Gordon’s Party

Well after 3 weeks of secrecy, plotting and planning, Shirley and I , with some assistance from Dany, have managed to pull off the surprise party of the century at sea in the Caribbean! The Captain has even obliged by anchoring us at Man of War Bay, Charlottesville, Tobago the scene of Gordon’s 40th birthday! We started with Cocktails at the top of the yacht bar, followed by dinner at the back of the yacht outside, together with the Captain and the wildlife photographer, Sue Flood, plus the mountain people who had gone to Machu Pichu with Shirley and Diffy, and who we have been adopted by! We consumed a 9 course tasting menu and then danced it off under the stars followed by Gordon and Gail singing in the Piano Bar!  

Devils Island, French Guyana

After a whole day at sea, we have finally left the Amazon behind. We are back to the more wavy waters of the Atlantic Ocean, which has finally turned blue after 500 miles of being mixed with the big river. It was strange not having to get up at 6 to see the sun rise and jump on a zodiac to see the wildlife waking up. We hope you have enjoyed the new pictures in the gallery, of course this is only a snapshot and we will bore you with lots more when we return!!We had a real treat today, we were able to land on Isle Royale, one of three islands ( the most infamous being Isle de Diable ( Devils island for those of you that have read Papillon – more about that later). The reason it was a treat is, that the swells usually prevent any type of landing ending, and this only the 2 nd time the captain has  been able to stop in 20 years. We have posted a few photos to give you an idea what it is like , very hot, sweaty and definitely not somewhere, you would want to be doing hard labour. Only 15 people now live on the main island (Royal island) but at its peak it housed  40,000 inmates and warders.We were able to see the hospital, chapel, cells and the blocks of the base of the guilotine. We were able to look across at Devils Island but no one is allowed there, even the local guides. After struggling to watch Papillon in heavy swells, we were told by the guide that he never escaped or lived on devils island and it was indeed a work of fiction …. Probably why it is the fiction section of library!! Anyway he did go on to say that the stories did happen but to other people! The most notorious and act of injustice to cloud the island was the imprisonment of Dreyfus who was eventually exonerated and returned to France in 1906 after a huge court cases which was defended by Zola. The changed many laws in France and was a case célèbre .Apparently  for 60 euros a day you can rent one of the warders old cottages ( with running water!!) and stay on the Island. Can’t say it would be my first choice as a holiday destination, too spooky and a good chance of being stuck there!!!We are now at sea for two days so we may get a chance to load up some more pictures before we get to Tobago, which incidentally was where Gordon spent his 40th birthday!

Belem, second city of the Amazon

We arrived at Belem early this morning , due  to the fact we have been getting up at 6 am each morning we were wide awake! Belem is a very bustling city on the delta of the Amazon, however it is much more attractive than Manaus and more friendly. We visited the local vegetable and fish market which was really colourful  and lively if not a little stinky!We then moved on to the opera house which is really beautiful and older than the one in Manaus, the paintings and mosaics have been well kept and restored.The building again owed much to European influences, marble from Italy, cast iron from UK, chandeliers from Murano, mosaics from Portugal , the list goes on! However again operas staged there are not only European but also have poetry and music in homage to the River Amazon.We then found a hotel bar that was showing the grand slam decider game, Wales v France, I am not sure whether the hotel had been subjected to fanatical rugby fans before but being Brasilian took it in good spirit! We managed a team of 3 welsh supporters, a South African , two Canadians, and 4 American all of whom are now converted to Wales supporters,luckily they kept their red from the boy bomba last week ! Anyway congratulations to the Welsh team, an excellent result and we will be celebrating tonight as we cross the equator. Belem will be a special city to us all as this is where saw Wales win their third grand slam in 10 years!Cymru am byth!!! How far can you before you miss a Rugby match!

The Breves Narrows

Last night we anchored off Miritiapina, to allow us to go out on the zodiacs one final time, along the banks of the amazon. It is much more heavily populated here compared to what we have been used to. We talked local fisher people who were out catching their lunch! We did see a few dolphins who were following the zodiac.We then started out final journey down river to Belem through the Breve Narrows – our expedition team will be leaving us there which will leave a large gap in our crew as they have been a large part of the success of this maiden voyage down the river.The scenery thought the straits is amazing, many saw mills,and villages. The local kids canoe upto the yacht so that they can surf the waves  it makes! The boat is very close to the banks in some places but the scenery is spectacular. Lots of the children come out of the schools to watch the yacht go by, and we saw our first two storey house since Manaus. We hit a very heavy squall as we approached Belem lots of thunder and lightening – it certainly reminded us that we were still in the rain forest.
 

The rapid river rides!

Well three zodiac trips today, the first at 630 am beautiful sunrise across the river, we were lucky enough to see red handed howler monkeys, egrets and something the locals call stinky bird due to their diet of vegetation! We were also able to see a variety of bird life. The boat moved on further down the river after breakfast and we dropped anchor just off the main channel .At 430 we went for our second zodiac of the day the new location was  across the main river to a calmer channel, we had some great surprises, swimming cow, water buffalo , howler monkeys plus a lot of iguanas. We were treated to an amazing display by at least 10 pink dolphins who did some great formation dancing moves!! They followed us all the way back to the ship. Some of you have asked why they are pink, no one knows but it is thought it is because the blood vessels are very close to the skin. We took some great pictures which we will try and post tomorrow.The final safari of the day was at night , across a fast running amazon, in pitch black. For many years I have paid money to go on rapid river rides, but nothing beats the real thing! Having crossed the river got soaked from the waves and the sudden rainstorm, we moved into the calmer channel to observe the night animals, it was pitch black , then suddenly loud booming could be heard, this turned out to be the local  disco boat moving through the local village. We did see a couple of lizards, snakes and a baby iguana. The ride back was equally as exciting and we all adjourned to the top of the yacht bar as we were too wet to go in to the piano bar! Tomorrow we will be going through the breve straits.
 

 

Jungle walk and beach party

Today we went on a jungle walk, our first chance to see the wildlife from the land rather than the sea. The trek was about two hours, up a hill called the Naked Hill, the only landmark for miles and  flat and then a steep incline. On the way we saw mamocets and some parakeets, the way down was much moref fruitful, with armadillo wasps, night hawks, peachfronted parrots and blue lizards . The view from the top of the hill was spectacular and provided a great view of the Rio Tapajos. This is the area that Henry Ford tried to set up a rubber plantation in the 1920s known as Fordlandia however he abandoned it after WW2 though it is still operated as a local venture. We spent the afternoon at a beach party and the traditional caviar splash – some local dancers came along to teach us how to shake  our hips Brasilian style!  We visited a local craft shop that had every type of Indian craft imaginable plus some museum pieces. We finished the day by swimming in the lake which was clear and devoid of piranhas! Tomorrow we have 3 zodiac safaris which we are really looking forward to.
 

Parentins on the big river

This morning we were up at 6 am to go on a zodiac safari, here are two of the photos we took whilst looking at some waterlillies(you can just see the Beatle that lives in the centre). We also saw a colony of kingfishers who make their home in the banks of the river. White tipped paraqueets were making a huge racket ,reminding us of home.We stopped at Parentins this afternoon , which is a small riverside town with a massive cathedral. Very clean and all the cyclists wore helmets. We even managed to get some Brazilian currency out of the cash machine. The river here is so fast (running speed), including whole trees and raft upon raft of floating vegetation. We have the ecologists and naturalists with us for a few more days before they get off at Belem. These guys have made the trip very special. Tomorrow we go for a jungle walk….we are hoping to see the iconic Piranha at some point before we leave the jungle!Pictures of Parentins to follow

Manaus And The Rubber Barons

 Today we finally reached the city in the jungle. We were not sure what to expect but it is true to say that Manaus has seen better days! We took a boat ride to the Rubber Barons Planatation, only accessible by boat, and had a tour with a guide who was able to give us a day in the life of both a Rubber Baron and a worker. It was exceedingly hot, although only 10 in the morning and we were told that the latex had to be gathered between 2 am and 6am other wise the temperature would automatically cure the latex. We then took a boat to the Hotel Tropical built in the 1970s with the hotel rooms facing the jungle rather than the river. We then visited the Opera House, very opulent with elements from all over europe.The city itself is not much to write home about, very scruffy and run down but optimistic as it hosts 4 of the qualifing matches for the 2014 World cup. We moved off down the river at sunset to the wedding of the waters where the Rio Negro meets the Amazon again. We are back on the zodiacs in the morning for more wildlife safaris.

Ariau Anavilhanas and Hotel Tropical

Last night we had a beach party with a local bomba band and dancers. There was a big bonfire and lots of marshmallows to toast! The crew worked really hard to get the cool champagne to the shore plus music and food! Before the bonfire we went on a zodiac safari and saw lots of monkeys, a iguana, a sun bitterne and a fish hawk. We also got buzzed by a light aircraft! We think it had just visited the Hotel Araiu Towers, it was a little surreal, a number of tall tower buildings in the middle of the jungle. Apparently it was where Predator was filmed  This morning we were up early to swim with pink dolphins, we went to a conservation station where we were able to get into the water and help feed them. This the first time Seadream 2 has gone up this particular channel or visited the dolphins. We are now anchored off the Hotel Tropical,  there have been some really fierce rain storms but at least it is warm and very short . We are going to move on to Manaus at around 6. We will try and up load some more pictures soon.

Up the Rio Negro

This morning we passed thought the wedding of the waters where the Amazon and the Rio Negro meet. We will be passing it again on the way back from Manaus. We really felt we had hit civilisation again to day as we passed by the City of Manaus – huge sky scrapers and huge container ships! We went under the bridge between the two banks of the river – about the same size as the Severn Crossing. We are currently anchored off Anavilhanas and have been swimming in the river – no piranhas here! This afternoon we are off on another safari and then a bonfire on the beach! Two blogs today as Gordon splashed out on wifi to watch Wales v Italy, well done Wales we are watching you from the jungle !

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