Manaquiri and being a tourist in Manaus

Thursday was another early morning, leaving at 5.45am to catch a 6.45am boat. We were going to visit a small church in Manaquri. Manaquiri is a largish town near Manaus, accessible by a 2 hour boat ride. You can drive but it's a difficult journey that way. Thankfully the boat today was not a habita (enough of those adventures yesterday!) but a proper chug chug chugging boat holding about 30 people.  Travel by river is very common in the Amazonas region as it is a comparably cheap way of getting around. Despite it being 6am when we got there the area around the dock was very busy and noisy with loads of people setting up market stalls or running to catch a boat with belongings balanced on their heads.
Busy Manaus dock

Megabus Amazon style!

2 hours later we arrived in Manaquiri, where I was very thankful to see proper buildings, as this meant proper toilets! There were also lots of cars, and helpful moterbike taxi service from the dock (which you couldn't have paid me enough to use!). Saw one lady hop on holding a tiny baby - no helmets on anyone - madness!

Manaquiri is a community that has been visited numerous times in the past 10 years by the Hospital Boat, with people becoming Christians through the evangelism they do. However, there had never been a Methodist Church here despite it being a fairly sizeable place, so there was no ongoing support and discipleship. Last year the Bishop challenged the local pastors to look into planting some sort of church in Manaquiri. There is now a church of about 40 adults and 23 children led by a lay leader called Wagner.

They were extremely proud to show us their register book in which they write the name and date of birth of each person who becomes a church member. Vast majority people born in the 80s or 90s - the church here is very young in comparison to in Great Britain. We spent the morning with Alberto and his wife chatting, looking around their shop and visiting the rented building which they use for church. They are hoping to build a new church building as this one really isn't up to scratch and is costing them a lot of money to rent. They struggle financially as a small church with no local minister and little financial support from other churches and I heard many of the same questions and worries that I hear in the UK - are we really ever very different? We prayed for them and Karla, who works with the Bishop, was able to give some helpful input from a practical point of view.

We rounded off our short time in Maniquiri by having lunch at Wagner and his wife's house (3 rooms with 6 children age 6 - 17! Lots of fun!). They had been out fishing a few days before and caught over 200 fish - I told Alberto he should give my dad some tips! The fish were kept in a big box of ice in the same room as the toilet - have you ever been to the toilet with a toothy piranha watching you?!

I happened to be looking out of the window at the right time on the boat trip back and saw the famous Meeting of the Waters, the point where the black waters of the Negro River and the brown waters of the Solimoes River meet and begin to run side by side without mixing for about 9km. It was a bizarre and interesting site and I'm glad I saw it - blink and you would have missed it as we crossed over it very quickly. You can see it very clearly on Googlemaps (

Once back in Manaus we switched to tourist mode. We went to the market and bought some very stereotypical souvineers - indigenous wood carvings of fat tribal leaders wearing loin cloths and the like. It almost felt disrespectful to buy these things after getting to know real local people - really strange. Hope it is good for their economy.

Our final stop was the Amazonas Opera House, a beautiful huge theatre built with English bricks, French glass and Italian marble. Not what you'd expect to find in the busy, sweaty, shouty city of Manaus to be honest. It's a stunning place, naturally cool inside, luxurious in every aspect, made with beautiful craftmanship - including nearly 200 chandeliers. It was built during the rubber boom in the 1880s when Manaus (quite successfully for a short while) aimed to become the Paris of South America.

Our visit to the Opera House quite delighfully coincided with that of a group of about 100 German package holiday tourists, mostly in their later years and looking wonderfully out of place and foreign. I felt positively local compared to them, with my 15 Portuguese words and slightly less gigantic rucksack. Nice to hear a familiar language as I speak some German and I think confused some of them by eagerly talking to them in the ladies loos.

Then home for a shower and to repack before another early night as leaving at 4am to fly to Sao Paolo. Very sunburnt at the end of this day, despite multiple applications of sun cream, going in the shade whenever available, and carrying an umbrella for the latter part! After 2 weeks of avoiding it I look like a tomato coloured British tourist - there goes my pride from the experience with the German tourists. I am no match for the Brazilian sun it seems.

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