The Amazon: The Worlds Longest River…new research.

The Amazon: Worlds longest river.

New research has found a possible new source for the Amazon…..a river in Peru called the Mantaro or Great River.
The results of the research are questioned because the river dries up for four or five months a year, but if they are confirmed the Amazon will be officially the worlds longest river.

The Amazon is an incredible river. I first travelled on it when I went to see the Meeting of the Waters. The black waters of the River Negro and the tea-coloured waters of the River Solimoes flow side by side eventually blending to become, in Brazilian eyes, the great River Amazon.

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The river is huge, sometimes from one bank looking across, its impossible to see the other side, its so wide. And, it feels powerful too.
It is a busy river and getting busier. Transport ranges from small wooden canoes, ferries, on to massive world-class liners.

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It has also been opened up by a new $400 million bridge the Ponte Rio Negro Bridge or Iranduba Bridge from Amazonia’s capital city Manaus across the river to small towns on the opposite shore.

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I hear that it has already caused the deforestation of large areas as I feared when I saw the first parts of the huge structure being put in place. It was not obvious to the populace in Manaus what the bridge was for…. to open up the other shore for more farming and people, or for exploitation of gas or oil finds. Either way the forest would suffer and this is happening.
Nothing is sadder than driving along the road that used to be thickly lined with rainforest to see vast areas of nothing stretching into the distance and always a solitary Brazil-nut Tree in the middle as a reminder of what was. Wildlife and birds are non existent along the tarmacked roads.
Snuggling in small pockets along this road are small areas of thick forest and sparkling streams full of people enjoying what’s left. People escape to these spots in the evenings and at weekends, desperate to enjoy the ‘Green Effect’ that nature alone supplies….a feeling of well being that no amount of concrete and metal can reproduce in the concrete jungles of cities.

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New study by the University of California, Berkeley, argues for new origin, according to a report by Jane Lee in National Geographic.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2559490/Have-finally-discovered-Amazons-source-Scientists-pinpoint-rivers-origin-60-miles-longer-thought.html#ixzz2tKnuRfzr

The Brazilian Amazon Rainforest-Dry Season. Return to the lodge..my home. Part one

The Brazilian Amazon Rainforest-Dry Season. Return to the Lodge..My home…Part One.

This is what I was always faced with on my return to the lodge in late September, early October, taken from my diaries.

I took a fast boat back to the lodge from the town of Manacapuru. The journey took an hour and a half. The boat usually stopped close to the harbour, but because the water was so low at this time of year, the dry season, the boat had to beach far away on the opposite shore.

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I walked along the pale sandy banks towards the logs that had been placed across the river, the only way to reach the now isolated lodge, passing as I did the pale shrunken, fetid, carcass of a caiman on the way.

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Tall skeletal trees close to the river bank held well fed vultures. This time of year being a food fest for the scavengers, who picked at the swollen or shrivelled bodies of dolphins and caiman, stranded on the sandy soil.

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The previous inhabitants of the forest had built a makeshift bridge across the river. The tree trunks were thick and with a helping hand I was able to keep my balance until two-thirds of the way across. My feet were bare because dips and slips into the water were frequent, so as wearing shoes was pointless, I had taken them off. Most of the logs were smooth, but some were rough and eroded, with needle sharp and brittle bark, making the walk over them very painful.
The walkway closer to the harbour consisted of nothing more than thin trunks or wide branches, a human foot width wide, or crooked planks of bleached, warped wood. Balancing on these and keeping out of the waiting mud was a challenge. The weight of each footstep caused the branches and planks to sink into the mud, which oozed between my toes making my feet and the wood slippery, but eventually with the help of long balancing poles and a helping hand from a friend I made it and with a big sigh of relief reached solid home shore.

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My feet were cut and bleeding and the next day the soles of my feet were covered in blisters, but I had got home safely. I almost knelt and kissed the ground. Almost…..instead we celebrated my arrival home with a cup of black coffee and manioc cake.
The boat driver returned the way we had come just as night fell. I heard his boat engine start in the distance and then fade away. I was alone in the Amazon Rainforest….again.

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Manaus. Capital city of Amazonas. Gateway to the rainforest.

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Manaus is the capital city of Amazonas. It grew into a major metropolis under the guidance of Eduardo Ribeiro with the help of the rubber boom.
With the collapse of the rubber market, the city lost some of its splendour, but the Opera House and some large, old, attractive houses can still be seen as testament to the boom time.
Manaus is now a Free Trade Zone, which draws in businesses and money and people.
At the heart of Manaus is the Opera House/Teatro Amazonas. A beautiful building of cream and pink, with a green, blue and yellow dome. Around this building is a large Parisian style square, full of mature trees, restaurants, Internet cafes and small, characterful, old houses. In front of the opera house is a large square, paved in a wavy design symbolising the ‘meetings of the waters’, with a fountain at its centre.
People of all ages gather in the area day and night. There are often open-air shows, with dancing, singing as well as religious conventions. The atmosphere is relaxed and happy.
I have spent many a day and night enjoying what the area has to offer, either alone or with friends.
Behind the Opera house is a busy, noisy high street full of shops of various sizes. They sell everything you could possibly want, clothes and shoes, cosmetics and medicines, electrical goods and souvenirs, food and drink.
The street opens out to the docks. A busy area with boats and ships of all sizes. Restaurants and bars provide food and entertainment. It will probably be from here that most tourists will catch a boat, or a taxi across the new bridge towards the rainforest.
Sadly once away from the Opera House, the houses, roads and pavements deteriorate.

There are favelas in Manaus, best visited with a guide. I visited a family in one. Sister-in-laws of a friend. I received a friendly welcome and felt quite at home, but I noticed the taxi driver wouldn’t leave his cab and looked nervous.
Some homes built by the river look Dickensian. Built of wood and placed higgledy-piggledy beside a river of unpleasant smelling water, I had to wonder how they didn’t fall down. House legs were mostly bent or broken. A flood a few years ago took with it many of these flimsy houses built by the river. The authorities have since built solid, brick homes to house the dwellers of the ramshackle wooden houses that were washed away.

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The ‘meeting of the waters’ is where the coffee-coloured Rio Solimoes meets the black Rio Negro to eventually blend into the great River Amazon. For some distance the two rivers move alongside each other and are clearly defined by their colours.

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The weather in Manaus is hot and humid. The heaviest rains are in the wet season starting from late November until June. The dry season is during mid-year, July to October. Humidity is rarely below 80%.
It takes several days, at least, to acclimatise to the heat and humidity.

Manaus-Iranduba Bridge over River Negro-Amazon(also called Ponte Negro Bridge)

The Manaus-Iranduba Bridge over the River Negro, from Manaus to Manacapuru. (also called the Ponte Rio Negro Bridge)

The River Negro meets the River Solimoes at Manaus to become in Brazilian eyes, the great River Amazon. The ‘Meeting of the waters’, is a tourist attraction, because the two rivers flow side by side and the difference in colour between them can be clearly seen for some distance until they blend into the Amazon proper. The River Negro is a black water river and the River Solimoes is the colour of milky coffee.

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Above this spectacle has just been built a massive bridge, 3,595 m long, joining the Amazonian capital of Manaus to the opposite shore. The building of this bridge has been a sightseeing must for both locals and visitors, as the massive pillars emerged from the water to stand like ghostly giants. At night it was particularly spectacular, emerging from the blackness, enormous and powerful and humbling to the small boats that crept beneath it.
The building of this bridge has been controversial. I often heard people ask ‘Why?’ A professional I spoke to said, ‘What we need is good education for our children, good health care, improved infra-structure etc. Why do we need this bridge? Who is it for?’
It does seem odd to spend $400 million, on a bridge that seems to be going nowhere and I have had many a discussion with people from all walks of life who although impressed by its grandeur are bewildered by it.
The usual way of travelling from shore to shore and to the towns situated on the opposite shore to Manaus, was by small fast boat or slow ferry, with buses and taxis available for further transportation on either side. It took an hour or so, but was cheap, free for walk-on passengers and an enjoyable break in the day. I never heard anyone complain about this method of travelling.
So why? That’s what everyone I met asked. ‘Why?’ It’s a lot of money to spend to cut a half hour from a trip across the river.

During discussions I’ve heard said it could be that the towns on the opposite shore ie Manacapuru, are needed to mop up the surplus of people from Manaus. It could be because of the gas-line that has been built below the River Manacapuru and the potential for further development. It could be that the forest is to be opened up for farming.
That is bad for the forest, of course. In the years I spent too-ing and fro-ing I have seen a gradual clearing of the forest along the road leading from the ferry to Manacapuru. Thick tree lined roads have made way for vast plains of nothing, often with a solitary, towering Brazil nut tree in the middle, as its forbidden to cut them down. The sight of that lone tree saddens me. It looks ominous.
The smell of burning timber and brush also adds to the feeling of foreboding. Out for a barbecue one day, some friends and I went for a dip in a small stream and barely made it back to safety when someone lit a fire in the surrounding forest that was lapping at the pathway we had taken. It’s frightening how quickly a fire can take hold, especially in the dry season and how much damage, intended or not, it can do in a short time.
The forest surrounding Manacapuru is full of extraordinary wildlife, remarkable birds, magnificent jaguars, enormous trees, tiny rare orchids and so much more. It is loved by most of the locals, who have a connection to it by birth and don’t want to see its destruction.
I will watch what happens with interest and, no doubt, sadness.

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