Photo: Eraldo Peres/AP
A river runs through it
Manaus was once the world center for rubber production and became very wealthy. When rubber tree seeds were smuggled abroad, it relapsed into poverty which was alleviated by being declared a special economic zone, bringing industry and money back. Now it's sliding back a little because other more accessible cities have also been given the same status, and Manaus' remoteness make it less competitive.
The city is pleasant and friendly, although quite hot, and is still a major port, and a good base for river tours. The Rio Negro (northern) branch of the Amazon is the color of strong tea, peaty brown and its comparative acidity means few mosquitoes.
At Manaus, the Amazon rises and falls almost twenty meters between seasons. In May and June it's at its peak, full and very wide, spreading way out into the trees. In November and December it's low; still massive but with sandbanks showing