The insanity continued in Manaus. When we get there, they tell us they can only let 50 people off the plane at a time. This actually doesn’t seem that unreasonable, obviously customs doesn’t want too long of a line at once. Well, that made sense until you get to where you claim your luggage, only to discover that everyone let off before you is in a mad scramble trying to find their luggage, half the pieces have been removed from the belt, and more luggage is still coming out. We actually did pretty well, 3 of our pieces were already in the room (scattered around), and the 4th came up pretty quick. After maneuvering around all the people still looking for luggage, we passed a very short line for the guy collecting the customs declaration form. While I’m not necessarily arguing, this guy basically just collected the form, not even glancing at it. You could have written anything on it, and he wouldn’t have cared. Princess then collected our luggage to take to the ship, and collected our passports and the immigration form, and sent us on to a bus to to the ship. That’s it, and we’re now in the country without a single Brazilian official even glancing at the passport (although they’re supposed to be reviewed and the visas stamped while we’re on the ship). Oh, and if I ever see an Omni Air plane again, it’ll be too soon. If Princess tries to put me on one again, I’ll cancel the cruise.
Things definitely started picking up from here. We got on the bus to the ship, about a 25-30 minute trip, and had a guide that talked abuot Manaus and some of the things we were passing. We’d heard rumours that Princess really didn’t have a plan for the incoming passengers and would just put us in a room somewhere until we could board the ship, but it turned out we were able to get on immediately. They did sequester us in a room until our cabins were ready, but it was fairly civilized, and pastries and some drinks were provided. We weren’t even there an hour before we were released to go to the cabins and do whatever we wanted.
Hit the cabin to drop our stuff off, and then we decided we’d go ahead and walk into the city. Headed out, and there was a long line on our way out for the ATM, so figured we’d either find one in the city or stop by on the way back (We needed Brazilian Reals to pay for our tour the next day). Outside the port terminal the streets are kind of a marketplace, lined with stalls selling stuff. And we’re talking about a wide variety of things. One stall would be selling remote controls, the next cell phones, the next rope, the next hardware type things, then another cell phone place, you get the picture. Several places selling things like Christmas lights and other holiday decor (and just imagine how out of place it looks to be seeing places selling things that have snowmen on them in the middle of the Amazon rain forest). None of this stuff was really looking to sell to tourists, this was all geared towards locals. Personally, I have a hard time imagining shopping for things like that. And the sidewalks were incredibly crowded. We headed uphill from the port, past what I think was the Manaus Cathedral, and in the direction of the Manaus Opera building. This is supposedly a pretty neat place, and apparently is actually used quite a bit. Outside, they were working on preparing for a large Christmas show they hold. We didn’t actually go in, although we might have had problems catching a tour in English we found out later from someone that had looked into it.
From there we just headed back down the streets back towards the ships. We were already feeling the heat of the midday (Hey, remember, it was about 18 degrees when we left Detroit). Even having taken water with us and it just being a short trip off the ship, it was still hitting us. By the time we got back to the port I was starting to get some leg cramping (and man, for an hour or so after I got back to the room, it got real bad). So obviously I wasn’t getting enough water. We did stop to try the ATM in the port building. There seemed to be two there, one that seemed to be mainly local banks, that all the locals used, and another from HSBC that none of the locals used. Course, I think all the locals were probably laughing at us as us and another American couple spent quite some time trying to figure out an ATM that was in Portuguese. Someone finally stumbled across an option to have it show English, so we were able to get the money we needed.
After a couple of hours relaxing, and finding an afternoon snack, Cathy decided we needed to head out again and look through some of the places selling stuff to see if she could find anything she wanted. She also wanted to try walking down to where the old French market was, where we’d passed a large fruit, vegetable, and meat market on our way in on the bus. Didn’t make it all the way there, but did get a brief look at the French market (although you can only sorta see it, supposedly they were doing some restoration on it, and discovered something that’s caused progress to stop).
Manaus is definitely a different city from what we’re used to. In the middle of the Amazon rain forest, it’s a city of almost 2 /million people. There’s a lot of old architecture that’s been reused for stuff, but also a lot that has been gutted and is sitting vacant. I wouldn’t say it’s the cleanest city in the world either, there was definitely evidence of rats. (And apparently, it’s not unreasonable for a kid to decide to urinate on a tree along the side of the road.) During the day, the areas we were in I felt fairly safe, but I don’t know if I’d necessarily want to wander those same streets at night (but I wouldn’t say that that’s any different than plenty of other cities we’ve been in). It’s actually on the Rio Negro, not the Amazon, just a little upriver from where it does join the Amazon. People here seem to be perfectly content to travel between cities on boats that are very crowded, take several days to get to where they’re going, and you need to bring a hammock if you want somewhere to sleep. And it seemed like everyone in the city near the port was selling tickets for these boats. And you can tell it’s the rainforest, at one point it was pretty clear, then all of a sudden a wall of rain swept through, then cleared up pretty quick.
The show on the ship that night was a local cultural show, done by some local dancers. Apparently it covered the evolution of dance in Brazil. It was mildy entertaining, but I don’t know that I’d say that the dancing was particularly skillful. After that it was off to bed, because it’d been a long couple of days and we had to get up pretty early the next morning for a tour.