Surviving 4 days in the Amazon jungle
Updated: Mar 21, 2019
We decided to spend Christmas in Brazil. Adventure among piranhas
We went to #Brazil, after spending New Year's eve in Rio de Janeiro, we flew to #Manaus to experience a survival adventure in the #Amazon. We moved around in a kayak in Rio Negro river where we fished piranhas and slept either at the beach or in the jungle, handing our hammocks between trees. We made fire pits to cook what we had or what we fished. We also spent a full day with an indigeous tribe, they cooked for us and we drank their corn fermented alcoholic drink.
A kayak that was sinking, a lantern partially working, 3 chickens, a fishing rode, hammocks and some clothes. With that, we survived 4 days in the jungle.
New Year's Eve in Rio De Janeiro: the Copacabana and Ipanema white party
We flew to Rio de Janeiro, i did it from San Francisco and my friend Morgan from Buenos Aires, i arrived one day late because, as usual, United Airlines had issues, they cancel my flight and i had to fly the next day. I recommened avoid using that airline if possible.
We celebrated New Year's Eve in Copacabana (we could also have gone to Ipanema, but we didn't), more than 2 million people party that night in Rio's beaches, everybody dressed on white, at the beaches you can find concerts, it is huge. At midnight you can see the best fireworks i've ever seen, the last quite a while and expand from side to side of the beach.
Surviving in Manaus jungle
We flew to Manaus, a 1.8 million people city in the Amazon's hearth.
We stayed at Local Hostel, good experience, recommended, and the next day we started our adventure.
We hired a tour with Amazing Tours, this company offers different types of tours, we chose them because we were looking for a real adventure, not a tour for kids and old people. All the others we found weren't that wild as this one.
The tour consists in 4 days in the jungle surviving with what mother earth gives us (more or less), and without knowing much more , we went ahead.
We were taken on a bus to the meeting point, already in the jungle, where we join around 20 more people that were going to do other tours. The place was interesting, due to recent raining, there was a river flood and the houses were floating, they are ready for these types of floods, they told us the water level can increase several meters.
From there we took a small boat for 30 minutes until we reached a hotel that this company has in the jungle. In that hotel, they distribute the people to their respective adventures. It turned out that all of them stayed relaxing at the hotel and we were the only ones doing this survival experience.
They told us, this is your transportation mean for these 4 days. A kayak no longer than 5 meters with a small engine. Our guide was introduced, a 22 years old kid that didn't speak neither Spanish nor English, we put our backpacks into the kayan and he put the rest:
20 liters of water
A cooler with ice, 3 chickes, eggs, rice and oranges
A plastic tarp to cover from the rain
A fishing rode
First day: night at a Rio Negro beach
We left the hotel in our luxury yacht and during one hour, we moved around Rio Negro until we reached a beach. At the beginning, there was some tension because the kayak seemed quite unstable, while the guide was laughing at our scared face, he was telling us to take the water out of the kayak because it was leaking and getting into the kayak, we used half plastic bottle to remove the water. It didn't look like we were going to sink, but the fact of having to do this made everything more interesting.
Before getting to the final beach, we had to stop at another beach, because a crazy storm was coming that probably would have sunk us. In the Amazon, short and heavy rain is very common. We tied the kayak and got shelter under a few trees, when the storm ended, while coming back to the kayak, something very special happen that i will never forget.
The dogs attack:
Two furious dos showed up, barking at me, showing their theet and that probably had the rabies (and i didn't get vaccines for that one). Following that i've read about how to react when a jaguar or a bear attacks you, i didn't run, staring at them i started slowly walking backwards towards the river thinking that if get into the water, they would leave, in the meantime, i was threathing them with a bag where i put my boots. They were getting closer and the river was still far, i was running out of time, they were less than 1 meter away. When i thought to start running towards the river, my savior showed up. Another dog, not bigger than the other 2, came running from nowhere, i didn't even hear him and jump to the neck of one of the furious one, they fought and he won, right after he attacked the other dog, they fought and my savior also won, then he looked at me and barked a few times telling me 'get out right now or you will get in troubles!', and of course i left and get into the water, next to the kayak. It is amazing how smart dogs are, this dog was the boss of the pack and knew that if the others attack me they would have had problems later on.
We keep going and arrived to the final beach where we spend the night. Morgan and i didn't know what to do, the guide started doing everything, we offered our help and all together built the camp, putting the 3 hammocks, the plastic tarp, we picked wood and made a fire pit.
The guide brought an old and dented pot, he put rice, onion, salt and water from the river. He opened one of the chicken, put lemon and salt and skewed it on a wood stick. We also put other 2 wood sticks in a cross shape on top of the fire pit and from there we hung the chicken so it cooks.
The trick of those crossing sticks is that they need to be greener than the wood underneath, that way they take longer to burn and they don't break, although we dropped the chicken several times... a bit of burnt wood flavour is always welcome.
Until then, we didn't think how we were going to eat the rice, we didn't have a spoon or a fork or anything like that. We made a plate out of big leaves, and the spoon... well we had to eat with our hands.
After the dinner there was no much to do so we tried to find animals in the dark, we were looking for the yacare, which means alligator in portuguese, but no luck. Being in the dark, walking in a beach surrounded by mangroves and the sounds of any type of animal, raised our adrenaline level a little bit. We saw a weird monkey, lizards and rodents, nothing crazy. Luckily, it wasn't the snake season.
After that, we went to sleep in our lovely hammocks, of course, without any mosquito net. We put a lot of antimosquitos, and although there were a lot, they didn't bite us that much, only on the feet.
To reduce the chances of getting bitten, sleep with long pants and long sleeves, you won't be hot, indeed, the night in the Amazon gets chilly.
Second day: fishing piranhas and night in a floating house
We woke up and after making another fire pit to cook eggs for breakfast, we got into our kayak to go to another beach to try to fish piranhas in a mangrove. We couldn't, no success. After trying for a few hours, we decided to feed ourselves cooking more chicken in the same way as last night, this time we didn't have to eat with our hands, we learnt how to build a spoon out of a piece of wood and using a knife. This time we use plastic bottles that we found floating in the river as plates, here you recycle everything.
We get into the deep river to find piranhas:
Since we couldn't fish piranhas, we got into the deep river, between mangroves, far from any coast with a kayak not very trustworthy.
The water was completely flat, nothing was moving it, only our kayak. The water was a perfect mirror, and there was a time that you couldn't differentiate between what was under the water or above the water, you could feel like the kayak was flying, i even felt a bit dizzy due to not having the reference of the ground and the sky.
We stopped and throw some of our last chicken to the water to call the piranhas. We took out the fishing rode and to fishing strings with a hook each and a piece of chicken in it, and we started fishing. The piranhas were there, you can see like drops falling from the sky like rain, but in reality that's the piranhas getting close to the water level. They ate the chicken and we took the hooks out totally empty, until we finally caught 3 piranhas, 2 small and a big one. When Morgan took the big one, we were so excited that the kayak swung so much that we almost fall... if that happens, we would have been eaten by those friendly fishes.
Eating piranhas and sleeping in a floating house:
It was dark already, and we came back, where were we going? I think nobody knew, not even the guide, the way back was long and the lantern was shutting off and only working after a pair of hits. We were worried because being in the dark, in the middle of the Amazon, full of piranhas and alligators in a kayak that was sinking... wasn't the ideal scenario, but we wanted adventure right?, there we had, if all moments are good, an adventure is not a real adventure.
On the way back we came across a floating house, it turned out that it was a place where tourist are taking to see pink dolphins, there a couple lived and luckily our guide knew them, so they let us stay during the night and cook our piranhas.
We didn't sleep in the house but in the outside part where the tourists normally are, in our hammocks.
The piranhas were delicious, they have good flavor and are soft.
Third day: the indigenous experience and night inside the jungle
We woke up in the floating house and it started pouring rain. Just watching the videos you can understand what i'm saying, and there is our guide taking the water out of the kayak.
Since we were in a place for the tourists to see pink dolphins, we had the privilege of waking up and see them while they were feeding them, and for free!
Indigenous experience, Julio's house:
It stopped raining and we headed to an indigenous village, they welcomed us with a ritual made for the tourists, the tourists leave and we went to a house where Julio welcomed us.
Julio and his friend (i don't remember his name, it was quite complex) opened the door of the house and gave us part of their food. It was boiled fish with a quite hot pepper and also fried chicken. These indigenous were a bit modern already due to the proximity of Manaus, they cooked in pan and pots and had a gas stove. They got electricity in the village 4 months ago and the kids go to school in a boat that goes to all the indigenous tribes to pick them up and take them to a bigger village where the school is.
We were lucky that Julio and his friend spoke Spanish, they came from the Colombian Amazon, one day they decided to go down the river and found this village and ended up here.
It turned out that Julio was running away from his Colombian village, his sexual orientation wasn't approved up there and in this town in Brazil they accepted him as he is.
After eating something, it started raining, and instead of heading to the jungle, we stayed at home talking, we got along and they brought 'chicha', an alcoholic drink made of fermented corn, we drank and they ended up drunk as f..., we didn't because although we drank some glasses, the flavor wasn't very appealing.
We even let them paint some indigenous tattoos using paint that comes from a fruit.
NIght inside the jungle:
Since we got along and became friends, they decided to spend the night with us in the jungle. We made a quick 30 minutes trek towards the deep jungle, and of course, they brought 6 liters of 'chicha' because they wanted us to get drunk with them... they were already drunk, and well, Julio felt in love with me!
When we arrived, we put the hammocks, made a fire pit and cooked, as usual, chicken. After than they told us stories that i will talk about later and we started drinking. They were so drunk already that we could barely understand them, the son of Julio's friend, 12 years old, was also drinking, probably even more than his father, but he never got drunk, that kid was made of steel! At 2am, the kid had to take his father back home to the village because he couldn't even walk, they walked back in the dark, barefoot and without any light! Right after, we went to sleep and Julio didn't want to, while all of us were sleeping, Julio started singing and screaming to the gods while running from side to side of the jungle, he went nuts... at 6am, we stopped hearing him, he vanished, he came back to his villave. What a experience!
Interesting indigenous stories
The indigenous told us a few things about their traditions, quite interesting though, here is a brief summary:
They believe in 2 religions, the catholic, imposed by the conquers, and their multiple gods original religion. They said both are compatible because their gods are only related with the nature and the jungle.
Both were kind of doctors in the village, each with its own specialty, they said the could cure almost all the diseases with that the jungle provides, and when they can't, it is because it is a disease brought by the white men, in that case they take the sick person to Manaus. The most shocking thing was Julio's friend, he claimed that he could easily cure a cobra bite, when he was drunk we managed him to tell us the secret, the person bitten by the cobra has to eat a spicy pepper and fast for a few days, only drinking water, and the venom will be gone. He said he already saved 3 of his friends.
I wanted to ask him about this plant that is so popular nowadays, but it seemed that they didn't want to talk about it, i guess is because they considered it as something blessed. At the end, Julio told me that he took it once and the first thing he said is that it is something dangerous, you can end up crazy and you shouldn't take it if you don't have a strong reason.
This is for me the most interesting one. We asked them how they do for the marriage in the village and they said that any men can steal a woman from another village, any men can go to another village and literally kidnap a woman to force her to be his wife. The woman can't say no and the woman's father neither. We were quite surprised because of the fact that the father can't do anything, but they said that it is not a problem because the father always knows if his daughter is suffering, if she is, the father will have nightmares and through his dreams will curse the man that now owns his daughter. Sometimes, after a few years, the daughter might come back to the village to see her parents again, but they don't have to, in that case, the parents all of a sudden might not see her daughter ever again.
Forth day: coming back
For the forth day there is no much to tell, we woke up in the jungle, clean up everything and after saying goodbye to Julio and his friend, we came back to the intial hotel. Do you know what was waiting for us for lunch? Chicken.
They let us took a shower, thanks god because that same night Morgan was flying to another city in Brazil and i was flying to Miami.