Our last day on the Rondonia was much the same as any other day on the boat, but as the day drew on excitement mounted about arriving into Manaus and what that might bring. We packed up all our stuff by about 3pm, but left our hammocks up ‘just in case’ … in the end, all went pretty much to plan and although we arrived later than scheduled we didn’t need to stay on board overnight. Docking seemed to take forever and so by the time we were able to get off the boat – and then sort transport to the hostel – and then actually get to our hostel, it was around 10:30pm when we started thinking about food! Pizza delivered to the hostel was the option of choice for nearly all of us … some went out looking for burgers, but nowhere was open and so they returned reasonably quickly and jumped on the Pizza Train. Bed was not too far away after that and so just like that our River Boat Adventure was all over … we now have only six days before we start the epic journey home, and two days after that I’m back in clinic.
Our first day in Manaus (Day 152) was the only Full Free Day most of our group had before heading deeper into the Amazon Jungle for a 4day/3 night adventure with Amazon Antonio Jungle Tours … we have been into the Ecuadorian Amazon Jungle twice now – and of course we are still in Financial Conservation Mode – so we opted to stay in Manaus. Paul (the Scot), Jamie, Bob and Franco also stayed in Manaus so we weren’t alone … For those going into the jungle having only one free day meant some of them were getting around like ‘mad things’ trying to see all they could see while they could. We of course have nearly a week to see what we want so we chose to stay in the hostel for most of the day and catch-up with internet stuff … checking emails for replies, printing off e-tickets for our flights home, posting on the travel journal, all that stuff.
As far as email goes – Oasis had declined refunding any of our LP for the Manaus-Quito leg so I gave it one last try and emailed them again … then I emailed clinic with a day/date for my return to work (Thursday 4th April).Most of the group went out for dinner around 7pm – a Farewell for Paul & Me, but also a Welcome for Alex. It was a nice evening after an emotional afternoon.
The next day (Day 153) was an early start because the rest of the group went into the jungle at 8am. We were up to see them off, and then we sat around for a while doing more internet stuff, and after Franco changed rooms the three of us caught a bus and went to the Bosque da Ciência to see Manatees. It is like a small zoo but it’s main focus is preservation of species (mainly Manatees) and was about a 30-45 minute bus ride – through some very narrow and steep suburban streets – and when we got there we thought it was closed! It turned out to be open after all, but the guy in the ticket box wasn’t there (must have been on lunch I guess) so the Security Guard let us in and told us we needed to pay our BR5.00 each on the way out. I guess we should have taken that as a sign because the only exhibits we could see were the open air ones … all of the enclosed/housed exhibits were locked and chained up and we couldn’t get in to see them – on a Wednesday – through the middle of the day – go figure.
After the science park we caught the bus back to the city … yet another excitement filled experience … had some lunch, and then came back to the hostel and I gave Franco his last treatment while on the road. It was just the three of us here now so Paul also got massage and then we just sat around for the afternoon. We agreed that we might do the Zoo tomorrow but before we can make a final decision Franco needs to hear from the Docks about the anticipated arrival of Frida.
The next day (Day 154) we were up early’ish but had to wait for Franco to hear from the docks … he rang them, and the short answer was Frida should arrive around midday today but because of the paper work required to get her off the barge – and the fact that tomorrow is Good Friday – it looked like it might be Monday before Frida was back with the group … Franco was not happy. So, our ‘Plan B’ was put into action and we made tracks for the Zoo.
Manaus Zoo boasts 300 animals all native to the Amazon Jungle/Region – it was only about 20-30 minutes away by bus – and it was only BR5.00 pp entry … under 12’s, over 65’s and disabled people were free! When we got there we found out that the zoo is immediately adjacent to a Military Base, and the military actually promote that they serve to protect the jungle and these animals. We wandered around this zoo for a couple of hours … some of the animals we have already seen multitudes of times in the wild (like Caiman, Capybara and Howler Monkeys), but there were some that we haven’t seen and in all honesty are likely not to ever see in the wild. It wasn’t a big zoo really, but it was quite enjoyable! My favourite enclosure was for the big cats – you could walk over them and view the cats from above … awesome! After we had seen all we could see we had a drink started for the bus, but on our way up to the road we passed two army boys carrying a sloth … turns out they were rescuing it – it was found trying to cross the busy road, so they were bringing it down to the zoo for its own safety.
After the zoo we returned to the Centro part of the city and did the Teatro Amazonas (or Opera House) … it was really nice, but personally I think I prefer the Theatre da Paz in Belem. The guide here certainly wasn’t as passionate about his theatre as the girl was in Belem, and maybe that was all the difference … very glad we did it, but I probably wouldn’t choose to pay to do it again … both of us would like to come down after dark one night though (if it isn’t raining at the time) and get some pictures of both the Teatro and the Public Square at night – they should look awesome illuminated. This night however we sat around in Franco’s room with Paul (the Scot) and watched a few episodes of Top Gear with a few beers & pizza!
The next day (Day 155) was rainy from the start … it was also Good Friday and the beginning of Easter Celebrations Everywhere! With the rain lingering outside today – and the fact that we have been on the go for the last two days – we chose to stay in today and take it easy. While we entertained ourselves labelling/editing photos and writing journals, we heard some beautiful song coming from the streets … it was a street parade to a Good Friday Service, and the whole crowd sang beautiful hymn while carrying Religious Icons aloft … it was very lovely to listen to. Around lunch time we ventured out to find something to eat – fully expecting to find everything closed – but fortune smiled upon us and we found a great little local ‘hole in the wall’ … the Nail Technician next door had connection to this eatery, and the girl who served us garnered her help to translate so we could order … and the food was quite nice. Dinner was with Franco, Paul (the Scot) and Jamie – Lasagne and Antarctica all round!
The next day (Day 156) was Easter Saturday, and Franco was keen to see if we could get Frida out of the dock by any slim possibility. His plan was to head down to the docks at 8am (as soon as they opened) and give it his best shot … failure today would mean not getting Frida till around lunchtime on (Easter) Monday, and that would set the group & trip a day behind where Mel & Franco want to be … Fingers crossed and hopes high, but fortune was not to be had and although Frida was there and Franco was able to start her up she was destined to stay on the barge until Monday. The rest of our day was reasonably uneventful … dare we say, ‘Manaus – been there, done that!’ The rest of our group returned from the jungle around 4:30pm or so, full of excitement and jungle smells, and so we sat around for a couple of hours catching up and then Marilyn, May, Paul (the Scot), Paul and I went for our own little farewell dinner up near the Teatro Amazonas … a lovely way to spend our last free night on the trip.
The next day (Day 157) was our last day on this trip and our obviously our last day in South America (this time). The Must Do’s today include packing and checking out of our room by 12pm, and then leaving for the airport by around 9pm tonight … the rest of the day is free & open, but to tell the truth I feel a little blah this morning. So we sat around for a while but about 9:30am I decided that if I didn’t start I would never finish so I started to go through my stuff and re-pack my pack (it is quite surprising just how small and light your stuff can look when you fold it and pack it wisely). I was all done by about 11am and so we sat around on facebook for a while and then had some lunch with Mel & Franco to say our personal goodbyes. We have a taxi booked for 9pm tonight to take us to the airport, but the afternoon really just feels like a countdown now … the closer the time gets, the more gloomy I feel … I am comfortable with our decision, and as I remember all the silver linings to going home early I am actually looking forward to getting home, but it still sits heavy in my heart.