Lake January and the Rio Negro

(for more pictures click here)


Most of the people of the river live like this - in small family units, near to their business if any.


The children become very self sufficient quickly. It is very evident that they paddle almost as soon as they can walk.

April 22, 2005 -- It was a half day tour to the joining of the rivers (Amazon and Rio Negro), motorized canoe tour of the sunken forest and then a walk to Lake January.

The joining of the rivers was interesting. The rivers are very different - different fish, different pH levels, different speeds, and different temperatures. When the 2 come together you get the black of the Rio Negro running along side of the brown of the Amazon. At this conjunction we also saw dolphins - I saw several of the grey, but some people saw the back of a pink.

After a short ride to a store/restaurant, we were divided into groups of 10 for the canoe ride.


These houses are built on logs and tied to the shore. Frequently you see a boat tied alongside.


Most of these have small gardens and some farmyard animals - chickens and goats.

For the first part of the ride were on one of the tributary rivers to the Amazon. It was fairly wide and a number of families live along its banks. There is a school (you get there by canoe) and a church. There is also a small medical clinic for basic medicinal needs.

There is lots of low growing grasses and what were quite recognizable to us as pond plants. The sort of lettuce with bulb base that we have in our pond at home was everywhere as was the water hyacinth.

The bird life was incredible. Lots of different birds. Some types were recognizable to us and some not. Saw a hummingbird, heron, hawk, and vulture.


A few of the houses also have domestic pets but it seems the local kids like to have sloths and other local animals for "pets".


One of the red birds on land.

One of the most common was this (see left) red bird. It gets startled, gives a cry and flies a few feet away. It reminded me of tarmagon in its behavior.

Lots of different types of vegetation. Palm trees, rubber trees, trees with stringers dropping down, shrubs of all sorts, and grasses. You begin to see just how integrated the environment between all the various plant and animal life. The termites breakdown the trees. The woodpecker boors holes that are used by various birds for nests.

Some of the trees bear fruit which falls into the water and becomes fish food. The various species of fish feed on each other. They also use the vegetation of the flooded forest to hide during the flooded times.


In the heart of the flooded forest.


Giant lily pads and ducks.

There were fungus/mushrooms on rotting logs. The bromiliades were quite lovely and grew all over the place. A few were flowering. There were lots of different flowering plants and we did see some from the orchid family. It was also incredible to know that some of the trees are over a hundred years old and some over 200.

Our guides were good about pointing out animals and we did spot a sloth. Of course the local kids brought out animals in their canoes to show off and have their pictures taken. They then "begged" for money.


Our canoe driver picks a water hyacinth flower.


Wonderful tree shapes.

We stopped several times to just drift and listen to the forest. And the smell - I now know what verdant smells like.

You see pictures and movies of the Amazon and it really is just like you see in the pictures. What the pictures can never convey is the perspective of size and depth. Will commented that it was just like the jungle ride at Disney land, but real; and far more layers to tease the senses.


Lily pads. Yes really, but they are about a yard in diameter. They have thorns on the bottom to protect them from predators. They start white, become pink and then green and then take about 45 days to decompose.


Bromiliade growing in the vee of a tree.

We could have taken a 1000 pictures, but we really wanted to just experience our short time there. We have more pictures to share on our return, but for now here are some to share with you. I could have easily spent hours just sitting in the canoe absorbing the atmosphere and looking around.

We spent about half an hour cruising through the flooded forest. The shapes of the trees and plants is really wonderful. There are no words to explain the shapes. You truly feel that you are in the middle of a primevil forest. And yet you see fishermen in among the trees. Obviously each has his favorite place to fish.


Inside the flooded forest.


A cayman, sunning itself and posing for the cameras.

Yes there are piranha and anacondas and other dangerous denisens of the area. We saw only one anaconda - one of the children had one draped about him. Apparently they are more pests than feared. There are also cayman, that is their alligator. There was one posing for us at Lake January.

The first tributary we went down was quite open with a few plants and logs that had drifted into the path of the canoe. The path through the flooded forest to an area of the Rio Negro was congested by larger plants, but the smaller plants had been washed away. In fact we brushed against one fern (it was a fern frond just about 12' high) and one frond came crashing down alongside our canoe. Will got wet, but no one was hurt.


More of the flooded forest near Lake January.


Here you can really see the black of the Rio Negro.

The tributary of the Rio Negro along which we returned drops to almost nothing more than mud during the "dry" season.

At the end of the canoe tour we returned to the dock, store and restaurant. Just out the back was a wooden foot bridge which took you out to the edge of Lake January. The bridge was several feet above the water and is flooded during the height of the wet season.

IMG_3175.JPG IMG_0589.JPG

Will (left) on the foot bridge and Robin on the observation platform.

Along the bridge were lots of wonderful plants to see up close and personal. At the end of the foot bridge they had a small observation platform to look out over the area of giant water lilies. There were a number of birds about and some parrots in a distant tree.

The walk was about 5-10 minutes, but with the humidity it was a bit uncomfortable. While we did see mosquitoes on the water in several places, this was the only area that they were seriously active. I am happy to report that the combination of deet and the buzzoff clothes worked well.


Our river boat.


A motorized canoe in much better shape that the one we were on.

We returned to our river boat for the return trip to the ship. They gave us a package of plantain chips and some local hard candy to taste. On the trip back we saw some seriously big lightening strikes near by & in the city area. It was accompanied by thunder. It inched closer to the ship and beat us to the dock where it began pouring rain just as we landed. We waited about 10-20 minutes for it to subside and then walked back to the ship in the light rain. The day cooled quite appreciably after the storm.

Return to main webpage for Will and Robin

Return to main trip page

All text and photos copyright Robin Berry and William Ringer 2005.