Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Amazing Amazon

Last week we started the most incredible vacation ever! We flew into the city of Manaus, about a 3 1/2 hr flight from Sao Paulo, on Sunday. We ate this giant fish that they just grilled whole and served, and drank some of the most delicious juices. 

We spent the night at a hotel there. The next morning, the driver came to get us! After about 2 hrs in the car, we got to the boat that would take us to the resort. 

The resort is literally on the river. We had to take a boat to go anywhere. A lot of our rides took us through the flooded forest! It was crazy to think that the trees were half under water.

Once we got to the resort, the resident monkeys came out to greet us! This one is Caguan, a wooly monkey who lives there with his mama. He walked straight up to Charlotte as soon as we got off the boat and sat in her lap. I don't think she could have been any happier! He was so funny and liked to playfully nibble, but had amazing impulse control with the kids. His mom, Chiga, was really calm.
 This is Mino. He is a type of capuchin and was kind of skittish, but really fun too.

 They also had lots of resident birds. This is a 5 month old toucan. I'm sure one day he will look great--but he was kind of ugly in his baby phase. Still kind of naked.
 There were two baby monkeys--also capuchin, just a different type. They were so fun for the girls!
 It took Clara a minute to warm up to the monkeys, but then she was just as happy.

One of our first excursions was going pirahna fishing! He took us to a few locations and showed us how to attract the fish, which kind of looked like the motion of someone swimming. A little scary! We used raw chicken as bait. I am sad to say that our family never caught one, but the nice couple behind us let us pose with theirs :). Their teeth were so sharp!

Our fishing trip extended into the evening and we had the most amazing view. 
 The girls asked when we were getting back to the macaucos (Portuguese for monkey) every time we went somewhere.

One day we went to a local community to check it out. There were about 100 people in this community. They had electricity and their own little grocery store. It was really neat!

And came home and needed to hug the monkeys some more. 

Another day they took us to a mandioca plantation. (Mandioca is a root, I think it is called Yucca in English?) They showed us how it is made into farofa, how they juice it, and how they make tapioca starch out of it. Germano, our guide/owner of the resort, showed us the plants the natives use for paint. Of course the girls needed to try it out! 

Fabiola, the wife of Germano, was an excellent cook and made us feasts every night! (This includes delicious desserts at every meal, which Charlotte said was one of her favorite things about our trip haha) She also often made bread in the shape of an animal. So here is a crocodile she made one night. 

Another of our excursions took us to visit the natives! We got to look inside their huts and see how they lived. They also performed a few dances and songs for us.
I was a little worried the kids would laugh or point about everyone being naked.  Sure enough, Charlotte turns to me and says, "Why aren't they wearing any sh . . . . . shoes?" HAHAHAHA I thought for sure she was going to ask shirts, but no, she just noticed their bare feet. After we got back, I asked her if she noticed they had less clothes, and she said, "Yeah, they had no boobie bras!"

We saw actual grubs, alive and well, that they were going to cook and eat. They also had a pan of roasted ants that were waiting to be eaten. 

We got to bring this little gal back to the resort with us! On one of the tribe's hunting expeditions, they had found the monkey and one of the girls begged them to let her keep it as a pet. She was a great pet until she started getting into all their food and weaving! So they sent her back in our boat.

Another tame bird that took quite a liking to Peter.

Us at breakfast. 

Our room. It was really nice! We didn't have AC, but we had electricity so it was great.

The kids side of the room. They did so great sleeping! I think they were pretty worn out by the end of every day. 

 Some gratuitous pictures of monkeys, because, well, MONKEYS!!

 The wooly monkeys loved us and would wait for us in the morning, hanging outside our windows. They would tap on the screens and let us know they wanted to play. Caguan liked to have Peter carry him from our room to his play area hahaha.

Clara plus boats/planes/trains=sleep. So she didn't make it to long on some of our rides.

We took a forest hike one day and Germano showed us some grubs that are "good" to eat. He said they tasted like coconut--I didn't want to test his theory. But Charlotte thought they were her pets and carried them most of the hike! (Side note, this was the kids absolute least favorite excursion. They were also sweatier than I think I have ever seen them!)

Our room from the outside. It was on stilts in the water, and at night you would hear kerplunks from things falling off the trees into the water.

Another afternoon we went swimming with the pink dolphins! They are freshwater and really are pink! These are free dolphins who come to the boat because they know they get food. The kids were a little nervous, but really thought it was cool. 

The dolphins played with the noodles and kept tugging on an end.

This boat also held these massive, massive fish in an underwater tank of some sort. These fish probably weighed at least 50-80 lbs. They let us feed them!

Later our guide took us to another village that had found a sloth. He was so cute! But you can only hold him from the back, because his nails are really sharp.

We put him on the ground and, 20 minutes later, he was only a few feet away hahaha. 

Someone in the village also had a pet anaconda.

When we left they had us just put the sloth on a beam of the house. I guess he is so slow he won't get too far.

We saw the most amazing sunsets every night.

One of our last trips was to swim on a flooded beach. The water was so dark, you can barely see 3 feet under it. But it was warm and felt so nice. 

Our last day we went to the meeting of the waters, which is close to Manaus, so back in the boat and car we went. The girls were pretty pooped from the week. 
 This is where the Rio Negro and Amazon river meet. They have distinct temperatures, acidities, and colors.
 They don't mix because of how different they are. We put our hands in as we passed by and the change was incredible.

These lilypads were about 2 feet across!

There is also a whole village made up of floating houses. They even have a floating school.

It was one of the best vacations I have ever taken! I just hope the girls can remember this one day. They have been asking us since we left when we get to go back :). 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Visitor, Beco do Batman, Celebrations Around the World, and Iguazu

Peter's good friend Ben got to come visit us a few weeks back. He was here for work and extended so we could hang out with him on the weekend. I think you could say the girls were smitten :). 

While he was here, we went to a place called Beco do Batman. It is a section of alleys that are painted by street artists, and they are all so interesting to look at! Street art is a big thing here--you rarely drive and don't see something either graffitied or painted. Some is actually art, and some is just terrible graffiti. But this section is definitely worth visiting. It is also in a "hipster" area of town.

The next weekend while Peter was out of town, my American friends took the girls and I to the big PTA fundraiser at their school called "Celebrations Around the World." This was at the American school that is amazing! It costs a fortune, but the campus is huge and has two different playgrounds. Only problem is that it is not close to where we live. Anyway, about the fundraiser, about 26 countries were represented with a booth and food. There was also live music, bouncy houses, and a raffle. This is Charlotte with her little friend Nellie.

 Shaking her booty on stage with the Salsa dancer. These salsa girls were so great!

The girls have been best friends lately and they both love to snuggle. 

Finally, last weekend we took a trip to Iguacu Falls. It borders Argentina and Brazil. They are one of the 7 wonders of the world, and I personally think they earn that title. We started our trip on the Brazil side and walked onto this neat pathway that takes you right toward the heart of some of the most gushing waterfalls. It is called The Devil's Throat. We got soaked!

Lucky Clara spent most of the weekend in this, and managed to stay pretty dry.
This is the view from a tower that overlooks almost where we were standing. There were waterfalls visible from all different angles.

Another view from the lookout where we got soaked. It was so loud! 

A funny thing about this area is this animal--it is called a quati. It looks like a mix between a raccoon and an anteater. They are fearless and will jump on you to get whatever food you have. Which is too bad, considering they have these gigantic long claws! The kids really loved seeing them everywhere. 

Here is a view further down the path towards the end of the falls. They just go on and on!

That day we also took a boat, called the Macuco Safari, that takes you right into the rapids and under the falls! Charlotte loved it.

Clara not as much. But she was a trooper! They were some of the youngest kids at the falls and they really were spectacularly easy. 

This is what our boat looked like. The rapids were huge and I was so surprised at how it went through the waves with barely a bump. 

Can you tell Clara was a little wary of the whole boat situation? Haha. 

That evening we went to Parque das Aves (a bird park). They had hundreds of species of the most beautiful birds I've ever seen. It was really fun and the girls loved it!
 A few different parts of the park were cages that you could walk through. The birds would land right next to you and just sit there. Can I just say, the picture does not do this toucan justice. It was one of the coolest looking birds.

 Charlotte was so tired by the end of the day she got to have a turn in the backpack too.

The next morning we hopped on a bus to take us to the Argentina side. While at the falls, one side is Brazil and the other Argentina and they are a whole 50 yards of walking away from each other, the entrance to the Argentina park is a little further. So on the way to the entrance of that park, the bus took us to a tourist site where you can see Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil.
Charlotte was not super stoked about this stop. 
 We could not get Charlotte to smile for these pictures and the whole tour bus that came with us was laughing at the situation.

She cheered up a little on the next hike--it was also called Devil's Throat. It took us to the top of the falls where there was the greatest water flow. It made me a little nervous and I held on to the kids really tight!

 We went on a few more hikes that day that took us along the wall of waterfalls.

Our day was full of hiking and we were pretty exhausted by the end. I took over Clara duty for a little while and showed her the art of taking selfies. :)

There wasn't too much else to do in the area and we flew home the next day. It was an amazing trip and we feel so lucky that our little companions are so easy!