Sunday, August 6, 2006

Report # 9

Howdy to all from Colombia, Sunday, midday 6th Aug
I wrote and an hours report this morning but it somehow disappeared into cyberspace, so am trying again. Also I have tried to send three other emails from this server but am getting failure notices so may have to send this from Yahoo later.

I left you last time in Belem - Sunday, a week ago - so to continue - Monday I went walking after looking at yellow pages for travel agents and eventually found one but a lot of walking. they had a seat to Manaus for Wed for $140 or so so I took it but in Brazil nobidy acepts foreign credit cards, so I walked to the nearest ATM but it doestnt like foreigners too, so bus to town then try 4 ATMs before one talks to me inluding several technical rejections. Bus back to agent, get ticket and home just after lunch. rested for rest of day.

Tuesday into town to try a tour of river; nothing suits so try the local ferry service and they hace a ferry going up river for 1.5 hrs and then back $2 each way. so I take it. Fascinating - all the locals carrying stuff to their island places or whatever all black/dark skinned. Altho the river is 320 kmz wide here it has 1000 islands in between - the big one I told you about and many others some of considerable size - 10-15kms - so from the shore yo can only see about 8-10 kms of water. very deep. We head upriver between some islands lots of shanty house along the bans where very poor people live ekeing out existence from fruit and hunting or maybe a couple of cattle. I found it amazing and interesting. Only stopped at three places - in last 20 mins - and unloaded frieght, then back via a diff route in a very narrow channel. Another pro offered her wares to me on the returrn trip but fat and ugly so I said no. The waterways are quite laberynthine so only locals could navigate there I am sure..Home late arvo then prepare for tomorrows departure.

Up early Wed and get to airport by bus - I find it very easy to get buses to and from the airports and bus terminals; saves $20 per trip - easy to get tickeded and able to relax in air comfort of airport for a couple of hours. Sat next to a 15yo girl, Roberta, who was talkative (and clever as she spoke very slowly and distinctly). Became good friends. After lamding, her mum was not there so I helped her with bags etc and we chatted till mum arrived - by bus!! Mum was suspicious of me I think but I left. But they called me back as they were going on bus too, so we waited together, then her estranged dad arrived and mum sent her (reluctantly) with dad but mum - Joselia - dtayed with me. She took me to town and showed me the hotel and ensured I was safe and installed. Meantime she had relaxed and gave me her address and details and she is a lolly seller in a poor barrio (!!). I spend entire afternoon looking for agents to get tickets for exit plus tickets for a jungle tour; cannot find Venez consulate. So decide to ignore Venez and try Colombia. They can get me a ticket for Sat to the far west of Amazon called Tabatinga (Brazil) plus a two day tour for Thurs Frid. Once again the hassle of getting an ATM but this city centre is smaller but still much walking. Eventually get all arranged. Don´t know if I can exit Tabatinga.

Decide that if I am to see Joselia adn family It is that night, so take the bus she told me and travel for 35 mins and dont know where to exit , ask busman and he says wait. We get to the terminal for that line the very edge of city I think, and he says to walk two blocks. I do and find the plaza and with soime seaaarching find Joselia. She and Roberta are astonished!! she has a fixed stand 2x1 mts roofed with electricity sells sweets, drinks and makes simple food like fried banana crisps and empanadas. I spend enjoyable 2 hours with them and thier friends - all accept me - an oddity I suspect but all restful and friendly. The whole town is in the streets (30C, 98%) and school is on one side of strteet and soccer field of sand on other. They warn me to be careful going to bus stop - which is hard to find - but people I meet treat me well and help happily and absolutely no problems. Amazing and unique experience. Schools here run 3 sessions a day to accomodate the numbers thats why school was on at 9 at night.Home very late more walking to get to hotel.

Next day early start for tour. They take us - 4 Spanish, 2 young/cocky Belgians - in car to meeting of waters where we cross to south bank via small motor boat. Manaus is on north side of two rivers whhich meet 15 kms east of city - rivers flow west to east of course - imagine a Y lying on its side >-- sort of - so we go in a kombi van for an hour into jungle travel thru wetlands most of time road is raised about 2-3 mts. Lots of farm houses with cattle and some crops. Then in a long canoe with 40hp outboard for another hour to get to cabins where we stay. Also get two Venez guys added. We swin in mighty Amazon - or a tributary- for an hour or two and have fish lunch the fish is called pirauc√£ and the one we saw was 2 mts long , can you imagine!! we only saw the fillet which was as tall as the boy holding it. Then after lunch to spot monkeys motor for an hour row 30 mins but the 4 Span and 2 Belg talk sing shout whole time so no animals seen but the trip was amazing as I find it impossible to tell where the main stream goes there are so many backwaters and tributaries the water is about 2 mts below max and the marks are easily visible on trees and banks. Some parts are 20 mts deep and otheres only 8-10 mts . The river will drop another 10 mts before next big wet so many parts will be dry. Incredible to see these giant tress growing in the water. I loved the trip.

Home to fish for piranha - I caught the first and the largest, got 5, but Emilio got 8, We ate thjem next day in a soup!! They are only tiny fish about 6-8 cms high, 12-15 cms long and 2 cms wide , oval shape. Teeth are sharp and jaws are very strong - cannot remove stick from mouth once they bite it. We caught these fish in same spot where we swim!!! they only attack if you have fresh blood wound. Then alligator spotting after dinner called caimans here they grow to 3 mts but that takes 30-50 yrs. We caught one about 2-3ft. More swim after dinner had some caiperinhas - rum based drink good to get drunk on!!. Tipsy to bed.

Up at 5.30 for bird watching and sunrise saw 100s of canaries and lots of other birds and heard more. After b/fast we went for jungle hike supposed to seee monkeys and lots more. But the talkers are more noisy than ever so no chance but we see a tarantula and a 6 ft green snake which I almost trod on. non poisonous but aggressive and throws entire body when strikes so guide was worried. It was ready to attack me but I got good photo. Walked non stop for 2.25 hrs Lumch and more swim, then depart for town. Get hotel again and prepare for depart from Brazil next morn.

Got to Tabatinga easy shared taxi with two others to Brazil immigration and get exit. Then we take motor bike taxi to the Colombian town of Leticia. Imagine me with big mochila on back and holding little day pack and we are on a bike!! quick cheap and easy. Get to airport and have to get to town again to accept credit card then back again to airport and they have plane leaving in 3 hrs for Bogota. So arrive in Bog and take minibus to city and find hotel next to the one Sherry recommended - it is full as there is a convention on in town.

So I am in Spanish country again and it almost feels like my home tongue after the portuguese.

Must away, hope this gets to you all.

Love and kisses