Got back this week from Brazil where I had spent all of August. Here are some photos and notes from the trip.
The first week was spent in Fortaleza attending the Swiss-Prot 20 Years conference. Nothing groundbreaking to report from there though the list of speakers was quite impressive and it is always interesting to hear or even meet people whose databases and software you use or whose books you have read.
I was staying along with the rest of the Swiss-Prot group at the Hotel Oasis Atlantico. Comfortable hotel with a central location and great breakfast buffet but perhaps not the kind of place I would book when traveling on my own – on the way back from Manaus I spent my last night in Brazil at the smaller Hotel La Maison.
Finding places for changing traveler’s checks turned out to be more difficult than expected. One small but central place that doesn’t charge a commision is the Confidence Cambio branch office at Av. Beira Mar 2500. There are two exchange offices at the airport but only one changes traveler’s checks and moreover charges a commission.
Ended up in Jericoacoara for two days after missing my flight to Manaus. Didn’t regret this :-) Rebooking the flight with TAM was no problem either. Stayed at the Casa do Turismo which is quite nice and conveniently located but perhaps a bit overpriced. After walking around a lot I hired one of the many dune buggies with a driver for a day. Not a bad way to get to see the surroundings.
Still had almost three weeks time which I wanted to use to travel to one of the more remote and unpopulated areas in the region. Had already narrowed down the choice in advance to either Pico da Neblina near the border to Venezuela or Jaú National Park. Pico da Neblina turned out to be closed so the decision ended up being simple. But finding someone who would organize this kind of tour for one person on short notice and at reasonable cost was less simple (but not impossible, thanks to the people from the local government’s AmazonasTur office at the airport). Not all planning was done upfront, but what I ended up doing was going about a hundred kilometers up the Carabinani – a side river of the Rio Negro – with a motor boat and two guides, and paddling back in a canoe on my own. Great experience!
The flora and fauna in the park are quite interesting. Saw lots of birds and fish (including the infamous Piranhas), dolphins, crocodiles, monkeys, turtles, and heard or otherwise saw evidence of armadillos and wild pigs in many places. There are also plenty of insects. Good to have a mosquito net, though other parts of the Amazon must be worse. The single biggest danger in the region seems to be getting lost, so be sure to pack enough batteries for your GPS :-) One thing we didn’t see is other people, except for a group of poachers, some military police in pursuit of the poachers, and a small group of tourists back near the park entrance.
Some advice for people organizing a trip: Don’t get involved with a tour organizer who doesn’t have solid credentials. Get the actual guide involved in the planning as early as possible. Talk through the planned route and calculate how much gasoline will be required. If you are particular about food also go through the menu plan. Check both your own equipment and the equipment provided by the tour operator. If the tour operator starts getting vague or evasive at any point that’s a good sign he doesn’t know what he’s talking about or is hiding something and that you’ll be better off elsewhere.
A simple but nice and clean place to stay in Manaus is the Hotel Estrela at Rua Pedro Botelho 162.
Here are some photos and placemarks from Manaus and Jaú. Note that timestamps are off by one hour as I hadn’t realized that the Amazonas region is one hour behind the rest of Brazil. Satellite images seem to have been taken when the water level was near its lowest mark whereas at the time of my visit the water level was just past its peak. Most of the areas that appear brownish in the map were flooded. Had the water level been much lower we might have had trouble passing the rapids in the lower part of the Carabinani river. Also, even though there was a lot of water in the main channels of the Carabinani, the side rivers of the Carabinani were almost impassable. I tried going up the Preguicinha–one of the larger side rivers of the Carabinani–but gave up after a few hundred meters.
André Cruz from Eco-Discovery Tours for getting me where I wanted to go. Júlio Campos for the map. My two guides Norberto and Manuel for making sure that there was always some meat to eat. The people from Seu Delio for their hospitality. Edison and the other guys at the IBAMA base for getting me back to civilization. And João Paolo Costa Braga for helping me out in a tight spot in Novo Airão.
Pictures were taken with a Sony DSC-T3, and placemarks recorded with a Garmin Geko 301.