this last week in brazil has been so varied and so incredible. we left our now-familiar rio de janeiro, of the tropical beaches and the urban crowds, and flew to manaus, a city in the middle of the amazon rainforest. it takes two hours by plane to simply fly over the amazon; it is that vast. as we neared manaus i could see where the rio negro meets the amazon river- black water meeting light brown and continuing on for 8 km without mixing. it was breathtaking.
at the airport we got onto a small van and headed for the port, where we got onto a boat and traveled 50 minutes along the rio negro towards our jungle lodge. in the van, it suddenly began to rain. and then stopped. in the boat, it suddenly began to rain. and then stopped. ahh, okay. the amazon rainforest.
that first day, we took a boat from the lodge to an island called the monkey island, where a lot of monkeys gather each day to eat. we went in a tiny canoe through the floating forest, which is a forest in the river. trees, a forest full of them, under 30 feet of water. only the very tops of the trees were visible to us as we paddled by in our canoe. imagine. at times we got stuck in branches and it struck us as pretty incredible that our little canoe was stuck in the top branches of a tree. in three months, the dry season will be here and the 30 feet of water will be all dried up. it will be a "normal" forest. but most of the year, it is submerged. as we navigated among the tree tops i peered down into the water and imagined scuba diving down there. instead of coral and fish and colors, i would see a forest. trees and leaves and branches and grass.
our second day in the amazon we took a larger boat out to see the meeting of the waters- the meeting of the two rivers i had seen from the plane. up close it was even more unbelievable. i was staring at water only a few feet from me, that was divided in a perfect line between black and light brown. the rio negro, the black water, moves slowly and is cold. the amazon is faster and warmer. because of the differnces in temperature, velocity and density, the two rivers do not mix as soon as they meet. i will never tire of going places and witnessing firsthand that which seems impossible.
something else that happened that day, less miraculous to everyone else but completely incredible to me, is that i caught three piranhas and a catfish with little bits of raw meat hooked onto bamboo poles! i have never fished before, and i have heard scary things about piranhas. but i was handed a pole and so i fished, and amazingly i had better luck than most of the people on that little boat. the guide threw them back, but not before i made taher take a picture of me with each one!
our second-to-last day, we set out early in the morning for a jungle hike, with a guide. it was a difficult walk- two and a half hours in the humid jungle, where, it seemed, mosquitos were invented- but i learned a lot. a tiny insignificant fraction of what there is to know about the rainforest, of course, but still a lot to take in in such a short amount of time. i learned which plants natives use for homes, and how to rub yourself with biting ants in order to disguise your scent. it is awe inspiring that there are so many, countless, trees and plants just casually standing about in the rainforest, that contain miraculous medicinal properties. one tree's bark is quinine- if you put this in tea and drink it, you can both cure and prevent malaria. the rainforest seems infinite to me in its mysterious healing powers.
the amazon experience was, on the whole, very peaceful. we didn't camp in the jungle for three weeks and see panthers- but we did eat breakfast among huge red and blue macaws; we did nap in hammocks; we did take pictures of three-toed sloths; we did go on a night trip by boat to hunt for alligators; we only tasted the amazon experience, but it was, even in its brevity, an intense adventure.
and now we are in foz de iguacu, our last stop before returning to sao paulo and then to chicago. foz de iguacu hosts one of the natural wonders of the world- a series of 257 waterfalls that dwarf niagara falls easily. we went to see them today and were dumbstruck. i have been to niagara falls more than once- it really doesn't compare. these waterfalls are violent and sublime and endless; they stretch along for over 3 km- it took us thirty minutes to just walk along them.
this blog, and this trip, has been a series of "this was amazing and then this was amazing and then we did this and it was amazing!" we came to brazil hoping for a good time but not really knowing what we were in for (that's the best kind of trip, isn't it?) i am shocked by and thankful for how much i've seen and how often i've had an incredible, inspiring day in the last three weeks. someday, if i figure out how to upload photos onto this blog, i will put up a few of this trip. in the meantime, if anyone wants to go to brazil, you can borrow our guidebook- i've dog-eared the good stuff ;)