On our final day alongside the Rio Negro in Novo Airão, we had scheduled an early morning bird safari. We woke at 5 am in full darkness, dragged the kids out of their beds, and went down to the veranda where we were to meet Aurecir, our guide of the last two days. Twenty minutes passed, thirty minutes…no Aurecir. The dawn came, as it inevitably does, and I cried a few tears of frustration. I had wanted to see those birds. My in-laws went back to bed, the rest of us lay around in hammocks watching the pousada’s resident animals and birds slowly come to life.
Finally Aurecir appeared with the full light of morning. He was clearly ill and had spent the night sleepless. He was unable to lead the tour and apologized profusely. As the Brazilians like to say *aconteceu um imprevisto* (something unexpected had happened–more on the phrase here), and there was nothing to be done. I wasn’t mad that Aurecir was sick but I did give feedback to the hotel that they should have had someone on-site that could have told us at 5 am to go back to bed, and give up the tour. So, my bird tour will have to wait for next time.
On the bright side of the unexpected, we had plenty of time for the expected. My kids were ecstatic to have a day off from the Amazon and to just enjoy our private pool. There were no other guests at the pousada which means my kids took over the very warm and very pretty pool deck and playground, which was done by a local artist.
In the early afternoon, we decided to go see the local swim-with-dolphins program and walked 10 minutes in the frying heat to the little shack on the water. Once inside, we heard about the next *imprevisto* (unexpected)–we were not allowed to swim with the dolphins after all. Though the animal lovers among us would think that it was for the dolphins’ protection, no. It was because one of the dolphins liked to hide under the dock and then rush out and bite people. And I say: right on, dolphin! You tell those tourists to get out of your water.
We listened to a short presentation about the dolphins then went out to the dock and met three of the dolphins. Yes, the same ones appear each day at the appointed hour (I was happy to hear that the system is very regulated–the dolphins are fed every hour on the hour for 10 minutes, and then they have to go and find their own stuff to do for the next 50 minutes). The dolphins were all free to come and go–one of the three was a complete piggo though and pushed the others out of the way for the fish. There is one in every bunch, no matter which animal kingdom you are in.
On our way back walking to the hotel, we passed by the new fancy city dock. It was huge, shiny new, and glared huge lights every night — seriously it was lit up all night like some kind of rock concert. But it was all closed off. When we asked about it, the story was just one of the zillions you hear in Brazil. The dock was part of a corruption scandal–in exchange for letting it be built on protected Amazon land, the government officials pocketed some small fortune. But now it was “condemned”and unusable–millions for nothing. And so it sits, lit up like a Christmas tree every night. Who, I would like to know (or maybe not), is paying for that power bill.
Later in the evening, we wandered downtown to one of the few open restaurants. It being off-season and midweek meant that most restaurants were closed. We found a place that served barbecue on the street – churrasquinho de gato or cat barbecue (for more on that idea, see my old blog Brazil in My Eyes)- and sat and watched the evening magic, only ruined for me by the vast quantities of mangy street dogs who were clearly miserable. Yes, I snuck bunches of food to them. Only one night of food for them, but one night is all I had.
We stopped for ice cream on the square and then we were back for an early night at the hotel. The next day we were back to the real world of Manaus for a day then onwards to Miami. This would be our last night on the mighty Amazon. For now. I will be back. I hope all of my readers (what, five of you?) go there some day too. It is the unexpected…and the expected too.