Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Manaus at the confluence that makes the Amazon

Ever since my errant roots touched ground in Belgrade, I’m a sucker for confluences. Like Belgrade, the city of Manaus in Brazil owes its existence to a confluence, namely that of the Rio Solimoes and the Rio Negro. Their yellow and black streams flow side by side for three miles before blending; a rare phenomenon brought about by perfect circumstances and marveled at by anyone who’s dared to brave the mighty Amazon these rivers form.

Manaus was carved out of the wilderness and funded largely by the rubber industry. That industry crumbled when a clever entrepreneur purloined enough rubber tree seeds to start a plantation somewhere else, and collapsed entirely when the invention of synthetic rubber in the early 20th century made natural rubber obsolete. Now an impoverished populous dwells the remnants of a golden age. A few opulent buildings – such as the opera house and the palace of justice –  have kept their purpose and shine, but many are converted into deteriorating apartment buildings or markets.

We’re scheduled for an overnight. That means that the chances are excellent we’ll be able to squeeze out a few hours of shore leave. A big white church looms over the concrete just outside the port and becomes a beacon to home in on as Draga and I march off the gangway in search of freedom.

Torrential rain in Manaus, Brazil

The port of Manaus, Brazil
Dilapidated building in just outside the port of Manaus
The Church of Immaculate Conception in Manaus, Brazil
The Opera House, Manaus, Brazil

The Palace of Justice in Manaus, Brazil

Inside the Palace of Justice in Manaus
Port of Manaus on the Amazon, Brazil

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