Kendjam Series: Getting There

As you may have seen, I was lucky enough to be able to travel to South America this past August (August 2017) to fish the Iriri River in Brazil with my best friend. This trip to the jungle was hosted by Untamed Angling. Kendjam is now my favorite trip I’ve ever taken! The fishing was some of the best fishing I’ve ever done, but that wasn’t even my favorite part. I did things on this trip that I would have never been able to do otherwise. Kendjam is a once in a lifetime trip, and I think anyone who loves fly fishing should go on this trip. I know I will be going back ASAP! In this article, I’m going to talk about getting to Kendjam and my experience with the commute. (Hint: it wasn’t horrible).

The first thing I’ll say about Kendjam is that there is a LOT of commute to get there. Flights on flights on flights. To start the trip off, I flew from Dallas, Texas to Miami, Florida to stay overnight. During my layover, I tossed a fly into a canal and caught my first peacock bass! I will say that this bass was about the size of my pinky finger. Little did I know I would catch peacocks in Kendjam later that week that could eat that little baby bass in one bite… I actually saw my first peacock bass with my own eyes in Miami during that layover. Seeing the beauty of those bass made me extremely excited to be able to fish for them for the next 7 days straight.

The next flight was from Miami to Manaus, Brazil. When we arrived in Manaus,  we were picked up from the airport and driven to a super nice hotel called Caesar Business Hotel Manaus. Manaus is a pretty big city with a large population. It was when I arrived in Manaus that I realized how “luxury” America really is. I saw a total of about 3 fast food restaurants in Manaus. I expected that because Manaus is a big city, that it would look something like Austin, Texas or similar- but I was wrong. I am used to seeing stores and restaurants and businesses just lining the streets, but it was not like this in Manaus. It was more like warehouses and such. Not to say that it was “poor-looking”, but it was not as lavish as I imagined it; It was quite far from lavish! Another thing that I noticed about Manaus was the driving- it was different than how we drive in America. I remember seeing hardly any speed limit signs, little-to-no police on the roads, and extremely risky driving! Motorcycles would squeeze in between 2 cars and just fly by like it was nothing! They would even go up onto the sidewalk just to pass you. The painted lanes on the road just seemed like a “suggestion” there in Manaus. It was just a bit different than the driving standard here in America. Although others were driving crazily, our driver from Untamed Angling named Jackson that picked us up at the airport was an extremely safe driver and made us feel very comfortable. On our way to the hotel, we actually saw a grown man, fully naked, casually walking down the road. Jackson told us this is not normal in Manaus, but I was still in a bit of shock.

Flying over rural Brazil

After a night in the hotel, we woke up and were transported to the smallest airport I have EVER seen! At this airport, we met the family that we would be spending the next week with. This family was from Siberia and was extremely kind and friendly! It was nice to meet a family that has such a passion for the outdoors as we do. After about an hour of waiting, we boarded the smallest plane I believe I will ever fly on! The plane only had 8 seats for passengers to sit- it was extremely small. Inside the plane, the passengers sat right behind the pilot and co-pilot. I got to see all of the controls and was able to watch the pilots fly the plane the entire time. This plane ride to the Kendjam village was one of my favorite parts of the entire trip. The flight duration was about 4 hours long, and the view was unbelievable. I will never forget the views that I observed during that flight. We flew over the “Meeting of Rivers” which is the famous confluence between the dark Rio Negro and sandy, pale-colored Amazon River. I had always heard about the two rivers not mixing, but seeing it for myself was so thrilling.

Group of people in boat

Once we arrived in the village, we were greeted by the Kayapo Natives. The moment I stepped out of the plane onto the dirt, I received so much love and warmth from the natives. If I am being fully honest, I expected to feel a bit awkward and intruding when we arrived, but it was the complete opposite. We got to see the village and meet many of the natives, shake hands, and exchange a few words before we headed to the camp that we would be staying at. After a couple of hours at the village, we loaded gear and supplies onto a 16-17 ft metal boat and headed downstream to camp. On the boat with us, we had our English-speaking guide Everton and 2 native Kayapo guides, along with their wives and children. Everton is a native Brazilian and he was able to translate the Portuguese to us as well as translate our English to the natives. The boat ride to the camp was what got me the most excited. We rode for 4 hours upstream, so we got to see the water that we would be fishing throughout the week, and it was very exciting. We even saw fish in the water beneath us, which made me ready to cast a line. We eventually arrived at camp and the fishing adventures began at 7 am the next morning.

In my next article, I will talk about the many species that we fished for and caught in Kendjam. This trip was one for the books, and I think if the opportunity is available, everyone should make this trip. The fishing was absolutely insane, but just getting there was an adventure in itself and was so much fun.