Brazil


South America’s largest country defies easy description. From the Andes Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean and the Amazon River Basin to the steppes of the Mato Grasso and beyond, Brazil encompasses a staggering 43 percent of South America’s land mass. In addition to being the world’s fifth largest country by size, it is also one of the continent’s most diverse lands. Brazil is a cultural amalgamation of indigenous roots and western influences. The former Portuguese colony has developed a unique culture shaped by native tribes and thousands of immigrants from Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, and elsewhere.  One of the world’s most important emerging markets with a dynamic, growing economy, Brazil has taken center stage in the sporting world as host of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics. A short visit will only give you a taste of what this amazing place has to offer and leave you thirsting for more of its unique vibe.

More About Brazil

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2008_07_23 Brazil Rio de Janeiro IMG_4208

2008_01_19 Brazil Iguazu

2008_07_23 Brazil Rio Corcovado IMG_4155

Cross-posted from MGEdwards.com. Visit MGEdwards for more great travelogues, photos, and video from around the world.

The Amazon Indigenous


This is the final article in a series about the Amazon region of Brazil featured in my illustrated picture book, Alexander the Salamander. This post is about the indigenous peoples and culture of the Amazon. Previous ones highlighted the Amazon River, the Meeting of the Waters, the rainforest, the city of Manaus, Amazon Ecopark, piranhas, and a monkey reserve. Enjoy these travelogues with photos and stories from one of the world’s mightiest rivers.

During our trip to the Amazon in July 2008, we took a daytrip to a small indigenous village near the Rio Negro. Built to attract tourists, the village was quite idyllic, and its inhabitants performed dances and sold handicrafts to visitors who wanted to experience local indigenous culture.

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Our guide told me that the villagers belonged to the Baniwa indigenous group who had migrated from their original home upriver to this place in order to earn a better livelihood. Other members of the tribal group still living near the Brazil-Colombian border received financial support from them. According to Brazil’s Instituto Socioambiental, an estimated 15,200 Baniwa reside in the tri-border area of Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela. Many reportedly live in poor conditions and are subjected to human rights abuses such as encroachment on their land by illegal loggers and poachers.

We disembarked from our tour boat and walked among wood and thatched-roof buildings to a large hall. We sat down on benches lining the hall and waited for the Baniwa performance to begin. Ten youths, five women and five men, performed songs and dance in ceremonial dress. The men played upbeat melodies on large wood flutes and pipes and chanted skyward as the women danced with them. Nothing represented the spirit of harmony between the indigenous and the rainforest to me more than their haunting songs that still echo in my mind.

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As the dance grew livelier and less somber, the men pulled spectators from the audience and invited them to perform. My wife joined in. She tried to play the flute but was too preoccupied trying to dance! I opted out but took a photo afterwards with some of the performers. The lead performer made my son an honorary Baniwa, adorning him with a headdress and ceremonial stick.

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After the performance, we were ushered to the souvenir shop, where my son tested a dart gun and we browsed the handmade art. We made sure that we were allowed to buy and export the souvenirs we bought.

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Our son really enjoyed the visit, especially when our guide painted his face with berry juice. I’m glad he had the chance to experience a unique culture he might never have if we hadn’t visited the Amazon.

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About Indigenous Peoples

Some international organizations and human rights groups have questioned the humanity of tourist attractions involving the indigenous and suggested that they are exploitative. As someone who has worked with the indigenous and documented indigenous issues, I support efforts to promote indigenous rights and applaud the efforts of governments, human rights organizations, and indigenous groups to improve their living conditions. I also favor allowing indigenous groups to support themselves legally as they wish. If they freely, without exploitation or prejudice by outside influence, determine that it is in their best interest to develop tourist attractions that showcase their cultures, they should be legally permitted to do so. It not only brings in much-needed revenue but promotes greater understanding of and preservation of indigenous cultures.

Click here to read about the Kayan-Lahwi (Karen or “Long-Neck” people) of Thailand and Burma

Click here to read about the Akha of Thailand and Burma

Click here to read about the Guaraní and Exnet of Paraguay

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More About the Amazon

Click here to read about Manaus, Brazil.

Click here to read about piranhas, a well-known fish native to the Amazon.

Click here to read about the Amazon River.

Click here to read about the Amazon EcoPark Jungle Lodge.

Click here to read about an Amazon monkey reserve.

Click here to read about the Meeting of the Waters in the Amazon.

Click here to read about the Amazon rainforest.

 

About Alexander the Salamander

clip_image0023A young salamander named Alexander living in the Amazon River Basin joins his friends Airey the Butterfly and Terry the Tarantula for an unforgettable jungle adventure. Come along with Alexander and friends as they meet birds, monkeys, and other creatures, enjoy the beauty of the rainforest, and face danger along the way.

The first book in the World Adventurers for Kids Series, Alexander the Salamander is an illustrated story inspired by the authors’ visit to the Amazon in 2008. Fun for kids and adults alike, the story teaches children the importance of listening to teachers and other authority figures.

M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories and Alexander the Salamander, a children’s story set in the Amazon. His books are available to purchase as an e-book and in print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2013 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Amazon Nature Walk


This is the seventh article in a series about the Amazon region of Brazil featured in my illustrated picture book, Alexander the Salamander. This post is about a nature walk in the Amazon. Previous ones highlighted the Amazon River, the Meeting of the Waters, the city of Manaus, Amazon Ecopark, piranhas, and a monkey reserve. The next and final article will focus on the Amazon’s indigenous groups. Enjoy these travelogues with photos and stories from one of the world’s mightiest rivers.

During our visit to the Amazon region in July 2008, we took a long walk in the rainforest to explore under its canopy. The trained guides who led us through the jungle showed us a bevvy of interesting flora and fauna with so many useful properties that the walk was like exploring a natural laboratory. The promise and danger of this intriguing rainforest gave me a health respect for it. Our walk was a major inspiration for my children’s picture book, Alexander the Salamander, where Alexander and his friends get more than they bargained for when they wander too far into the Amazon rainforest.

As we walked, the guides demonstrated how some trees and plants produced a variety of compounds and substances that were poisonous, medicinal, flammable, or could be used or consumed by humans. Our guides showed us edible and poisonous fruit that looked startlingly similar to the untrained eye. They sampled sap from trees that could be used as a salve to treat wounds or as fuel for torches. One tree had bark that smelled like fragrant incense when burned. Another produced berries used in cosmetics. Years of exploration had uncovered many potential uses for the rainforest, convincing me that what we were seeing was just a glimpse of what this green realm offered.

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My son was awestruck handling a fiery sap-fueled stick while my wife tried on bright orange nail polish made from small round berries.

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Our guides showed us how a tree commonly known as the “telegraph” tree produced a loud echo that could be used to send coded messages over long distances. The forest’s acoustics easily beat any home theater system.

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They also pointed out parasitic vines and foliage that grew from or wrapped themselves around trees in a delicate dance where both grew dependent on one another.

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The guide pointed out some potential pitfalls, including plants with thorns sharper than needles and plants with poisonous or hallucinogenic properties capable of killing humans. We skirted a dark swamp hiding all sorts of nasties waiting for an unlucky trespasser. I was glad that we went with guides who knew how to avoid the Amazon’s pitfalls.

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The guides made the walk more fun by showing us how plants and trees could be used for leisure. My son, who fancied himself the king of this jungle, loved the crown and glasses one of the guides fashioned from palm fronds.

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My son and I both enjoyed swinging on a makeshift swing made from vines and sticks. The living vines were so strong that they easily bore my weight as I swung through the jungle like Tarzan!

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Our tour of the Amazon rainforest taught us a healthy respect for this place filled with wonders yet to be discovered and unseen dangers lurking in dark corners.

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More About the Amazon

Click here to read about Manaus, Brazil.

Click here to read about piranhas, a well-known fish native to the Amazon.

Click here to read about the Amazon River.

Click here to read about the Amazon EcoPark Jungle Lodge.

Click here to read about an Amazon monkey reserve.

Click here to read about the Meeting of the Waters.

About Alexander the Salamander

clip_image0023[2]A young salamander named Alexander living in the Amazon River Basin joins his friends Airey the Butterfly and Terry the Tarantula for an unforgettable jungle adventure. Come along with Alexander and friends as they meet birds, monkeys, and other creatures, enjoy the beauty of the rainforest, and face danger along the way.

The first book in the World Adventurers for Kids Series, Alexander the Salamander is an illustrated story inspired by the authors’ visit to the Amazon in 2008. Fun for kids and adults alike, the story teaches children the importance of listening to teachers and other authority figures.

M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories and Alexander the Salamander, a children’s story set in the Amazon. His books are available to purchase as an e-book and in print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2013 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Meeting of the Waters in the Amazon


This is the sixth article in a series about the Amazon region of Brazil featured in my illustrated picture book, Alexander the Salamander. This one is about the Meeting of the Waters. Previous travelogues highlighted the Amazon River, the city of Manaus, Amazon Ecopark, piranhas, and a monkey reserve. Upcoming articles will focus on the rainforest and indigenous peoples. Enjoy these travelogues with photos and stories from one of the world’s mightiest rivers.

The Meeting of the Waters, where two major tributaries, the Rio Negro and Rio Solimões, merge and form the Amazon River, is a sight to behold. Like the convergence of the Blue and White Nile rivers in Africa, the collision of these rivers is a spectacular mixture of color that looks like a blend of black coffee and milk tea. The darker Rio Negro with its decaying, organic debris and foliage flows into the light brown Rio Solimões. The result is a swirl of lighter and darker water that ebbs and flows for more than six miles downstream like yin and yang.

Differences in the temperature, speed, and water density create a boundary between the two rivers that continues like an impenetrable wall until the Rio Negro is finally absorbed by the Solimões. The slower-moving water of the Rio Negro flows about two kilometers per hour at a temperature of 28°C (82°F) while the Solimões moves up to six kilometers per hour at 22°C (72°F).

In July 2008, we took a river cruise from the Amazon Eco-Park Jungle Lodge to see this phenomenon. The swirling mixture of water looked almost potable. Almost. Our boat cruised for a while up and down the snaking line, giving us the chance to snap photos. I watched in amazement as the Gemini twins battled for supremacy. The Solimões was the more aggressive of the two. Sometimes it made some gains; sometimes the Negro rebuffed its advance.

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Our cruise boat departed the Meeting of the Waters about noon and passed through shallow water of a channel on the Rio Solimões. I wondered whether the trees protruding from the water were tall or the boat was close to scraping the riverbed.

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We stopped for lunch at a small village not far from the Meeting of the Waters. It was just half an hour downstream from the city of Manaus but felt a world away. With no motorized vehicles that I could tell, the residents relied on their feet and boats to get around. The church and school were the main buildings in the small, dry earthen square shaded by stately palms.

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The locals seemed industrious and enterprising. They helped the tourists who disembarked to eat and browse the large gift shop filled with handmade souvenirs like stuffed and mounted piranhas that were presumably made by the villagers. I’m sure the residents earned a healthy income from the steady stream of tourists who visited each year. Others were busy working on the dock, farming, or fishing.

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I saw one villager making rubber from the sap of a rubber tree. After tapping the tree with cuts that looked like slashes from a bear’s claws, the man collected the oozing white substance in a container and melted it into a large ball on a stick. I assumed that he was gathering the rubber to sell to a manufacturer or broker.

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We returned to the Meeting of the Waters in the afternoon and followed the Rio Negro upstream past Manaus to our resort. Another day in the Amazon introduced us to yet more facets of this fascinating place.

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More About the Amazon

Click here to read about Manaus, Brazil.

Click here to read about piranhas, a well-known fish native to the Amazon.

Click here to read about the Amazon River.

Click here to read about the Amazon EcoPark Jungle Lodge.

Click here to read about an Amazon monkey reserve.

About Alexander the Salamander

clip_image002A young salamander named Alexander living in the Amazon River Basin joins his friends Airey the Butterfly and Terry the Tarantula for an unforgettable jungle adventure. Come along with Alexander and friends as they meet birds, monkeys, and other creatures, enjoy the beauty of the rainforest, and face danger along the way.

The first book in the World Adventurers for Kids Series, Alexander the Salamander is an illustrated story inspired by the authors’ visit to the Amazon in 2008. Fun for kids and adults alike, the story teaches children the importance of listening to teachers and other authority figures.

M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories and Alexander the Salamander, a children’s story set in the Amazon. His books are available to purchase as an e-book and in print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2013 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Amazon Monkey Reserve


This is the fifth article in a series about the Amazon region of Brazil featured in my illustrated picture book, Alexander the Salamander. This one is about a monkey reserve in the Amazon. Previous posts highlighted the Amazon River, the city of Manaus, Amazon Ecopark, and piranhas, a well-known fish native to the Amazon. Upcoming articles will focus on the rainforest and indigenous peoples. Enjoy these travelogues with photos and stories from one of the world’s mightiest rivers.

Not far from the Amazon EcoPark Jungle Lodge on the banks of the Tarumã River lies a sanctuary for monkeys that have been orphaned, injured, or confiscated from illegal dealers. The dozens of primates who are rehabilitated and, if possible, released back into the wild find respite there from the harsh reality of the jungle. Visiting the reserve managed by the Amazon EcoPark and spending time with its friendly residents was one of the highlights of our trip to the Amazon region.

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The gray woolly monkeys, one of two genera of monkey at the reserve, greeted us upon arrival. Their name comes from their thick, wool-like fur that beckoned to be touched. Their longing eyes looked at us for hand outs with an eagerness that cast a spell over even the most calloused visitor.

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The gray monkeys are cousins to the brown, or common woolly monkey, the Colombian woolly monkey, and the silvery woolly monkey that live together in the same areas of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela.

Even though we didn’t feed them, a job we left to their caretakers, the woolly monkeys still mingled with our group. One took a liking to my young son, who fearlessly pet its soft fur.

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We also encountered red bald uakari monkeys. These were more timid and reserved than their woolly counterparts, preferring to linger in trees and making wide berths around our group. These distinctive creatures are from one of four species of uakari (pronounced “wakari”), the others being the black-headed uakari, Ayres black uakari and Neblina uakari. This one inspired the character “Manny the Monkey” in my book Alexander the Salamander.

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Both woolly and uakari monkeys prefer to spend most of their time in trees, although the reserve’s inhabitants might have been an exception because they seemed to spend much of their time milling about on the ground with the humans.  The woolly monkeys had long, strong tails that allowed them to balance and swing from limb to limb without using their hands, while the uakari’s strong arms and legs helped them jump long distances from tree to tree. Both used their arms and legs when they walked on the ground around us. It was fun watching them swinging in the trees as if putting on an acrobatic show.

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I watched the monkeys lounge around and eating food. Meal time was a shared free for all. The two species seemed to get along well as de facto neighbors in the reserve. None of them fought over their lunch and seemed content with their fair share, although I’m sure they’ve had food fights and monkeyed around.

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While some might disapprove of the close interaction between humans and monkeys and tourists wanting to pet and take photos with these creatures, I appreciated the efforts of the Lodge to help rescue and rehabilitate them. Their populations range from vulnerable to endangered because of legal and illegal hunting and habitat loss caused by deforestation, and the sanctuary’s efforts will help the monkeys survive for generations to come.

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Map picture

More About the Amazon

Click here to read about Manaus.

Click here to read about piranhas.

Click here to read about the Amazon River.

Click here to read about the Amazon EcoPark Jungle Lodge.

Visit A-Z Animals for more information about woolly and uakari monkeys.

About Alexander the Salamander

clip_image002A young salamander named Alexander living in the Amazon River Basin joins his friends Airey the Butterfly and Terry the Tarantula for an unforgettable jungle adventure. Come along with Alexander and friends as they meet birds, monkeys, and other creatures, enjoy the beauty of the rainforest, and face danger along the way.

The first book in the World Adventurers for Kids Series, Alexander the Salamander is an illustrated story inspired by the authors’ visit to the Amazon in 2008. Fun for kids and adults alike, the story teaches children the importance of listening to teachers and other authority figures.

 

M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories and Alexander the Salamander, a children’s story set in the Amazon. His books are available to purchase as an e-book and in print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

An Eco-Resort in the Amazon


This is the fourth article in a series about the Amazon region of Brazil featured in my illustrated picture book, Alexander the Salamander. This one is about the Amazon Ecopark. Previous posts highlighted the Amazon River, the city of Manaus, Brazil and piranhas, a well-known fish native to the Amazon. Upcoming articles will focus on its rainforest, indigenous groups, and wildlife. Enjoy these travelogues with photos and stories from one of the world’s mightiest rivers.

An hour-long boat ride upriver from Manaus brought us to the Amazon Ecopark Jungle Lodge, an eco-resort on the Tarumã River, a tributary of the Amazon that flows into one of the main branches of the Rio Negro.

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Nestled in a quiet cove, the lodge was our home for five days in July 2008. When we arrived, I thought we had been stranded on Gilligan’s Island until we saw the carved wooden sign near the dock confirming that we were in the right place.

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The site was only accessible by water, and I felt like we were being marooned in the jungle until a boat took us back to civilization.

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The Ecopark offered plenty to see and do in the small area where we were permitted to wander without a guide (not that I had any desire to get lost in the jungle, mind you). We could walk on the beach, enjoy the view, or swim in the cove – an opportunity that my family reluctantly avoided. Other visitors were brave enough to take a dip, but we weren’t about to swim with the caimans, piranhas or needlefish. Instead, we walked around the lodge and snapped photos.

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The beautiful scenery whispered “Amazon,” coaxing me to tell its story and inspiring me to write Alexander the Salamander. The still pool of water from a small stream made an idyllic backdrop for the creatures featured in the book.

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Unplugged with no Internet or phone access that would have made ardent tech addicts stir crazy, the lodge made up for it with leisure activities. My son and I enjoyed many a game of pool and chess. While he had some trouble getting the pool stick to connect with the cue ball, the little chess whiz beat his dad over and over.

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Once in a while, dad got the upper hand.

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The Ecopark offered several off-site excursions to introduce visitors to the Amazon, including boat cruises to an indigenous village and the Meeting of the Waters at the confluence of the Rio Negro and Rio Solimões; rainforest hikes; visits to a monkey sanctuary; piranha fishing; and nighttime animal spotting. During a moonlight cruise, our guide suddenly sprang from the boat onto the shore and caught a small caiman that he showed us and later released. I marveled how he found saw glint in the creature’s eyes in near darkness.

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Before and after a long day of touring, we retreated to the dining hall for dinner or to the lounge for drinks. I still remember the caipirinhas I enjoyed on the veranda overlooking the cove as my wife sipped on margaritas and tropical juices. My son enjoyed the juices but liked playing with the tiny cocktail parasols even more.

Local residents occasionally popped by for a visit. A large lizard searching for dinner crossed our path. We steered clear of a parrot and macaw that hung around the bar. While they were the inspirations for the characters Polly and Molly in Alexander the Salamander, these one were quite aggressive. Molly the Macaw was downright ornery, shooing away visitors wherever she landed.

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The Amazon Ecopark Jungle Lodge is just one of many resorts along the Amazon’s many tributaries. Other resorts offer similar amenities. We enjoyed its ambiance, activities, price, and close proximity to Manaus. We were grateful that was located on the mosquito-free Rio Negro, where the high acidity from decaying vegetation and low oxygen content prevents mosquitos from breeding. Although we contended with our fair share of spiders, ants and other jungle critters, the bloodsuckers left us alone.

Map picture

 

More About the Amazon

Click here to read about Manaus.

Click here to read about piranhas.

Click here to read about the Amazon River.

Click here to watch the Amazon Eco-Park’s promotional video.

 

About Alexander the Salamander

clip_image002A young salamander named Alexander living in the Amazon River Basin joins his friends Airey the Butterfly and Terry the Tarantula for an unforgettable jungle adventure. Come along with Alexander and friends as they meet birds, monkeys, and other creatures, enjoy the beauty of the rainforest, and face danger along the way.

The first book in the World Adventurers for Kids Series, Alexander the Salamander is an illustrated story inspired by the authors’ visit to the Amazon in 2008. Fun for kids and adults alike, the story teaches children the importance of listening to teachers and other authority figures.

 

M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories and Alexander the Salamander, a children’s story set in the Amazon. His books are available to purchase as an e-book and in print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

The Amazon River


This is the third article in a series about the Amazon region of Brazil featured in my illustrated picture book, Alexander the Salamander. This one is about the Amazon River. Previous posts highlighted the city of Manaus, Brazil and piranhas, a well-known fish native to the Amazon. Upcoming articles will focus on the rainforest, indigenous groups and wildlife in the area, and the Amazon Ecopark, an eco-resort. Enjoy these travelogues with photos and stories from one of the world’s mightiest rivers.

The day after we arrived in Manaus, we boarded a small green wooden motorboat with our luggage and headed about 25 kilometers up the Rio Negro to the Amazon Ecopark. The aging vessel was driven by a kindly Brazilian man who spoke no English but smiled a lot and helped us with our baggage. My son, wife, and I were the only passengers on the watercraft designed to hold 12 people plus luggage stowed in the aft. I chuckled at the sight of our bags lounging with a bird’s eye view of the river.

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As the city of Manaus disappeared on the horizon, the rainforest surrounded us and left me transfixed on its emerald beauty. The wake behind the boat blended in artistically with the swirling clouds.

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I’d seen other tropical forests, but the allure of the Amazon played with my mind and made the scenery utterly magical. The excitement of being in an almost-mythical place that I dreamed of visiting as a child grew as the boat glided deeper into the wilderness.

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The occasional bungalow and sagging structure along the waterfront reminded me that we hadn’t quite left civilization behind.

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More powerful boats zipped by us, throwing waves in our path and jostling our craft. I dreaded to think what we would find in the river if we fell overboard.

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Half an hour later, the boat slowed and veered away from the Rio Negro into a channel that took us to our resort hidden in a cove. The calm, serene water mirrored the rainforest that pressed in on us from all sides.

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The afternoon faded and the sun set behind the trees, casting its golden rays through the breaking clouds. The shadows deepened, painting the landscape in dark hues that blurred the outlines of the sky, forest, and river. Aside from the rumble of the outboard motor that sounded taxed by the hour-long journey from Manaus, the jungle was quiet. Life was all around us, but the stillness was deafening when the motor cut out.

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2008_07_17 Brazil Amazon River

During our five days in the Amazon, we ventured up and down the lifeblood of the rainforest. The melding of trees, plants, wildlife, river and sky instilled a sense of natural harmony. I was grateful to have experienced this wondrous place in person, albeit as an outsider looking in.

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More About the Amazon

Click here to read about Manaus.

Click here to read about piranhas.

Map picture

About Alexander the Salamander

clip_image002A young salamander named Alexander living in the Amazon River Basin joins his friends Airey the Butterfly and Terry the Tarantula for an unforgettable jungle adventure. Come along with Alexander and friends as they meet birds, monkeys, and other creatures, enjoy the beauty of the rainforest, and face danger along the way.

The first book in the World Adventurers for Kids Series, Alexander the Salamander is an illustrated story inspired by the authors’ visit to the Amazon in 2008. Fun for kids and adults alike, the story teaches children the importance of listening to teachers and other authority figures.

M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories and Alexander the Salamander, a children’s story set in the Amazon. His books are available to purchase as an e-book and in print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Piranhas!


This is the second in a series about the Amazon region of Brazil featured in my illustrated picture book, Alexander the Salamander. This post is about piranhas, a well-known fish native to South America. Upcoming articles will focus on the Amazon River Basin, the rainforest, indigenous groups and wildlife in the Amazon, and eco-resorts. Enjoy these travelogues with photos and stories from the world’s largest rainforest.

They lurk in the dark waters of the Amazon River, elusive but potentially deadly with their razor-sharp teeth that can tear into flesh. They swim in schools, but their curriculum is survival by finding innocent victims to eat. They are attracted by the scent and sight of blood floating in the water, and when they attack, they swarm and subdue prey through death by a thousand bites.

They are the PIRANHAS! Deadly, dangerous piranhas! Be careful…do not go into the water!

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I’m kidding…sort of. The perception of piranhas as prone to aggressive behavior when it comes to feeding may be true, but their reputation as bloodthirsty, rapacious killers is overblown. The image of these members of the Characidae family that movies such as the 1978 film Piranha and its spawn — most recently Piranha 3DD — portray outstrips what these fish can really do. They certainly aren’t as docile as my buddy Percy the Piranha featured in Alexander the Salamander, who nibbles Alexander on the nose to say hello.

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They are predators, scavengers, and even herbivores, and there have been confirmed cases of people killed by piranhas. However, the fish are also prey for other animals higher up on the food chain, including the cormorants, caimans, dolphins, and humans.

Humans? Certainly. Humans kill and consume far more piranhas than the other way around. When we visited the Amazon River Basin in July 2008, we went piranha fishing. Floating in a skiff in the murky waters of a tributary, we dangled raw beef cubes as bait from fishing poles and snagged some. An unorthodox means to catch fish for sure, but it worked. We caught a couple large ones and ate them for dinner. They were tasty but quite boney.

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The face and gills were the only remnants after we finished feasting on them.

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Piranhas make a good prop when you tell your friends at home that you went piranha fishing. The dried and lacquered fish mounted on wood stands made by local souvenir vendors are great desk ornaments, especially the red-bellied piranha reputed to be the most ferocious of all. Here my son holds up mounted red-bellied and gray piranhas. He wasn’t scared of them in spite of their wide, toothy grins staring at him.

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2008_07_18 Brazil Piranhas (10)

Piranhas also make good key chains, although their teeth have a tendency to catch on clothing. I didn’t see any piranha Christmas tree ornaments, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to swap the key chain for a hook.

No trip to the Amazon would be complete without a piranha fishing expedition or souvenir. Before you go overboard and jump in to swim with them, however, consider this — the most feared fish in the Amazon isn’t the piranha. It’s the candirú, also known as the toothpick or vampire fish, a parasitic catfish with a lethal reputation for invading the internal organs of fish, animals, and humans and feeding on blood and tissue. Best stay out of the water.

About Alexander the Salamander

A young salamander named Alexander living in the Amazon River Basin joins his friends Airey the Butterfly and Terry the Tarantula for an unforgettable jungle adventure. Come along with Alexander and friends as they meet birds, monkeys, and other creatures, enjoy the beauty of the rainforest, and face danger along the way.

The first book in the World Adventurers for Kids Series, Alexander the Salamander is an illustrated story inspired by the authors’ visit to the Amazon in 2008. Fun for kids and adults alike, the story teaches children the importance of listening to teachers and other authority figures.

clip_image002M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories and Alexander the Salamander, a children’s story set in the Amazon. His books are available to purchase as an e-book and in print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.