Here to bump this topic -- since I promised updates, after all.
Taking into account my official start date -- Feb 27, 2012 -- I am now some 15 months into my journey -- and no, I'm still not in Manaus, though it's mostly because I've been taking the longest way possible and spending weeks on end in small riverside homes in the jungle. All told, I've spent something like 90 days actually paddling and sailing -- this rainy season, a LOT more paddling than sailing. I left the main Amazon River back in Parintins in January, and since then have navigated both up and down the Rio Limão, Paraná do Ramos, Paraná do Uariá, Rio Mauwe-Açú, Rio Urupadí, Rio Marau, Rio Paraguarí, Rio Amano, Rio Paracuní, Rio Canumã, Rio Acarí, and Rio Madiera -- along with several rainy season "furos", or flooded jungle navigable only by canoe and only during the rainy season -- the longest one being the gap between the rivers Acarí and Madiera, roughly 40 miles of jungle which took three days and a lot of machete wacking to get through, following a "trail" -- that is, sometimes hard-to-locate scars on tree trunks from the machetes of previous furo travellers, along with the occasional empty half-litre bottle of cachaça hung from a vine.
My canoe in full sail on the Mawe-Açú river, near the city of Maués. The jib is something I have but rarely use, since it's more work to put up since I have to attach a bowspirit and I honestly think it does not help much.
The rest of the time I've spent enjoying local culture, cusine and world-famous Brazilian hospitality, both in the deep interior and in towns like Santarém, Averio, Óbidos, Jurutí, Parintins, Barrerinha, Boa Vista do Ramos, Maués, Foz do Canumã, here in Borba, and many small, isolated villages and communities along the riversides I paddle and sail. These are in fact my favourite places to visit as it is wonderful to learn about how local people survive and live their lives in relative isolation, heading to the "city" -- sometimes just a town of some 10.000 people -- once every ten months for supplies, travelling oftentimes days by motorized canoe to get there.
I've also spent time in two indian reserves -- Marau, upriver from Maués and along the river of the same name, and Mandacaru, along the Canumã. I explored gold mining areas in the upper Paraguarí along the Amano River, and found my first whitewater in the Amazon. I've gotten food preservation down to a science, and now salt and dry kilos of fish, croc meat, duck, deer, howler monkey, and whatever else I can get my hands on with great sucess and an almost non-existant spoilage rate. I've also got a gas stove and have become an excellent cook -- if I do say so myself.
Fishing with the cast net, Amazon River, December 2012
So far I have covered some 1,500 miles, from Itaituba, Pará on the Rio Tapajós to Borba, Amazonas on the banks of the mighty Madiera -- mostly alone although I did take a few friends for a few hundred kilometres back near Maués, one of whom apparently found the ad I posted on this site -- so I guess it worked after all. Though I don't think he really knew what he was getting himself into, as he lasted only eight days on the river. To be fair it was the worst part of the year to travel, the height of the bug season on the Uariá, and since the river was flooded fire ants were floating around everywhere and got into everything -- canoes, backpacks, food, pants, brains -- so it was a bit rougher than usual, so I understand. But I fulfilled my promise; we sailed and paddled around through the jungle and caught plenty of fish -- and you know, I don't believe we missed a single meal -- though neither did the mosquitos...
The longest strech of the trip to date, 41 days from Maués to Borba, 11 days rest and 30 days on the paddle up the brutal Paraná do Uariá -- just two days with good sailing winds, the rest of the time battling my way upriver the native way, an excruciatingly slow progress. Numbers 1 - 7: 1. Paraná do Uariá 2. Rio Paracuní 3. Furo de Cacuau 4. Paraná do Abacaxis 5. Rio Canumã 6. Rio Acarí 7. Furo do Acarí (the furo from the Acarí to Madiera, through the jungle. Was quite lost for an entire day.) 8. Rio Madiera
Now I believe I'm actually heading to Manaus -- for real. After passing the festas juninas working here along the banks of the Madiera (Borba, Nova Olinda, Urucurituba), I'll probably head upriver to Manaus, arrival date sometime July, I guess. Since I'm still on my own the offer to sail with me still stands -- I only ask that you be lightweight and of good physical shape and not have a lot of baggage -- physical or mental. I'll be headed up the Rio Negro -- it's the dry season...! It'll be beachy!
"And don't worry, it gets a LOT bigger than this!"
Anyways, fair winds and following seas, fellas.