Friday, December 26, 2008

MANAUS December 26

December 26--the day after Christmas--I have heard from many of you and am pleased to learn that you have been able to open and read my blog.

Organize, organize, organize. Within the hour we will arrive at the floating dock of Manaus. Charge the camera batteries, apply the sunscreen, secure my identity pass, Visa card, and a small amount of cash.

Outside my window I can see the colorful pilot boats guiding us in. Since breakfast the ship's programs have been preparing us for our land tour of a major Brazilian city with a long list of don'ts. Do not wear your camera around your neck,make sure to carry a water bottle--and, as in all major cities, as we have been warned over and over "Be careful" and especially be alert incrossing streets. The biggest hazard for moving around in this city is traffic--walkers do not have the right of way and cars will not stop for pedestrians.Do not dresss like a tourist, Leave your baseball caps, Hawaiian shirts and logod T shirts and jewelry in the cabin and avoid discussions of politics and religion. Be a good guest.

I will be on a city tour which includes a trip to the the famous opera house. Since I first saw the movie Fitzcarraldo in 1982, the Amazon and this building has always been on my must see list. Last night I watched a part of the movie again,but found it difficult to follow on the small TV screen available in my room.I plan to either buy it or rent it when I return home.I strongly recommended it to all of you--it is a amazing story of one man's crazed obsession to satisfy a dream. Tonignt, if I can stay up long enough I hope to see the Robert DeNiro movie (i nthe auditorium) The Mission, which has been recommended as an accurate portrayal of the early missionary effort in the Amazon basin.

Manaus is actually located on the Rio Negro (Black River), a tributary of the Amazon, and the river is dark. But what is best about the location is the absence of mosquitos. there is something in the waters of the Rio Negro which is inhospitable to the insect menace.Or so they keep announcing on board ship. Manaus itself is typical of so many Central and South American Countries-- in the downtown area, close to the port,there are shabby buildings,narrow streets,teaming with street vendors, open shops and traffic grid. This is where the peasants and workers come to shop. Since it is a free port I am sure that somewhere not too far from the
port are the more elegant boutiques and jewelers. As we left the ship we were offered free transportation to two of the more well known cruise port emerald, diamond and gemstone shops It is a city with a large population and there must be many areas with beautiful homes and gardens--but our tour was of the downtown area only--and most port area in the world are shabby and depressing.

Today I learned to pick my battles--the heat and humidity is oppressive and I decided to save my energy by getting off the deliciously air conditioned city tour bus only for those sites which really were important to me. I also know I had to save my legs for the steep climb up the narrow metal stairs to get back on board. The river waters rise and fall during the year--depending on the dry or rainy season...that is the explanation for the floating dock that was imported from Europe. Today the lower deck which is normally used for debarkcation was below the water mark and we had to exit from deck five whick necessitated a precipitous long descent--not the greatest sensation if,like me, you suffer from heights.I made it down, but all afteroon I kept thinking of that horrendous climb back up.

First stop was the opera house--and that was the highlight of the trip, even though it required a long walk through a quaint plaza unfortunatley riddled with the detrius of the previous eve's Christmas celebration. Many of my fellow passengers (we are a really large group of seniors with walkers, canes and wheelchairs)and I opted to stay in the cool and comfortable oppulent concert hall area rather than climb two steep flights of stairs to view the reception room. I passed on the Royal mansion, pictures of which show it to be magnificently decorated--and a small museum of indigenous crafts. But just before we returned to the ship, a photo op turned up at a bridge and a park surrounded by colorfully painted buildings.

Tomorrow I take a river boat cruise to the Meeting of the Waters--where two large rivers join. Now it is off to the dining room for din din.

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