City in the heart of the Amazon
27/01/10 - 28/01/10 Manaus, Amazonas State, Brazil
From Rio we get a flight to Manaus the capital of the Amazonas state. It is situated at the confluence of the Negro and Solimões rivers. Manaus was founded in 1669 as the Fort of São José do Rio Negro. It was elevated to a town in 1832 with the name of "Manaus", which means "mother of the gods" in tribute to the indigenous nation of Manaós, and legally transformed into a city in 1848 with the name of Cidade da Barra do Rio Negro, Portuguese for "The City of the Margins of Black River". Most visitors come here for the jungle tours.
I didn't like Manaus much. It is quite grim, very dirty and according to the guidebook quite dangerous. Many areas are not recommended for visit after dark because of threat of crime. The reason we came here was to go to the jungle and we promptly booked a tour for four days in the Amazon jungle. But first we must spend a day in Manaus visitng the famous Amazonas Teatro and stocking up on supplies for the jungle. It also gives me the chance to do some reading on the Amazon.
Blanketing nearly all noethern Brazil plus parts of Mato Grosso and Maranhao states - over 4 million sq km, almost half the country - Brazillian Amazonia incorporates nearly 30 percent of the world's tropical rainforests (the planet's most diverse ecosystem). It's home to around 45,000 plants species, 311 mammals, 1000 bird species, 1800 types of butterfly and around 2000 species of fish (in contrast Europe has 200). Including a further 2 million sq km in neighbouring countries, the entire Amazon Basin holds 20 percent of the world's fresh water and produces 20 percent of the world's oxygen. Unfortuanately humans are doing their best to destroy all this - about 17% of the Amazon is gone already. Hundreds of animal and plant species are likely to be extinguished before we even discover them. Bloody humans.
Rain forests can occur in areas where more than 2000mm of rain falls annually. In the Amazon half the rain blows in from the Atlantic Ocean and the rest from the vapour released by Amazonia's own soil and trees. Humidity is always greater than 80% and temeratures range constantly between 22 degrees (night) and 31 degrees (day).
The Amazon basin is twice the size of India and spans eight countries. At it's height the Amazon river (Rio Amazonas) can measure 40km across and dump 300 million liters of fresh water into the ocean per second. That's more the next eight largest rivers combined!
Like many travellers before me, I have always fantasised about a trip to the Amazon. Just the name evokes dense forests, indigenous tribes and abundant wildlife. But I am not expecting to see anacondas, jaguars and spear-toting Indians - that's in the movies, I will just be happy to be in the Amazon and anything else, perhaps wrestling an alligator or discovering a mew species of monkeys will be a bonus.
To the Amazon.
The port on Rio Negro (that's not racist cos it's the name of the river)
The Amazon Theatre (Teatro Amazonas) is an opera house located in the heart of Manaus, inside the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil. It is the location of the annual Festival Amazonas de Ópera (Amazonas Opera Festival) held in April. It was built during the Belle Époque at a time when fortunes were made in the rubber boom. Roofing tiles came from Alsace while, from Paris, came furniture and furnishings in the style of Louis XV, much from the Koch Fréres company. From Italy came Carrarra marble for the stairs, statues, and columns. Steel walls were ordered from England. The theatre has 198 chandeliers, including 32 of Murano glass. The curtain, with its painting the "Meeting of the Waters" was originally created in Paris by Crispim do Amaral, depicts the junction of the Rio Negro and the Solimões to form the Amazon. On the outside of the building, the dome is covered with 36,000 decorated ceramic tiles painted in the colors of the national flag. Factual, so.