Today’s all about water… not hard because I love photographing the stuff.
It was my first big voyage and it came about because of this book:
It’s a book for young teenagers and I loved it. I loved the thought of Manaus and the Amazon and the rubber road up to the opera house. It made me ache to see Brazil. And so I went.
The little house boat is on the upper reaches of the Amazon, way up past Manaus. I stayed in a hotel on a pontoon – which sounds glamorous but you have to remember, you’re in the middle of the jungle with thousands of huge insects whose only aim is to eat you. I had no air con, no fresh water, no shower. It was basically a bed in a net in a room in a wooden boat surrounded by more net. I stank of Deet 100% for weeks after.
Manaus wasn’t what I hoped it would be – it was probably the least nice bit of Brazil, but I got to see lots of other amazing, amazing things. It’s a jaw-dropping country with the kind of views that make your eyes pop. It was exactly what I needed. Andy had died at Easter and I needed something to remind me that life is good and full of magnificent things. Brazil did that, with the help of two girls – a Cambridgeshire redhead and a crazy Belgian – who made me realise how fantastic life can be.
I’d be remiss not to put a track from The Waterboys on here, though lots of other watery songs come to mind, not least Enya. In reality, the song that should go with the trip is ‘In the Jungle’ since we got drunk on cachaça and Nicole told us that we’re all just living stones and we sang songs to the howler monkeys and a caiman called Pavarotti. However, mostly you just won’t appreciate that track, no matter how much it makes me smile. So here’s the Waterboys with The Whole of the Moon.
What I love most about the Amazon is that it’s a whole life on the river. I most love the filling stations on pontoons so that you can go and get your petrol for your boat. You can also stop at the ice shop and get some ice to put your fish on. It’s also like a cross between a super-highway, with tankers and boats with 60 or so containers, and then guys just sitting around fishing in little row boats. I did take lots of better photos than this one, but I like this one the best. Sometimes, having a one-room boat and a chicken shack on a little trailer boat seems like the best idea. Land is so over-rated.
We got a boat up from Manaus to the place we stayed – the flotel piranha and it was here that I got my favourite photograph ever, at four in the morning. Rachel woke me up at three to go out with one of the guides looking for caiman (their eyes glow red) and then to watch the sun rise over the Solimoes Amazon and I was one grumble away from staying in bed. Something in me said ‘when will you ever be back here again?’ and so I got up, having had three hours of uncomfortable, deet-plagued, buzzing, restless sleep and it was amazing. Amazing. Seeing a flock of parrots is a pretty weird thing. Those big blue butterflies were everywhere too.