If forced to choose a favorite among past trips, a four-day Amazon adventure would probably rank very high in my list. Brazil is a fascinating and diverse country, with as many distinct regions and cultural feels to it as the U.S., if not more. With so much to see and do, it is tough to pick one experience to highlight, but trekking through the rainforest and sailing down to the meeting of the Amazon and Negro Rivers was exhilirating and enlightening.
Beginning in the city of Manaus, we traveled deep into the rainforest to a lodge that was tucked amidst the trees on a network of streams and river off-shoots. The Ariau Amazon Towers served as our base camp for the first two days. With jungle catwalks, treehouses, and monkeys and other wildlife freely roaming about the grounds, we truly felt a part of the rainforest. In addition to hiking in the jungle, some of the highlights of the trip included visiting a small village of native Amazonians with our guide, who was also a native of the area. Most of us have been reading or learning about the rain forest since grade school and the “Save the Rainforest” campaigns, but nothing can compare to seeing firsthand the amazing array of flora and fauna, or feeling the near-suffocating humidity under the canopy.
Before leaving the lodge for the next leg of the journey, I was presented with a highly official and useful certificate verifying that I received training in “jungle survival techniques”. Take that, Dwight Schrute.
From the Ariau lodge, we boarded a riverboat for two days sailing down the Rio Negro towards the meeting of the waters with the mighty Amazon. This was truly the highlight of the whole trip – we each received hammocks which served as our beds in the true Amazon fashion. With canoe trips into small tributaries of the River, piranha fishing (using a piece of raw steak and a twig as a fishing pole), diving off the boat for a swim in the Amazon, and night journeys down the River, this was an action-packed two days. On the last day, we split into small groups to canoe down the Rio Negro to the point where it meets the Amazon. The Negro is, not surprisingly, very dark in color, while the Amazon is a more sandy beige color. For a certain stretch where they meet, the two rivers run side by side and don’t mix, due to differences in temperature and density of the waters. The “Meeting of the Waters” is a popular tourist attraction, but seeing it via canoe while watching a glorious sunset was the perfect ending to a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
At the end of the trip, as the canoe sailed towards a picture-perfect sunset on the Rio Negro, a fellow student turned to the group and said, “Hey guys…happy Thanksgiving”. I had been so busy taking in all of the excitement I had forgotten that it was in fact Thanksgiving, but the reminder was perfectly timed. There was no turkey or mashed potatoes, but it was one of the best holidays I’ve spent, and certainly something to be thankful for.
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