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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2008_07_17 Brazil Amazon Indigenous

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.

2008_07_08 Brazil Amazon Nature Walk

Map picture

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.

2012_07_20 Brazil Amazon Meeting

Map picture

 

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.