We leave Manaus Harbour early in the morning, a speed boat taking us across the Rio Negro. After 30 minutes, we are put ashore at a tiny village where a minibus is waiting for us. From here we follow a trail through the woods. The trees get taller and the forest denser. More than an hour later we arrive at the end of the road.
“We’re here,” the driver says. We get out of the bus and look around.
“Where is here?” I ask.
We sit and wait, enjoying the silence. After 20 minutes another speed boat arrives. We travel along rivers and creeks and creeks and rivers. We see trees, trees and more trees.
“How is it possible to find your way through this labyrinth?” I ask the man steering the boat. “There are no signs and everything looks the same.”
The man doesn’t answer, so I sit back and enjoy the view. “He would probably get lost driving in Paris,” I comfort myself.
Two hours later, the man turns to me and says in Portuguese: “There it is,” pointing in the direction of the forest, “there’s Juma Lodge.”
“In the pictures the cabins were in the treetops,” I say, looking at the little houses at river level. “They are,” the man replies, “but in the wet season the river rises 15 metres.”
The next morning we’re sitting on the boardwalk, overlooking the river. Our guide, Bina, comes and sits next to us. He is a local, born and raised in the Amazon Rainforest. “What do you want to do today?” he asks. “A reconnaissance of the igapós, the fl ooded forest? A short hike and instruction in jungle survival?”
“You know,” I say, “we have been travelling for several months now, meeting people and brands in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. We would be quite happy doing nothing, right here in the middle of the rainforest.” Bina looks disappointed. “I could show you the medicinal plants of the rainforest, the pharmacy of the world… I can take you to the tallest tree in the rainforest. The sumaúma can grow up to 40 metres tall.”
“No thanks,” I reply, “we’re fi ne here. We’ll do some meditation overlooking the river.”
“As you wish,” Bina says, “I’ll bring you some açai juice later and while you’re here, you can go swimming or maybe do some piranha fi shing.”
He turns around, follows the boardwalk in the opposite direction and disappears in the treetops.
When we fi rst arrived I thought there was total silence, but I was wrong, there is just a different dimension of sounds. I close my eyes and hear the wind in the trees and the water against the boardwalk, birds and an occasional howler monkey.
“Do you hear that?” Anouk asks. “Do you hear that whistling sound?”
I concentrate, but hear nothing. “There it is again!” Anouk says. I listen again very carefully, but hear nothing. “It’s probably a bird, up in the…”
Before I can fi nish my sentence, a dorsal fi n slices through the water 20 metres away, and then another. “Did you see that?” I ask Anouk. “Those are pink river dolphins.”
We see three or four dolphins swimming just in front of us. “Wow,” I say, taking off my T-shirt, “I swam with a whale shark in Djibouti, this is my chance to swim with a pink dolphin.” I unlace my trainers and glide off the boardwalk into the water.
“Are you sure you want to do that?” Anouk asks. “Of course,” I reply, “Bina mentioned that we could swim.”
“So I heard,” Anouk says, “but he also mentioned piranha fi shing.”