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.

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.

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.

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.

New study by the University of California, Berkeley, argues for new origin, according to a report by Jane Lee in National Geographic.


Brazil-nut Tree…‘Castanheiro do Para’ Its amazing reproduction system.

Brazil-nut Tree…‘Castanheiro do Para’ (Brazil)

Brazil-nut trees are huge. They can reach over 200 feet/30 metres high. They dominate the forest and are protected by law from cutting down. They grow in pristine forest, necessary for their complicated reproduction system.


At the very beginning of the reproduction system the Brazil nut tree needs an orchid and a bee.
The orchid bee (Euglossa) collects nectar from the flowering Brazil nut trees. These specialist bees have a long tongue that can open the flower.
As they collect nectar the bees spread pollen from tree to tree fertilising the yellow Brazil nut tree flowers and thereby the fruit…the nuts.
The male orchid bees attract females with the fragrance from a particular orchid. The larger female orchid bee pollinates the Brazil-nut Tree.

The nuts, that we know are the seeds of the tree, which are enclosed in a large husk similar to that of a coconut. The shell is rock solid and needs to be opened with a sharp machete to release the 8 to 24 seeds, so how does it get opened in the wild?
The answer is the Agouti. A large rodent with razor sharp, chisel-like teeth. The agouti eats some of the seeds and takes off others to bury them for later. If some of the seeds are forgotten they will eventually germinate and grow into new trees.

Brazil-nut husks ready for opening. The empty shells I used as plant pots and holders.

The Brazil-nut Tree needs a bee, an orchid and an agouti to reproduce. It needs pristine, untouched forest for these conditions to be met. Deforestation, even if the tree is kept in place, can affect anyone of these conditions so that reproduction cannot take place and we lose a magnificent tree as well as a delicious food source.

The Wet Season in the Brazilian Tropical Rainforest.

The wet season starts at the end of November and continues until May. Rain usually falls in the morning, light showers that cool the air, but quite often a great storm will rage through the forest, lasting for hours.
During the storms, walls of heavy rain move across the forest, saturating everything in their path. Thunder crashes above with such force the ground trembles. The noise must be the loudest natural sound on earth. Despite being warned by lightening of the impending boom and rumble, it always made me jump.
High winds bend and shake the trees and leaves, twigs and branches are thrown through the air. The lodge verandah, when finally the storm ends, is covered with broken twigs, leaves, battered insects and other bits of natures debris. The wooden boards shone as if freshly varnished. The grass roof, rearranged by the storm, let in rays of sunlight………
The rains change the views from the lodge dramatically. Gone are the vast meadows of grasses and wild flowers. Instead stretching to the river mouth is now gleaming, deep water. Deep enough for the dolphins to swim and breed in, deep enough for the caiman and deep enough for the return of lunch. No longer do we have to eat dried up, smelly carcasses, instead the dish is plump and tasty.
The rain is welcome, bringing with it fresh water, food and enough water to row the canoes from shore to shore, so much nicer than slurping through the thick, clinging, river bed, mud.
The wet season is back, all is well in the forest.


These photos were taken from the same point. During the wet season the river is deep and full. Boto and Grey Bottle-nosed Dolphins swim and jump and breed…Caiman stalk the shores…Anaconda slide through the reeds.

Come the dry season and the view changes dramatically…the river disappears leaving shallow pools, tiny streams and beds of thick, sucking mud as far as the river mouth. Fishes are easily caught by flocks of Herons and Egrets. Kingfishers find easy meals. Dry, shrivelled carcasses of animals lay on the shores to be picked over by Black Vultures.



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


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.





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.


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.

Manacapuru, the harbour of the town in the Amazon Rainforest. Part Two.

The Harbour of the town of Manacapuru, Amazon Rainforest. Part Two.

The harbour area is a bustling community of shops, offices, workshops and people’s homes, perched on top of misshapen wooden decking. Sometimes the connection between one area of the decking to the other is a single, bouncy plank of wood. Locals balance on this small bridge without a second thought, they just stroll across. Visitors, looking into the murky waters below, tremble.
All day ferries, boats and canoes, jostle for a place to stop and tie up. People loaded with supplies, children with lunch boxes and satchels, travellers with back packs and office and shop workers eager to get going, can be seen disembarking or, in the evenings, trudging back up the gang planks.
The smartly dressed children clutching their lunch boxes and bags are taken into town for several days of schooling. They are the lucky ones, whose parents see the importance of education. Most children get only a few years of basic education.

Counters overlooking the wooden decks are elbowed by young people competing for potential passengers for the ferries. Willing to give travel advice and tickets between intense conversations with their colleagues.
Harbour shops are varied, either barely making a living or a delightful Aladdin’s cave, filled with stacks of dried food and bottles of water or soft drinks; gaudy coloured, plastic household goods and shiny, metal pots; hammocks and flip-flops and ice….. in blocks or cubes for fridge boxes…with no, or little, electricity in the forest, its the only way to keep food fresh for a few days. Shopkeepers sit outside their shops daring you to disturb them, but if you do they couldn’t be nicer.
Fresh fish from the rivers are on sale here too, but most of the produce from people’s small plantations or local rivers will be hauled up to town, where people will sit on street corners to sell their goods.
Beautifully made canoes can be bought at the harbour complete with hand carved oars. They are taken straight from the decking and pulled onto a canoe or boat for delivery.
Also vying for attention are the little cafes. Places where a coffee or cold drink can be had. Somewhere to slump before the boat trip out.

I like the harbour. I like the hustle and bustle and anticipation of travel and I like the sense of community amongst the people who live and work there.
Due to a viral infection my sense of smell is not strong, apparently a good thing I have been told, when by the harbour. This enables me to sit without hindrance and enjoy a coffee and relax and people watch……a favourite pastime.








Manacapuru. Jungle town of Amazonia on the River Manacapuru, Brazil.

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.

Questions welcome…..

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.







Missing my Rainforest home.

I miss my forest home so much. I haven’t been back for several years due to ill health, but it’s with me every moment of every day.
If you ever see a lady, walking through the aisles of a supermarket, suddenly stop at the fruit section, shut her eyes, breath in deeply and then smile, a dreamy smile of delight. That will be me.
The smell of mangoes, pineapples or melons would have sent my senses into a frenzy of activity and transported me back to my forest home: I will be sitting on a boulder, fish nibbling my toes, parrots squawking overhead, insects chirping. Or, I will be laying up to my neck in clear water in a cool stream, guarded by a sentry Collared Kingfisher, the only noise coming from Swifts hurtling through the startling blue sky above at breakneck speed. Or, I will be sitting on the wooden harbour boards, feeling the tickle of an aqua-blue Swallow-Tailed butterfly sucking moisture from my skin with its black cotton-thin tongue, while listening to the mournful cry of a Yellow-Ridged Toucan calling from a high tree deep in the forest.
If the lady you see opens her eyes and you see tears, that’s me.