Please excuse an typos and misuse of English language. I am doing this using my phone.
The captain got us early to our first stop on the 15th…..Santarem. Thank goodness because we had a long tour booked. We walked around the town briefly (it was Sunday… all the stores were closed). There are so very many boats here. It is what life on the river is all about …. pretty much the only means of transportation other than in the towns. Went to see the pink dolphins that feed off the fish that are thrown from the fish market. Then to the town’s cathedral and a clothing museum in the private home of the 93 yr. old maker. Everything is made from natural fibres….. no cloth. She had parrots and macaws, etcetera. in backyard. On going back out, I missed a 3″ drop in the floor …..crashing onto my knees. Nothing broken but some bruising. Our guide showed us some strange small tree that I cannot remember the name of…. that has “fruit” about the size of a mini watermelon but hard as a rock. It is used in production of bowls. He then took us back to port where we were to catch a boat operated by Gil Serique… A well known ecological naturalist. Some of the tour had already left so we had to catch up with the others using a “speed” boat. That guide showed us the meeting of the Tapajos River with very muddy Amazon…. Very distinct. He also showed us pink dolphins but they didn’t want to co-operate and show themselves very much. We proceeded until we caught up with the other bigger boat(s) in another tributary ….I would classify it as floodwaters like a bayou…. kind of swampy but definitely not stagnant. It was running. This is the rainy season so everything is flooding including the areas used to graze cattle in dry season. We were told the river probably has another 2 metres to rise. Apparently the trees in order to survive, have to be able to withstand being submerged in up to 8 meters of water for up to 7 months. Anyway, the bigger boat was butted up to the river bank where everyone was looking up at a couple of sloths in the trees. From there we continued on near to a spot close to where we could all get to see the giant water lilies. Wow!!!! Beautiful and huge. We also got into canoes for a paddle through a waterlogged jungle. Some saw toucans, others a another sloth hanging as well as a tiny porcupine high up in the trees. Then….. OMG we were all wondering if we were going to make it back to the ship before it left. But …..on the way back, the most beautiful sunset. By the way we were late….. By 1 minute. Phew!!
Next day, the 16th… Boca de Valeria. This a tiny native village of about a hundred people but that many more come from the neighbouring areas. Here too, they live in houses that are built on stilts with no plumbing. The electricity was wires strung here there and wherever, had not been working for quite some time. Very primitive conditions. The kids were all over you grabbing and trying to hold your hand. I acquired one little boy….. gorgeous like Elvis, who lived elsewhere, was either taught English in school or went to an English school. He was a great little guide. I am sure all this touching, etc., is an attempt to get money (which is in a way,is teaching the kids to sell themselves). But….. They are so very poor it many be one of only a few ways to make some money. How many times do they have a cruise ship stop by for a visit …..with opportunities. Some of the passengers and crew left supplies, including clothes and stuff for the school. The kids all showed off their pets… Lots of sloths, the cabydara
(the world’s largest rodent…..tied up with a halter like the family’s pet dog), one boy with a small boa around his neck, baby monkeys and an older different kind of monkey, a baby black cayman (with a wire around his mouth), a tarantula, tiny parrots, and a toucan. There was also an alligator tied with rope and wire, to a board. Nice that they did that! There were people, adults and kids dressed in costume. One my second trip in (by tender), I went ashore with a lady named Ruth. She and I took a half hour ride in one of their boats up and around the river… for $5US each. We were on board with a father, grandfather and 4 yr old adorable little girl. She babble on and on like 4 yr olds do wherever. We had no idea what she was saying. That was an experience. Ropes knotted together were the steering “cables”. Now this is really what they call the Amazon rainforest. Totally saturating rain, soggy red mud up to your ankles. I loved it.
Tuesday, March 17th St. Patricks day. Today we only walked around the very large city of Manaus …… Famous for its opera house and once the richest city in the world at the time….. Because of the production of rubber. It is 1000 kilometres up the Amazon and the furthest point that we are travelling to. In the area …. The downtown area near the port, were blocks and blocks of pedestrian streets with shops and kiosks….. A real marketplace! Prices were very inexpensive but who can shop when the temperature is near 90 with 100% humidity? The perspiration was literally running down our faces. Good thing I wasn’t wearing any eye makeup. So very uncomfortable and exhausting. While we were here in port, the pier was shared by a Seabourn ship. I chatted with a fellow that was a passenger on that ship. They had travelled from Santiago, Chile to Antarctica, around the southern tip of South America and up to Amazon. He was most impressed with the penguins and icebergs. He said it was not as cold there as it was in his home town in New York.
Many boats on this river look like the paddle wheelers on the Mississippi…. but without the paddles.
Today, the 18th, we are heading back down the river toward Parintins. Enroute, not sure if the ship was on autopilot or what but damn we got so close to shore then the ship made a hard turn to avoid hitting shore. I think someone was not paying attention ….. asleep at the wheel and had to make a quick correction. There was lots of discussion from the passengers later. One lady apparently fell. The captain said later that the ship leaned 3% to the port but I am inclined to think it was somewhere more like 10%+. On getting to Parintins, Gerry and I checked out all the handcrafts in the pier area….. lots of nice stuff. I purchased a beautiful blowgun and a gourd-like ornament that looked like an owl one way but a monkey the other way. Them we took a pedicab around town. By that time it was siesta time so everything was closed but whatever, we got a tour.
Thursday the 19th…. We are arrived in Alter de Chao…. A lovely little town of about 2,000 not far from Santarem….. on the Tapajos River. On the weekends the population triples. It is supposed to have one of the best beaches in Brazil. It reminds one of a Caribbean island community. I think some of the gals would like to return… but not in the rainy season. The beach would then be exposed. They have cabanas on this spit/sandbar that runs to Ilha do Amor (Island of Love). I did not check out this lovely little town but instead went on a Gil Serigue tour of a jungle forest. Unfortunately, like the last on we took with him, time ran short so we were in fear of not making it back to the ship in time. Makes one a little stressed. Part of the reason with this was that we had an hour and half drive each way to get there. We saw trees…. Huge ones some called Kapok also called buttress trees. The one we were introduced to was 700 yrs old. It is very lite wood so is used for making coffins but not much else. Also brazil nut trees…. extremely tall…. Besides the nuts it is used to land on in emergencies. (Ask me more about that if you are interested). There were cocoa trees and tiny fungi and huge beautiful flowers somewhat resembling a magnolia flower, on one tree. Sorry but I cannot remember the name of any of the plants/trees cuz their names are mainly in Portuguese. On the return trip we visited Belterra…… Henry Ford’s town built during his involvement in the rubber boom in the 1930s. It resembles small town middle America. The sidewalks, the streets made with interlocking paving blocks, the houses painted green and white only (his mandated colours), the water system, the sirens indicating the beginning and end of each work day….all as it was built back then with no upkeep to any of it since. But as the guide indicated, its in better shape than modern day infrastructure in the much newer towns.