Going to the Amazon is always brilliant fun and I particularly love Manaus because it is so unlike any other place I’ve ever been.
It’s a concrete jungle of almost 2 million people stuck there right in the middle of a real jungle. Just getting there is a four-hour flight from São Paulo.
From a small outpost that got rich on rubber at the end of the 19th century, Manaus has grown and grown and grown and it keeps on expanding into the rainforest as if on some quixotic attempt to dominate nature.
I went there last month to write a piece on distance learning which you can see here.
Manuas to me is summed up in that constant battle between man and nature.
A few years ago I visited a factory in Manaus’s free trade zone that made cell phones. The factory had been built on the edge of town and you could see the thick expanse of trees over the wall that surrounded the property.
The struggle between concrete and forest had made its mark. The factory had a room filled with wild animals the employees had found inside the grounds. On each shelf there were bottles filled with snakes, scorpions, spiders and other frightening creatures.
Man had taken over their patch and they had died trying to take it back.
It’s the same in the city itself. The jungle is constantly fighting to win back space. Every vacant lot quickly becomes overgrown with trees and flora. Even the spaces between paving stones sprout with grass.