By Ricky Skelton
February 4, 2008

Most Brazilian Amazon journeys start or end in Manaus.

Manaus happens to be 1500km upriver from the sea but it is still a port and has all the attributes that a port should have – water, land, goods that come in from all over the world, and that crazy air of edginess. The air of edginess had been present since some of our group had their bags slashed on the boat up from Santarem. Some couldnt handle the idea of another boat ride and flew instead, but the rest of us were pleased that the boat was quite plush compared to our first one. We even got to steer the big wheel for a bit. The cameras and wallets had been stolen by someone small enough to crawl around in the small space under the hammocks, but the crew still searched the only black man on the boat as hed been closest.

The river police searched the boat too, just as we arrived in Manaus, but not for our gear.

The British-made dock in Manaus floats to cope with the fluctuating river levels. Things are hectic, with bags, boxes and boats, people, gangplanks, sellers, touts, taxi-drivers and tourists to negotiate, with smells and sounds that belong to every port in the world. Rotting fish and fruit, diesel and petrol fumes – the kind of place to get away from as soon as possible.

Manaus has been a tourist centre for many years and this brings surprising consequences. As well as the dodgy tour operators, there are guides that have lived in Manaus all their lives and speak five languages fluently including Japanese. The jungle excursions can be mixed, with a lot of the vegetation around the city having been cleared to feed 1.5 million people. The river also feeds them and the market has fish of every size for sale, from 2 metre monsters to tiny piranha. There are piranha for sale in the streets too, preserved and mounted on wood with teeth bared. The sharp triangular teeth are an Amazon classic, also for sale in sets still attached to jawbones that can be used to cut hair. Many strange objects are sold in Manaus and many strange fruits, herbs and potions including Amazon Viagra.

Around Brazil: ManausOne animal that wouldnt need Viagra is the sloth. I saw my first one in a Manaus tree. Their reactions dimmed by lack of predators, they are built for comedy. Tap them on the shoulder and they turn around ten minutes later. I dont know how sloths mate, apart from slowly, but Im sure the herbal potion would wear off long before our hero realised what was happening. Spiking a sloth with Viagra – it’s an idea that sounds like fun for my next Manaus visit.

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Previous articles by Ricky:

Around Brazil: Santarem & Alter do Chao
Around Brazil: Amazon Swarms and Amazon Storms
Understanding Brazil: Playing Pool
Around Brazil: Gurup
Around South America: Peninsula Valdes
Around South America: Patagonia
Around South America: Montevideo, Uruguay
Around Brazil: The Amazon
Around South America: Bariloche, Argentina
Understanding Gringoes: Drinking
The Great Brazilian Fruit-Off Part 2
The Great Brazilian Fruit-Off Part 1
Understanding Brazil: The Kids
Brazil v Argentina: Buying Beer
Understanding Brazil: Mosquitoes
Around Brazil: São Luis
Teaching English in Brazil
Around Brazil: Lenois Maranhenses
Understanding Brazil: The National Anthem
Around Brazil: Barreirinhas
Around Brazil: Jericoacoara to Barreirinhas
Understanding Brazil: Shopping Centres
Around Brazil: Jericoacoara
Around Brazil: Chapada da Diamantina/Lenois
Brazil vs. Argentina: Statues of Christ
Around Brazil: Salvador
Brazil vs. Argentina: The Buses
Around Brazil: Morro de São Paulo (& Itabuna)
Understanding Brazil: The Workmen
Around Brazil: Praa Pateo do Colegio
Around Brazil: Porto Seguro
Around Brazil: Rio de Janeiro to Porto Seguro
Around Brazil: Cristo Redentor
Understanding Brazil: The Sellers
Around Brazil: Ilha de Gigoia
Brazil Journeys: São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro
Understanding Brazil: Dogs Part 2
Brazil: A Lie-In in Downtown São Paulo?
The Best Job in Brazil: Ankle Specialist?
Understanding Brazil: Dogs
Brazilian Places: Ilha do Santa Catarina (Floripa)
Classic Brazilian Journeys: South to Florianopolis
Understanding Brazil – The Shower
Brazil: Boats on the Amazon
Brazil: Understanding Novelas
Brazil: Bus fires in São Paulo – always a bad thing?
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