We checked out of Chez le Rois at 7.30am and were picked up by Joaquim to head out to the port. There is a huge fish market with the biggest fish for sale and we jump straight on a little speed boat to head across the Negro and the Amazon.
Soon we cross from the Negro River, where Manaus actually sits on the Amazon and see the famed black and brown meeting of waters – much like we saw at Santarem. We dock soon at a small, muddy, busy, riverside town where Joaquim looks for our transport – we’re expecting something like a jeep and throws us in a small mini bus with a bunch of locals saying there’s no transport today so we set off with the girls on our laps and Ben squashed in beside Martin, a teenage boy sitting between us all on a wooden stool and head off up a muddy track.
It’s boiling, we bear it by knowing that the trip is only 50 minutes and the kids, exhausted from a late night and an early start, fall asleep on us uncomplaining. 75 minutes later we arrive again by the water, where a girl is waiting for us in a small motor river boat and takes us a cooling 10 minutes through narrow waters to our jungle lodge perched on a lake.
The lodge comprises of 5 rooms built together on stilts with a wide verandah big enough for quite a lot of hammocks – we are alloted room 4 with a large round bed, a single bed – both look tatty and feel very uncomfy plus two hammocks.
Our guide doesn’t seem to be here to meet us but we get chatting to another group who’ve spent a couple of days with Sami – a fabulous guide who’s originally from Guyana, speaks fluent English and various tribal languages and has lives in the Jungle for 30 years
He tells us our guide has gone back to Manaus but he’ll look after us and we’re chuffed. It also means we get to go out to explore with a few other really nice people from the UK, Australia and USA.
Nothing much happens for a few hot hours in the middle of the day. We eat lunch, swing in hammocks, and consider swimming in the lake by the lodge but all feel a bit dubious about it!!
At 3 o clock we head out on our first trip with Sami and spend the next few days exploring lakes and rivers around the lodge in a small boat with our little group.
Sometimes we motor, sometimes paddle, it’s hot and sweaty but when we get into the shade and paddle, or jump into a lake to cool off or once the sun starts to set, it’s pleasantly warm!
Our first adventure is in search of piranhas. After patiently fishing in a few of Sami’s usual areas we move to a little launch and riverside ‘shop’ where we suddenly catch dozens on piranhas – small but with VERY sharp teeth! We throw them in a bag and take them back to the lodge for tomorrow’s lunch!
Our first night is almost unbearably hot – we have no fan in the room and no mossie nets! So we get hot AND bitten! Around 1am I half wonder if we’ll throw in the towel the next day and go back to Manaus!
Our second day, Sami wakes us at 5.30am to go out and watch the sunrise from the lake.
Back for breakfast then off again to track through jungle on foot. Sami shows us all sorts of trees, jungle medicines, how to get water out of vines, milk out of trees, and make children’s crowns from palm leaves. We soon realized we aren’t going to see a lot of wildlife but the occasional gorgeous butterfly and lots of lovely birds are prolific and Sami picks out their sounds as well as the sounds of howler monkeys.
Our afternoon trip we go paddling through narrow, dark waterways, I have no idea how the kids stay silent(!) as we listen to the sounds of the jungle, try to spot monkeys and sloths and try some more fishing. On the way back, Sami tells us it’s a safe place go swim and after the girls are convinced there are no piranha, they jump in and have a lovely swim!
This evening, Martin, Ben and Zoe go off with Sami in search of Caimen. Lara had fallen asleep so I stayed back with her but they brought one back to the lodge for me to see!
Caimen are similar to crocodiles but differ in that they have longer mouths. A black caiman can get to 6 or 7 metered long and a white caiman can be 2 or 3 meters.
We all get to hold the caiman – it feels smooth not scaly like it looks and Sami bizarrely can make it go to sleep by turning it on its back and gently stroking it’s tummy!
Tonight, a fishing group arrive bringing tons of equipment including room fans. Sami somehow procures one for us and we have a much more comfy night, although we still get badly bitten and they can’t seem to provide us with mossie nets! Zoe seems to have the most mossie-friendly skin and is really struggling with tons of itchy bites which she can’t stop scratching! We’ve already covered her in plasters to try and stop her but she always gets new ones!