From the beginning, it was clear to us that we would not do a Jungle Tour from Manaus but from Bolivia. That helped us stay clear of all the hawkers talking your head off.
We thus had no great expectations, but we soon learned to enjoy this city in the middle of the Amazon, though the city itself is situated on the Rio Negro, which meets Rio Solimoes about 20km downriver from Manaus, and only then becomes the Amazon River. This “Meeting of the Rivers” or “Encontro das Aguas” is quite sensational, you can clearly see the line between the black Rio Negro and café brown Rio Solimoes. Naturally, we chose the hardest way to see this attraction. First we traveled by city bus all across to the eastern edge of Manaus to Porto do Catalao. There we took a small boat going down to the nearest village, this way passing the “Meeting of the Waters”. Well, the boat went so fast that it was almost impossible to take a photo. We deeply regretted not having rented a fisher boat.
The must-see in Manaus of course is the splendid Teatro Amazonas built in 1896, most of its interior imported from Europe, even some of the wooden floors! The same evening we attend a free concert by the local string orchestra performing works of a known Brazilian composer, Guarani.
Inside the Teatro, we also stumbled across a project called Native Original, a group of artists that use drift wood from the Amazon to create the most tasteful designs. After a night of thinking and discussing we decided on two pieces and had them shipped to Austria.
Although Manaus’ economy it not as dependent on the river as it used to be, still river transport determines the lives of many people there. The hours and hours we strolled through the “Mercado Municipal” and the port will be never forgotten. A sheer amount of fish taken from this river is incredible. Where else would you get a huge fish with rice and beans for less than 2 Euros?
The port of Manaus is determined by movement, the loading and unloading of boats, all done by porters, not a single crane. We watched two guys unloading a truck full of flour, one bag 50kg. They literally ran down stairs to the mooring, across some wobbly boards into the ship and back up. Everything is needed in the settlements along the river, tiles, beer, long aluminium sheets, anything you name it.