Photos From The Brazilian Amazon

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Photos From The Brazilian Amazon

“Is it dangerous to plan too much? Yes, we all need to plan, to have a plan, but life goes on regardless of our plans and we know only too well what happens to so many of the best laid plans of mice and men!” Leslie W.P. Garland 

I spent six months planning and researching a trip deep in the middle of the Brazilian Amazon. It wasn’t easy to find a tour guide  that would go there and logistics during the wet season were difficult. I thought I had finally done it.  But the randomness of life is always a challenge. Though I tried to plan a trip where I could control my health issues, I could not control the unforeseen twist in the path that came too late for me to do anything about it. Fate often has its own ideas. “Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht” is an old Yiddish adage meaning, “Man Plans, and God Laughs.” These photos that I did not take, of a trip that i did not get to go on are to beautiful to not share.

Fly safe,

JAZ

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How To Pack For The Wet Season In The Amazon Jungle

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How To Pack For The  Wet Season In The Amazon Jungle

“Rain didn’t make things messy. People did that all on their own.” Barbara Delinsky

I try to control my trips as much as I can. I agonize over temperature charts and rainfall counts. Just what were the best times to visit my bucket list places? I try to avoid the rain as much as possible but lately the weather has been unpredictable or that is when I have to travel.

 This time I could be traveling to the Amazon Jungle during the wet season which is a bit different from the rainy season. The best thing you can do is pack rainy season clothes and embrace the rain. 

Wet season (which might be called monsoon season in other countries)  also means hot and humid so your clothes need to be breathable, cooling, quick drying and light. It is really hard to get your clothes to dry during the wet season.  Bring at least two outfits per day.  I remember from living in New York in the summer about that really oppressive heat and humidity where you are just waiting for it to rain. This will be worse.

You need to be covered from head to toe in that heat. Your body needs to be protected  from – things. Poisonous plants, leeches, mosquitos, tarantulas, big biting ants and snakes are part of life in the jungle. Pools of water are breeding ground for mosquitos, zika, malaria, typhoid and cholera.  Yellow fever has broken out in Brazil.

There is no weather pattern during wet season. Just know it is going to rain every day and there will be major electrical storms. Flooding is everywhere. But, the landscapes will be lush and gorgeous with interesting light. Hopefully the natives will be friendly . 

I’m not brave, There are so many things that can go wrong on this trip. But I have a chance to go on a real adventure-the kind where anything can happen in the jungle. I realize that it is when you are petrified that bravery can happen. If you are not afraid to do anything, than you never need to be brave.

I’m thinking waterproof mascara.

Fly safe,

JAZ

The Amazon Rainforest, Brazil

The Amazon Rainforest

“What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.”Mahatma Gandhi

As humans we tend to blame other people for our environmental problems. Most of the Amazon region is located in Brazil and having spent time there I have to talk about deforestation. Though each of us are responsible for creating the problem in the environment, caring for the Amazon is most critical for our survival.

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The Amazon Rainforest is the largest remaining tropical forest on our planet. It is home to one-third of the world’s species; one-fourth of the world’s fresh water; one fifth  of the world’s forests; forty-eight billion tons of carbon dioxide in its trees and two hundred indigenous and traditional communities.

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The Amazon is also one of the fastest changing ecosystems, largely as a result of human activities, including deforestation, forest fires, and, increasingly, climate change.

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The current deforestation is  driven by industrial activities and large-scale agriculture. By the 2000s more than three-quarters of forest clearing in the Amazon was for cattle-ranching.Vast areas of rainforest were felled for cattle pasture and soy farms, drowned for dams, dug up for minerals, and bulldozed for towns and colonization projects. At the same time, the proliferation of roads opened inaccessible forests to settlement by poor farmers, illegal logging, and land speculators.

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The  Emilio Goeldi  Museum is a research institute related to the Brazilian Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MCTI).  It was founded in 1866 in the city of Belém, in the state of Para.

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Since its creation, the museum activities have been divided up between the scientific study of natural and socio-cultural systems in the Amazon area, scientific communication, the diffusion of knowledge and collections from the region and formation. All the results obtained in these fields make the Emilio Goeldi  Museum one of the most important research centers in Brazil.

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The museum is composed of three different places: a zoological and botanical park in the city of Belém, a research campus on the outskirts of the city and a scientific station in the Caxiuanã National Forest.

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The Park has more than two thousand species of plants and around six hundred animals that are native to the Amazon region and seems to be a popular school trip.

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Brazil is taking steps to save the Amazon rainforest.

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Since 2004 there was a seventy per cent decline in deforestation. In 2012 Brazil’s forest code was updated for landowners to protect eighty per cent of the rainforest. Some countries followed but not many. Different Brazilian states had different outcomes. It is not a downward trend. In 2013 Para’s deforestation had doubled and in 2014 it was the lowest of the Brazilian states.

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Greed, economy, state and government regulations seem to play a part in the reversal of the trend. The most obvious explanation was the change in national policy – first to sharply restrict deforestation, then to loosen the restrictions a bit.

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Saving the environment requires all of us. We can’t expect the Brazilians to take care of it for us while we drive our cars or put chemicals in the air. It requires us all to be well informed citizens of the world. What is happening in the Amazon affects all of us  and we should be aware of what is going there. We have one quest and we need to do it with compassion and not blame for each other. I believe that what we do makes a difference. I can only hope the rest of the world feels the same way.

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Fly safe,

JAZ

Things I’ve Learned In Sao Paulo, Brazil

Things I’ve Learned In São Paulo, Brazil

“Cities were always like people, showing their varying personalities to the traveler. Depending on the city and on the traveler, there might begin a mutual love, or dislike, friendship, or enmity. Where one city will rise a certain individual to glory, it will destroy another who is not suited to its personality. Only through travel can we know where we belong or not, where we are loved and where we are rejected.” Roman Payne

Metropolitan São Paulo is more that 3 times the size of Moscow and 6,5 times the of
size of New York. With almost twenty million inhabitants, it is the biggest city in both Americas and the Southern hemisphere.

I guess that is why they have some really bad traffic jams.

São Paulo is inland. Los Angeles is on the ocean. They have the same air pollution.

There is coffee on almost every street corner in São Paulo. Brazilians love a coffee after lunch. (non Brazilians also at Casa Mathilde)

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Manhattan has many skyscrapers and tall buildings. So does São Paulo.

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Between the tall buildings, traffic, air pollution and coffee, I felt right at home.

Parque Ibirapuera is the city’s largest green space and one of the largest city parks in Latin America. The name means a rotten tree in the Tupi language and despite the unfortunate name there are many beautiful trees.

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There is plenty to do here…paths to walk or bike or people watch, museums, Niemeyer architecture, a lake, and more.

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It is rated as one of the best urban parks in the world.

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Most of the buildings are designed by Oscar Niemeyer and the landscaping is by famed landscape artist Roberto Burle Marx. (The Auditorium by Niemeyer)

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The opulent park is so big that you can easily forget you’re sitting in the middle of one of the most populated cities in the world.

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The São Paulo Museum of Modern Art (MAM) is located in the park. It was built in 1948 and modeled after the Museum of Modern Art in NY (MOMA).(lunch at MAM)

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It has over 4000 mostly Brazilian works of art. The commissioned mural in the front is by graffiti artist Os Gemeos.

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The Marquise is a large covered construction by Oscar Niemeyer that links several of the buildings together. Every day, skateboarders, cyclists, athletes, families and friends gather there.

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It provides a shaded paved area for young people to roller blade, roller skate and skateboard.

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It is very crowded on Sundays and people sell food, drinks and crafts as well.

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Many streets in Sao Paulo  are named for Portuguese explorers and Brazilian Revolutionaries.

Uber is banned at the moment due to protests from the taxi drivers unions. The mayor is hoping to find a middle ground that appeases both parties.

People who live in the state of São Paulo are called Paulistas. People who live in the city of São Paulo are called Paulistanos. Paulistanos love Pizza.

MASP is one of the cities best art museums.

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On Sundays, the area around MASP on Avenida Paulista hosts two great outdoor markets. The space under the museum becomes a huge antiques market, and the space across the street is a handicrafts market where great street food is sold

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The world’s largest gay pride parade takes place here in May/June. It’s also supposedly the most expensive real estate in Latin America. The whole avenue runs along a subway line and so easily reached by public transport. (Kobra paints on Avenue Paulista)

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Another lovely museum in São Paulo, the Pinacoteca houses a huge collection of Brazilian art that serves as a visual story of the country’s history and cultural evolution.

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It is the oldest gallery in São Paulo and visited by many school children.

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The venerable public art museum was masterfully restored in exposed-brick style in the 1990s by Paulo Mendes da Rocha, a winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize.

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The museum has a beautiful café downstairs and is connected to Parque da Luz, a public park that includes outdoor sculptures and a European-style garden area.

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There are dividers between “good and “bad” parts of the city. The Pinacoteca is located across the street from the Luz train station.

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Estação da Luz is a beautiful 19th-century train station with high ceilings, intricate ironwork and narrow walkways  which separates the park from one of the worst drug areas in São Paulo.

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It is called Cracolandia or Crackland. Prostitutes line the walkways in search of customers. Crack cocaine has become a big problem in Brazil It is the second biggest crack epidemic since the US in the eighties.

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In the City Center, keep your eyes moving, put away your cell phone and camera. Keep your money hidden and walk with a purpose like you know what you are doing. ( just like growing up in NY)

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Se (cathedral) is located in the historic city center ( where the city was founded).

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The Neo-Gothic building took fifty years to complete because two world wars made it difficult to get materials from Italy. I have no exterior photos because see above.

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The Patio do Colegio was the original center of São Paulo.All that remains of the 16th-century building are the doors and a stretch of clay wall. It is now a historical museum the gardens of the museum is a pleasant café.

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The old center with its beautiful architecture and churches is still more homeless and drug infested than gentrified. There are a few good coffee places so change is near.

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Casa Mathilde is a great Portuguese bakery that serves the famous pastel de nata.

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I  have not been to Portugal ( where it is called pastel de Belem) but from the lines and conversations these are probably the best pastries outside of Portugal.

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Mocoto is located in Vila Medeiros, a neighbourhood in the north of São Paulo. Chef Rodrigo Oliveira attracts food-lovers with his distinctive take on Brazilian cuisine from the north-eastern state of Pernambuco where  his family is from. ( mocoto broth  – signature dish from original recipe, rice and beans, Brazilian dried, salted beef)

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Mocotó is also a cachaçaria, selling more than 500 cachaças.

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Alex Atala is the chef at D.O.M. who became famous for using Brazilian ingredients in beautifully executed contemporary dishes. It is the ninth best restaurant in the world.

Gastromotiva is a Brazilian organization which uses gastronomy to promote social change for at risk students.They have a vocational education program for eighteen to thirty-five year olds who are passionate about food and cooking who’s families make below a certain income.

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They have also instituted a cooking program in the prisons but there is a lot of bureaucracy in Brazil when it comes to prison change.

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We were lucky enough to spend some time with the students and have a delicious meal cooked by students and alumni. It’s a great organization for foodies to get involved with. https://gastromotiva.org

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São Paulo is considered one of the best cities in the world for the development of creativity in street art.

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The city’s streets are filled with wonderful examples of street, especially in the city center.

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For some of the best, visit the area Villa Magdalena, especially Beco do Batman (Batman’s Alley).

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Vila Madalena is an artsy neighborhood with rows of pastel colored townhouses. There are nice art galleries, arts & crafts shops, bookstores and great nightlife in its restaurants, corner bars, and botecos (small bar/restaurants). Come here for samba, or just mingle with locals enjoying live music and petiscos (tapas) at the botecos.

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Botecos are everywhere. The doors open to the street, tiled walls and floors, a counter stocked with fried stuff, and sometimes peanuts are served. You can make a quick stop for a coxinha and a soda, or sit down for a prato feito with a bottle of cold beer. Most botecos are very simple, but there are also “modern”ones.

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Brazil has the largest number of Japanese living outside Japan of any country in the world, and many of these Japanese Brazilians live in São Paulo. The Japanese neighborhood, called Liberdade, is a fun place to explore and see how the influence of Japan has influenced Brazilian life here and, of course, try some great food. On Sundays, an enormous market takes place in the public square of Liberdade, and thousands of people from around the city attend.

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São Paulo is a huge city. I believe that you do what you can and next time I will see more. Thanks so much to our guide Arthur Simoes (who likes that painting) for his  sense of humor, energy (we had some long days), patience and knowledge of São Paulo. Obrigada until the next time.

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Tenha Uma Boa Viagem,

JAZ

Acai In The Amazon Gets Its Own Blog Post

Acai In The Amazon Gets Its Own Blog Post

“Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food.” Hippocrates

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As froyo begins to lose ground to kale smoothies, the trendy. spendy acai bowl continues to gain in popularity. (Pinkberry gets in the game)

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Though there is no scientific proof, acai is the new superfood because it is high in antioxidants and it tastes better than wheatgrass (an old superfood). It is more expensive than blueberries and raspberries (which also have antioxidants) and usually added to healthy smoothies or served in a bowl.

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The acai outside of the Amazon region  is frozen puree and mixed with banana or strawberries, soy. almond or coconut milk. It is served with oatmeal, granola, nuts or fresh fruit and is definitely a fun ice-cream like breakfast alternative.

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We as  Americans who mostly only speak English are poorly equipped to pronounce foreign words. Acai is Portuguese and is particularly difficult for us. The pronunciation in Brazil is Ah – Sa – Ee.

In the Amazon region, acai is not a superfood, it is just food. It is grown in the forest on the acai palm and harvested between July and December. (acai palm)

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It was definitely acai season and we ate it a lot.  (Osvaldo finds acai in the jungle)

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Till recently acai was a staple food for the poor in the Amazon region. A porridge of acai and manioc flour was not full of nutrition but cheap and very filling. Many families who live on the river now harvest acai.

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It is always made fresh from the berries found in the Amazon rainforest. In Marajo, when a fresh batch of acai has been prepared, red flags appear on the road. If you see a red flag, it means that they are selling acai nearby. When the batch is sold they take the flags down.

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We bought bags of fresh acai juice.

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It is a good idea to check and make sure that is made with filtered water or what kind of water they use to clean the berries or the equipment.

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Belém’s most famous açaí market, the Feira do Açaí, near Ver-o-Peso market building, bustles before dawn as wholesalers stack baskets of the fruit on the cobblestone square.

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Acai is  also made fresh here from cylindrical machines known as batedores de açaí, “açaí beaters,” that remove the thin layer of fruit from the pit. ( ‘acai beater”, acai pits, bracelets made from acai pits)

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When the merchants are ready they hang red signs to show that açaí is for sale.

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As in towns throughout the region, in Belém residents pick up pulp by the liter to have with lunch or dinner. (acai to go menu)

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My first taste of fresh acai was acai ice cream mixed with the tapioca ice-cream and it was creamy delicious. There is no comparison between something made with fresh acai and what we get in the States. (Cairu –  best ice cream in the Amazon region)

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We had  fresh acai at several meals. It is often served with dried tapioca. (La Em Casa)

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Purists say that acai should be eaten without sugar but it is a personal choice. I had it without sugar and I liked it. It is hard to explain the flavor –  kind of like a refreshing, earthy berry. If you mix it with the manioc flour (which most do), it gives it a grainy consistency.

Point Do Acai is a restaurant in Belem known for serving acai.

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You can have it as a juice, dessert or in bowl as a side to fried fish. (different tapioca flours)

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In the Amazon region people think it is funny that acai is the new energy drink. They say that they usually have it with their midday meal and fall asleep after.

Tenha Uma Boa Viagem,

JAZ

And So The Buffalo Swam To Marajo (Amazon, Brazil)

And So The Buffalo Swam To Marajo (Amazon, Brazil)

“There is a time when it is necessary to abandon the used clothes, which already have the shape of our body and to forget our paths, which takes us always to the same places. This is the time to cross the river: and if we don’t dare to do it, we will have stayed, forever beneath ourselves” Fernando Pessoa

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Marajo is an island in Brazil in the state of Para at the mouth of the Amazon. It is the size of Switzerland and home to many beautiful birds and water buffalo. The story goes that a ship on route to French Guyana ladened with goods and water buffalo from India hit a reef and sank off the coast of Marajo. Some of the buffalo escaped the wreck and swam to shore. The buffalo are descendants of this shipwreck though now more have been brought in. There are large herds of domesticated water buffalo on the island.

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Marajo had an advanced pre Colombian society  from 400AD. The arrival of the Portuguese in the sixteenth century wiped out ninety per cent of the natives  due to lack of immunities to the European diseases. They left behind great examples of pre Colombian pottery. Artisans on the island recreate the designs.

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Soure is a sleepy fishing village.

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The people have a peaceful life, take things slowly and keep up their traditions.

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Fisherman shacks, modern homes and large faziendas (farms) exist side by side on the island, It is the only place to have a water buffalo police force. They say it is used for looking for drugs in the forest but most of the crime is pilfering or the occasional lost drunk or “misplaced” bicycle.( newest police recruit)

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Fazenda Sanjo is a ranch and hotel owned by Ana and Carlos Nunes. http://www.sanjo.tur.br You take a boat down a tributary of the Amazon to get there from Soare.

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Then you have a choice of walking a mile or doing it on horseback to get to the fazenda.IMG_0236IMG_4269

The hammocks are an inviting place for a nap. (and I made a friend)

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You can experience the daily life on a Fazenda in the Amazon.

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There are many activities and nature is your host.

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There is piranha fishing, riding and milking buffalo, canoeing and horseback riding through the river with the buffalo.

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We did that.

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I think pictures are better than words.

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It was definitely the most different thing I have ever seen up close and pretty amazing.

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On the boat ride back, it was very windy and I lost my hat in the Amazon.
It is one of those lifetime jungle, sun and mosquito repellant hats and luckily, it floats. The hat is usually on my head in my travels where there are mosquitos. I live in fear of malaria or dengue so I was glad to get it back.

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A hotel in Soure is the lovely Hotel Casarao da Amazonia which occupies a restored blue colonial mansion. The breakfast is good and the atmosphere is immediately relaxed. There is not a lot of English but if you need it, they find someone.(http://www.casaraoamazonia.com.br)

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The island is a spectacular visual feat of nature.

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The marshlands attract many varieties of birds like the scarlet ibis.

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Vultures fly overhead on the miles of quiet beach.

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Marajo is located at the mouth of the Amazon River where the fresh water pours into the Atlantic Ocean. The fish can be fresh or salty depending on what the fisherman has found that day.

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The Amazon rainforest has foods and flavors that dont exist anywhere else in the world.Every meal is juxtaposition of the intermingling of cultures of 400 years – European, Brazilian and African.
We eat buffalo steak topped with slabs of queijo do Marajo, sweet, soft buffalo milk cheese followed by fresh fruit.

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In the morning there is buffalo butter on home-made toast and jams made from fruits that I never heard of till now.

 

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There is always ground cassava (manioc) at the table and sometimes there is jambu a wild green that numbs your mouth while you are eating it. There is acai served with dried balls of cassava flour. In cities very far away acai has become the new superfood because it is loaded with antioxidants, but here you eat it in a bowl alone usually with fish. When red flags are up a fresh batch of acai has been made.

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The weirdest thing to eat here is uncooked turu and we were on a mission to find some. (Gelderson)

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(apparently Survivor was filmed here and they had it regularly) Turu are tree worms.

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They are rich in calcium and can be eaten raw and like oysters are taken as an aphrodisiac.

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I couldn’t decide if i wanted to eat it or not and when I finally said yes, they ran out of bottled water to wash it. I declined to clean it in the river. ( turu in motion – or my photo is blurry)

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There is a small fishing village on a beautiful beach with houses set on stilts.

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A woman is washing her dishes and setting her cups to dry on the posts children laugh and play quietly.

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The beach is impossibly wide and the sand gives way to the Para River which joins the Amazon downstream and disappears into the horizon.

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There are a few hut umbrellas and small restaurants serving cold beer, fresh fish and always fresh coconut water.

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I walk for miles on this beach alone fascinated by the patterns in the soft sand surrounded only by vultures.

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I can hear my thoughts and the only noise is the kind you make yourself.

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I leave Marajo with my volume turned on low.

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I have to thank my tour guides Osvaldo and Gelderson, who’s knowledge, kindness, patience, excellent English, sense of humor and nothing is a problem attitude made the trip to the Amazon even more wonderful. People like them always remind me of how small the world really is.

Tenha Uma Boa Viagem,

JAZ

Food In The Amazon – Belem Part One or How Did They Figure Out That Tucupi Had To Be Cooked For Seven Days To Not Be Poisonous?

Food In the Amazon – Belem Part One or How Did They Figure Out That Tucupi Had To Be Cooked For Seven Days To Not Be Poisonous?

“I have long believed that good food, good eating is all about risk. Whether we’re talking about unpasteurized Stilton, raw oysters or working for organized crime “associates,” food, for me, has always been an adventure.” Anthony Bourdain

When you think of eating food in the Amazon, your mind pictures a few scantily clad natives drinking from coconut bowls. That may happen deep in the Amazon but in the city of Belem they are taking the flavors, food and traditions of the Amazon and serving it to locals, Brazilians and tourists like me from all over the world.

Each of the dishes, ingredients, flavors, and aromas invite us to discover the mixture of the Portuguese, European, Hispanic, Indian, and African influences. Among the typical specialties of Belém you can find “Pato no Tucupi”, made with duck cooked in cassava juice and seasoned with “jambu. (restaurant La Em Casa)

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“Vatapá” is a dish made with bread crumbs, ginger, pepper, allspice, peanuts, coconut milk, palm oil, and onion, with a creamy consistency. it is usually served with shrimp, fish, or beef and accompanied with rice. (La Em Casa)

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The region’s rivers and rain forests provide an endless supply of exotic ingredients, and nowhere else in Brazil will you find so much indigenous influence. (Ver O Paso Market)

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Belém is the Amazon’s culinary capital, and the city’s signature dish, tacacá, is a fusion of the region’s key ingredients. When you mention that you have been to Belem (named for Bethlehem) to a Brazilian they always ask if you tried the tacaca. I was glad I knew what it was. Tacacá is is a soup . It mixes shrimp with tucupi, a thick yellow liquid extracted from the roots of the manioc plant, and jambu, a creeping plant whose leaves when covered with tucupi cause a pleasant tingling and numbness of your lips.

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Manioc is also called cassava, yuca ( which is not yucca) or tapioca and is a staple of the Amazonian diet.  The soup is served hot in cuias (hollowed-out gourds) and I brought some of the bowls home.  One of the best places to have it is on the street at the stand of Dona M Do Carmo. It was amazing and one of the most delicious things I have eaten in Brazil.

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Tucupi (which is cooked for some 12 hours to remove poisonous components) shows up in a lot of Amazonian dishes, such as pato no tucupi, an aromatic duck stew, and maniçoba, the Paraense (Belem is in the state of Para) equivalent of feijoada ( Brazilian signature dish). Different portions of pork and sausage are cooked together along with jambu the dark-green leaves from the manioc plant. (La Em Casa)

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The story goes that the manioc plant has to be cooked for seven days to get rid of the toxins. This involved a lot of group discussion of how that came to be. When someone died after eating it the first day, did the natives decide to cook it for two days and when more died did they decide to try for three etc? How many people died before they came up with seven days and why did they keep trying? Were they using it on their enemies and then it did not work? Did someone forget to turn the fire off and got hungry?

The manioc dough  (it’s a tuber) is pushed through a long woven basket like instrument called a tipiti to get the liquid out. You can buy them in Ver o Peso market on the Amazon River along with my bowls. Such dishes are often accompanied by arroz de jambu (rice flavored with jambu leaves) and farinha d’água, manioc flour that, having been left to soak in the river, has a soft, fluffy consistency.

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The man holding the tipiti was our wonderful guide in the Amazon Osvaldo.  I have many photos of Osvaldo’s hands holding something edible he picked up while we were in the  market or rainforest. Unfortunately I was unable to make notes on my photos of what they were. I knew this would happen. I said I was going to include photos of his hands.

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I am happy to say that  all the tucupi i ate  at every meal was cooked correctly. I am grateful to the Amazonian chefs for doing that .But how did they figure out that it took seven days to get the poison out?

Tenha Uma Boa Viagem,

JAZ