It has been quite a day. Things started off slowly, since so many people were so short on sleep; we finally rolled out of the hotel around noon, I think, after a nice long breakfast, running some errands, and various cat-herding activities. We took a bus up to a place called INPA that is the center for scientific research in the Amazon. We will be back there again later in the trip to meet with some of the scientists who work there, but we spent today exploring their grounds.
And their grounds are amazing. INPA is within Manauas, so the rain forest there is long gone; but they have done their best to reconstruct a facsimile of rain forest within their grounds, and it seemed pretty good to me. (We´ll see the real thing soon enough.) We saw all sorts of critters, from leaf-cutter ants to some very friendly turtles to crocodiles, all in captivity (well, maybe not the ants), as well as many very exotic plants (I don´t know much about botany, but the two botanists in our group were practically foaming with excitement). There was also an incredible sort of gift shop at INPA consisting entirely of goods made and sold by native people of the Amazon. A different tribe gets showcased each week, on a rotating basis; I don´t know about the work of other tribes, but this week´s products were amazingly beautiful, and staggeringly cheap. I spent a lot of money; much more of it goes directly to the native people through INPA than it would in any other sort of store in Brazil, so it was a wonderful win-win situation, as far as I can see.
Then we took a bus to downtown and walked around there a bit. I got to see the waters of the Rio Negro for the first time, and we had drinks and dinner in a huge plaza that was very European. Manaus´s downtown is really quite nice. There was a huge covered market; Manaus has historically always been a center of trade in Brazil, and it shows. We took a group photo in front of the old opera house in Manaus; on Thursday we will actually see an opera there (not inside the opera house, but in the plaza in front of it). That should be great fun!
I don´t know what the plan is for tomorrow; one day at a time. For now, it´s time to get some sleep.