It’s 5:30 a.m. and we are all wide awake once again. As a group we have proven that there is no time too early to wake up or too late to go to sleep. Everything and everyone is calm as we wait on the moist deck for Noel and Mike to pick us up. There is a refreshing breeze circulating through the air. The river is relaxed and you can see the ripples left by the fish. The night creatures are quiet, preparing for the daylight transformation. After getting picked up, we head to the tree house to pick up our Indian friends, but they aren’t ready. We start to get antsy. The sky becomes brighter as we wait. We grow anxious. Could we possibly miss the sunrise of a lifetime? Then to our relief the missing Indian wife slowly appears from the darkness and joins us on the boat. Noel takes us out into the river and we begin to take in the scene.
The sky reminds Maria of cotton candy. Now I’m not sure I saw it the same way, but it was certainly a sweet sight to see. There was a horizontal dark gray layer of stratus clouds at the bottom of the sky. This layer had openings, which allowed the sun to illuminate a pinkish color. This light intensified as the sun continued its ascension. At 6 o’clock the sun revealed its rays through the cloud openings setting a heavenly scene. These rays seemed to not only wake up Anne but also the entire forest as the Horn Screamer birds sounded their horns as its name implies. After a half hour of picture taking and stubbing toes from dodging frogs, tour guide Mike decides it’s time to eat and so we take our short trip back to Ariau for one final breakfast.
Breakfast was as solid as it had been the previous two mornings. Although I’m not a heavy morning eater, I found satisfaction in eating the fresh fruit and breakfast cakes that the buffet provided. While others like Dr. Samra enjoyed his egg whites and Mike his hardboiled egg. After breakfast, the rest of the morning was built around simplicity. A word that could describe the Amazonian’s way of life. We rested, we tanned, and we soaked up the last remaining hours at Ariau.
Highlights of the Morning:
Maria and Joe trying to tan at 8:30 a.m.
Mike thinking that jumping into the flooded Amazon water is a substitute for a shower.
After tanning it was time to pack up our belongings and experiences and head to our final meal at Ariau. When I walked in I was excited to see that they changed up their buffet lineup and introduced ribs for the first time. We ate until around 1:30 p.m. before we had to wipe away our tears and say our final goodbyes to tour guide Mike and the rest of the staff. Next, we hopped on the boat and set sail for our voyage back across the Amazon to the Manaus mainland.
Mike and Nicole getting soaked on the boat compliments of the Amazon River.
Amelia upset that her dog (Bonita) wasn’t waiting for her upon our return.
After an hour and half long boat ride in rough waters, it was time for some rough negotiations. Our dilemma was that we had a flight at 10:15 p.m. and it was only 3:30 p.m. But after some intense negotiations by Dr. Samra, the Ariau crew, led by Sir Stefano, agreed to take us to downtown Manaus, thus extending our trip; at least for a few more hours.
The city of Manaus was quite scary by day, but pleasant by night. The city was similar to Sao Paulo, but livelier. We ran through the city like it was a rat race. After many lefts, rights, and weird looks directed at us we finally found the flip flop store that Maria and Nicole dreamt about. There they effectively purchased their Havaianas for 26 reals, which is about half the price that it is in the United States. Next, Stefano had us turning every block again, but led us to a little flea market section of the city. While there, we noticed that the flood issues had followed us from Ariau Towers to the city of Manaus. The city is located next to the Rio Negro and was dealing with flooding in the low lying streets. Lastly, on the return back to the van we stopped to view the Amazonas Opera House. Joe begged me to take a picture of it, so here it is.
After the city race, it was a race to the airport, well at least the driver thought so. When we got to the airport we knew it was the beginning of a lot of waiting and a lot of flying. What we didn’t realize was that we would encounter additional stress on top of an already difficult situation. When we went to check our flight on the monitor, we weren’t listed; in fact our flight seemed too have vanished. However, after a few hours of uncertainty and anxiety, Amelia and Joe’s detective skills solved the mystery. What happened was our original flight had been cancelled, but that we were fittingly moved onto the 12:45 a.m. flight to Sao Paulo, thus dodging a potential disaster.
And now here I am blogging on this turbulent 12:45 a.m. flight (delayed) back to Sao Paulo where our journey first began. We have come full circle. The tired six, possibly seven (not sure where Dr. Samra is) are sound asleep around me, exhausted from all that we have experienced over the past several days. Starting in Sao Paulo where the money is made. Our visits to Bovespa and the U.S. consulate revealed the business side of Brazil. Our second stop in Rio where the money is spent showed Brazil’s diversity with a combination of tourism and business; with visits to Sugarloaf Mountain, Christ the Redeemer, and Petrobras. Finally, our last stop in the Amazon taught us simplicity and the natural side of Brazil; with journeys along the Amazon River and visits to the Natives. And as I glance out the plane window, I observe the same stars that I’ve seen in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, the Amazon, and even back at home. And then it dawned on me that even under one sky, we really do live in a world that is more vast and diverse than I had originally imagined.
So obrigado (Thank you) tour guides: Eduardo, Angela, Mike, Stefano, and presenters: Flavio Pacheco, Tom Hanson, Izeusse Braga and all those involved in our study trip for your knowledge and wisdom, which has provided us with experiences that will last a lifetime.
For now this is Lucky 7 signing off.
Kevin Kenny (The Malaria Man)
Lucky 7’s Favorite Moments of the Trip:
Kevin- Christ the Redeemer, Cayman Hunting, Discovering the Malaria Plant
Mike – Cayman Hunting
Joe – Cayman Hunting (Felt a rush holding it)
Anne- Native visit
Amelia- Monkey’s on Nicole and Cayman Hunting
Maria- Christ the Redeemer
Dr. Samra – Outback Steakhouse and swimming in the Amazon