I’m woken very early to find people talking and getting up and taking down hammocks. It’s still dark but I get up and see we are already approaching the city of Manaus.
I go upstairs to our cabin, wake Martin and check the time, it’s nearly 5.30am (Manaus time, GMT-5) The satellite location on my map says we’re 6km from our destination!!
We carry Lara back up to the cabin to carry on sleeping and take down our hammocks, email the Amazon backpacker Tour folk who are due to meet us – but not till our expected arrival much later in the afternoon – we’re not in a rush to get off the boat!!
The Amazon Star sails into Manaus – its amazing to suddenly arrive in a city… There’s a long slick and modern looking suspension bridge up ahead. From the river the city doesn’t look anything like as big as we know it is – around 2 or 3 million people and growing. We dock and people leave quickly and the boat people want to get in our cabin so we wake this kids and start to pack as fast as we can!
On the dock a taxi driver with a pick up offers to take us to our pousada for $R50 – that’s about £17!! Haggling doesn’t work so we bite the bullet and head off on a journey that ends up taking nearly 45 minutes via a hotel where he disappears inside with Martin to find an English speaker for no apparent reason but maybe to get us to check in here instead and get himself a commission or maybe just to be helpful?
I wait outside to guard the kids and luggage sitting in the back of the pickup on a hot busy city centre street. Then we’re off gain through slow traffic with Martin trying to use google maps to navigate because the driver doesn’t seem to know where to go! We eventually arrive in our quiet suburb where we’re staying at the Pousada Chez le Rois – which has great reviews compared to pretty much any budget or mid range accommodation in Manaus!
Pousada Chez le Rois is gorgeous as all the Trip Advisor reviews told us already!! Smiling, welcoming staff, clean cool house with courtyard and superb pool, lovely cool spacious room with double and two singles and large balcony overlooking the pool.
We’re there by 7.30am but they have our room ready and welcome us to a lovely and very welcome breakfast by the pool and then the kids are happy to get changed and splash around in the pool.
Then there’s shrieks of delight and calls for the camera as there are a couple of iguanas by the pool in the tree. They’re huge and briliantly camouflaged! Although we’re in the city, we’re clearly still in the heart of the Amazon!
We get a call from Claudio at Amazon Backpacker tours who says they tried to pick us up at 07:05 from the port – we must have just missed them! At lunchtime, Joaquim, who’s been exchanging emails with us, speaks great English and has been super helpful helping us organise our trip from Belem, boat tickets etc. picks us up, takes us downtown and we organise a 4 day jungle trip leaving Saturday and our onward transfer further up river to the tri-border of Brazil, Peru and Columbia.
There’s time for a little walkaround the centre and lunch and we visit the ornate opera house and get a tour in Portuguese – the best bits seeing a ballet in rehearsal and putting on special slippers to walk (slide) on a gorgeous wooden floor!
On the way back by cab to the pousada we get stuck in evening rush hour which lasts apparently from 15:30 to 20:30! So decide to disembark at a shopping centre to look for a new hat for Ben and to eat in the food hall! Shamefully we end up at MacDonalds – Ben has a combo called a ‘Big Tasty’ which isn’t especially! Zoe is appalled that the OJ is not freshly squeezed!
The next day is a Manaus public holiday. Martin works for the morning whilst we enjoy the pool and the iguanas!
Martin finds a barber that is open for a much needed haircut and we have lunch in a fabulous air conditioned bakery with lovely savoury tarts and divine cakes which you buy by weight – mmmm! On the way we find a little piece of England!!!
The rest of the day by the pool – till after 19:30 then a pizza delivery which we enjoy on the balcony!
Joaquim inspected Lara’s foot yesterday and called and spoke to his wife who is a nurse. He said its a fungal infection – ringworm (which is not actually a worm but a variant of athletes foot) and told us of some special soap to buy that should clear it up. After a day of using it, it looks much better but then I stumble upon ‘hookworm’ on the Internet and photos of infected feet look suspiciously similar to Lara’s foot 😦 well ok, a fair bit worse but there are similarities!
Today, we try to organise a doctor appointment for Lara, but don’t succeed and the girls at the pousada seem convinced that she simply has a fungal infection. One even gives me some cream she had that she thinks is exactly right. We’ll monitor it! The kids spend the day in the pool, Martin works and I organise kit, go to the bank etc, buy mossie repellant, the girls get their nails done – essential preparation for going into the jungle!
In the evening we have a treat visiting the local sushi restaurant and enjoy our last supper – before we head to the jungle to live on rice, fish and beans again for a few days!!