Friday, October 27, 2023

Exploring the Amazon...or so we thought

Large billed tern I dipped on at Naples Florida a month back, a world lifer here

Part 2 of 5: I apologize for my "hanging post" as I have been lost in the jungle so to speak. So after some obligate cultural activities in Manaus Brazil we boarded the "Premium" ship of the Amazon Clipper, a flat-bottomed ship design quite common of the Amazon River system, most of these ships look like they were built in the 1950s but this one 2007.  It was a comfortable room with 16 small cabins and only two with decks.  There was a ten person crew, and two guides to show the Amazon to us.  We were led by Wolfhard Wink, a plucky German ex-patriot who came to the Amazon looking for a new start in life sixteen years previous and except for two years of unemployment due to COVID forcing him to sell his house to keep his kids in a good school he had been prosperous as a local tour guide.

His German English accent was almost imitatable after a while.  He was knowledgeable and his local partner  Aldinei was also pretty good and a better birder, so we tried to hang with him more on little boat excursions.

We took off after seeing the Governors Palace.  Manaus sits a few miles upstream from the mouth of Rio Negro where it meets the Amazon, The Rio Negro a big river itself, which unlike the Amazon had clearer but tannin stained water.  A few miles downriver we would head to the Amazon and take a right and do some serious exploring.

First look at the Premium ship, the Rio Negro Bridge in the back, note how low the water is.  

The advertised hot tub, which was not hot, and filled with brown Rio Negro water.  No one gave it a try in the entire week, would you?

My first idea that something was up when Wolf pointed out the Rio Negro Bridge and stated we would be going under it twice but then we went the other way.  It should also be known that the Amazon and Rio Negro are at their seasonal lows and this year the lowest in a century.  The Rio Negro for one fluctuates a good 60-100 feet in depth, an amount that is somewhat unfathomable.  

Truth should also be known that although the program had been sent out twice, I never read it, as I said earlier this was a trip I was going on and was keeping my mouth shut on it as I was going to make due with whatever came our way.

We reached the confluence with the great river in no time at all and we followed the dividing line for a while where the black and acidic Rio Negro does not mix well with the faster, lighter, and more basic Amazon.  We saw gray dolphins and looked west at the great expanse that was the upper Amazon and then....turned around and headed back towards Manaus.

Amazon right, Rio Negro Left

So that was the Amazon for us, 1000 miles from the Atlantic and just a quick turn in the edge for ten minutes.  

We parked for the evening and went Parana fishing.  I caught a very small one which made me a rare lucky guy for the boat.  We used no pole-it was basically a hand jig with a piece of meat dangled from a set line, they bit well but were hard to hook. 

The next morning, we went for a walk in the trees to see where giant water lilies lived until the dry season came, BUT we saw a bird, a straight billed woodcreeper, another lifer, so it was not all bad.  The walk was slow and snaky with 21 people and hard to see much, but we did what we could

Then we went off to a River village, then a native settlement where they danced for us, we met the chief, they lived in thatch

Straight billed woodcreeper

We tipped our hats for the mighty bridge going under it for the first time.

Silja and her sister swam with wild pink dolphins  and we even saw jack fruit below, such an ugly odd fruit of the tropics

I had seen a few birds, the trip was a pretty good tourist trip, the food fine, the ship okay, and the company of the other nice people excellent BUT day three ended with storm clouds on the horizon, and it was not the weather, something odd was a bout to happen and I just could not figure it out.  We went to bed thinking of a morning jungle walk and well, of better birds to come.  It was a restless night, and luck was turning.

We were not on an Amazon adventure but on a Rio Negro adventure, but what could go wrong?

To be continued....



  1. I get the unfathomable pun; intended or not.

  2. The cold tub looks not so inviting.


Golden dreams and memories

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