World Cup blog Day 5: Welcome to the jungle
It's Day 5 of JUSTIN COOK's World Cup blogs for the Gazette and Herald.
I have arrived in Manaus. Flying in over the canopy of the Amazon really was quite beautiful and managing to grab a blissful three hours sleep on the plane from Brasilia made my landing soft and dreamy but really alert too, due to the new aesthetic I was experiencing.
I got my luggage and was met by Daniel, the guy I booked with for my stay and he seemed a solid guy so all smooth on the arrival in Manaus.
As soon as you left the cool air of the terminal it hit you like a steam train... the unbelievable heat of the Amazon. It’s not a piercing heat but a slow cook deep heat.
It is just coming into the summer months in the Amazon and I would imagine you would get the same level of heat standing next to a blast furnace in the old days in Sheffield.
My host Daniel is a wonderful guy and along with sister Rebeca run a lovely spacious four bedroomed house in the canter of Manaus. I checked in and sorted myself out.
I met Rebeca and her partner Lieutenant Franco who was in the CIGS regiment of the army numbering over five thousand strong which were based in the area of where the guest house was situated.
The lieutenant was a lovely bloke and the army in Brazil are like the guardians of the people and with such a corrupt police force here they are always there in the background in and interestingly enough are handling all of the security.
He was a gentle likeable guy and we talked about life, politics and football for a while.
He suggested I came down to the base and checked the zoo out. The zoo I asked? Back to that later. I want to talk about the CIGS regiment a bit more as they are a pretty spectacular lot.
The CIGS are the crack jungle warfare unit based here in Manaus. These guys are no joke and are trained to sleep and feed themselves in the amazon whilst conducting military exercises.
They have to run 10-15kms through the jungle in one go before a break, SWAT and the SAS are trained by these guys too. I met a lovely man called Eraldo Cruz who had been enrolled for 27 years and was the main instructor there.
He was trying to convince me to go on an exercise with him and promised that if I was bitten by a snake it would be okay because he could save me!
Priceless, although I must say that if I did have to enter the jungle for any reason he would be the guy I would want watching my back as he was born in the Amazon basin in a small village and probably knew how to survive in the jungle before his thirteenth birthday at least.
Now back to the zoo. The facility is run alongside the CIGS regiment and has a collection of animals from ranging from five different types of eagles, jaguars, anacondas, cougars and monkeys (three different kinds). My favourite monkey was from the Prego species. They have a similar character to a Jack Russell, cheeky.
The PR ethos of the zoo is to look after animals that are found injured on patrol or rescued from poachers and so too tame to release again.
It’s a difficult call as the enclosures for the monkeys are really excellent and the wild cats are in fairsized enclosures, perhaps each one the size of half a football field, but just seeing them caged made me sad. However, I could see the positive side on the rescue front.
For instance their Gaviao-real eagle was trafficked by poachers and the federal police after busting them gave the eagle to the zoo.
The CIGS soldiers are responsible for maintaining the zoo and have veterinary surgeons who look after the animals. The eagles are kept in cages, which is sad, but the condition of the animals was excellent and if you are going to have a zoo the best place is probably the Amazon for climate and diet requirements.
The bond between CIGS and the animals in time means poaching could be eradicated and with a the large component of native Indian conscripts who are within the CIGS I think poachers would have to be pretty stupid to take on these guys on their own turf with the skills and knowledge they possess.
In the second half of the day I watched the Holland game on TV and quite frankly Dutch attacking football is back and has smashed the Tika-taka into little pieces. How much fun were Holland having with each other and Van Gaal.
I sensed a complete togetherness within the team and VP is back in a big way so next season at the theatre of dreams looks like a beautiful story unfolding. The pressure on Rooney is massive now as VP is Van Gaal's favourite so Rooney not only has to deliver for us England fans but for his club future too... stakes have never been higher.
Chile were lucky to have the win in the end as the Aussies could have been alright if the second attempt straight after their first goal had gone in things might have been different, but in the end sadly I think they were outclassed and beaten up a bit by Chile.
The level of football Holland have set really puts the bar high for England in terms of competing at the tournament and they will either fight of flight. No point with Hodgson being too cautious as I think it’s all about Goal Difference in the scoring continues like it is so no draws or 1 nil will suffice this time. England have to score more goals than their opposition do plain and simple especially as our defence is not water tight yet by a long way.
And finally before I go at the end of my CIGS zoo trip I was sitting under shade with Daniel and we heard a big THUMP.
Twenty meters away there was a bright Amazon green Iguana lying on the ground. He had fallen about three metres down onto the ground. I went over and had a chat and decided to call him Harry.