Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The confluence of rivers

The boat trip today was really good. Before we got on the boat, we spent a little time in a fish market next to the dock; all sorts of exotic fish were on display. One species of fish looked very primordial, like a coelacanth; they also had big catfish, almost three feet long, and various more conventional-looking fish. One booth had piranhas; a boy at the market held open the jaw of one for me to photograph the teeth. Some of the fish were being breaded and grilled next to the market; they looked very tasty, but we had to move on.
The confluence of the Rio Negro and the Solimoes (the local name for the Amazon upstream from the confluence) was beautiful. The waters stay quite separated for quite a distance due to different levels of salinity, temperatures, and so forth, so there is a large area in which the black waters of the Rio Negro sit side by side with the cafe-au-lait waters of the Solimoes. Floating mats of vegetation were everywhere, with many different species of plants and several species of birds. Mike, one of our resident botanists, was fishing all sorts of exotic plants right out of the wake of the boat as we motored around.
Then we went for a brief stop at a local spot where a very large fish called piraracu was being farmed. They had sections of the river cordoned off with fencing that went down to the floor of the river, far below, and had dozens of the fish trapped in their corrals. The piraracu are black with large red-edged scales, and they grow perhaps as much as four and a half feet long. We scoped out the corrals for a little while, and then the men who worked there started trying to drag the fish a little out of the water, using baited lines, for us to see. The fish were so large, and fought so hard, that we only got occasional glimpses of them before they escaped back into the water, but they were quite remarkable! On the trip back we saw the houses of lots of Brazilians who live on the river (presumably fisherpeople); their houses were often painted brilliant colors, and were quite scenic.
Then we came back into Manaus and had a delicious lunch of grilled fish, fish stew, and lots of beer. The local beer is called Skol; it's very light and fairly bitter. The fish stew was absolutely fantastic; perhaps from the influence of Portuguese culture, it came with a boiled egg in it, but it also came with grated dried yucca (common in Brazil). The grilled fish was also delicious; salty and perfectly cooked. The food came with a rice and bean side that was also very tasty.

We ended the day with a pair of lectures by two members of our group; I´ll post them as separate entries for easy reading.

1 comment:

yeppokamja said...

I opened this blog, when I just started to eat.. and had to close window because of the fishes- kinda grossed me out :)

The soup and grilled fish look great. Personally I prefer ocean fishes though...