November 6, 2016
All of my life, the Amazon has been referenced—a big jungle, large trees, exotic fruits, natural medicine plants, a land lush of green plants, thousands of species, exotic animals, etc. Never did I think that one day I would be able to go and visit it. In fact, I don’t even know many people back at home who have visited the Amazon. So, being able to go during Semester at Sea was definitely an experience I am so grateful for and will be able to remember for the rest of my life.
Manaus is the state where the Amazon resides in Brazil. From Salvador, our port in Brazil it took us 2 planes and a lay over to get to Manaus. From Manaus our welcoming tour guides who were locals to Manaus and have done this program with Semester at Sea students for the last 10 years greeted us. They warned us that it would be extremely hot outside and wanted to make sure “we would survive the jungle.”
From the airport we were taken to where our riverboats were docked. The riverboats were going to be our next home for the next 3 days and slept on hammocks. Locals dressed up in “Amazon” tribal costumes as they put handmade necklaces around our neck greeted us on the riverboats and performed a dance for us with traditional upbeat music. Our first stop on the riverboat was to the Meeting of the Rivers where the black water of the Negro River meets the brown water of the Solimões River to form the Amazon. After this, we were taken to the first village called Lake January, where we went on a hike, found a sloth, went fishing for piranhas, and went alligator spotting in our canoes. The piranhas were definitely difficult to catch. For me, they kept eating my bait and I could feel them pushing my pole down, but I wouldn’t be able to lift them up. After all of these activities, it was nighttime and we boarded our riverboat, curled in our hammocks for bed, and headed to our destination for the next day. As we moved to our next destination, it was so amazing to see how one side of the river had the city skyline and the other side had the amazon jungle.
The next day we went on a strenuous and extremely humid jungle walk where we learned about many of the plants that are used for several pharmaceuticals and “home remedies” that the people in the Amazon use. We also went to the beach nearby and swam in the Negro River. It was very uncomfortable for many of the students in the water to swim because you couldn’t really see what was beneath you, even though we were told the water was clean. After lunch, we went to the Acajatuba Village where we had a friendly soccer match with the locals and made some handicraft jewelry. Since this was our last night, the riverboat created a special luau dinner for us. On our last day in the Amazon, we swam with famous Amazon pink dolphins. Afterwards we headed to the airport to spend the next two days in Rio.
I was extremely luck to be on Boat #1, because the Boat #2 got Traveller’s diarrhea, which is so hard to deal with in of all places being in the Amazon. It spreads very fast and usually by contact—it started with one-person the first day, to five people the next day, and pretty much the whole boat on the last day. The weather was also very humid. One night, our riverboat parked very close to the jungle and it was a bit scary because we could hear some of the animals. In addition, the struggle for many of us was not being able to take a shower and we were really looking forward to being able to once we got in Rio. All in all, the Amazon was an amazing experience. As someone who isn’t usually in the wilderness and screams at the sight of a spider, it was definitely out of my comfort zone but because it pushed my limits it allowed me to grow.