Manaus on the Amazon

Tuesday 6 to Friday 9 March

Travel to and accommodation in the Amazon proved challenging. Probably made worse as I tried to book at the last minute. But the challenges were more than rewarded.

As I reviewed hotels and tourist options it became evident that our best option was to embark on a cruise of the Amazon where we would be shown the best. And so we found ourselves booked on the Iberostar Grand Amazon Cruiser

The flight was awful – middle of the night from Brasilia, arriving in Manaus at 3:00am. It was a long bus ride into the city and the day had dawned when we finally got to bed. The hotel was obviously built for ‘one night stands’, a stepping off point for tourists embarking on a journey on the Amazon.

We checked out the city. It was noisy and humid, kind of intimidating. There is a beautiful Little Ben near the cathedral. 

The port was busy – full of boats. A lot of small cargo boats that ply their trade to the more remote areas of the Amazon

There were also those that took the tourists up the Amazon with little more than a hammock to sleep in and public bathrooms. That certainly seemed like a wonderful adventure for us forty or fifty years ago – but we were looking for a little more comfort to explore this mighty jungle.

We wandered up to the Theatro Amazonia (Opera House) which was opened in 1896 when Manaus was a rich town living off the native rubber trees. An interesting Four Corners of the Earth Monument preceded the discovery of Australia.

Tenreiro Aranha (1798-1861) founded of the Amazon province. His statue was a prominent feature of a little park near our hotel.

Then it was time to start our real Amazon adventure. 

We arrived back in Manaus five days later. Since our flight was not until mid afternoon we left our bags under guard at the port and headed into town.

It was too early for sightseeing so we visited the Mercado Municipal Adolpho Lisboa municipal market. The meat looked good quality with not much offal and a lot of good cuts. Fish was very interesting with some huge fillets that were salted. Some of them were rolled up. I wonder how they are cooked?

There was an area of herbs, including a lot of fresh and dried shrimps, dried leaves and barks and fresh greens. 

We wandered along the waterfront, a busy place where fresh fish was sold from small boats and larger ferries were being filled with goods and produce. These ferries move up and down the rivers, providing limited accommodation in basic cabins and more in hammocks. I think the Iberostar Grand Amazon was a better choice for us.

One of the curious things we have seen in South America is the ‘raised’ rubbish bins. A kind of wire basket on a stand or single leg, that you leave your bags of rubbish in for collection. Of course this is to keep the dogs out of the rubbish. Dogs have a free run in much of South America.

The grandest house from Manaus’ heyday is the Palácio Rio Negro. We wandered up there to see it. It is an enormous Italianate mansion. Unfortunately it wasn’t open for tourists until 1:00pm, much too late for us. After taking some photos we wandered along the canal near the palace, entertained by some vultures looking for a feed. 

We found our way back to the Theatro Amazonia where we tried the coffee recommended to us earlier in the week. We arrived at the café as the rain started. It was a massive downpour. Well that’s the Amazon. 

Next and last stop of this long journey is Rio de Janeiro. Another late flight, just hope we arrive in time to find something to eat.