Posted by: Gary Guertin | February 27, 2013

20. Caribbean – Brazil – Manaus

Hi All,

We have just left Manaus (named after the local tribe) after overnighting (we arrived Sunday, Feb. 24th and departed Monday, Feb. 25th).  After two days, Susy and I felt that Manaus was a smaller version (but not much smaller) of Sao Paulo.  It has become a large industrial city since it was made a “free” custom zone many years ago.  Manaus  started in 1669 when a fort was built in the area.  By 1850 the settlement had become a significant supply port and capital of the Amazonas State.  In 1830 Charles Goodyear patented rubber vulcanization, the automobile was invented, and the industrial revolution began, so rubber was a vital commodity.  Rubber trees grew only in the Amazon, and Manaus boomed.  Rubber trees grew throughout the jungle and slaves were sent to collect latex in the wild.  Land owners amassed enormous fortunes.  Manaus was nicknamed “Paris of the Tropics” and the city’s lavish Opera House drew celebrities from Europe and North America to entertain a handful of wealthy families.  In 1876 a British adventurer, Henry Wickham, smuggled 70,000 rubber tree seeds back to England.   In the next few decades the British Asian colonies caused Manaus to slip into decay and economic obscurity.  By the 1920’s synthetics drove the final nail into the natural rubber coffin.  Today Manaus in a city of almost 2 million inhabitants and is one of the fastest growing cities in Brazil.  It is located on the shore of the Rio Negro just up from the meeting point of the Rio Negro and the Rio Solimoes (a continuation of the Amazon Rio).  Amazonas State has the largest portion of rainforest land on the planet and strangely enough the largest concentration of freshwater on the planet.  The industries that spur Manaus vary from electronics to textiles (Adidas has it’s largest manufacturing facility in South America there).  The free zone advantage draws many companies such as Honda with a car manufacturing facility in the area. 

Before we look at our time in Manaus, I said I would show you more of the joining of the rivers.  Just before you get to the port, as I said, is  the meeting point of the Rio Negro and the Rio Solimoes (a continuation of the Amazon Rio).  It is called the “Meeting of the Waters”.  Here is a long range view of the phenomenal:


a very close view:


Don’t ask me why this phenomenal happens, but I understand it has to do with the density of the two waters, etc..

Now let’s go take a look at Manaus, first the port from the ship:DSC04680

In 1906, a clever innovation, the floating pier was built.  The loading of ships no longer depended on the tides and river flow which can vary up and down as much as 10 meters (30+ feet).  Here we are tied up at the floating pier and you can see the moving road connection to the port area.


As we leave the ship we have our usual port sign:


As we exited the port we find the old customs house (Alfandega).  This custom house is probably the world’s only prefabricated one.  All the stones were fashioned in England and assembled in Manaus (1902).


Next as we strolled toward the famous Opera House we passed the cities Cathedral.


It was Sunday, and that is street fair day.  This open air market stretched for about a half mile, from the port area all the way to the Opera House.


And now the famous Opera House inaugurated Dec. 31, 1896.  It took 15 years to build and with the exception of the wood floor and chairs (from Bahia wood) all the building materials were imported from Europe.  Here’s a look from the back of the building:


and we’ll go in the front:


Going inside here’s a look at the stage,


and from the stage looking rearward:


The Opera House seats 700 people, according to the guides.  Lastly let’s look at the ceiling, painted in 1899 by and Italian painter, Domenico de Angelis.  It is called “Noble Room” and depicts Amazon dance, painting, music, and acting.  De Angelis technique makes it seem as though the main figures are always watching you.


Across from the Opera House is the beautiful “Palacio Da Justica”.


and beside it a another beautiful blue building I couldn’t identify.


and finally one street scene":


Manaus is a mixture of high risers, old low risers, poor stores, poor homes, and rich homes.  It’s like Sao Paulo, spread out all over, with miles and miles of stores and homes.  I couldn’t end our visit to Manaus without telling you about us having one of the most enjoyable times of our cruise.  We motored out to one of the jewelry stores (free ride) to the edge of the city on a beautiful peninsula overlooking the Rio Negro.  Upon entering the jewelry store which was located in a plush hotel we encountered one of our favorite drinking buddies (from more than one cruise) “Wendell” in the lobby bar.  During the tour of the jewelry store we met a Canadian couple and when leaving we all got together with Wendell to have one for the road.  Wendell was drinking caipirinhas, so we joined him.  The Canadian couple never had a caipirinha, so we introduced them to the drink.  When we had had more than two (I quit counting after that), we finally caught the last ride back to the ship, singing merrily all the way.  Here is the group (Susy with Wendell before she started in on caipirinhas):


and yours truly with the Canadian couple and Wendell (again, pre-caipirinhas):


That’s it for Manaus.  It’s on to Parintins, Tuesday, Feb. 26th. (don’t ask about our hangovers, post-caipirinhas, but what a time we had enjoying them).

Love You All,

Gary (alias Gagu)


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