by CHARLIE SCHULER
What do you think of when someone mentions the Amazon River?
For me, it’s kind of a dark river surrounded by a very heavy jungle; like I have seen many times in Tarzan movies.
What we found was a huge River, over 4,000 miles long and several miles wide that passes through three countries, Peru, Columbia and Brazil. It can be a couple of hundred feet deep, to only two feet under the keel of our cruise ship at times. They use river pilots to travel the river because of the shifting sand bars. We were able to go up the river to a city called Manaus. This is a real city with a population of more than 100,000 people. This city is about 900 nautical miles up the river.
Shifting sandbars can be a real problem on the river. In fact, when we entered the Amazon River from the ocean, we had to wait for high tide. And as we made our way up river, the river pilots made us anchor one time because they did not want us crossing the sandbar at night.
We anchored at Manaus, Brazil for three days. This gave us the opportunity to take the Tender boat ashore and transfer to different excursions. One excursion put us on a boat with two decks… we toured the river, then transferred to a smaller vessel. This brought us off the river and into the marsh land. We came into an interior lake where all the houses were floating. We then transferred to smaller motorized canoes. We took a trip around the lake and saw jungle vegetation, exotic birds and heard bird calls. We even saw water lilies that were more than 3 feet in diameter. What really blew my mind was when I saw a lightbulb in some houses. There was no sign of electric power or poles anywhere else.
While on the river, we were so excited to see the famed pink river dolphins. They are really pink, and I am not sure why, there are too many varied tales explaining them.
There were many tankers and freighters at anchor in the harbor waiting to be unloaded or loaded. The city looked prosperous with some tall buildings and some construction going on. The people were friendly, but most spoke Portuguese and no English.
My view of the Amazon River was restored after we left Manaus. We started going east on the river, remember, we are on or close to the Equator. We anchored off of Boca De Valeria, Brazil, and tendered ashore. This is what I expected. No tall buildings, in fact, no permanent buildings. There was just a church, a schoolhouse and about 90 locals looking for a dollar. Many of them had pets that I had never seen before i.e., sloths, parakeets, parrots, miniature alligators, and all they wanted was a dollar if you took their picture. We were told in advance to have plenty of dollars available.
The people seemed very happy. The kids all seemed happy and playing. They all were very polite, had beautiful smiles, dark skin and were great, maybe because they closed the school while we were there.
It was easy to see why Brazil had done well in the World Cup. Every child was practicing, and they were good. One small boy had the ball, and no one could get it away.
It makes you wonder how they can be so happy and content and not have any modern conveniences.
Or is that the answer?