Thursday, May 29, 2008

Hotels and beaches

Today has been an adventure-filled day! Last night after I posted the last blog entries, several of us were walking back from the Internet cafe and spotted both an enormous cockroach (the biggest we've yet seen here) and, in a different place, an enormous assassin bug. I'll spare you the picture of the cockroach; available upon request. The assassin bug didn't seem very well; when we walked by the next morning, he had only moved a few leaves over, so we photographed him some more.
We hopped onto a local bus and went over to a fancy five-star hotel to see how the other half lives. On our way there we got caught in a tropical shower; we were all overjoyed, and many of us stripped down to bathing suits or shorts and wandered around blissfully in the rain. It was the first rain we had seen thus far in the trip, oddly enough (this being, after all, tropical rainforest!) so we were all very happy. It was only a shower, intense but brief, and ofter it ended we went on to the hotel.
It was tall and palatial, with a glass elevator and some balconies from which we could see the Rio Negro stretching away into the distance; at the spot we were at, it seemed to be several miles across. The clouds over the water were beautiful, but of course virtually impossible to photograph. The hotel also had a zoo onsite with a big sign that claimed that the zoo housed only rescued and injured animals, but I don't believe a word of it; the cages were tiny, the animals looked maltreated, and I think the zoo just put up the sign to make the wealthy tourists feel better. A jaguar paced endlessly in a cage only a few times longer than the length of its body, and the little monkeys they had reached for Mike's hand with sad grimaces of despair. The only exhibit that I enjoyed was a large cage with a nesting pair of birds (herons?) that had an interesting behavior: they would stretch their necks out as far as they could, and moo like cows! At first I thought this might be a mating behavior (and the female of the pair even seemed to present for mating at one point), but later the very same behavior seemed to be used in a threatening manner when I got too close to the cage, so I don't know now. After having a snake draped around my neck for a photo op, it was time to move on.
We took a boat to a beach a little ways down the river. The beach was set up for partying Brazilian style: loud music, salty food, lots of beer, and swimming on the beach. Since I didn't inherit the party animal gene, I headed off into the pseudo-jungle (nowhere near primary forest) with a few others. It soon became clear that, with no outhouses on the island, the trail was used by the locals primarily as a latrine, and we eventually turned back out of revulsion, but Mike and Danielle did spot lots of interesting plants, and I got photos of some neat insects, including lovely red and black dragonflies that drew their wings upwards at rest in an unusual manner.
When we got back from our hike, the professors were partying in the water with a bevy of cute girls; that's Dr. Myatt, a botanist at SJSU, enjoying a taste of semi-retirement in the photo at right. Then we had lunch (delicious grilled fish, french fries, and the usual rice and bean mixture), washed down with plenty of Skol, and we headed back to home base. I'll leave you with a photo of me as I would look if I had dreadlocks, courtesy of a tree near the hotel!

1 comment:

yeppokamja said...

Kom i da! It seems like you eat the fish a lot - look same as before.. I'd imaged your hotel as run-down motel 6 kind of place but it looks very fancy!

The dragon fly is very very pretty. Any earings like that?