Tuesday, 5 March 2013



Hello from Manaus, state capital of Amazonia and home to a floating harbour designed and build in Britain and the most famous theatre in Brazil.

Well it was certainly an interesting way to get here. 4 days on a boat travelling up the Rio Madeira, a 2,000 mile long river in Northern Brazil, which is the largest tributary of the Amazon. If I am being honest I really did not enjoy the experience and therefore if you plan to visit Manaus, my advice is to fly.

10 reasons why you should fly, rather than take the boat to Manaus:

1) Punctuality - When they say the boat will depart at 18:00, what they actually mean is that it will depart 26 hours later at 20:00 the next day for no apparent reason and with no information telling you why it is delayed and when we might sail.

2) Sleep - Don’t expect any. Have you ever tried sleeping in a hammock! After 4 nights in a hammock I never want to see another one in my life (I subsequently sold mine in Manaus to a Welsh fellow traveller).

3) Noise - Apparently there are no words in Portuguese for ´Peace and Quiet´ as this concept does not exist. Luckily the drone of the engine cancelled out the loud music, screaming children and loud talking from the locals.

4) Food - Cream crackers for breakfast, beef and rice for lunch and chicken and rice for dinner. The food of Kings! To be far to the boat, most of it was still better than some airline food.

5) Hygiene - Same clothes for 4 days & nights, don’t worry you can have a nice shower in river water and then put your smelly clothes back on.

6) Toilets – Let’s just say that any Chinese passengers would feel right at home. Generally clean, but your eyes started to water after a few seconds.

7) Personal space - 150+ people on a relatively small boat for 4 days, cosy!

8) Smell - On the first deck were several tons of onions meaning that the delightful smell of onion was always there (3 deck boat, we were on the second desk along with most of the locals). Thankfully after two showers I no longer smell of onions.

9) Sights - Trees, trees and more trees. Not really much in the way of scenery or wildlife to watch.

10) Boredom - I have never been so board in my life!

On the plus side I arrived in Manaus at 05:00 Saturday morning safe and sound and in the knowledge that I will never in my life take the slow boat when there is the option of flying!

Apart from the trauma of getting here, Manaus is actually a very nice, friendly city, with some great colonial architecture and good museums. Top of the list is the famous Teatro Amazonas, which I visited yesterday. This is a very opulent theatre built during the boom time of the rubber trade and completed in 1896 after 15 years of construction. Apart from the wooden floors, everything else was imported from Europe, so it is very much of a European style, but with some Brazilian touches. Definitely worth a visit and it would have been great to have seen a concert performance.

After 4 days relaxing in Manus, we are off again tomorrow heading North towards Venezuela where apparently Hugo Chavez is at deaths door. If he dies whilst we are in the country it could be quite interesting if there is any civil unrest, but we will wait and see. It will be interesting to see what Venezuela is actually like, as the guide books paint a picture of a beautiful country, but one struggling with corruption, very high crime rates and a black market economy. All very South American!


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