eventually passed by Manaus city were the Amazon has been opened up. Opened up is perhaps the best descripton. Hotels line the banks and rise way up above the canopy. As for the river, all manner of vessels sail past; paddle/motorised canoes, speed boats, jet skies, water skies, river boats, luxury yachts and even water bourne planes. The most frustrating however, was a banannah boat though-yeh I know, I never expected to see one on the Amazon myself. I can´t moan too much though as I was one of many onboard a boat. We naturally passed by some logging bays and saw a few of aparently unregulated factories gusing out plenty of smoke for all to enjoy. We also passed a sight which perhaps emphasises the industrialisation of Amazonia-this was the bridge crossing the entire Amazon. It is still under construction (compleation due next year) and will be the first bridge to crosss the Amazon. Judgeing by how wide the Amazon is (120miles/190km, about 1 1/2 hours boat ride) it could be one of the longest bridges constructed! Until now there has been no need to cross the Amazon due to lack of roads and citties but things have changed and there is now need for a crossing! Thankfully we eventually got past all this and were sandwiched by natural rainforest again. Then there it was, the meeting of the waters! The Negro River (black, hoter, slower and less dense meets the Amazon (crowdy, colder, faster and more dense) in style! There different characteristics mean that niether river merges with each other. Instead they stay seperated and run along eachother like oil and vinigor, some parts intermingling but remaing seperate like marble cake! It was a really impressive sight to observe and sail through.

After we sailed through the rivers meeting point we continued up stream to a little village. This was quite nice to see but it was a bit of a tourist trap, handycrafts for sail etc. We did see a little church and school though that the local village people used that was nice. We also saw two yound boys fishing through a hole in a boat with half a plastic bottle; amazingly they caught two fish, naturally I caught one on video lol. We then sailed through a lot of flooded rainforest to the next village were we had lunch. Although we were away from our lodge there was still a buffet to enjoy. Enjoy we did! Now it was time to sail all the way back to our lodge-a 2-3 hour boat trip. It was pelting down with sun and I fell asleep with my head hanging over the edge of the boat. Before I could get sun stroke a noisy Italain woke me up screaming down the phone at what must have been her deaf mother? Thanks love! I had snoozed past all the industrial banks so now it was time for me and Sian to enjoy the scenery one last time. Still amaziong the second time round! We docked and had a nap before our evening meal. Another buffet, another large stomach. During the end of our meal I was getting me and Sian some tea and me a slither of cake. I was waiting for more hot water and a women came up to me and asked were I got my cup. I told her they had ran out and just to ask for one. Now we were both waiting for the hot water and I exchanged a couple of token questions, were are you from? and what are your plans? etc. It turned out she was bourn in the Ukraine but was living in California. If her national identity was blurry it was no were near as confused as her head. This was perhaps the most eccentric/crazy person I have ever met. If this is what happens when Ukraine meets America, all cross breeding should be banned! No need to go into the details though apart from she kinda stalked me and Sian for the last couple of days, luck would have it she was on the remainder of our trips! We managed to escape her grasp though when we ran off to the bar but she eventually found us and asked if we could walk her home (yes we happened to be neighbours!) becasue she had gotten lost in the jungle-remember how easy I told it was with the sighs, loopyyy!!!

Day 3 in the jungle and Johnathan wakes up hungary for buffet. Sian on the other hand ´feels large´!

Our third day was our last full day and our busyest. First we went on our jungle walk. Although at first I was a bit dissapointed we appeared just to step into ´our backgarded´, it was actually all we needed to do in order to see everything though! We walked along a semi-circlue type trail for approx two hours observing the local flora and fauna. We saw all manner of trees and our guide explained the different usefull properties of each tree. Some trees I remember include; a ´telophone tree´(thin and semi-circle shaped) that when hit made an incediable echo, a tree thats wax was compbustable, a tree with natural vines for swinging (like Tarzan) and loads of trees that were used for various medical purposes. The list goes on really. Our guide also showed us a seed that beatles layed their eegs into that hatched into lava and fed off the coconut inside until it eat its way out. He popped a lava out for himself and gobbled it down! He told us that it was fine to eat if you needed to becasue it was ´clean´ in the sence that it had not yet had contact with the outside world and had only fed on coconut-pretty much crawling coconut then?. Naturally I offered myself to gobble one down also (everyone else was chiken)! I bit into it avoiing the head, you don´t eat the head for some reason! I struggled to rip the head off (I tought it would be easy like a jelly baby), eventuialy it popped in my mouth, yummmy! It did tast like coconut initially but the after taste was kinda funcky, water please! The highlight of this walk though was probably swinging on the vines like Tarzan . Sian had a go and was obbissmil (´you know I have no arm strenght´)! I on the other hand was anatual and Sian recorded the whole thing so we can enjoy it togethr when I return home (I recorded Sian´s so we can all giggle at that one)!

When we got back it was time for monkey island!!! We jumped on a motorised canoe and rode over the monkey island. This monkey island served as a rehibilitation centre for orphaned and displaced monkeys. As we were docking you could see monkeys rustling and hanging from the trees. As we arrived it was just time for dinner!!! All the monkeys ran down the tree, squeeling. They assembled in a line and trotted off behing to the feeding counter. Although a lot of these monkeys were not totaly wild in the strickest sense most were getting there and just depended on the free food really if nothing else. There was this one baby though who totally depended on the ranges; little Cheve Chenco-the cutest thing you may well ever see! He was adorable, just like a little human baby. As the other monkeys trotted off to get food he tried to hitch a ride on a female monkey carrying her own young, he got strugged off though and had to walk alone-ooo am nearly crying just thinking about it lol. Dinner time was quite a sight. I mentioned before most monkeys were semi-wild. Well during dinner time though, small wild monkeys droped in for some free grub. It was quite a sight to behold. I had my camcorder on through most of it and got some cracking shots. Monkeys flying everywhere. All hell almost broke loose at one point when someones bannah or something was stolen lol. All the while the big fat chief who I dubbed as Fat Toney just sat there scoffin his face-no one bothered him!!! Just before we left little Cheve came other for a tickle, we were not exactly helping his rehibilitation process but he was too cute to resist! We tickled away!!!

After monkey island we had a hour or so free time before lunch and our next trip. We both headed to the chill out area in our lodge´s complex. This secluded area had several hammocks hanging from its wooden pillars. We both jumped on and having the place to ourselfs relaxed in the heat of the day listening to bird song, aaaarrrrrrr! I woke up to the rumble of people during dinner time. I jumped up and got Sian´s attention, her head stuck in a book. After dinner, which is a buffet again in case you hadn´t guessed, we prepared for our next trip; a boat trip to a native Indian village.

The aim of this trip was to observe the local rituals and dances of the tribe. Not my cup of tea I must admit but we had no choice lol. It was the usualy gimicky stuff of getting the white people up to dance and look foolish, cringe. I had an experiance of this in Kneya when on Safari in Masai Mira, hated it then! After my little prance around with a long flute that sounded like I was honking a horn (not how it was meant to sound) we finished, had a luck around the handycrafs and set sail again. We got back and like the rest of the day had little time before we were off again!

First though, it was our last buffet dinner, noooo! After, it was straight out in the pitch black for a spot of aligator hunting!!! Family don´t be alarmed we were assured aligators are not actually dangerous and contary to popular belief they are infact scared of humans. This did little to settle even my nerves though! It was the tree of us in a little paddle canoe in the dead of night (it was 8.30 but pitch black) with just a flash light for comfort! I was sitting at the back, Sian in the middle and the guide up front, conviently holding the flashlight. The flahlight was rarely on as not to scare the aligators away (please turn it on, please turn it on)! You couldn´t even see your nose and all you could hear was what sounded like giant monsterous frogs! It was not long before we caught glimpse of our firt aligator, yellow beedy eyes percing out of the water in the distance. Sure enough the flash light scared him off and he submerged under the water and trees of the flooded rainforest. Sian caught glimpse of another but I missed it sitting at the back. By now though we were deep in the flooded rainforst and had to move branches etc out of our way as we paddled throug in seach of an aligator we could bring on board! Yes we too thought our guide was clinically insane! If your still holding your nerve, we certainly wernt, but you will surly loos it in a minute! As our time was coming close to an end and we were still to see a aligator up close our guide turned to desperate measures. He took us to an aligator nest he knew off! I, like am sure you are now, was thinking; baby aligators or eggs= protective mothers and if they don´t kill us this is definatly the scene for a giant anniconda to emerge from the depths of the water and drag me off the back of the boat and swollow me whole! O, actually anniconda don´t swollow you whole they coil themselfs around you first and strangle you to death! I don´t know how he did it, but he found a baby crock trying to swim away by a tree. He grabbed hold of it and brought it onboard for us to look at. It was amazing, it didn´t struggle that much at all-odd. We snapped some pics and he showed us some cool features like the clear membrain that cover their eyes when under water. It felt amazingly rough as well, I expected slightly slimey. A brill experiance, home now please!

Day 4 in the jungle and neither Johnathan and Sian can face another buffet!

Our last day and possibly the funnest! We had the morning to go piranah fishing before we checked out at 11.30 to be transfered to the airport for our flight to Salvador. After breakfast (and stealing materials to make dinner) we set off. We got a little motorized canoe and rode to a little spot of flooded rainforst and ´dropped anchor´(floated). We were using little bamboo rods really with beef at the end of some string (just liker I did in Foz Iguacu actually). The guide give us a little demonstration; he hung the rod overboard (no casting off neccesary) and tapped the water with the rod. He said this made the piranah think something had fell into the water-lunch! There was a few of us in the boat from various places so we decided to have a little Piranah Fishing Olympics. Me and Sian were represnting the United Kingdom while there was also two American and a (wako)Chinease (she must have been about 30 odd and carried a teddy bear everywere). We all got our rods and beef and we were off-BANG! Within seconds by some miracle of god the Chinease had caught one! All was not lost though after about 10 minuetes of silent concentration I pulled one out of the bag (river). I had already lost a few bits of bait to nibblers but I was quick enough this time-as soon as you felt the slightest pull you had to pull your rod right up so the hook would catch! I pulled it onboard and got a few pics-yehhh! I thought we might be keeping them for a quick BBQ before leaving but we had to put them back, dam! I was on a roll now, well almost. I actually managed to catch two more! Getting them on board though was a different matter! When I cast up with the second piranah I pulled up that quick that I sent the fish into orbit. The thing flew out of the water and landed on the roof of the boat. At first I thought I had chucked it in the forest but then I heard it flapping about on the roof haha. It was still on the end of my line though so I tried to bring it onboard. Foul play came into action though as the American guy seemingly tried to lend a hand. He got hold of the line and sure enough the piranah slipped off back into the water-ref!!! As for the third one I caught, that just flung out of the water, unhooked itself and completed a triple barrol rool before leading into a nose dive decent back into the lake!!! Sian also caught one but alas the sneaky piranah escaped capture. The UK were awarded 3 half points for their near captures. The leaderboard ended with the UK: 2.5, China: 1, American: 0 (hehe). It would have been a landslide for the UK if not for the incrediable feats of the olympic diving piranah who stole the day!

A fantastic end to our Amazon adventure! We took the same canoe back to the port and soaked in the last scenery of the Amazon. Then a car transfer to the airport. We had quite a few hours to kill in the airport but with the memories of the Amazon it soon flew by. Next stop suny Salvador!