Tag: Slow boat

Santarem to Belem, by ” sardine” boat!

The fiesta lasted till 2.00 am in the morning! When a Brasilian says “let’s have a last one”, it means let’s keep on drinking!! You learn something new every day!! Five in the morning the alarms went off! Great! Three hours sleep! Just what my body craves, not! Caught the bus to Santarem. We had brekky at the market, with the greatest coffee yet! Then we watched the pink river dolphins. There were a big mob. This man tied a fish on a rope and played with a dolphin. Vitor got a great video of this. Then the dolphin ate the fish and the guy, of course, wanted money! Since non of us asked for this display, we didn’t pay! It is much better to ASK tourists first! I was very happy to see so many pink dolphins, though. Their noses are much lager and thinner than the regular dolphins. They are also fatter and more square. The nose has evolved so they can look for food when the river floods the mangroves, so the dolphins have adapted themselves.

The boat was much, much smaller than the last one! By the time we bought our tickets and came on board, the deck was chocker block filled up! We tried going to the top deck, but this was NOT allowed! How Vitor found three hooks is beyond me! But he did and for the time being we are practising to be sardines! Silently I apologised to the old lady, who I THOUGHT was in my face on the first boat! She wasn’t even CLOSE!! This is what Travelling is all about! Extending your comfort zone, at all times! This time however, I was too tired to extend anything, I crawled into my hammock and promptly fell asleep! I must be honest, I was glad that Vitor and Luiz had decided to come on the same boat! There were very, very few foreign tourists. A handful of Italians, two Spanish women, and a German couple, who managed to close themselves off completely!

My adopted Brasilian son Luiz and grandson Vitor ready to party, AGAIN,!

What a shame though! Brasilians just LOVE to party, and by the time I felt human again the party was in full swing! Brasilian people are kind, generous and an enormous amount of fun to hang out with! The boat stopped several times, to let more people on board! I managed to stop one woman hanging her hammock just above Vitor and mine! I claimed his hammock and I told the woman he was my son, and to move! Mind you, there REALLY was NO room!!

The second day, people one by one, started to move their hammocks to the top deck! So we did too! It was colder up here, but so much more comfortable! At one stage Raoul and Luiz left the boat to buy, cheaper, booze at the shore! The boat left without them!! You have to understand that, when a Brasilian says thirty minutes, it can mean anything up to an hour!! Luiz hauled a boat, and the guy started ROWING!! Well, Luiz nearly shat himself! So he rowed while the owner turned on the motor!! There was a bit of a scary spot, when Raoul panicked, ( he is a city boy), and rocked the little boat! The small boat could have easily be run over by the large river boat, thank god Luiz is an experience sailor, he managed to calm Raoul and get them both safely on board without any damage to any vessels or to the two men!

Raoul exhausted after his adventure!

What a great you tube video this would have made! Of course I missed the whole keystone cops kaboedel! Shame! I would have so enjoyed it! I made them tell the story many times, while every time I would crack up all over again! ” Tell me again!” I would ask. Especially Vitor, who was safely on the river boat, could tell the story better and better, the more drinks, the more dramatic the story became! Just thinking about it puts a BIG grin on my face!!

The scenery on this part of the river was very different again. First of all we were on a side river, much closer to the shore. Also the last part we were sailing near the Large Island, with its gorgeous beaches! Ilha Se Marajo. This island is larger than seventy of the world’s countries! Most of the island’s interior, however, is inaccessible. The island is notable for its friendly and hospitable people,( aren’t ALL Brasilians like that??) and the Carimbo, the colourful dance that I had seen in Alter do Chao. Most of the “boat people” went to this island, known for its beautiful beaches! But I was ready for some culture and less drinking and partying! The mind and heart are willing and able, but the body is starting to show signs of its age, and I needed some desperate resting time!

First view of Belem!

 

Amazing Amazonian Adventure III

The Amazonian tour started at nine o’ clock. Pick up, drop back pack at the office and a drive to the other harbour. I was in the car with three older people from Austria. They asked where I was from, Australia, we had a laugh about the fact that people always confuse Austria and Australia! Then asked asked how long I was travelling and after that never spoke another word to me again! Oops! Is it the dreadlocks?? Weird!

We had to take a boat ride. This boat stopped at the meeting of the waters! This is where the two rivers, rio Negro and rio Soliminos. There is a distinct line. The Rio Negro, the black river, is much warmer, much slower and the water has a different density.for these reasons the two rivers don’t immediately mix. So for kilometres the rivers run along side of each other, before their waters mix and become the Amazon river. In English we call the whole river the Amazon, which has to be so, if they want to claim that it is the longest river in the world!! Due to the fact that it was cloudy, the line was difficult to see.

After the boat ride we went on to a bus!! Unbelievable! I had NO idea that there were ROADS and a BUS service in the jungle!! I am aware how terribly ignorant I am! I am learning new things daily! When we finally arrived, I have no idea how long it took as I promptly fell asleep! We were all given a most delicious lunch. All together we were ten people in the group. Four young people from Italy, a young couple from Spain, the three Austrians and myself. So much for never more than EIGHT!

Stefano and Tigre.

As the boat arrived at the jungle camp, this man called out my name! Eh?? Who knows that I am ME? It was the cricket man from Manaus, James, who works for Gero tours! What a small world we have! After lunch we sorted out our beds in a very full dormitory, the Austrians had a private room. Then a boat trip down the large river. I was beside myself when I saw my first two pink dolphins!! My guide told me they were grey! But as he had his back to them, and I saw them ever so clearly, I disputed his ” sighting”! Luckily we saw two more, an awesome sight! They are much different from grey Dolphins. Their fins have developed in a different way to deal with looking for food in mangroves when the river overflows. Also their top fin is much smaller.

A couple of us had a swim in the Amazon! I can’t tell you how incredibly exciting it was to have a swim in the Amazon!! I have now swum in the Nile, Zambezi river and the Amazon!! Hm! Might see if I can swim in the five major rivers! Afterwards we went to a jungle bar. Amazingly the price of the beer was the same as the price at the Manaus hostel! On the way back we stopped for the sunset! And what a sunset it was! Unbelievably stunning. Another great day was finished!

That evening we all went to the camp’s bar. It was time to have my first caipirinha. The bar man, Toucanero, was a recently widowed elderly man , who has fourteen children! No television in the jungle I reckon! Since he was in my age group he took a shine to me, and my caipirinha although lovely, totally floored me! My father always told me to lead a balanced life, so I had a second one, one for each leg!! Marina, the Italian girl and Tiziano, played the guitar and started singing! Then one of the young guides, Sarmento, joined in. Stunningly beautiful voices. How unbelievably beautiful. Here I am in the middle of the Amazonian jungle listen to live music of total professionals. How blessed I am. How incredibly blessed!

I was up at five am the next morning, walked to the boat ramp. James and four people in his group were already there. In what should have been a beautiful quiet morning was disturbed by angry voices. His group was meant to go on a boat for a sunrise tour, but their boat driver didn’t show up. So lots of yelling, angry voices, no dolphins no monkeys, the man kept saying, but they also missed all the birds waking up. Poor James kept saying “why are you yelling at me?I am HERE!” The woman wanted him to ring the driver, except there is no reception out in the Amazonian jungle!! In the end there was NO sunrise as it was too cloudy! But all four people had missed the Here and Now of another beautiful morning.

Tiziano, Stefano, Tigre and Marina , the four Italians.

We had a gorgeous jungle walk, saw monkeys, stunningly beautiful butterflies, a tarantula’s nest, (the spider refused to come out!) Marina and I were the only two willing to try a white worm! Like a witchity grub, but smaller, it tasted like peanut butter. Tiziano tried one after he saw we didn’t drop dead on the spot! There was so much to see and take in. It was supposedly a two hour jungle walk, but we took much longer. My knee gave me an enormous amount of grief. I am starting to get utterly fed up with this knee! It is the same age as my other one, so why be such a pain? I might have to go bed and see a specialist when I get back! Sigh. Such a boring drag!!

When we came back from the walk after four hours of walking it was lunch time. People got terribly upset that I wanted to miss lunch!! Couldn’t make them understand that normally I only eat once a day!! My stomach is upset again, which has a lot to do with the two caipirinhas last night! James fussed over me like, I was going to say an old woman, but since I never fuss over anybody, I can’t use this expressions! So he fussed, a lot! Made me lemon grass tea. This did help, but since it was self inflicted, I didn’t want ANY fuss whatsoever!! An afternoon nap, and I declined to go Pirahna fishing. I had already done this before. Three hours on a boat without a toilet nearby didn’t seem such a good idea!

Instead I sat at the boat ramp, solitary, silence, meditation, and nature just came to me!! Canaries flew in sat nearby. Bright yellow, orange and birds that were mixed. I took photos with the camera, but didn’t want to disturb this precious moment with getting the iPad out of my bag! It was just like Henry Theroux wrote in Walden Pond. All you need to do is sit still , be quiet and nature will roll at your feet in pure ecstasy. It is just so silent, boats puttering along, staff going home, and me taking it all in, to be alone for a couple hourswas pure, undiluted bliss!

One of the guides, who was waiting for his boat ride, heard monkeys nearby. We went in search of them, and right there, not ten meters away, was a group of Capuchin monkeys in a nearby tree. Ismael grabbed some bananas from the kitchen and we watched the action. Ismael tried capturing the action on my camera, but I had not set it on the movement setting. I just watched in awe! Then the group returned with nine Pirahnas. It was dinner time! Pirahna is not my favourite fish to eat! Too many bones, too small, although utterly delicious, a lot of work for a few mouthfuls.

That night, after eating the Pirahnas, we went caiman hunting. This was a bit of a farce. Gillman caught a baby caiman, we got to hold it, several photos were taken,( non on the iPad) and back we went. Mosquitos, the size of helicopters, had been biting me through my travel trousers, on my bottom! Great, now I walk around all day scratching my backside!

Then next morning I was back on the jetty, for another attempt to see a spectacular sunrise on the foreshore. This time it was Sarmento with the four Chinese people. He asked if I wanted to join them for a river sunrise. I believe whole heartedly that one should never, ever say NO to unexpected offers. So of I went, on the boat, waiting for a new day to begin. The Chinese man played one video over and over, the sound effects getting on my nerves. A beautiful quiet morning, constant chatter of the two Chinese girls, the video making its intrusive noises, while birds flew over our heads, starting their new day with a spot of morning fishing!

The next day we visited a native house! We knew this as the sign on the wall said so! We had a look around, didn’t buy anything, walked through the garden and returned to camp! Another great day!!

The sunrise was beautiful, it all happened very fast, one minute waiting and waiting and suddenly the new day has arrived.We walked amongst butterflies to the dinning area. One huge blue one, like we have in Queensland. After breakfast, it was time to pack, a morning boat trip and getting ready to return to Manaus. The trip back was so much faster then the getting here. David and Jennifer, from Barcelona, had to get to the airport, but not until much later that night. We agreed to meet each other in my new hotel’s lobby. Ah, a hot shower, change of clothing, and I felt like a new woman. Tomorrow I am catching the slow boat to Santarem. Another adventure awaits.

Amazing Amazonian Adventure II

At seven o’clock in the morning, I caught a taxi to Porto Voyager, Tabatinga in Brasil. This sounds like an enormous trip, but it is literally ten minutes. Tabatinga and Leticia run into each other. The check in had started, except it was for the FAST boat! Now this was interesting as Solange had told me that there was NO fast boat to Manaus, only to Iquitos! May be I should say, I understood that she said that!  What I understand and what is said is often NOT the same thing!

Anyway, waiting is what I had to do. Since I am an extremely patient person, this is not an issue. I made friends with Laureano, from Buenos Aires. Also with a young couple, Camila and Alan, also from Argentina. This was suggested by the Lonely Planet and also re enforced by the travel agent, so that you have people looking out for you and your belongings. Since I make friends easily it was not an important issue.Finally it was our turn to go and check with the police on site. Photos were taken, passports checked, and back in line to do some more waiting. It wasn’t very busy as most people came after nine o’ clock. The boat was leaving at twelve midday. After more luggage checks, dog patrolling the luggage in search of drugs, I presume, we could climb on board. I followed Laureano, as he seemed to know what he was doing. We claimed a spot on the top floor.

The middle deck was soon chokker block full, while the top deck was spacious and bare. I was also meant to find out where the engines were, so you could go as far away from them as possible. This was all too much to think of as I was to busy organising my Letician’ hammock, I bought at the market for twelve dollars and stuff. I had a problem. I had seen an old man selling white cords at the dock, not realising what they were and what they were for! Well, it is simple really, if you want to sleep in an hammock strung up on high ceiling hooks, you need to put an extension on both sides of the hammock. This is if you want to be comfortable!!

I was fortune enough that Brasilian Max had a spare cord which he lend me! Okay, now I was lump sided! I went back down to see if I could get back off to find the old man selling the cords. This proved not possible. It occurred to me after a while that I had picked up some bits of rope somewhere along the way, as I was planning to send a parcel home. Was it going to be strong enough? Luckily, Alan, who is extremely tall, helped me out there. I can’t reach the hooks! So here I was all roped up, hanging and ready to go. I was very, very exited.

Soon we left. I had to squeeze myself. I am on the Amazon, in Brasil! I wasn’t dreaming! My childhood dream from so long ago, finally fulfilled! I met two lovely young people, Sinnaed from Ireland and Janika from Germany. Thank god, I can speak English for awhile! Dinner was called early, didn’t look to appetising. Some sloppy soupy type meal, with big blobs of fat and meat floating in it. I fished for beans and potatoes, ignoring all the rest. I had not eaten lunch, so I was hungry. Mind you if all the meals are like this, I might start my fasting now!

Since I didn’t sleep at all the night before, I turned into the hammock early. I slept surprisingly well, waking up at three for a toilet break and some star gazing! The night sky is just amazing! I didn’t expect the river to be so enormous! I mean, I have sailed on the Nile, kayaked down the Zambezi river, I have seen lots of rivers in my time, but never anything this enormously HUGE! I wish the boat would switch off the lights at night so the sky would even be more impressive! It is all encompassing, infinite, beyond enormous, intensely black, stars galore, it is overwhelmingly stunning.

It is amazing how fast the days past. We made five stops on the way, each time more people getting on board! By now the top deck is getting cramped too! An old lady strung up her hammock, nearly into mine! I became aware that as a person living in Australia, I have an enormous sense of personal space, which Europeans, nor Brasilians seem to have! In the end I just moved my luggage, tossed her luggage from underneath my hammock, under her own hammock, and moved one end of the hammock onto a different hook. At least I no longer have her feet or her face in my face!

The second day we had an enormous storm, which didn’t affect the stability of the boat, like it would have on an open sea! We just needed to move all our luggage, to keep it dry!

One of the nicest things is that at meal time, elderly people have priority! So the long queue can be passed! When the kitchen woman came to drag me out of the long, long lunch queue, I thought I had done something wrong! But no, it was because I was an ” abuela” grandmother!! Well, I don’t mind pulling the age card once in awhile! About time old age brings about something positive! The lunch was much nicer, choices are rice, spaghetti and bread! Well, there goes Keto!! I just LOVE spaghetti and now I am getting it for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

The sunsets were just stunning! So we’re the sunrises! It pays to be an early bird! There are showers on board, for some reason on the upper deck we had less toilets for women than below. So up early, shower, cold, brush your teeth and having my coffee before anybody else is awake!! After five stops I tried to count the hammocks to see how many people would be on board. I asked the lovely kichen staff several times. I understood six hundred, but didn’t think this could be right! I counted, roughly, two hundred and forty hammocks, add the children who shared with the parents, and it came to about three hundred I reckon! Don’t quote me on this!!

One of the Brasilian women told me I was NOT on the Amazon, which shattered me completely!! But Sinnaed looked on google maps and there it was mentioned that it was indeed THE AMAZON! It wasn’t until I googled information about this mighty river, that I found out that it goes by a different name in Brasil! Also in Peru! So there you go, in English the whole long, over six thousand kilometre river, is called the Amazon!

After four wonderfully relaxed, gadget free, wifi free, days we finally arrived in Manaus! Only four hours slower then anticipated!! Next adventure to start after I have a solid sleep in a BED!

 

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