Staying at an eco lodge – Antonio’s – about 2.5 hours drive out of Manaus followed by an hour up the River Urubui in a motorised canoe. Hair raising drive, gorgeous boat ride out to the lodge.
Lovely river front setting for the lodge, a central eating area with the accommodation in separate cabins, ours a double room with en-suite facilities. There is a very active program of walks and boat trips in the area looking for wild life, starting with a canoe ride into the “floating forest”, an area of flooded trees as its the wet season, the river being about 4m above its low point – and another 6 below its high point.
As the river is at least quarter of a mile wide at this point that’s a lot of water! Paddling amongst the trees we saw various kingfishers and woodpeckers along with a mocorra – a small possum like marsupial.
The reflections of the trees in the water are a magnificent spectacle and the photos hardly do justice. (Although they are pretty good if I say so myself!). A great location, accommodation and food plus interesting information on the wildlife. Highlight (somewhat surprisingly) was the guide persuading the biggest tarantula imaginable out of its burrow. It was at least 8 inches across. The other thing was we experienced a real tropical rain storm and got thoroughly soaked but a great experience; it only took 3 days to dry our boots out.
Christoph, one of the guides had some stories including waking up in a hammock with one of the same large, highly venomous tarantulas on his chest, deciding he couldn’t move it without getting bitten decided best to let it wander off of its own accord. Which it did via his face and head along the hammock strings ………………
Another story was working as a guide at a naturist camp. Now there are many reasons why this doesn’t appeal but the number one has to be mosquitoes! They don’t need any encouragement and as the standard advice is to wear shoes, long trousers and long shirts extra acres of flesh is definitely counter intuitive. I still don’t know if his story is genuine or a wind up 🙂 (Update – Nudist camp does exist it’s called Amazonat)
Christophe was also extremely knowledgeable about the names and uses of the myriad species of beautiful trees. In addition to being a vital part of the rainforest ecosystem, the trees provide food, clothing, shelter, and medicines for the indigenous people.
For example we learned that the sipo dagua provides drinkable water and the sorva lete para bebe provides protein-rich, vitamin-rich milk for babies.
The bark of the envira fiber tree is used for making rope and clothing and we also saw the pau brasil (Brazil wood) tree after which the country is named, rubber trees, and the mahogany and angeline trees from which furniture is made.
Angelines have a reddish bark like cedar, but are square at the base of their trunk, can grow to over 300 feet in height, and can live to 1000 years. Then again if you have a headache, try inhaling the incense-like smoke from the breu para dor decabeca tree. The pau vike is the source of cold remedies used in the U.S. and the sipo cravo yields medicine to soothe upset stomachs. The liana tree, which is a rope-like vine, is the source of the anti-malaria drug quinine.
A great few days and will be long remembered. Click Here for more Jungle Photos
Onward to the Venezuelan border, a truly tedious process as we were through in 10 minutes but the truck took a while longer plus you have to buy Venezuelan insurance which can only be bought in Venezuela and NOT at the border post.
So we had to wait while Pete went off to the nearest town to get the insurance certificate to get the final tick in the box else risk truck being impounded. It was expected to take an hour but took 4.
We spent that night bush camping in the hills and saw a spectacular sunrise over Mount Khaimar which is a 6 day trek to climb if you are interested. Onward to Cituad Bolivar, our departure point for Angel Falls.
A cracking campsite, although we upgraded to a little round cabin with en-suite, bliss. Nice breakfast and then off to the airport for the short flight to Canaima National Park where Angel Falls are located.
Think the best way to see the falls is from a boat but it’s the dry season and the trips don’t run due to the water levels so we took the plane option, a 5 seat cesna which does a few passes in front of the falls. Not fond of small planes but worth it for the experience. The falls were not at their most spectacular and the cloudy weather not conducive to great photos but the sheer splendour of the setting and the spectacular “tepus” (table top mountains) in the area make it worthwhile.
Incidentally the falls are named after Jimmy Angel, an American bush pilot who crash landed there in 1937 and was the first westerner to discover the falls. We found out later that the huge old biplane at the airport was his restored plane. We thought it was a museum piece but it trundled out for a flight whilst we were at the airport rather him than me !
However the highlight for us was the boat trip we took with Duncan and Angela part of the way up the river in a small motorised canoe. We were surprised by the 3 guides who accompanied the 4 of us but all turned out to be needed. One guy to look after us, I guess to make sure we didn’t do anything stupid, and 2 for the boat as it was one to drive and one on the front to spot rocks as we climbed up the rapids. The rapids being an unexpected element of the trip!
We were sitting on life jackets, that we had insisted on picking up for the purpose of seat cushions, but were soon thinking we should be perhaps wearing them. At one point we had to disembark as the rapids were too big and walk a 100 yards whilst the crew got the boat up.
This involved first removing the propeller and straightening it with a hammer then with one guy at the engine and one at the front a straight run at the rapids, as the boat got to its tipping point the guy at the front runs from the front to the back, in flip flops, across the seats to get the weight readjusted. Spectacular, but you are thinking this must have gone wrong at some point.
We reached an island with a beautiful beach and went for a walk whilst the boat crew did a little fishing and some more running repairs, hammered in a few more nails and stopped up the odd leak with some sail cloth.
Stunning scenery and yet another great experience that would give the average H&S officer in the UK heart failure. Next morning an early walk on the beach, seeing the locals turn up to wash, and half hour later seeing them walk to work or school. The school was opposite our accommodation and was open classrooms that started at 7am, presumably to avoid the worst of the day’s heat. Then the Angel Falls flight and back to the airport to return to Cituiad Bolivar for another night at the campsite.
Another fabulous few days and now onward to the Caribbean coast.
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