Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Eating Piranhas.

I've wanted to see Manaus ever since I first heard of a city on the banks of the Amazon. Manaus excited me more than the jungle itself. But I had no idea about this place. I'm not sure what exactly I was expecting or even dreaming. It doesn't matter anymore.

Manaus is bigger than I thought, much bigger. And it's not even on the Amazon, it lies on the north bank of Rio Negro, a few kms NW of the meeting of the rivers, where Rio Negro and Rio Solimões join to form the mighty River. It would also be a stretch to call Manaus beautiful or romantic. It certainly has a long and glorious past, especially during the few decades on either side of the beginning of the 20th century, during the rubber boom. Inevitably history took its course and left more than a few scars behind.

But I still fell for it. It's gritty, rough and rusty, with old mansions gutted by an urban jungle, with an amazing amount of street stalls, the heat and humidity of hell and it's grand Opera house smack in the middle. The port is as real as it gets. Fish and grains, hammocks, engines, fruits, umbrellas; all are in a constant move through the eternal sweating of the men. Stalls with fish soup and little corner barbeques, plastic chairs with frozen beer fill in a feverish craze through the ingeniousness of the women.You can find anything you want. I found a salami of tobacco to accompany my hammock on my boat trip.