Manacapuru. Jungle Town of Amazonia on the River Manacapuru, Brazil.
A personal view based on experience. Part One.
The small city of Manacapuru is reached from Manaus, the capital of Amazonia, by car or bus across the huge new bridge over the River Negro or by the traditional ferry and taxi route. It lies on the River Manacapuru off the River Solimoes.
The River Solimoes joins the River Negro close to Manaus to become, in Brazilian eyes, the great River Amazon.
Manacapuru itself is unlike the city of Manaus. It is designated a city, but is more like a large, sprawling jungle town with a population of 86,000 people. There are no high rise blocks of apartments or offices. Houses and shops are usually just one or two levels at most. It is closer to the forest which lies all around it and is relatively unmodernised.
The new main road leads to the market area and church, which holds a prominent position in the town and in the lives of many of the people. Improvements have been made to this road which is fairly smooth and, when it passes through town, lined with attractive trees. Local town roads are tarmacked, but often potholed. Those further out are dirt roads.
The principal mode of transport for locals are small motorbikes. I have seen whole families loaded on to them: pregnant mums with toddlers, babies and children on laps of driver and passenger, elderly grandmas riding side saddle with bags and produce. I’ve even seen toddlers standing on the seats holding on to dads shoulders!
While the road has been freshly tarmacked for cars, the pavements for walkers still require attention. They are often cracked, broken or missing. Care has to be taken not to trip or fall into holes.
Houses are either painted brick, or wooden shacks and often unfinished and not well constructed. The better houses are tucked away behind high security fences, the poorer homes are open doored. With little of value they have no need for precautions.
Manacapuru is noisy, very noisy. Coming in from the forest it is a shock to the ears. Cars and bikes hoot constantly. The taxi bikes are the main culprits trying to catch the attention of potential clients as they race up and down the road.
If you are unlucky enough to visit during one of the many elections, the noise is horrendous. Huge loud speakers on the back of small pick-up trucks, blast out propaganda and music at ear splitting levels. It’s constant. Up and down the road they drive all day. One car I saw plastered in election stickers had bullet holes in its front window. Opponents? Or someone looking for a bit of peace and quiet……
At night the noise is even greater, if that’s possible. The stadium at weekends often has pop concerts. The music vibrates through the floors of houses and hotels close by until the early morning. Great if you’re a teen, not so great if you’re trying to sleep.
I prefer the outskirts of the town. Picnicking, barbecuing and bathing in the forest and rivers surrounding the town with locals make up some of my favourite memories.
People in Manacapuru are generally friendly and helpful. I walked around alone at night on occasion and was never worried or harassed. But I did keep to lit areas and main roads as I would anywhere in the world.
Open eating areas are fairly easy to find and the food is good. I have a fairly sensitive stomach, but in Brazil have never suffered from problems usually associated with eating out.
For shopping the area near the old Town Hall holds a market place where all sorts of things can be bought: music and film CDs, ‘designer’ sun-glasses, plastic kitchen utensils, mobile accessories, plastic toys, food and drinks and more. The salesmen are often Peruvians, many speak English. There are also, close by, supermarkets, chemists, banks and clothes and shoe shops. Brazilians love shoes.
The River Manacapuru, as always, is the lifeblood of the town bringing in produce and people and providing transport to outer areas and work.
Ferries and boats and canoes gather in the harbour, a bustling area of shops and offices and peoples homes, built on wooden decking over a dubious looking dark coloured liquid derived from the river.
The walk downhill towards the harbour can be precarious. Either down an appropriately named concrete slipway or uneven wooden steps.
Be warned: The bridge from the ferry dock to the concrete slipway, at certain times of the year, is a large tree trunk, which moves alarmingly. Luckily, a frightened expression is usually enough to bring a kind local to your aid.
I have fond memories of Manacapuru. It’s a very noisy, but very welcoming town. I have some very dear friends there who showed me great kindness and generosity, who translated and explained to authorities on my behalf and who comforted and fed me. A mention for the hotel I always stayed in, the Maranata. The staff took care of my belongings and me and provided me with a safe base when in town.
First photo..the main road with Stadium. Second photo..view towards town centre. Third photo..Town centre, shopping area and church. Fourth photo..watching football at local pizza restaurant. Fifth photo..the Harbour. Sixth photo..the wooden steps down towards ferry and boats.