Thursday, August 28, 2014

Getting Your Driver License in São Paulo State

Hello!

So I just typed this out for a friend and I decided to share it here on the blog, too.
If you are a foreigner who already has your driver license from your home country (and if your home country is one of Brazil's approved license transfer countries), these are the tips for how to transfer over your driver license in the state of São Paulo.

Since I had to go 3 times, I learned a bit about the system. (The first time I went, the agency was on strike -- surprise! -- with no reports about it on the news or anything.)
On my third (successful) visit, the employee told me that it's hard to do the foreigner process in the computer so the employees will do everything in their power to find an excuse not to do it. That's her theory as to why the lady on my second visit told me that I had to get my translation "fixed" (she is apparently a government certified translator?) because the dates were "wrong" (since, you know, we put the month first in the US. That seriously  happened). If the employee tries to give you a hard time, ask her if you can try with someone else or talk to a manager (if you can maintain your patience).

1. You have to go on the DETRAN website and schedule an appointment (agendamento).  Not all cities have the ability to do this foreigner driver license transfer, so the agendamento site will show you the offices you're allowed to go to based on your address. (This page also gives the list of the approved countries.) At least at my local office, they don't respect the times very well so it's better to schedule an earlier time, because if you schedule a later time, you'll wait longer (since the line of people slowly builds up). I had a 2pm appointment once and I had to wait like 2 hours, just to be turned away (see below). I made the next one at 9am and I only waited about 30 minutes for the first part.


Try this direct link: https://www.e-cnhsp.sp.gov.br/gefor/GFR/candidato/cadastro/preCadastro.do?method=iniciarEstrangeiro




If it doesn't open, try this link: https://www.e-cnhsp.sp.gov.br/

On the left side of the page, choose " Registro de CNH Estrangeira"



2. Follow the rules from the website (it seems that they've recently changed it because it's so much better!!!!).  The link to the website is here: http://detran.sp.gov.br/wps/portal/portaldetran/cidadao/habilitacao/fichaservico/cnhExteriorNaoSignatarios

As you can see on the list, you need to bring:
-the proof of your schedule appointment (the paper that you print out when you do your "agendamento"
- your original driver license from your home country (it cannot be expired!)
- a certified, cartório copy of your driver license
-your original RNE
-a certified, cartório copy of your RNE
-your original passport
-a certified, cartório copy of the relevant parts of your passport
-your original CPF
-a certified, cartório copy of your CPF
- an original bill in your name that's no more than 3 months old as proof of address
- a certified, cartório copy of that bill
-your original tradução juramentada of the driver license
- a certified copy of that tradução juramentada
NOTE: If the translator did not stamp his/her state translator ID number on the translation, look it up online before you go and print out the government page. (I had this problem)

NOTE: Your home country license has to have some kind of "date issued" or "first date of having a driver license" on it, not just an expiration date. If it doesn't have a date like that, you need some kind of documentation from your home country saying when you legally started to drive there. Good freakin' luck.

If they accept all your documents (if!!!), you'll take your picture that day, so make sure you do your hair before you go. :) They'll also take your fingerprints. Then they give you a list of things you need to do (which I've also outlined for you below).


3. You have to get a "medical exam" at a place that DETRAN approves of. I believe they gave me the address. At least the place where I had to go didn't take appointments, so I  just had to go in the morning and wait in line. (I think the whole process took me about 2 hours that day.) Oh, and you have to pay for this exam in cash. I think it was 60 or 70 reais. I remember that DETRAN told me one amount but it had gone up like 12 reais so I had to go to the bank and withdraw more money. Oh, and take any DETRAN paperwork that you have with you to this appointment.

The doctor just asks you dumb questions and then makes you do some simple eye tests. Then he signs a paper that gives you permission to do the "exame psicotécnico".

While still at the doctor's office, you take your signed paper from the doctor (and proof of payment) to a registrar/receptionist who confirms all of your DETRAN paperwork and then gives you a paper that has the name and address of the place where you have to do your "exame psicotécnico". You have to call that place to schedule the appointment.


4. When you go to the exame psicotécnico, you again have to bring all of your DETRAN / exame médico paperwork. I didn't take it all with me the first time and I had to reschedule. (GRAHHHH!)

The exam is horrifyingly simplistic; you have to do things like draw lines on a piece of paper that are all the same size for 30 seconds. You have to look at a list of circles, triangles, and squares and circle all of the triangles. Seriously.
Then they correct your test and give you another paper to show that you're approved. (I think the whole thing took about 90 minutes.)
I don't remember how/when I paid for the exame psicotécnico. It was either at the moment that I was approved at the doctor's office, or it was at the exame psicotécnico office. But it was about R$80.

5.  Then you have to pay a fee to process your driver license. This fee is called "Emissão de CNH - Registro de Transferência".  I think you can only pay it at Banco do Brasil, even though the site says differently. (At least I tried to pay it at my bank, Santander, and they said I couldn't.)  If you look at the new website (link here again), it says you can even pay it via online banking now. Good luck.

I waited in line at Banco do Brasil and paid in cash. I think it was about R$70. You have to have your RNE and CPF with you when you pay this bill so they can put your info on a receipt. They give you this receipt. Keep it and get a certified copy of it.

6. You take the paperwork and proof of being approved everywhere back to DETRAN, along with your receipt and certified copy of the receipt from step 5.  You don't have to schedule an appointment this time. You just turn in your paperwork, and then they give you a little paper saying "you can pick up your driver license on the following day" and they write a date.
7. On that date or after, you go back and pick up your license! No driver test! No driving schools!

The process is completely asinine but also not that bad compared to the marriage / permanent residency process.  Stop driving illegally and get it done!! :D

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Books Danielle Read in 2013

I know, we're almost in February 2014 and I'm just now getting around to telling you all about the books I read in 2013. I did this for 2011 and 2012, so I'd like to continue the tradition.

2013 was the year of health food books. I can't believe how many I read. I'm actually kind of burnt out on the topic. In fact, I read so many that I'm going to put the books I read into two lists: fiction and non-fiction. Again, they'll be in order of how much I liked them. 

I face a sort of dilemma when choosing books to read: I'm cheap and I love the free books available on Amazon.com for the Kindle, but I'm also a stickler for grammar rules and almost all of these free books are not edited, so they're full of typos and grammatical mistakes. What's a girl to do?

Fiction

The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Diaz
Excellent writing. I just...I can't even.  Diaz is the most creative writer I've encountered in recent memory. I love the way his brain works. But a warning: if your brain is not also a mix of languages, a mish-mosh of formal words and offensive slang, then this is not the book for you.

Anywhere but Here - Mona Simspon
I loved this, but I'm biased. Also, I watched the movie after, and think the movie is totally different and I don't recommend it. (If you've already seen the movie, read the book, because the mother-daughter relationship is a completely different dynamic.)

Sula - Toni Morrison
This has always been one of my favorite books. I reread it for the first time in a few years. I liked it less, but I also liked different things about it this time.

Beloved - Toni Morrison
I hadn't read this since high school, and I appreciated it much more now that I'm older and smarter.

This is How You Lose Her - Junot Diaz 
Also excellent Diaz. Here's a quote that I identified with:

"They're young, sent to the States by their parents. The same age I was when I arrived; they see me now, twenty-eight, five years here, as a veteran, a rock, but back then, in those first days, I was so alone that every day was like eating my own heart."

I will say, though, that the narrator's conclusion (i.e., his answer to his self-exploration about why he cheats on women) wasn't great.

Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
I got through this the month of my arm surgery, when I couldn't drive or type or cook or go to the gym. It was just lovely. It's one of those books that are truly timeless; like, even though it was written almost 150 years ago, the characters still feel so universal and relate-able.

Less than Zero - Bret Easton Ellis
Hard to read sometimes (shocking), but a really well-written account of late 1980s Los Angeles youth culture. It gave me nightmares, but it was an important book that needed to be written and read.

Teaching a Stone to Talk - Anne Dillard
Her writing is exact and beautiful. She attacks Big Ideas. But I'm not sure if this should be on the fiction list. The book is more of a series of essays. I was curious about this book because a writer I like, Jennifer Pastiloff, recommended her, and because a singer I like, Mariee Sioux, uses that title in one of her songs.  There's not much plot to the essays (they're more nature- or philosophy-based musings), but if you just want to see a writer flex her rhetorical muscle, then this book is a good choice.

Life of Pi - Yann Martel
This became a movie soon after I read it. The book is sweet and beautiful. It was enjoyable, even though I got disappointed as I got further along and realized it was fiction. A Brazilian author says the American author stole his idea.

The Art of Racing in the Rain - Garth Stein
The family dog is the narrator of the family's problems. The book is creative for that reason, but the problems are a little Lifetime-Movie-ish.

Winter of the World - Ken Follett
Yes, we love Jen Follett. While none of his other books compare to "Pillars of the Earth," this one about WWII was still enjoyable. The amount of research he must do astounds me.

The Daughters of Caleb Bender (3 Books) - Dale Cramer
The first of this series was free on Amazon, but I got hooked on it. It's an unexpectedly good series about an Amish family that goes to live in Mexico. I learned a lot about Amish people, and I was pleased that the author didn't assume that all of his readers would be very religious.

Waiting for Summer's Return - Kim Vogel Sawyer
Another lucky find in the free Amazon books. It's religious fiction, but the story is historically interesting and believable. I learned a lot about Mennonites and early German immigrants in the US.

Flight Behavior - Barbara Kingsolver
I don't know if I'm just getting older or if Barbara Kingsolver is getting worse, but I like each book of hers less and less. This book was also sooo preachy about global warming. Yawn.

Maya's Notebook - Isabel Allende
Yes, OK, Isabel Allende produces quality writing and stories. I enjoyed this one, but one thing annoyed me: the book is supposed to be the main character's diary, but the style/format is not like a diary at all. No one writes that much detail and dialogue in their diaries. If she'd just taken that part out and made it a first-person narrative, the book would have been much better.

The Profiler's Daughter - P.M. Steffen 
Free Amazon book, what whaaaat? It's like an episode of Law and Order or Criminal Minds in book form. The author is a good storyteller and the characters are well thought-out. There are just soooo mannyyy typos and grammar mistakes!! There's a sequel coming out and I'm curious so I'll read it, but I hope she pays an editor for the second book.

The Third Twin - Ken Follett
Good quality because it's Ken Follett, but not as good as the other ones. I figured out the mystery halfway through, and I'm not good at that at all. 

Rain and Revelation - Therese Pautz
Decent, and it had a good ending, but kind of a forgettable book.

The Woman Upstairs - Claire Messud
I liked some things about this book, but I'm currently annoyed with modern American writers in general, and this book as a metonymy. First, every upper-middle-class American thinks they have written the Next Great Novel. The annoyance of this first fact is compounded by the fact that all of these novels are so whiny about first-world problems. My friend Jen put it best when she referred to these novels as "insular."

Bundle of Joy? - Ariella Papa
Cute read; creative, well written (but some you're/your typos!). I have been reading it with my ESL students and they really enjoy it.

Wedding Girl - Madeline Wickham (aka Sophie Kinsella)
A little cheesy and predictable but impossible to put down, just like all of Sophia Kinsella's other novels.

Are You Lonesome Tonight? - Bobby Hutchinson
One of those free books on Amazon, but it was a little different and worth the read. It's about a woman who works as a sex hotline attendant.

Pastoralia - George Saunders 
Overrated. Also, too much surrealism for my tastes.

Small as an Elephant - Jennifer Richard Jacobson
I feel like the author could've done a lot with this story, and she just kind of let it fall flat.

I Could Pee on This - Francesco Marciuliano
Poems "written by cats." Kind of silly, and not in a smart way.


Non-Fiction

50 Ways to Soothe Yourself without Food - Susan Albers
OK so I read about this book in the Oprah Magazine. I thought it'd help me avoid eating so much chocolate in the afternoon, but it was actually so much better and more useful than I thought it would be. It's basically 50 tips about refocusing your attention and anxious energy, and about combating boredom and loneliness. I recommend it for pretty much anyone who feels stress or anxiety, not just people who overeat. 

Grief Magic - Emily Rapp 
This was actually an essay, not a book, but one of the best things I read this year. The author lost her son to a rare genetic disease, and this essay is about the aftermath of his death. Lucky for you, you can read it here!

The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society - Frans de Waal
Do you think the idea of "every man for himself" comes from Darwin, or from the idea that humans evolved from selfish, non-empathetic animals? Read this. It's scientifically-proven optimism.

Sugar Salt Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us - Michael Moss
Depressing but enlightening. I learned a lot about food in the US.

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Written by Herself - Harriet Ann Jacobs
Thanks to Karina for recommending this. It was happy and sad and lovely and heartbreaking. 

Uncharted Path: The Autobiography of Lee Myung-Bak
The former Korean president's autobiography. It's like a case study of Korean culture. He's so sweet and optimistic.

The Witness Wore Red - Rebecca Musser
This is the book about the woman who was raised in an extremist Mormon sect. It's so sad, but also hopeful. She has a lot of experiences that you wouldn't even imagine or think about.
 
Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions - Gloria Steinem
Feminism! I want more men to read this so they question Playboy and traditional pornography.

Intuitive Eating - Evelyn Tribole
A helpful book if you eat too much or for the wrong reasons.

Adopting the Minimalist Mindset - Ben Night
Another lucky find from the free Amazon book list. It's about being a minimalist, and in true minimalist fashion, it's utilitarian and to the point. It has a lot of nice tips about organizing your house and stuff.

Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease - Robert H. Lustig
This book is similar to the Sugar Salt Fat book. If you only read one, read the Sugar Salt Fat one.

Stuff White People Like
Northern California culture in a nutshell. This book was oddly comforting.

How to Live on 24 Hours a Day - Arnold Bennett
Free on Amazon/Guttenberg. This is a quaint book written like, 100 years ago with tips for rich British businessmen (not women) on how to better manage their time and be happier. It's mostly entertaining to see the advice that people received before TV and computers were around. But the author does give some timeless pieces of advice, like this little gem:

"We do not reflect. I mean that we do not reflect upon genuinely important things; upon the problem of our happiness, upon the main direction in which we are going, upon what life is giving to us, upon the share which reason has (or has not) in determining our actions, and upon the relation between our principles and our conduct. And yet you are in search of happiness, are you not? Have you discovered it?" 
  
It Starts with Food: Discover the Whole30 - Melissa and Dallas Hartwig
I was really curious about this Paleo Diet fad, but everything I read about it annoys me, and this book was no different. The authors say their book is based on science and reviews, but they just list a bunch of sources and don't match anything up with their claims throughout the book. That makes me very doubtful that this list of sources is not just a list of random articles. It makes me suspicious that they make it so hard for readers to confirm the "data" that they offer. The book does have some good philosophies about eating, though, like that you should put things in your body that provide you with nourishment, not just because they're delicious.

Surviving Residency: A Medical spouse's guide to embracing the training years - Kristen M. Math
Well-intentioned, but unfortunately not very helpful, especially because I live abroad. Her advice was the obvious stuff; I think there's a lot more deep-seated psychological issues that need to be discussed. Also, she focuses way too much on residents with kids, which is actually the exception.

Sugar Detox - Dottie Copps
Free on Amazon. For a reason. 

Books I forgot I read and couldn't remember having read (which is telling):

Dead End Gene Pool - Wendy Burden
???

Daisy Miller and Other Stories - Henry James
On my Amazon review, I wrote: Nice; older, French-influenced English; descriptions of people with psychological disorders before we knew what they were.

Even reading my own review didn't help me.

Books I did not Finish (for different reasons):

The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
To be honest, I only read about 70% of this because I got the idea and it was so hostile. I liked the Amish and the Mennonite books better.

You Are Not Your Brain: The 4-Step Solution for Changing Bad Habits, Ending Unhealthy Thinking, and Taking Control of your Life  - Jeffrey M. Schwartz
OK. I was annoyed by the way the title was capitalized in this book, but I decided to give it a chance. The first part, which explains logic and emotion and how we use it against ourselves, was very helpful for squirrely, overthinker me. But their solutions on how to be less squirrely and overthoughtful  were less helpful. The word "mindfulness" always sets off a red flag for me, because it's so abstract. Barf.

Crazy Sexy Diet: Eat Your Veggies, Ignite your Spark, and Life Like You Mean it! - Kriss Carr
More incorrect post-colon capitalization. I'm sorry, but this bitch is not crazy sexy, she's just plain crazy. I tried giving this book a chance because a good friend recommended it, but I swear, this woman just writes nonsense but thinks she's some kind of prophet, even though none of her ideas or arguments about food and health are based on research that respects the scientific method (since she's not a doctor or a scientist). I spent the first couple of days reading preposterous stuff out loud to Dr. Alexandre before I just got way too annoyed by the book and moved it to my "not going to finish" folder on my Kindle.

I don't want to end on that note. So go back up to the top of the post and read about the good books again. :)

What did you read this year? Did you read any of these? What did you think about them?

Friday, January 3, 2014

Tips for Traveling to Manaus

Are you going to Manaus? Thinking about traveling to Manaus? Considering a trip to Manaus for the World Cup? When planning my trip to Manaus, I learned how little information was available on the internet, and how much information we had to get on the ground, once we were there. I, as a non-Brazilian, feel so uncomfortable having vacations like that! So I'm going to share lots of tips with you, dear reader.

DISCLAIMER: I don't work for any travel agencies or sites. This is my personal blog about my personal opinions and experiences. It's not my fault if you get quoted a different price for something or disagree with something I wrote. I encourage people to leave comments if they have different experiences, but please, no nastiness! Also, I don't have any information about other hotels or places that are not on this list, so please don't ask me. But feel free to ask a question if you'd like to know something more detailed about one of the places I mention!

OK, if you go to Manaus, do not be dumb like we were: DO NOT MISS YOUR RETURN FLIGHT. The airport is small. There are not a lot of flights. You will likely get stuck in Manaus. Lucky for you, we stayed in TWO hotels in town and did a lot of stuff, on the expensive side while we thought we were staying within our vacation budget, and on the cheap side when we had to buy insanely expensive return tickets for three days later.

Something to consider when planning your trip to Manaus: Do you want a city experience, or a rural, rainforest experience? Lucky for you, we had both. Details below. 

HOTELS IN MANAUS

Our first hotel was called the Lord Manaus Hotel. Site here. The pictures make it look nicer than it is.
Pros:
*I think it's pretty cheap. I don't know the exact price we paid because we got a package deal with the flight, but I think it was on the cheap side.
*It's in the middle of downtown. That means it's within walking distance of the port and tour agencies, so you don't have to pay the tour agencies to come pick you up for the activities. It's also within walking distance of this street called "Rua da Instalação", which may go by other names and which, close to the port, is the hub for a ton of bus lines. The city of Manaus has a weak but slightly useful site about the bus system that you can access here.
*The employees of the hotel are really friendly and helpful. When we didn't check out on time (because we confused the day of our checkout), they didn't charge us any late fees or anything.
*Even though the hotel is on the corner of two very crowded streets, the rooms are quiet and noise from the city didn't bother us or wake us up. We were on the 5th floor.
*They have free parking if you rent a car. They said the actual parking lot was a couple of blocks away, and they had a couple of spots right in front of the hotel. Because we went in a really off-season week, we got to just park right in front of the hotel every time.
*They have free, relatively fast wi-fi.

The Cons are the bad sides of all of those factors:
*It's cheap, so it's pretty bare bones. The air conditioner works, but is kind of crappy. (We learned just how crappy after staying in another hotel, which had a timer, temperature choices, a "moist air" setting, and other fancy features.) It's not bad at all, but it's nothing special, either.
*They told us the restaurant was being remodeled, but it seemed like it had been closed for a while, and there was no work done on it the whole week we were there. I have a feeling they didn't get enough business to keep it open. So they have breakfast set up in a conference room, but no dinner.
*They didn't have any kind of tour agency -- most hotels in Manaus have a tour agency hooked up with them. They told us the girl they'd hired quit...but there was no table or anything, so I think that was a lie. However, they recommended a decent travel agency, which you can read about below.
*The downtown area around the hotel is not the safest, so this hotel is not a good choice if you are traveling alone. At night, the area is more dangerous, and there are no restaurants within safe walking distance at night, so you have to take a taxi or your rental car to eat at night (since remember there is no restaurant in the hotel).

We also stayed in a wonderful pousada (in this case, a sort of farm hotel) in another city about an hour outside of Manaus called Presidente Figueiredo. It was called Pousada Aldeia Mari-Mari. Facebook page here. More details below.

After we missed our flight and had to check into another hotel (mostly because we were too embarrassed to go back to Lord Manaus after having missed our checkout time), we considered a hotel called Hotel Brasil, on Avenida Getúlio Vargas. You can go to their site here. We considered that hotel because they had a hotel restaurant inside AND a delicious and cheap lanchonette / Middle Eastern sandwich shop outside, where we ate twice. It's also in a good location for buses, taxis and tourist activities, and it's on a safer, more well-lit street. When we called to find out how much it was, they said it was only R$100 a night (in the off-season; who knows what they'll charge for the World Cup). Plus, they said they have parking, and you can see from outside that they have the same simple air conditioners as the previous hotel. If your goal is to save money while staying safe, this hotel might be a better choice than Lord Manaus. We didn't actually go into the rooms, but the outside sandwich shop, the restaurant, and the lobby/attached tour agency were all simple but decent.

At the last minute, however, we decided to stay in a slightly nicer hotel, since we didn't plan on leaving it or doing any more tourist activities. We chose the Hotel Saint Paul Manaus, a nicer hotel that is also in a good location (I think the neighborhood was still considered downtown). You can access their site here. It was so fancy compared to the other two! We paid R$200 a night for this one in the off-season.

Pros:
*It has a pool, a gym, a fantastic air conditioner with lots of settings, 13 floors (we got to be on the 13th so we had a great view), a computer room (but also free wireless, though it was weak on the top floor), laundry service, and a better shower than the other two hotels we stayed in.
*It has a restaurant that's open for lunch and dinner from 11am -11pm (with room service) and which is not too expensive for the quality; plus, they have a nice breakfast.
*They're also an "eco-friendly" hotel, so the air-conditioner had extra eco-friendly options, the lights in the hallways had sensors, and they had this paper with instructions for how to communicate to the maid that she doesn't need to change your towels or wash your sheets if you want to save water.
*The pool is small but fun, especially in the heat of Manaus!
*The gym is also small and doesn't have an air conditioner (only fans), but it has a lot of equipment and options.
*They have parking, but we had to pay R$8 a day for it.

I think it was worth the extra money, mostly for the nicer bed, shower, and air-conditioner.

Cons:
I can't really think of any, though I'm biased because I'm comparing it to the cheaper hotels. So I guess the main con is the price.

Another hotel option is the Millennium Hotel, which is home to the Sax restaurant you'll read about below. We didn't stay there (we only ate there), but it's pretty and in a safe area. You can get to their English site here. It's part of a complex with a mall and an office building. There's not much else within walking distance, so this hotel might be a better option if you rent a car or don't mind taking taxis around. (Note: This hotel and the one we stayed at, the Hotel Saint Paul Manaus, are part of a corporation known as "Manaus Hotels".)


GETTING AROUND MANAUS

OK. All taxis from the airport to anywhere are R$65, a flat rate. (At least that's what we paid; imagina na Copa!) But I think it's worth it to rent a car. Read below.  

All right. If you are not focusing on saving money, it's worth it to rent a car in Manaus. I think your best plan is to only rent a car for the days that you will NOT do day trips with the travel agencies. We rented a car on the 4th day of our trip. We went to a couple of car rental agencies -- some were inexplicably closed, and one tried to charge us ridiculous prices with limits on mileage and no insurance. We got a great deal with the American company, Thrifty Car Rentals / Alugel de Carros. You can get to their site here. We called on the day we wanted the car and only paid R$70 a day for it. They accept American credit cards and American driver licenses. All of the cars come with full-coverage insurance and air-conditioners. Important: They have two branches: one at the airport and one close to downtown. They're flexible if you want to pick up the car from one branch and return it to the other. So I recommend reserving the car from the airport branch for the day you arrive, using it for the first couple of days, and then scheduling the day trips for the end of your trip, after you've returned your car. Or, you can do what we did: pay for the taxi from the airport to your hotel, schedule your day trips for the first few days, and then rent a car for the last few days and use it to get back to the airport instead of paying for another taxi. When we picked up the car, we took a van-bus dowtown toward "Amazonas Shopping" and got out of the van when we saw the giant Thrifty sign on our left. (Obviously if you're coming from a different direction, it might be on your right.)

If you really want to save money, the city bus system is good. There are buses and vans that go to most all tourist destinations. I think the buses are from the city and the vans are private companies. The vans sometimes have air-conditioners and fancy seats, which is nice. As I mentioned before, there's a simple bus website that only lists the public buses, but you can just ask people at the stops for the streets or places where you want to go, and people will tell you. We also got helpful bus information from the hotel receptionists.

On our first couple of days, when we didn't have the rental car, we asked the receptionists at the hotel to call taxis for us to go out to eat at night. Each ride averaged about R$25, so that adds up pretty quickly and makes it kind of worth it to rent the car. (The city also has a few spots around town where it is impossible to turn left or make a u-turn, so the taxi drivers drive allllllll the way down the street and around instead of dropping you off and letting you cross the street on foot.)

When you're downtown, most everything is within walking distance. The downtown streets are super crowded, so I'd be wary of pick-pocketers, especially if you're super tall and white and dressed like a foreigner. Sorry, that's just how it is. All of the locals we had conversations with were so nice and friendly, but it's still a really, really poor city.

RESTAURANTS IN MANAUS

We had this wonderful plan of asking every local we met to recommend a restaurant, and then eating there.

Here's the thing: if you're going to Manaus, you have to like fish, or at least be willing to try it. Manaus is on the freaking Amazon River! The famous edible fish are called pirarucu, tambaqui, and tucunaré. I'm not a big fan of cooked fish, but I enjoyed the breaded pirarucu and the tambaqui escabeche. (Escabeche refers to a way of preparing the fish, like in the oven with eggs and potatoes.)

Here are some restaurants that we went to:

Restaurante Canto da Peixada
Simple and cheap-looking on the outside; delicious on the inside. We were told to try the costela de tambaqui (tambaqui ribs), and even I liked them. It was a little pricey -- R$100 for the two of us -- and the caipirinha is not worth ordering. But the quality of the food was excellent. Check out their website here. Oh, the waiter gave us a bunch of free pens when we left. Not sure why! haha.

Praça do Caranguejo
This is not actually a restaurant, but a plaza with a series of restaurants and botecos / street bars. They have tables right inside the restaurants, and then filling the plaza. Don't go before sunset because nothing is open. Some of the restaurants specialize in caranguejo, or crab, which is how the plaza got its name, I think. It was just a fun environment with lots of happy people (though beware - lots of mosquitoes, too!).

We took the bus there because a website about it had directions by bus, but when we got off the bus, the walk to the plaza was actually kind of complicated. This very nice woman who was also getting off the bus offered to walk us to the plaza, since she lived in the neighborhood. We took a taxi back to the hotel.

Peixaria Panela Cheia
All right. This restaurant is kind of an adventure. We went for lunch and it was packed with locals. While we were there, the power went out, which meant there were no fans. The chefs were cooking in the dark and it was loud and quiet at the same time. We ordered caldeirada de tambaqui, which is a thick, hot stew with pieces of the tambaqui fish inside. Alexandre, the fish aficionado (fun), was sweating but in heaven. He said it was one of the best fish dishes (more fun) he'd ever eaten. It was kind of hard to get to-- we went on a day that we had the rental car. If I remember correctly, it was relatively close to the new soccer stadium, but not really within walking distance. It came to about R$80 for the two of us. (Because the power had gone out, we had to pay in cash.) They don't have a website, but they have a poorly updated Facebook page here.

Sax Bar e Restaurante
This restaurant is located inside the Millennium Hotel, which is part of the city's Millennium Hotel/Mall/Business Center complex. It was my dream to try the famous dish of the North, pato no tucupi, and we'd heard it was good there.  (It's actually more traditionally from the city of Belem, but since tucupi is easy to come by in Manaus, a lot of restaurants serve it.)
The waiter explained to us that their version of pato no tucupi had a French twist on it; it wasn't really traditional pato no tucupi. They had two different pato no tucupi dishes on their menu, so we each ordered one. I forget the names, but one was with sliced duck breast, and one was with shredded duck and tucupi risotto. Alexandre ordered the shredded duck dish, but we ended up exchanging dishes because I liked his so much more.

I have to say, it was the best thing I ate on the trip. "Delicious" isn't enough. Maybe "exquisite." Definitely unforgettable. I even ate traditional pato no tucupi another night (see below), but I thought this one was better. A local explained that many places add water to the tucupi sauce, and that Sax probably didn't, which made the sauce so strong and flavorful. 

Sax is pricey -- it came to R$130 for the two of us, and we didn't order any alcohol -- but it's really a once-in-a-lifetime meal. Check out their website in English here.

Banzeiro
This is where we ate traditional pato no tucupi. After the amazing French one from Sax, I was a little disappointed. But this restaurant is fun; they have caipirinhas made with traditional Amazonian fruits, and they served complimentary cups of soup made with the pirarucu fish. Also, a lot of the employees speak English, and the hostess we met was totally fluent; I got the impression that she lived in the US as a child or something. (We learned this because there were quite a few foreigners in the restaurant, and the English-speaking employees helped them out.)   

The first night we went there, the restaurant was actually super crowded and there was an hour-long wait, so we ended up going somewhere else. I recommend making a reservation first. (If you don't speak Portuguese, you can just go to the restaurant early, or you can ask a receptionist at your hotel to call for you.) Check out their website here.
We had planned to go back and try this place again, since there were so many yummy-looking things on their website. But then we spent a dowry's worth of money on our plane tickets home, so fancy restaurants were out of the question. :( (I think this restaurant came to about R$100 for the two of us.)

Teatro Amazonas Restaurants
This is not the name of a restaurant; what I'm trying to explain is that, on the side of the Teatro Amazonas, there's this cobblestone road / plaza thing with a line of 4 or 5 restaurants that are cheap, yummy, and family-friendly. All of the restaurants share a bunch of tables in the plaza. The one we especially liked was called Mundo dos Sucos. It was super cheap (I think we paid like, R$20, total, for the two of us). It's a bit confusing, because the building that houses Mundo dos Sucos says "AFRICAN PLACE" or something non-sequitur in English, and then it has this tiny "Mundo dos Sucos" sign. (Maybe there's some history, but I don't know what it is.) But if you'd like to hang out with some locals and some tourists, hear some music in the plaza, and eat a cheap meal after you've spent all your savings on return tickets (ahem), then this is the place to go to!  Oh, it's also within walking distance of the Hotel Saint Paul Manaus.

Peixaria do Largo
This is another yummy fish place, also a little on the fancy side, and it's also right next to the Teatro Amazonas. We ordered the tambaqui escabeche there. If you are not Alexandre and it is therefore not your goal to try all of the beloved fish restaurants in Manaus, then I think the other ones listed above are more worth trying than this one. However, the location of this one is more convenient if you are car-less. It was similarly priced to the other fish restaurants. Check out their Facebook page here.

Alexandre was excited about our tambaqui escabeche at Pexiaria do Largo.


Habibi 
This is the Middle Eastern restaurant outside the Hotel Brasil. Also cheap and delicious. Plus, they have shwarma. Shwarma, in Brazil! 

PASSEIOS / DAY TRIPS / ACTIVITIES IN MANAUS

The Portuguese word passeio can be used to mean tourist activities or day trips. You'll see this word a lot as a tourist in Manaus.

There are actually only a few passeios that all of the tour agencies market, so don't think that you'll get to hear about special activities if you go to other agencies. We went to a LOT of agencies and they all offered the same three things:

1. Encontro das Aguas

You can read about our  day trip to Encontro das Aguas here, plus some tips on how to choose (and how not to choose) a travel agency.

2.  The Rio Negro / Swimming with botas (dolphins) / visiting an indigneous tribe / the rubber plantation museum

You can read about this day trip here.

3. Presidente Figuereido waterfalls

We ended up going on an adventure alone for this day trip, and we turned it into a two-day trip. WORTH IT. Read below in the part about the rainforest experience.

The reason we went alone is because the travel agency we used totally flaked on us! Here's what happened: the day before, we signed up with them for this trip. We had to be ready at 8:00am for the van to pick us up at our hotel. The driver called at 7:30, which was 30 minutes early! We were rushing to get downstairs. By the time we got there (two minutes later), the driver had left, and told the receptionist to tell us that the trip had been canceled because another couple had called to cancel and therefore, there wouldn't be enough people on the trip to make it profitable for the travel agency! Tacky, tacky, tacky!

The travel agency in question is called Amazon Explorers. They're located inside the Hotel Palace, which is also downtown. Check out their website here; but use this address and phone number:
Av 7 Setembro, 593, Manaus - Amazonas 69005-140
(92) 2123-4777

We did the first two activities with them, and we had a really good experience. Their prices are also really fair and we found them to be cheaper than the other proper agencies we talked to (including the one inside the Hotel Brasil). Plus, there were a lot of people traveling alone in our groups, so I recommend this agency for people traveling alone. The guides do a good job of balancing between making us all be friends and giving people their space. So even though they flaked out with the last trip, I guess it wasn't so bad because we hadn't paid yet and because all we had done was wake up early.

Tip your tour guides!
------------------------------------------
In the city of Manaus, there are lots of little activities to do and things to see. We spent one day doing all of these things, and I'll be honest that some of them weren't really worth the effort.  Examples of these fast activities include:

Teatro Amazonas / The Amazonas Theater
This is the large theater downtown. It's easy to spot. You pay R$10 for a 15-minute tour. It was interesting, but Alexandre has visited a lot of cities in Europe and was less impressed. I thought it was good in its own right, and for the time period and the resources available.

Cigs (The Military Zoo)
CIGS stands for Centro de Instrução de Guerra na Selva, and it's a military training center that also, inexplicably, has a zoo. I don't know. Brazilian zoos tend to make me sad. The big cats are always caged up in tiny exhibits, and the birds are always molting and stressed out. This one was no different. We took a bus there from that big Rua da Instalação bus stop.

Centro Cultural Palacete Provincial -- Museums
There is this giant building/complex close to the Lord Manaus hotel. It houses a bunch of museums, including a Museu do Índio (Indian Museum), which I really wanted to check out. Unfortunately, the complex was closed for renovations the week we were there. This webpage has a list in Portuguese of all of the museums in Manaus and their descriptions (not only the ones inside this building).

Bosque da Ciencia (The Science Zoo/Park/Forest however you want to translate "bosque")
A lot of people recommended this place, which is essentially another zoo. I think it might have the animals in better conditions because it's some kind of research center, too. We didn't get a chance to go there, but do leave a comment if you know anything about it!

Jardim Botânico Adolpho Ducke - The Adolpho Ducke Botanical Garden
This botanical garden is part of a giant rainforest reserve on the outskirts of the city. I'm so sad that we didn't get to go there. The day we planned to go, it rained! It also closes on Mondays, but it's free! Supposedly, this is the place to see sloths. It has some trails and some gardens. Check out their website here. The website says that you need to wear close-toed shoes! No flip flops, people!

Mercado Aldopho Lisboa / Mercado Municipal - The Municipal Market
This is the city market next to the port. If you've been to Mercadão in Sao Paulo, you'll be disappointed. This market totally caters to tourists now. It takes about 5 minutes to walk through and realize that they're just selling simple arts and crafts and plastic trinkets that say "BRASIL" on them.

If you want to see an intense market, check out the fish market, or the Mercado do Peixe. It's not the same building as the Muncipial Market, but it's close by. We stumbled upon it while exploring the avenue that runs parallel to the water, close to the port, on the first day. I can't find it on Google Maps to give you the address, so just walk down to the entrance to the port and ask around!

Praia da Ponte Negra
I'm not really sure why so many tourist agents recommended this spot. THERE'S NOTHING THERE. Did we go on an off day? It was a Friday afternoon. It's a riverside "beach" (we Californians don't like using the word "beach" for sand that does not meet an ocean) and it's close to the rich part of town. But there was NO ONE there. The few little food stands were closed. I don't know what we did wrong.


RURAL MANAUS - THE RAINFOREST EXPERIENCE

As I mentioned above and in my first post about Manaus, it's a big city and you won't be isolated or in nature, except when you're on the river trips with the tour agencies.

If you want a more rural, nature-based travel experience, I recommend that you skip Manaus (or spend less time there) and go to the city of Presidente Figueiredo. You can read my long post about the city and my birdwatching adventure here. You'll take the main avenue out of Manaus, and it becomes the highway that takes you to this town. Be careful, because there's a small sign that tells you how to get on the highway toward Presidente Figueiredo, just after the military post at the edge of town. You'll have to make a slight left, and you won't go straight.

Soon after PF, there's a big lake called "Lago de Balbina". There are lots of fishing and eco-tourism places there, too. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to go there, but it looked really fun and people in PF recommended it.


There's a tourism office in Presidente Figueiredo that's open until 5:00 or 6:00pm. It's called "Centro de Atendimento ao Turista - CAT". The phone number is (92) 3324-1308. There are a few signs that point to the tourism office, but it's still a little hard to find. You'll want to keep your eye out for a BR gas station, two galo-da-serra (bird) monuments, and a sizable Virgin Mary statue. The tourism office is just off the road. We parked at the gas station and asked the employees for directions, and they pointed us to it.
one of the monuments and the gas station; the CAT is to the left
Presidente Figueiredo is known for its waterfalls, caverns, and parks. There are many waterfalls, and you can swim in most of them. Each one charges R$5-R$10 per person.  Here's a picture of a map of all of the waterfalls:

Click to see a bigger version
Here's a list from the tourist agency of hotels and restaurants. Click on it to see a bigger version

 We went to a place called Reserva Ecológica Santuário (site here). It's actually not on that map. It's on AM-240 somewhere between km10 and km14, on the right-hand side if you're driving east from Presidente Figueiredo. It has waterfalls, hiking trails, a restaurant, a snack bar place close to the waterfalls, and even hotel rooms. If you want this rainforest experience but don't want your actual hotel to be out in the woods (i.e., you want proper showers and maybe an air conditioner), this hotel might be a good choice for you. The hotel rooms are actually little cabins that can be for individuals, couples, or families. To be honest, I kind of wish we'd stayed there.

The entrance to the reserve

us at one of the waterfalls

Alexandre on one of the trails

The trails and waterfalls are extensive and you could easily spend hours here. We also ate at the restaurant, and it was yummy and not too expensive. We paid R$10 to get in to the waterfalls (I don't think hotel guests have to pay), and the food was about R$60 for two people (and it was a LOT of food!). I imagine the little snack bar down by the main river is cheaper.

As I mentioned above and wrote about in my PF post, we stayed at a pousada called Aldeia Mari-Mari. You can see pictures and read more about the friendly, welcoming owners in the post I just linked to. If you're interested in staying at the Pousada Aldeia Mari-Mari, here is their contact information:
Pousada Aldeia Mari-Mari
Betão and Ana Paula
AM-240 Km 13, just after the Comunidade Marcos Freire
Presidente Figueiredo - AM
pousadaaldeiamarimari @ gmail. com (no spaces)
(92) 9409-2923
Facebook page here

If you're going during a popular tourist time, you should try to get in touch with them earlier than later. Their phone doesn't always have reception, so email may be best. Tell them the couple Danielle the American and Alexandre the doctor sent you from Danielle's blog. :)

Staying at their place is an unforgettable experience, especially if you're interested in birds. However, it's not good for you if you're uncomfortable with non-first-world conditions. The shower is a wooden box with a small shower head at the top, with only cold water. There is one toilet for all of the guests (in another small wooden room), so if you have to pee in the middle of the night, you have to leave your room and walk the 20 feet or so to the bathroom. The family lives there and rents out their guest rooms. That means the guest rooms are right next to the family's room. They can hear you talking in your room, and you may hear them talking, or hear other guests talking, or the baby crying. They also had some friends from town come over to visit who were very...alternative (420 friendly). 

Ana Paula and Betão are in the process of building more rooms. These rooms are separate from the family's house and will have their own bathrooms. Ana Paula said they would be done by February 2014, but this is Brazil so if this separate space is important to you, you should ask before you make your reservation.

GENERAL TIPS

I'm going to paste what I wrote in my first entry about Manaus, if you still haven't clicked on the link:

I have to tell you guys, even though Manaus is a big city, it's not for the faint of heart. Sorry, American friends, but I don't think I'd bring any of you here. I don't recommend this place for people who are used to cushy vacations and city planning. The streets are dirty, the traffic is hectic, and social rules are not like those of the US. The bathrooms outside our hotel are unpleasant. The sense of time is different here. It's hot -- hotter and more humid than you're used to, even if you´re from Florida, and the air conditioners are lacking. You can't be picky about your food and you need to eat what people serve you. If you care about all of these kinds of things, and especially if you are not familiar with Brazilian culture in general, Manaus is not for you. You need to be a very flexible and easygoing person to enjoy your vacation here.


If you can deal with all that without whining, the locals are so, so nice.


I stand by that statement. As Jim always says, "Brazil is not for beginners." Manaus is no exception. I don't care if you're coming for the World Cup -- don't expect receptionists, taxi drivers, or hotel waiters to speak English. If you're lucky, you'll get a tour guide who speaks English, but you will probably have to pay more and I wouldn't count on finding one anyway. This is a poor country -- do you think people who get paid Brazil's minimum wage have money for foreign language classes? Do American-born taxi drivers use their salaries to learn a foreign language? Your experience here will probably be close to unbearable if you don't speak Portuguese. Do yourself and the people of Manaus a favor by learning some basic Portuguese expressions and questions.

The population is composed of a lot of mixed-race people and a lot of people with indigenous blood. If your genes come from Western Europe, like mine do, you will stand out and people on the buses will sometimes stare at you. Manaus is not Sao Paulo, or even Rio. There are not as many European immigrants. If you are not dark-skinned, you will probably feel very foreign. I felt very foreign, in a way that I haven't felt foreign in Brazil -- not even in Bahia. Alexandre and I were lighter and taller than almost everyone. Some people care about those things, so I'm just warning you if you're one of those people. 

I also recommend that you do not wear flip flops around town on rainy days or shortly after it has rained! Lots of dirt and urine on the streets = dirty feet!

If I could go back, I think I would spend only 2 full days in Manaus proper (for the two day trips that we took), and then I would spend the rest of my time in Presidente Figueiredo and the tiny towns surrounding it and the lake. I would stay in a couple of different pousadas and I would go up to Balbina Lake. There was so much more to explore up in the PF region, and I personally love nature-based vacations. I've also visited a lot of big cities, and in that respect Manaus is not unique. But now matter what details you decide on, visiting this part of the world is a once-in-a-lifetime experience! I think it's definitely worth going to!  

Danielle and Alexandre's Quest for the Galo-da-Serra

This is the next post about our Amazon trip!

As you may remember from the last post, we made plans with the travel agency to go on another day trip to a city called Presidente Figueiredo. The city is just over an hour away (inland) from Manaus and is known for its waterfalls and for being home to the bird I was dying to see, the galo-da-serra, or cock-of-the-rock.

As you'll read in detail in the next post, the travel agency flaked at the last minute! We were up early and ready for a hiking adventure and then left at our hotel. We decided to take matters into our own hands, and planned our own trip to the small rainforest town! We rented a car and packed for a possible overnight trip (details on the logistics in the next post). We called a few of the pousadas (hotels / farm-hotels / bed and breakfasts / inns / I'm not going to translate this anymore) in the town to get an idea of the pricing and availability, and all were open with vacancies and not too expensive (all were around R$100 a night per couple in the off-season). So we didn't reserve anything -- we just headed off into the rainforest in our little rental car! Alexandre thought we were riding a spirit of adventure and searching for some cool Amazonian experience; I knew that all I really cared about was seeing my magical bird.

Once you get out of the city limits of Manaus, BAM! You are in nature. There is nothing but wilderness between Manaus and Presidente Figueiredo, except for the occasional fishing campsite or chácara.



The land had spots that looked all desert-y and space-like because of the lack of rain. There were out-of-this-world and impossible-to-capture slates of land which were actually river and lake beds, exposed in the dry season. 

It's hard to miss the town of Presidente Figueiredo, because it's the first town you come upon if you're taking the only highway out of Manaus. We had read online that the town had a tourism office, so we stopped in there to see what was what. Alexandre was asking general polite questions about the town and the tourist activities available, but I cut to the chase:

"It's my dream to see the cock-of-the-rock," I explained to the two employees. "Where should we go to do that?"
"Well, Betão has quite a few on his property," one of the employees explained, as if we, too, were friends with this man named Beto. "He offers hikes out to see the birds for R$50."
"Does he have a pousada on his land?" I asked.
The employee thought for a moment. "I think so, yeah. I think he rents out some of his rooms."

I turned to Alexandre. "So we could just stay there, and then wake up early to go see the birds!"
We hadn't even decided for sure if we were going to sleep in the town yet, but Alexandre is never one to rain on my parade. "Let's go check out his place, then," he said.  The employees gave us directions and told us that this Betão referred to his property as "Aldeia Mari-Mari." It was 14km away from Presidente Figueiredo on another highway, and then another 5km or so on a dirt road. Off we went!

After the 14 kilometers, we came upon this sign:



That dirt road...what were we getting ourselves into?


 Finally, we ended up at Mari-Mari.

At the entrance to the property, there were some partially constructed cabins, and at first, that was all we could see. Were we at the right place? Was anyone there? There was a car, though, so Alexandre walked off down a semblance of a trail to see what he could find.

What he found was this wonderful place:



He came back up the hill to the car, where I was waiting. Now it was his turn to be excited.
"Oh WOW, this place is so cool! The couple is so interesting! I talked to Betão and he said we could stay here tonight. What do you think?"
This was the bird place, so of course I agreed.
We carried our stuff down to the rooms, and I met Betão's wife, Ana Paula. She was bubbly and laid back at the same time. She had just finished cleaning up the room we were going to use, since the current guests were on their way out. She encouraged us to get settled in quickly so we could go swimming, in this:




It's a clear, cold creek that runs through their property. The cold water was so refreshing in the heat of the day. It was interesting because some of the creek bed was sand, some was formed by rocks, and some was covered in moss (so probably more rock). There was a tiny sand bank that made for a perfect bench at the edge of the creek.

We splashed around in the creek and talked to our new hosts. They had a toddler-aged son who was growing up on the land. We played with him a bit, since he was very curious about us. He kept pointing at the hair on Alexandre's toes and calling to his mom to see. He also pointed to my freckles and asked "dó-doi?" or "owie?". We tried to explain politely in kid language that our hair and freckles were normal and just different, but his mom flat out told him, "they aren't Indians like you, son!"

Being this deep in the mata and away from the city meant significantly cooler temperatures than Manaus proper, and as soon as the sun started to set, we decided to take a break from the now-chilly water.

I insisted that Alexandre take a little walk with me around the property to look for birds. Sunset is good birdwatching time, and I had been hearing a lot of parrots and what I was pretty sure were macaws. Unfortunately, we didn't see any new birds on our walk, but we did get to see a beautiful sunset over the Amazon:

We were the only guests, so though Ana Paula offered to cook us dinner, we declined and decided to head back into town to try something there (and to buy some beer for the four of us).

It was a Saturday night, and Presidente Figueiredo didn't seem to have any police. The town was a little chaotic, especially compared to the tranquility of the pousada. There were a handful of cars owned by uneducated young men (a social group which I am convinced causes many of the world's problems) that were all boasting disproportionate sound systems. A handful of sound systems feels like a lot in a one-street town.

We found a little sandwich shop and decided to eat there. It was tasty and seemed to be the standard fare among locals on a Saturday night. The only food option along the main road was a series of sandwich shops.

I was about halfway through my sandwich when these three little boys came rushing up to me. They were about 5, 7, and 10, I'd guess. One pointed to my sandwich and asked anxiously, "Can I have some?"

They came up so fast and were so nervous and out of breath and I was a little stunned. I took a second to look at them. They seemed somehow eager and embarrassed at the same time. They were also skinny and wearing very dirty clothes.

"Are you guys hungry?" I asked. I mean, I knew the answer. I was just so surprised. They nodded, so I just handed over my sandwich.
"No, no! Just a bite!" the middle boy said, almost frustrated. I think that was the embarrassment talking.
"Do you all want some?" I asked, looking at them. They nodded. "So just take it and share it," I said. The decision was obvious. What was I going to do, keep eating it? Say no? I'm an adult and I can understand hunger if I feel it. They took the sandwich and ran off.

The encounter was so quick but it really shook me. Since Alexandre had already finished eating, we asked for the bill and walked over to the market across the street. We bought our beer as planned, but also bought the boys some snack foods. They were easy to spot on the one main road. I wish we could've done more. I guess we could have. I don't know. The exchange is still bothering me.

When we got back to the pousada, two other young women from Manaus had arrived. They were friends and apparently went up to Presidente Figueiredo once in a while as a weekend getaway trip. They were just OK. One was a chatty Cathy know-it-all, and since I already fill that role in groups, things felt a little cramped. ;)

We stayed up talking with Betão and Ana Paula and the two other guests. Ana Paula had actually gone to college close by our current home, and her and Beto's relationship had been similarly whirl-winded to ours. It was fun to exchange stories of love at first sight. :)

We went to bed kind of early because Betão explained that I had to wake up at sunrise if I wanted to get some good birdwatching in. Even though we only had a little fan and we had to keep our wooden windows closed because there were no screens, the room felt cool and I slept so well! I think it was the silence and the fresh air.

As promised, I woke up at 5:30 to start my bird search. Alexandre rolled over and told me to wake him up if I saw any galos-da-serra or anything else that was particularly cool. Betão had explained to me that the galos-da-serra tend to come around the creek at sunrise to feed on the açaí berries that grow along the creek bed. So I hung out there, and the family dog kept me company. Beto and the baby woke up around the same time, but then went off somewhere in their pick-up with a bunch of trash bags in the bed. I think the family has to take their trash into town.





As pretty as the creek was at sunrise, I wasn't seeing any cocks-of-the-rock! But I was hearing a LOT of macaws (!!), so I decided to go toward the sound.

Hooray!
baaaaabies!


I'd never seen blue and yellow macaws in the wild before. When my friend Bianca and I went to the Pantanal, we saw lots of red and green macaws and also hyacinth macaws, but not these ones! They're just as beautiful.

I had a moment of "holy moly, I'm in the Amazon rainforest, watching wild macaws!" It was breathtaking.

After I calmed down, I meandered back toward the creek bed to keep my eye out for the cocks-of-the-rock. On the way over, I heard a bird calling. It was loud, so I knew it was probably big, but I didn't recognize the call. Then I heard another of its kind return the message somewhere nearby. A few steps closer, and then I saw them! Red-billed toucans!

Here's the first caller:


Her friend soon came to join her:



Turns out it was a booty call! 


ohhh shoot!

That was just spectacular. The circle of life and all that! I definitely woke Alexandre up for that one.

I had just about given up on the cock-of-the-rock. The sun was completely out by this time, and I was trying to console myself with the fact that I got to see macaws AND red-billed toucans, and toucans mating, no less! I walked back over to the açaí trees and just hung around a bit. I mean, what else was I going to do in the Amazon before seven o'clock in the morning?

Turns out my last-ditch effort was not in vain. Suddenly, and ever so quickly, a cock-of-the-rock came out of the brush across the river and over to the açaí tree above me!


I gasped, and squealed, and fumbled to try to get a picture. I was also yell-whispering "Alexandre! Alexandre!" but he was too far away. I only got this one shot before I scared the bird away with my anxious human-ness.

Now that I'd gotten a glimpse of my beloved bird, I was even more eager to go on the promised hike to look for them. Unfortunately, Betão hadn't come back yet, so I continued to wander around and take pictures of other birds that I could see.

 I think these were streaked xenops (bico-virado-carijó), but I'm not sure.

 I actually used my zoom buttons correctly on this sayaca tanager (sanhaçu-cinzento)

I have no idea which yellow finch this is.
Exciting! A racket-tailed coquette! These only exist in this part of the Amazon and on a tiny strip of coast in the Brazilian Northeast. (Do you know how hard it is to get pictures of hummingbirds?)


Any guesses? The whole belly was that reddish-brown color. It caught a bug, so that was cool.

I guess I'm not as good at identifying birds as I thought I was. Thrushes, maybe?

During my wandering time, Betão came back and everyone else woke up. Ana Paula made a delicious breakfast with fresh cajú juice from the cashew apples that grow on their property. After everyone had eaten, Beto asked if I was ready to go look for the galo-da-serra. Of course I was! Of course, Alexandre came, too. But then Beto invited the other two guests, who agreed half-heartedly, as if seeing this bird was something they could take or leave.

We had to first cross a fallen tree to get to the other side of the creek. Then we walked through the forest for about 10 minutes. The ground was spongey and it wasn't clear where the fallen debris ended and where the actual soil began. The foliage was dense and there was no trail, but Beto knew his way around, and somehow recognized places where we needed to turn or avoid stones. He didn't even wear a shirt or shoes.

Betão and Alexandre


Here, you can see one of the women on our walk. I was a little irritated that they came because they wore flip flops to walk through the freaking Amazon Rainforest, so they kept whining about their fears of snakes.

They kept chatting and fiddling with their cell phones (which kept saying, "NO GPS SIGNAL FOUND" in robotic English), but then Beto told them to be quiet so we wouldn't scare the birds away.

Suddenly, Beto stuck his arm out, the universal sign for "shut up and stop walking."  He called me to the front of the line, and then pointed. In a little clearing (actually, a cock-of-the-rock "court"), there they were! A lek of Guianian cocks-of-the-rock!

Betão explained that they were very skittish, so we couldn't get too close. He snapped his fingers and clicked his tongue to get their attention. He said that if we stayed very still and were lucky, the birds might get curious and come closer to us. They didn't (I blame the fidgety girls), but I was still able to see them well and get some decent pictures:






booty shakin' (aka courting or displaying)

more booty shakin'


Here's a video of one preening (sorry for the shaky hands):
video


I think I could've gotten better pictures and videos if I had been less excited and if I knew how to use my camera better!

They were overall pretty quiet, but sometimes they called out to each other. You can hear the sound here. (Click on "detalhar som" under the main picture on the right.) Unlike the mot mot, the cocks-of-the-rock were less graceful and somehow more aware of their beauty.

We sat there and watched them for about 10 minutes. I tried to be so quiet and careful; it was their land, and I was just allowed to be present in it for a while.

I could've stayed there all day (especially since Beto got my hopes up that the birds might come closer), but those darn girls asked if we could leave, if I'd had enough.  I guess they were BORED watching this rare and amazing creature in the wild!

Alexandre said that this adventure made him actually enjoy my birdwatching hobby, and inspired him to join me in it more often. He said the cock-of-the-rock turned into this mystical legend to him, and that when we finally got to see it, it felt like he'd accomplished something special. :)

If you're interested in traveling to Manaus or seeing the cock-of-the-rock for yourself, check out my next post on tips for traveling to Manaus.

UPDATE: This is Amazon Post three. You can read post one here, post two here, and my general tips about Manaus here.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...