I called a friend Marcelo in Manaus before coming to Manaus. I needed to take care of my jungle fever. I t is not a disease. It is a mania. After my first visit 20 years ago to Rainforest Jungle I have to come here every so often.
Marcelo is working for one of the tourism agencies. This year is slow on foreigners. Economic troubles stopped Americans from coming. Europeans are still coming but not in the same numbers as before. But Brazilians are coming in greater numbers than even and they pay very well according to Marcelo. Brazilians, fueled by economic growth and prosperity, are discovering their own country now. Marcelo is a black guy from French Guiana. He lived in New York for a few years when he was younger. He speaks English very well. He also speaks French and Portuguese. English is not commonly spoken in Manaus. Now he lived in Manaus for 15 years. He is divorced and has a child. He is charming, soft spoken and always ready to converse.
I like Manaus. There is a relaxing tropical pulse in this city. The faces are very different from those you see in Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo. The people look more native. They smile less. Tech Talk City The skin is darker. Many are either Native Amazon Indians or mix.
While on the airplane to Manaus I was talking to Tim. A couple of years ago he could fly directly from Atlanta to Manaus. But Delta discontinued this flight. Now it takes much longer flying via Sao Paulo. He is flying with his adopted daughter who is her late twenties. His ex and he adopted her when they were going with church missions long ago. He has a small completion, well fit, speaks with a bit of Southern accent. He is in his 50th. He is married to an Amazon woman who is as old as his adopted daughter. His current wife and his adopted daughter were childhood friends. His new wife is a university graduate with a well-paid job in Manaus. They are not moving to America. Forget that! He is moving to Brazil. He lived in Manaus part-time for a while now and has his permanent residency status is established.
I can’t say if it is typical of Brazil, but couples that 20-30 years apart are common. I have two Brazilian friends that married in similar fashion. One was 46 year old and married to a woman of 19. Another one was 60 and married to a woman of 34. They have a 2 year old son now. Both couples are happy. As they say sometimes: men are like wine – they take time to mature. The demographic of Manaus favors men. There are many more women than men. The law of supply and demand is present in Manaus. Women dress to attract the attention – provocatively. It is not Latin. It is tropical. That means with a minimum of cloth. I was talking to an American recruiter who went to Brazil to interview candidates for the tech job. He rejected the women candidate because in his opinion her skirt was two short and she did not wear any stockings. If the guy would walk outside even once he might have understood why she was dressed that way. It is humid and hot! You have to take a shower 3 times a day. It is local culture.
When I went to buy some gifts a sales clerk asked who I buy gifts for? Casually, I reply that these are gifts for my children. She continues and interrogation:
-How many children you have?
-From the same woman?
I never was asked this question before and I was intrigued. It is common (I did not say normal) to have more than one child with different partners in Manaus. On occasion I meet another guy in his 60s who was proud to father 23 children with 11 women! He is certainly sounded like a hero who beat the record of human reproduction. He also was accompanied by a young woman in her twenties.
The airplane conversation continued. Tim has his business in the USA and wants to do the same in Manaus. Recently Chinese invested 120 million dollars for the residential development and he want to do some landscaping for them. Manaus is preparing for Olympics and World Cup like the rest of the cities in Brazil. Real estate prices are skyrocketing. Manaus needs landscaping. It also needs to be scrubbed and washed. You can stay in Tropical Manaus Hotel. It is up to European standard. It has its own zoo and a swimming pool. There is also a bigger zoo with tropical animals in on the Brazilian military base in Manaus. It is close to the airport and to the river walk (Rio Negro). Airline crews stay at this hotel. The breakfast is spectacular. But there is nothing else around hotel. I prefer downtown and people.
I stayed during one of my previous trips in Hotel “10 de Julio” also. It is in downtown. It is basic and safe. Rooms are clean and air-conditioned. Breakfast is served and it is right by the Municipal Theater Plaza. Many restaurants and bars are on the plaza or near it. The plaza is well guarded and safe. But I would not go far from it at night. Manaus is as any port full of riffraff, drugs and prostitutes. On weekend days the downtown is deserted. The downtown is a trade area and Manaus is not exactly a tourist spot. It is a free economic zone. Here you can bring parts tax free, assemble with for tax benefits and sell on the Brazilian market. It is also a door to Brazilian Amazon Jungle. Manaus is hot, humid. It rains a lot and sometimes in 30 minutes the water on the street rises 2 ft. Most stores downtown sell imported junk. The attraction is a municipal theater built at the time of rubber rush. There is not much to do in Manaus. 2 days should be enough to observe everything that is worth looking at.
There are three tourist agencies that rent offices in the hotel “10 de Julio”. They all sell the same thing. I have been to the jungle many times and every so often I have to go there again. I have been to the jungles lodges and to the mining camp that was 40 km from Bolivian border. If you want to see Amazon nature you can find it 30 km from Manaus. 1 hour boat ride with a guy name Cobra will take you to the places that are full of wild life. The truth is that all lodgers are the same – basic. The are registered a s hotels. But they are a plot of land with wood cabins with a shower and bed. There are some luxury lodges. But the luxury takes the breath out of the experience. It is like flying across the world to eat a big Mac. Why?
I like to be in the jungle. No phone calls. All you do is eat, sleep, tour, shower or deep in the river. It is very relaxing. You can go on the boat ride to see monkey, birds, crocs and trees. You can also camp. But this time after a shot stop over I am flying further to Porto Velho, Rondonia. Another friend of mine is taking gold mining equipment to State of Para. It is 1000 km on the dirt road one way. That is what I call a jungle adventure!
About the author: Pavel Agafonov is a social commentator, traveler, freelance writer and entrepreneur. He divides his time between Europe and South America with occasional stop in Miami Fl