Friday, November 30, 2012

Brazilian State Flags: Acre

A little backstory on these posts. We've lived in Brazil for about a year now. I can hardly name 5 of the 26 states (and 1 Federal District), much less pick out which flag goes with which. But as a designer, I love flag design and was interested. And I would also love to learn the names and locations of all the Brazilian states. Flags and information found here on Wikipedia. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Amazon 2: Turtle Lodge and Rain

So we have finally gotten to the lodge. It was settled pretty far into the jungle area. We saw plenty of caimans on the way (a cousin of alligators and crocodiles). Lots of fish and birds as well. The lodge was pretty eco conscious, which is why Toby chose it. I couldn't give you the specifics on what made it eco friendly, but I do believe that it was... Brazilians wouldn't ever falsely advertise, right? Haha.

 So the first few days were raaaaaainy! Super rain. We did pretty much all we could, which was pretty much just boat trips. Toby had his awesome Army issue poncho, and I had my H&M, stylish, but not waterproof poncho. It was a wet first few days. See where I'm standing above? This is the level that the water gets to in the wet season. So that house that's about 40 feet below me, floats all the way up here. And that island behind me? It's totally covered by water. We sort of want to go back just to see how different it looks!
 Because all of this wood is covered in water for 6 months out of the year it took on some really pretty characteristics. I'm not going to post them all, but I took like 50 pictures of tree stumps.
 This part of the Amazon basin just got electricity. I'm not 100% sure why they ran these giant cables all the way out into the middle of nowhere, where the population is so low. But they did. I do think it's great for learning and pumping clean water and whatnot, I guess. Our native guide's house that he built with his own two hands had as many electronics as we do. Haha. One guide did say that secondary education was previously completely unavailable, and with electricity the local schools will bring in an online class (errr, I guess they have internet too) so people can come and learn. So that's good. But they "native" lifestyle sure did seem great. The happiest people we're probably ever met.
 Low water. This building was floating on giant logs. Like giant giant logs.
 We did pretty much all we could while it rained, which was mostly boat rides to see wildlife, catch fish, etc. Cold and wet.
 School bus! Here rivers are roads, so why not a boat school bus?

 A little rainy time humor.
 So many cool tree trunks. The top of this tree was full of life, the bottom looked completely dead.
 Why, hello caiman.
 Growing up I had a pet bird, Ben. In a tree at the lodge there was a flock of green parrots living. They looked really close to ole Ben. Except no red head, Ben had red on his head, I believe these guys were all green. They're incredibly camouflaged. As I look at this photo I realized there are like 4 parrots that I can see. Can you find them all?

 We do handstands everywhere we go. This was on a clear part of the day, we went on the lodge's little eco-trek. We were amazed at how dark it got when you walked into the forest. So handstands.
 Toby of the jungle!

 How big was the tree? It was this big! But not really, this was just the buttresses of the roots. It's a characteristic not of one specific kind of tree (that's what I had thought), but something that all of the trees in the area have picked up. The soil isn't very good there (okay, that's what the guide said. I can't imagine that a rainforest would grow in really crappy soil), so they spread their roots like this to stabilize.
 Haha, this is a goofy picture of Toby. Now this tree really was this big. No buttresses about it.
 We slept under this mosquito net in the lodge. Useful, but being that the bed was full of bedbugs, not very useful.
 Pretty good food at the lodge. I'm still convinced that, even though I love American brunch so much and miss it a lot, Brazilians do breakfast really really well. Like really well. Yum.
Hammock building at the lodge. The rain finally stopped. This was the day we headed out to the jungle, I believe!

Our First, but really second, Brazilian Thanksgiving

Okay, so we recently remembered that last year, before we even knew we were moving to Brazil, we came to visit over the US Thanksgiving holiday. So really it's our second Thanksgiving. But the first time we celebrated with North American food. Toby's Mom brought us canned cranberries and canned sweet potatoes. Thank goodness (and thank her!), because cranberries are one of my favorites, and they are nowhere to be found down here. You can get sweet potatoes, but they're a different type. Not orange. Purple on the outside and white on the inside. They taste similar, but wouldn't look quite right, you know?

Toby grilled a little baby turkey on the Green Egg. Turkeys are pretty expensive down here. I'm not sure why. Chickens are SUPER cheap. So I can't figure out why a turkey would cost so much. Oh well. But I thought the photo below was a nice view of our grill on our porch with the ocean behind. Not your usual Thanksgiving. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Amazon 1: Getting there

Okay, took me a while to get over the bug bites (bedbugs, ticks, mosquitos and other bugs we're not that familiar with). But I'm back now to show you our trip to the Amazon! I have a few things that I'm going to do specific blog posts on (like Brazil nuts!), but right now I'm going to give you the basic trip overview.

The days we were gone I had the good ole internet posting our itinerary for me, so you probably know what we were up to. If you don't, just look back a few posts, it should be there. While I was in the states for a month, dear ole Toby got to looking on the internet and found us an Amazonian survival vacation. When we lived in the US I was really interested in foraging. You know, finding your food other places than the grocery store. It was a fun challenge there, finding dandelions on the side of the road, random fruit and nut trees around the city. Edible things were hard to come by in Atlanta, it seemed. Well here it's not that exciting. Food grows EVERYWHERE! There are probably 50 mango trees in a three block radius. And nut trees, banana, coconut, fish in the front yard. Food is plentiful here. So I've given up on foraging. Sort of. It's also harder to explain why you are trying to climb your neighbor's tree (I just want to borrow your mangos!) when you don't speak the language that well. I kept thinking, 'just do it! You'll seem like a charming American!'. But I'm not sure that charming is the most common way to describe Americans, so I haven't climbed anyone's trees yet.

But back to the subject. Our Amazonian expedition was a survival trip, we were supposed to catch and find all of our food, trek through the jungle, etc. Below are the first group of pictures.

 So the people we did the tour with suggested no more than 20kg per person. We probably had 20 kg total. We were supposed to be trekking through the jungle the whole time, so we figured the less we packed, the less we had to carry. We ended up being really happy with what we packed, because when we did trek through the jungle we also had to carry our two hammocks. Everything we brought on the trip fit into the green waterproof bag on the bottom left of the photo. Everything we took when we trekked, including the two hammocks, fit into that bag, so we really brought almost nothing.
 So I know you're not supposed to use too many boats and cars and planes when you're trying to be eco friendly while traveling. We used a lot of these things. But I think we offset it by our choice of stay. We took a car to our airport, flew from Recife to Brasilia, to Manaus. Took a van to a boat, the boat to another van, that van to yet another boat which took us to the lodge.

 Our guide said that the in the Manaus region the waterway is much more of a road than the actual roads. People use boats more often for transportation than cars. As seen here, a floating gas station. How neat! There were a ton of boats where we got on our first one. It's the meeting of the Rio Negro and Rio Amazon, so it was a big port area.

 Also home to the famous meeting of the waters. The Rio Negro is darker, coming from a totally different area than the Amazon. It's color is made up of decomposing plants. Along with being darker, it's also cooler and slower. The Amazon river is composed of silt and runoff from...Peru? Shoot. I forgot the country. Anyway, it's made of runoff from the mountain ranges to the West. It is lighter in color, warmer and faster running. Because of all of these factors, when the two rivers meet they don't combine completely for about 15 km. It was really impressive to see in person.

 For Toby's birthday my Dad got him a water filter for this trip. We tried it out at the meeting of the waters. It works great, if any of you are in the market for a water filter I recommend this one. Of course, where we tried it out was a really busy area, so our water still tasted a bit oily. But other than that, great! No...bathroom issues.

 We came in the driest part of the dry season. This means that the boat above is normally covered by 20 feet of water. And the first little pitstop we came to was completely built on really rickety stilts. It looked like something out of a movie set.

 This is where we caught our second boat. The little floating house below comes all the way up to where I took the photo from, in the rainy season.
 Haha, the steps were so far from each other. Pay attention!
 Lots of these floating houses were just floating on old logs. Much cooler in person.

Oh and a fun fact. Amazonas (the Brazilian state) is the 9th largest country subdivision (more or less that means states) in the world. For you USA'ers, a good reference is Alaska. It's number 7 on that list. So Amazonas is big. Big ole big.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Expedition Day 6

We're out on a trek! For the next few days I have autoposting our expedition!!! Lots of pictures to come later. See the company we're going with HERE.

6th. Day- Breakfast (free morning) to Relax and enjoy the last day, Lunch and Transfer Back to Manaus.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Expedition Day 5

We're out on a trek! For the next few days I have autoposting our expedition!!! Lots of pictures to come later. See the company we're going with HERE.

5th. Day
Breakfast followed by canoe trip, where the clients will be able to paddle in the small channels (Igarapés). As paddling have the opportunity to see fresh water Dolphins (Botos), monkeys, iguanas, snakes and with luck a sloth.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Expedition Day 4

We're out on a trek! For the next few days I have autoposting our expedition!!! Lots of pictures to come later. See the company we're going with HERE.

4th. Day
Breakfast and leave for jungle trek on trails, only observing animals and flora take photos in the jungle, return back to the camp, swim in the rivers, have dinner and sleep in hammocks with mosquito net.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Expedition Day 3

We're out on a trek! For the next few days I have autoposting our expedition!!! Lots of pictures to come later. See the company we're going with HERE.

3rd. Day
(05:30am) leave for the sunrise and bird watch, (breakfast). Jungle trek with specialized guide were you will learn how to survival in the jungle, also learning more about our fauna and biodiversity. Lunch, during the afternoon catch fish for dinner, return back to camp, dinner and leave the camp for night tour to  watch for animals.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Expedition Day 2

We're out on a trek! For the next few days I have autoposting our expedition!!! Lots of pictures to come later. See the company we're going with HERE.

2nd Day
Leave from Amazon Turtle Lodge in motorized canoe to the Tracajá Lake, first camp (tapirí) this is a house made of wood and straw from the Babaçu tree, this camp is situated in the margins of the river making easier for the activities, as the rivers are the only way of transport in this territory. Lunch will be open area on the margin of the river, fresh fish roasted on fire. Explore the region, canoe and fishing trip. Dinner, after go out to listen to the sounds in the jungle. You will sleep in hammock with mosquito net.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Expedition Day 1

We're out on a trek! For the next few days I have autoposting our expedition!!! Lots of pictures to come later. See the company we're going with HERE.

Leave the hotel at 08:00 a.m. by car to the river port Ceasa (20 minutes). Take a speedboat to the village “Careiro da Varzea” (30 minutes). At this point we will be passing by the meeting of the waters, where Negro and Solimões River meet (Encontro das Águas). This is where the Amazon River is formed, flowing from this point all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. It is truly a magnificent sight to see.  The two rivers run side by side without mixing for many kilometers and you will most probably be visited by a few curious river dolphins (Botos) as well. 
After a stop at the fruit market, take a bus or van to the Araça River via the Manaus-Porto Velho highway (50 minutes BR319). By boat we will pass through many lakes and small wildlife abundant creeks, where you will have the opportunity to see the incredible giant Amazon water lilies (Vitoria Regia) with their enormous floating leaves. You will also pass by native villages and the floating houses of Caboclo’s communities. An ideal spot for wildlife watching due to the abundance of many varied species: such as birds, alligators, fish, snakes and monkeys. During this trip to the lodge you can be surprised by a creature at anytime. After 50 minutes boat ride, arrival at Amazon Turtle Lodge is scheduled for around 12:00 p.m. Lunch will be served; fresh water fish, beef (meat), chicken, salads and exotic fruits from the Amazon (buffet style). After lunch, there is a motorized canoe trip that will allow you to get to know the area better. Throughout the duration of this trip you will experience the pristine and varying landscapes of the region, with the opportunity to observe and enjoy the great diversity of animals found in the area. It is common to see squirrel monkeys, sloth, iguanas, spiders and a wide variety of birds, including the beautiful white egrets that delicately wade amongst the floating grass islands.
Dinner will be served in the restaurant of Amazon Turtle Lodge at 07:30pm, a delicious buffet including fresh water fish, beef (meat), chicken, salads and exotic fruits from the Amazon.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

On Vacation!

Well, we're off to the AMAZON! On a semi-survivalist Amazonian vacation. I have all sorts of lists of animals I want to see, and thing I think are neat about this trip, but right now, as I'm just getting back from a month-long trip to the states, it will have to wait. Oh yeah, and I'm back! Toby and I will pick up posting after November 18. I have all sorts of great posts swimming around in my head, so you just wait!

p.s. I really hope to see a sloth. What a handsome animal.