The boat arrived very early on Sunday morning. The hostel that Vitor booked was within walking distance of the port. Just opposite the main square, where on Sunday all the craft and food sellers have their stalls. We dumped our gear, showered and changed, and explored the various foods of the region. The others all went to the markets afterwards, I had a snooze, and explored more of the gorgeous old buildings around the square.
There was an incredible theatre, which was closed. The old buildings in Belem are amazing. The city is big, dirty, full of homeless people, but fascinating and interesting. The old market is stunning. The open air market is the biggest in South America. So much to see and do. I just wandered. Visited the cathedral, musea, and any gallery that was open. The large Contemporary Art gallery was closed for another month, as they were changing their alarm system.
Just wandering and wondering. Having a beer and watch all the people, my favourite past time. The market just fascinated me. As you sit down, the world comes to you. An old man on a bike, with an enormous boom box on the front, playing extremely loud music, he was selling something but I never found out what exactly. Old, poor, homeless, sellers of gadgets, cords, cards and interesting looking stuff, that people could or could not need was being sold, without me moving an inch.
On a very rainy Monday night I met up with two young people, Daniela and Gabriel, friends of my friend Nina. They took Luiz and me to the foreshore, Estacao Das Docas, where they have turned the old dock into a trendy area, full of amazing restaurants and boutique little shops, beyond my normal budget. We had a fabulous meal, fish, rice and the necessary Farinha, a mashed up manioc/ yukka plant with different spices. This is one of the mains staples of EVERY meal. It comes in different crushings, fine, medium or rough. You put it on your watery soup meal to thickening it up. I thought of it as over sized breadcrumbs! On the first boat I mistook it for Parmesan cheese, and loaded it onto my pasta meal. Ever since then I am rather careful with my application. I prefer the finer Farinha, as the rough one gets into my broken tooth and hurts.
It was a delightful evening which came to an end much too soon. The one thing needed before we went, was going to the best ice cream shop in Belem, were they had so many different sorts of ice cream, it was impossible to choose! The young man gave me a taste of many different colours and flavours, but then I needed to remember which one was better than the others. Too hard. I am a libra, making choices is not necessarily my strongest point! In the end I choose Brazilian nuts ice cream, which was delicious.
I have learned to say that “I don’t speak Portuguese”, in Portuguese, which confuses the sellers. “Thank you” is another word which comes in very handy and I use all the time. On the last day Luiz and I walked to the old jail, which has been turned into a gem stone museum and lots of boutique gem stone jewellery shops. Way out of my budget. There was a wonderful courtyard with huge crystal boulders, surrounded by a moat full of different coloured crystals! Also a lot of security cameras, so Jenny, I didn’t get one for you!!
After the impressive jail we walked to the Mangal Das Garcas, a fascinating park with a butterfly enclosure, maritime museum, a look out tower and beautiful parklands. Entry was free, unless you wanted to go into enclosures and museum. As I am over sixty, everything was free for me!! I wasn’t even asked for photo identification!! Shame! I reckon people should just ask to make us oldies feel better about ourselves!
There were flamingoes, but not the brightly coloured ones I saw in Colombia. Lots of bright red little birds, I have no idea what they are called, but they were stunningly beautiful. Lots of turtles in the water, and iguanas on land. The maritime museum was fascinating. It started of explaining how the Brasilian navy was formed. When the Navy first started, they would not allow Portuguese men to join. Their loyalties would be divided between Portugal and their new country, Brasil.
So they hired English sailors! Very clever idea, which showed lots of foresight, as there was going to be a war with Portugal, for their independence! The other fact that I found fascinating was that the Portuguese ships were suitable for the oceans, but totally useless for Brasilian waterways. So the navy sought advice of local indigenous people on how to build ships, suitable for the Amazonian waterways!
After spending a couple of hours in the park we took an uber to the market, were we had a wonderful lunch. It was lovely to spend the last day in Belem with Luiz. A very interesting young man, with an interesting outlook on life. He is now my adopted Brasilian son, and so my family grows. Vitor, my adopted Brasilian grand son, was still on the great island. I have decided not to wait but to move on to São Luis tonight, as time is starting to run out for me.
It is always hard to say good bye, to let go of the known to move into the unknown. As Luiz was calling an uber for the bus station, this young French man, Nico, asked where I was going, well, here you go we are both going to São Luis! He is meeting up with Soren, the German guy who was also in our hostel. They are going on a tour into the desert, with a jeep, rather than walking, great, I will join them and this makes everything cheaper for all. And so the adventures continue. Onwards to São Luis!