It was quick and easy to board this new boat. The Ana Beatriz. As I was stringing up my hammock I noticed two very young people, a Dutch couple, Kim and Wine, we started chatting, and soon a very, very tall young man from Germany, Silvio, joined us. Somehow we all ended up on the top deck, joined by Luiz from Brasil, but who lives and works in Barcelona, and Tomas, from Brasil. Vitor, from Brasil. There was a bar on board, with the prices the same as on land! Probably because most of the passengers are Brasilians! A pleasant afternoon was had by all. I crawled in my hammock at five and slept till three in the morning!! Must have needed it!
There are a lot of travel blogs out there that emphasise the ” dangers” of Amazonian boat travel! You MUST lock your bags to a post, you MUST have a mosquito net, you MUST take malaria tablets. All this I found untrue. There are NO mosquitoes while on the water! There is a fresh breeze blowing at all times. People are to busy with their own stuff to be interested in my bag full of dirty underwear! And malaria tablets I have only taken on my very first trip ,ever, and never since!!
I watched the comings and goings of new passengers arriving from Parintins. There was one more stop, which brought the police on board! Checking bags! Silvio, the tall German, was concerned about his stash of weed! He asked me if the police were looking for drug Smuggling? How the hell would I know?? I only have had my dreads for four weeks!! ( and I don’t do drugs!) The suggestion was made that he could hide it on the top deck, behind the gazebo’s plastic roof!
Luckily the cops weren’t really interested, and certainly didn’t bring any sniffer dogs. It was the highlight of the day. Like life entertainments! I had only brought some bananas with me to counter act all the carbs from the last week. I would have liked to go to the supermarket on the shore, but was told we would leave in ten minutes! (Unbeknown to me there was a restaurant on board!) the boat stopped much longer than ten minutes, but I didn’t dare to risk it. When we arrived in Santarem, one night, two days, I was feeling rather lightheaded. Due to the heat and the pushing and shuffling, and probably due to the lack of food, I nearly passed out on the stairway! Nothing that sitting down with my head between my knees couldn’t solve, but the care and kindness was overwhelming!
Finally we arrived in Santarem. As a big mob of us were all going to Alter de Chao, it made sense to get to the bus together. On the way we passed an ATM, which didn’t give any of us any money! Hm! Interesting! When the first bus to Alter arrived it was chokker block full. All the French people pushed themselves in. The two guys from Queensland and the German lad were going to take a taxi. I joined them. Apparently I am NOT an Australian, but a foreigner, according to the large Aussie. Well, they were Queenslanders, anybody who votes for Pauline Hanson, isn’t necessarily the sharpest knife in the drawer!
Luiz, who had his own motorbike on the boat, had arrived long before us at the hostel. The taxi had trouble finding the place, and in the dark the whole “town” of Alter do Chao seemed huge! Finally we arrived, just as all the young people got of the bus, the two Queenslanders took one look at this jungle rustic hostel, and politely declined. They insisted that the taxi took them back to to the ” centre of town”. They tried to convince me I didn’t want to stay at this “dump”, as the fat one called it. Well, I did! The six of us strung up our hammocks, and headed into “town”. On the way here we had noticed a fiesta and we wanted to check it out!
We took another turn and there it was! Not even the centre of town! Life music, people dancing the salsa in the street, what a wonderful place this is! I was exhausted, but as I would never ever been able to find my jungle hostel again, I had to stay until the muchachos, or at least one of the young ones, got tired and wanted to go back! The big Queensland bloke found us again and sat next to me for awhile, discussing the terrible problems of getting older! How boring! After politely listening to him and his ailments, I told him I needed to find my mob. Look, getting older happens to all of us, unless you are unfortunate and die young. However, discussing it and your ailments when there is a life band playing salsa, in the middle of the Amazonian jungle, is completely and utterly boring to me! He went of to find another audience! (Thank god!)
In the small hours of the mornings few of us returned to our humble abode. I slept like a babe in my, by now cosy hammock. Couldn’t wait to see the place by day light! It was every thing I had expected and more! There are two tree houses, a ceremonial house (in which we slept for the first night) a large kitchen space, and a huge sleeping area. It is rustic, cosy and very, very arty farty! For less than ten dollars a night, we are in a touristy place in the middle of the Amazonian jungle! I have to keep pinching me, to know that I am NOT dreaming!