By Mary Jo
The Mayhem Consultant likes a good warm weather winter getaway, so when I studied some possibilities, I saw that Viking was doing cruises between Manaus, Brazil and San Juan, Puerto Rico. (The picture at the left was taken as we took a tender out to the Viking Sea when we arrived in Manaus at sunset.)
Manaus is on the mighty Amazon river, a thousand miles from the Atlantic Ocean. In 2014 we did a cruise of the Upper Amazon coming from Peru and it was great. We were on a very small ship and spent much of our time on skiffs going into the jungle to see sloths and giant lily pads.
The Amazon is the largest river in the world in terms of water flow. (The Nile might be longer, but that question is debated.) This cruise on the Brazilian Amazon was very different from the upper Amazon.
The Amazon watershed is vast and many rivers flow together to make a river so mighty that it has been called the river sea. (The image of the Amazon watershed on the left is from Wikipedia.)
Manaus is the capital of the Amazonas province, and it's smack dab in the middle of the Amazon rain forest. Driving from the airport to the riverside, I was struck by how any land that wasn't covered with buildings or asphalt was being claimed by the jungle. Intense bursts of greenery were everywhere, such as the picture on the right. I took that when we were on the bus to the river to show the rain forest exuberance.
At the height of the late 19th Century rubber boom, Manaus was one of the richest cities in the world and many great singers and dancers performed at the dazzling neo-classical opera house.(Picture of the facade is on the left.)
One reason I was intrigued by the idea of Manaus is because it's the setting for most of Eva Ibbotson's wonderful A Company of Swans, the tale of Harriet Morton, the shy, dance-loving daughter of a rigid Cambridge academic who runs away from home to join the chorus of a Russian ballet company
A Company of Swans is Eva Ibbotson at her witty, romantic best, and I couldn't resist the thought of visiting the opera house where Harriet and her friends performed. But the end of the rubber boom was hard on the city, and there are still signs of poverty.
The picture of the colorful banner on the right was taken from the opera house garden and a dark and rather rundown building is visible between the banner and the opera house. The opera house was closed for most of the 20th century, but has now reopened as a performing arts center, and the city has developed a sizable industrial economy. It's also a major port for shipping on the river.
We got home just last night and I'm very travel fatigued, so I'll say more about our journey later. For now, I'll suggest reading A Company of Swans so you can fall in love with Eva Ibbotson's magical Amazon!