Nothing prepares you for the shear expanse of the Amazon – about 20 minutes out of Bazillia the jungle starts and just continues for the next ~2 hours until you land in Manaus. If you think the plain is flying at 300-500 mph then to start to get the picture.
We did have some cloud but it opened to show us the Rio Negro before we landed – it’s as wide as the Bristol Channel – but surrounded by green – except for the beaches and of course the million plus inhabitants of Manaus.
Luis and I were welcomed by Alexander, the local EMBRAPA contact, and an incredible host. All I can remember yesterday is the humidity and the fish. At >90% the humidity is something you have to feel to believe but the fish – wow it’s unbelievable – seriously at lunch yesterday I thought I was having a full rack of ribs but it was Tambaqui – Luis says it’s the most amazing fresh water fish he has ever tasted – and a guy from the Azores should know. Alexander was a great host but I feel my lack of Portuguese gave us only one true common language – Marvel Comics – spoiler alter wolverine dies!!!
The majority of the rest of the team arrived at 1 am but everyone was up at 7am to label and shop. Well the morning actually comprised picking up and paying for the expedition vehicles – I have to say your blood runs cold when a French driver, Thibaud (Dr Decaens), pulls into Brazillian traffic when you know the insurance is garrenteed with your credit card !! Safer than me driving I expect. The afternoon was dedicated to shopping, labelling and preparing. Luis went to INPA where Elizebet (Prof Franklin) introduced us to an amazing group of taxonomists who are busy trying to catalogue the phenomenal diversity of soil microfauna that exists in the Amazon. Then Luis had to spend the rest of the afternoon making a well known DNA/RNA preservative – you can buy the ingredients in Manaus if you know where to go !! Seriously, from 50ml falcons to ziplock bags everything comes down the river to Manaus. I was lucky enough to get assigned two locals who, with not a word of English, showed me the ‘old town’, the Ferry port and the fish market. But really we had come for the Aladdin’s cave of shops – seriously from sieves to machetes we could get everything that was needed for a scientific expedition – and even try them out.
It is quite amazing what you can get from the stores scattered around the docks in Manaus – there a shop for bags, bottles, sieves, plastic chairs….liquidisers anything a respectable field expedition needs. In fact the hardware stores put B&Q to shame.
But then I was distracted from retail therapy by the main attraction the Rio Negro…how I wish I was a tourist on one of those boats.
But for all the variety no straight shovels – how can we we go digging earthworms without a shovel !! Will tell you how we got on tomorrow – if I have the energy after a day’s digging.