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The Amazon by Acronyms

I just came back from a phenomenal trip to Brazil, visiting some of the world’s most unbelievable architecture. But nothing truly compared to the Amazon: fantastic sites, unbelievable nature and no cell-phone reception! But we don’t all have the luxury of wistfully dreaming of the Amazon (or reading someone’s 1,000 word blog post), so I bring you the abridged version.

ICYMI: It’s amazing. It’s awesome.

The Amazon covers 40% of South America (including 8 different countries), it’s 20km across at its widest and it’s been around for over 10 million years.

FYI: There aren’t many animals and there are a lot of hiding places.

Don’t go to the Amazon for exotic wildlife. Movie depictions tend to romanticize this area, which is more overgrown with monkeys and bird populations than jaguars and anacondas.

OMG: It hasn’t always been the green heart of the world.

Scientists have now found evidence that humans occupied this area for thousands of years till the 15th century (the Amazon was previously considered “unlivable” by scientists). Estimates show that there were over 15 million people living in the Amazon at one time. And human cultivationthat’s what made the land so fertile. The astounding conclusion is that it is a man-made product.

IMG_4102BTW: It’s not one climate.

It’s easy to imagine the Amazon as humid, unbearably hot and wet. In truth, there’s a dry and wet season for the Amazon and the amount of rainfall varies from location. There’s a lot more rainfall in areas closer to Peru while Manaus in Brazil is known for its dry season.

P.S. Ever heard of El Tunchi?

He’s known as an evil spirit that haunts the jungle, terrorizing (and eventually hypnotizing) humans who disrespect the environment. He lures people with an eerie whistling sound. Legend is, if you hear the whistling, do everything in your power to not respond to his whistle—or it will be the last thing you do.

IMG_4012

Going Off Season

This November, I went on an architectural tour of Italy and Southeastern France. It included Venice, then La Tourette by Le Corbusier and astounding mines of Ronchamp.

This tour was first real off-season vacation I’ve ever taken and after it, I’ve decided the off-season is the only season! Especially you’re a bit of a seasoned and cynical traveller like me.

And having a vacation where I could truly relax and enjoy my surroundings, unfettered by other tourists, I was reminded of three important lessons.

  1. Timing is Everything

I normally travel in the summer and end up resenting fellow tourists almost as much as the locals. But France in November? No lines, no long waits, easy to nab reservations at great restaurants. On one of our last nights, we even had an 11th century Chateau all to ourselves!

Château d'Island Avallon Vézelay

Château d’Island Avallon Vézelay

 

It is a different experience, being in an almost-empty museum or taking a guided tour with no other tourists. There is more time for contemplation and pure appreciation. Your experienced isn’t marred or affected by others.

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