We are just a bit south of the Equator, so the days are all 12 hours each of day and night. Today we spent about 6 hours with an excellent local guide named Joao (pronounced "zho-ow). We learned a lot about the history, culture and everyday life of the city of Manaus, which is the only real city this far inland in South America. We are about 1200 miles from the Atlantic coast. There's quite a big manufacturing base here, which is good, since 120 years ago, the only real industry revolved around the harvesting of rubber from local trees. Similar to the area where we live in northern Michigan, the lumbering era ended about 1910, and other businesses had to fill the void.
I wrote down 3 new Portuguese words while we were touring the area early this morning. First of all, the fish we ate last night was "tambaqui" – quite mild and tasty. Secondly, we passed over some lovely parks that were established on lands that typically flood from tributaries to the main Rio Negro. The city has built lots of bike paths, playgrounds and green spaces (everything grows here – fast), in areas that used to be the home for poor families who built their houses on stilts. Sometimes though, the rivers would rise enough to flood their houses. The parklands are called "igarape", and the houses were called "palafitas" – we saw some still in use. But the government has built a whole lot of subsidized housing for these families – sturdy three-story brick buildings containing 12 two bedroom apartments up on the hillsides. Children can go to school easily and adults can get training for decent jobs. Even though it is a low cost housing project, they seem to be in good repair, and are on high ground so everyone is safe from the elements.
We passed quite a few buildings that were constructed by the European rubber barons, with rather grandiose features. Some are in excellent repair, while others have scaffolding around them preparing for restoration. We did see one that is probably beyond repair: the roof was gone and there were trees growing up in the interior.
Manaus is considered the major port in the Amazon basin, and our first real outdoor stop was at the riverfront. There is a concrete wall about 40 feet high, since the river rises that much every six months. Right now it is at its lowest point for the calendar year – the rainy season is about to begin. Across the street is the main fresh food market, a huge indoor (but open air) space where both wholesale and retail purchases are made. It was surprisingly clean. We saw several different kinds of bananas and lots of fruits, veggies and herbs that were new to us. Joao did a great job of explaining how various items are used in food preparation. Next to all the produce is a giant fish market, where lots of men were preparing fresh fish to be purchased. Their knife skills were impressive! Lastly we stopped in a general market where local crafts were for sale. It was pretty hot everywhere we went, and John remarked that it didn't seem like the locals were sweating nearly as much as we were.
Our next stop was at a city museum (free), where one highlight was using a virtual reality headpiece to "look" at some nearby archeological digs in the park across the street. After lunch we toured the opera house, which was completed in 1896. Apparently there is something going on almost every night, and most of the performances are free. Tonight's show was "Sixty Years of Bossa Nova", which was not a free show. Our hotel here is quite nice, it's small and only 1 block from the Opera House and main square.
We relaxed for the rest of the day, and went out for another walk after dark. Tomorrow we head out on the river. https://www.naturetours.com/amazon-cruises/amazon-expedition-voyage-6-night-cruise/