We didn’t have a definite plan to come here.
When deciding to leave Rio and go somewhere else this was just one of many places on our list along with Salvador, The Pantanal, Brasilia (the Capital) and the stunning beaches of the north east which rank amongst the best in the world.
So with all these wonderful choices on offer, we picked the Amazon. Away from the beaches, away from the beautiful ancient cites and closer to…. creepy crawlies!
But let’s face it, when you think of Brasil your first thoughts are probably Rio now so soon after the Olympics, but close behind it is probably the Amazon and so it just had to be done.
It was such a long way from Rio and as to go by road it would probably take best part of 60 hours without allowing time for stopping, we made the sensible decision and flew. This allowed us to see the Amazon from the air as the dawn was breaking – quite spectacular.
We had to first fly to Belem first though and we arrived there at stupid o’clock in the morning. We lugged all our bags off (of which we have quite a few now as we have all our volunteering uniform – trainers, bags, jackets, trousers, cap and tops, in addition all our own stuff we already had) and lugged it into the airport transit lounge, where we were directed to a gate and straight back onto the plane we just got off!
Thank you flight attendants for you invaluable help with that one…!
Anyway our flight to Manaus was great and we landed around 4:30am. Zzzzzzz!
The public transport doesn’t start from there until 6:00am so we found coffee and sat somewhere quiet to wait for the buses. We managed to find the bus stop ok but every bus that turned up was rammed full of people. we mean quite literally rammed and there was squeeze in room only – no space for any of our bags so we gave up and got a taxi.
Which still didn’t help us really as we were at the hotel by 7:00am and they have a 3pm check-in policy!
The very sweet people in reception though told us to go and have breakfast at the buffet upstairs whilst they watched our bags for us. This was just what we needed.
After breakfast we got out our mini pillows, which we take with us everywhere, and promptly went to sleep in their foyer whilst we waited for a room to become available and for housekeeping to make the room up ready for us. By 10am we got the little shake awake to tell us we could go to our room.
We went up a modern but quite shaky lift and along a very dark dingy corridor (very 1970s stylie) to our room which stood ominously at the very end of the corridor.
And what a room it was!
£22 a night we were paying here and it was a huge room with a fridge, actual hot water in the shower with big fluffy white towels, a comfy bed with nice sheets, AC – it had AC that worked! and best of all was our view. That view would cost a huge amount of money in almost any other city as it was right in front of the Opera House – the number 2 attraction in Manaus (the Amazon being number 1 of course).
Feeling like we had won the jackpot here we soon settled in.
We visited the pool on the roof and marvelled at the Amazon river just a few blocks over from us and the Amazon jungle beyond that. A cheerful man in reception (we have to say at this point just how lovely everyone we met in Manaus was – they seemed much more chilled out, less stressed than people in Rio) had organised an English speaking guide to come and talk to us about trips into the jungle we could do and that was that.
Our second day here and Bryan disappeared into the jungle for 3 days and Jody had the Friday to herself before following suit on Saturday and going off on a day trip of her own.
You can read about both our trips in separate entries.
When we were both back and fully recovered from our adventures, we set out to visit number 2 attraction that had been teasing us since the day we arrived.
The Opera House gives guided tours which normally cost around £10 each but luck was on our side when we went. It was the 120th anniversary of being built and all tours were free today. Brilliant!
We know we focus on the cost of things a lot but money is getting very tight for us now and we lost about £200 on our apartment in Rio. We advertised the last month’s tenancy to find someone else to take over the last month for us. Twice we had English people say they were interested and would take it over and twice we were let down which meant we lost our deposit 🙁 Grrrr! why can’t people be more honorable these days?
Anyway, aside from that the Opera House was just beautiful inside and we were so glad we took the time to see it. It was built when Manaus was still a jungle backwater and the residents thought the local MP who proposed it, was bonkers – who needed an Opera House in the jungle???
But he envisaged a “jewel in the heart of the Amazon rainforest” and stuck to his guns despite early funding issues. Well we think he succeeded admirably and today, it is still the most beautiful concert venue in Brasil.
Inside the theatre, there is a ‘truth’ mirror – this means there is no distortion whatsoever when you look into it and the image you see is accurate (not like some of these very unflattering mirrors you see around then…!) There are also 198 chandeliers which were imported from Italy, including 32 of Murano glass.
Near the top was a balcony we got some pretty views from and then we discovered the Lego Opera House. Yes a whole Opera House built from Lego. We bet it didn’t take as long to build that one. No little Lego opera singers in it though which was a shame.
The view over the Opera House wasn’t the prettiest view we have ever had but it seemed to change every day with the different light. Every evening we marvelled at the sky as sunset came around. As the sun shone through the domed roof from the other side, it revealed that part of the roof was glass and the light shone through it beautifully creating lots of colours. It was more reminiscent of India than Brasil for sure.
One day as we were absent mindedly gazing out the window, 2 huge macaw parrots flew past the window and we only just grabbed our camera in time to see them flying off across the city. When you see those handsome birds flying wild you know you are somewhere really special!
One day we took a walk to the local indigenous market where they have lots of arts and crafts and also herbs and potions! A lot of the herbs were in packets and we let the camera on google translate do the work for us in trying to understand what was in them all. It was hilarious seeing what translations it came up with.
Our time in Manaus was over now – just six short days here and we had loved the winding down feeling it gave us. It was great to have done something so exciting at the end of our trip too.
But onwards we must march – the Caribbean awaits and we don’t want to keep it waiting any longer than it has too.
But where in the Caribbean is the question – so much choice!
As we went through immigration at the airport, we had remembered to ask the girl as she stamped us out of Brasil if she had one of the Rio 2016 Olympic passport stamps. Umm yes she knew what we meant but she didn’t have one. Oh well it seems as if it was not to be. Everyone who had flown into Rio International airport had been given one but as we had arrived rather early in Rio and into the domestic airport, we missed out.
So just as we had resigned ourselves to the fact we wouldn’t get one, the sweet girl said she would go and look for one for us and set off for a rummage in an office.
Five minutes later she was back triumphantly carrying the stamp in her hand 🙂
We got it afterall – some stamps are just so rare and this is one of them – see, we told you the people in Manaus were wonderful!