Posts tagged ‘Amazon’

Pleasure a-plenty in Amazonia’s Alter do Chão: Lago Verde, Ilha do Amor and the gigantic samaúma trees in the Tapajós National Forest.

Brazil is big. Colossal. It’s actually larger than the continental USA. Yes… bigger than all the contiguous United States. It’s simply enormous. Amidst this bigness, nothing in Brazil has astounded me more than the immensity of the Amazon, the largest forest on our planet that comprises half of Brazil’s land mass.

My contact with the Amazon Basin has been mostly transitory. I’ve traveled a good portion of its expanse starting near the Bolivian border and arriving after 3½ days in Manaus, the central metropolis connected only to the rest of Brazil by boat or plane. I continued down the great Rio Amazonas for another few days until I reached the delta at Belém. In all, this 2,600 kilometer (1,615 mile) journey required nearly two weeks of travel.

Along the way I was constantly amazed by pretty much everything, from the vastness of the rivers which much of the time seem more like huge lakes, to the incongruity of the massive megalopolis of Manaus – an urban jungle trapped in the heart of Amazonia’s heady tropics.

Meeting of the Waters: Where the Rio Madeira joins the mighty Rio Amazonas.

Meeting of the Waters: Where the Rio Madeira joins the mighty Rio Amazonas.

So I was hardly surprised to find a picture-perfect oasis just outside of Santarém, the main port city between Manaus and Belém. It sits where the Rio Tapajós meets the Rio Amazonas and forms a huge lagoon. With a white-sand island, Ilha do Amor (Island of Love), with glistening waters and barracas (food stalls) serving fresh-grilled fish and icy caipirinhas. And the nearby Tapajós National Forest offers ample opportunities for walks in the jungle and visits to traditional rubber communities. Alter do Chão is a perfect place to break up the down river journey so I spent a few days there in blissful repose.

Alter do Chão Town

The town of Alter do Chão doesn’t have a lot going on so there’s little to be preoccupied with: one real hostel to perch the hammock and meet fellow travelers, one market on the main plaza, one café for morning coffee, and a couple of adjacent restaurants on the plaza that share tables – they even provide two bills if, say, you want to order drinks from one but food from the other. In a word, Alter do Chão is chill.

Lagoon and Island

The Amazon isn’t just an ordinary river that flows along a lonely route through the jungle to the sea. It’s jam-packed with tributaries, islands, inlets and lagoons which make for a fascinating riverscape with constantly changing features.

The eccentric waters of the "Amazon River" – a vast network of countless waterways – as seen from the GPS on my mobile phone.

The eccentric waters of the “Amazon River” – a vast network of countless waterways – as seen from the GPS on my mobile phone.

Lago Verde (Green Lake) is a perfect example of the Amazon’s varied features. With three attractive fingers penetrating the tropical forest, Lago Verde is home to plenty of birds and other wildlife – and its secluded beaches were just steps away from my hostel.

The real draw of Alter do Chão is Ilha do Amor, a splendid stretch of sand just a $1 rowboat ride from the town dock. Half the year it is mostly submerged by the rainy season’s bursting waters but in July the waters start to recede, revealing bright sands and Caribbean-hued waters. While the waters were still high during my visit, they were ebbing quickly… in just a couple days the beach was growing perceptibly larger.

Continue reading ‘Alter do Chão: An Amazonian Wonderland of Sand, Sunsets and Jungle Viagra’ »

Pope Francis wears an indigenous feathered hat given to him by representatives of one of Brazil's native tribes (AP Photo/Mônica Imbuzeiro, Agência O Globo)

Today as I depart to the Amazon — a lifelong dream of mine — I am greeted with extraordinary headlines from the new pontiff’s trip to Brazil. Pope Francis’ astonishing statements to Brazilians are bold and promising and, I hope, consequential.

Brazilians are paying attention — live coverage is broadcast on the nation’s televisions and locals dutifully switch back and forth between soccer matches.

I hope the world is listening too. While these are just words, Pope Francis seems to be a man of action. I’m beginning to like this guy…

Pope Francis to Business and Political Elites: Stop Pillaging The Earth

I would like to invite everyone to reflect on what Aparecida said about the Amazon Basin, its forceful appeal for respect and protection of the entire creation which God has entrusted to man, not so that it can be indiscriminately exploited, but rather made into a garden.

Pope Francis to Youth: Fight Against Corruption

Do not grow accustomed to evil, but defeat it. Do not lose trust, do not allow your hope to be extinguished, do not grow disillusioned with news of corruption.

Pope Francis to Bishops: Get Out Of Your Churches

We cannot keep ourselves shut up in parishes, in our communities. Let us courageously look to pastoral needs, beginning on the periphery (of where we live), with those who are farthest away.