Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Belem to Manaus – Boat Cruise down the Amazon River!

Well I don’t know how I made it to get on a boat and cruise down the Amazon River for 5 days. I never planned for such a thing, nor planned to have the money for it. But I guess sleeping on all those benches for free and cutting back on meals was definitely worth it.

So the first day out on the river, it looked like I was on another ocean cruise. That’s how big this river seemed.





In some parts to looks quite narrow, but in others it’s quite wide. So wide in fact that it looks like the ocean.



The Amazon is as deep as 150 meters in some parts; the irony is that the deepest parts are the narrowest ones.



It is crazy to see all the hammocks together. Brings the phrase crammed like a can of sardines to a whole new level.



An elbow to the head at 3am is a common activity along with the sharing of aromatic hydrocarbons…aka methane gas aka farts.

As we made our first stop at the city of Breves, we were welcomed by people jumping on board frantically selling food and such.

My hero for the day was this ice cream man doing a tricky balancing act on one foot on this log to sell his ice cream to the people on the boat. He even went as far as throwing his ice cream up to the third deck.



Giving him money worked the same way. It was like thrown money into a wishing well, you never quite knew where the coins would end up.

During the cruise I was also reminded of the environmental issue of deforestation of the Amazon. It’s said the Amazon is nature’s lungs of the world.



As we cruised down some pretty remote places, I was stunned to find so many people living alone the river in the middle of no where



As I see little kids and adults on the boat throw their aluminum cans and plastic into the river, I’m reminded that not all the world is educated enough about our fragile environment, or serious issues pertaining to it.

Boats from the small villages would also time things just right and row to the moving boat, strap on for the ride and would sell some merchandise.



I bought this wonderful bag of Acai from one of the guys. I made friends with the bar tender lady who put it in her mini refrigerator for me to preserve and enjoy throughout the journey.



I had no sugar for it, but I did have some chocolate powder. And I must say Acai with chocolate is extremely delicious! I just might patent that… oppps, pretend you didn’t hear that….oh wait even better…. *Patent Pending*. Yes there we go, think that covers me right?



Other kids would hear the boat coming and would just paddle out to see if they could catch up to the boat for fun. It looked as if this was the most exciting event of the day for these kids of the Amazon.



I’m pretty doubtful they go to school seeing how far away from anything they are.

Others would row out and throw fruit at the boat and the people. The people would then throw back beer cans and such.


Some other kids would throw a rope and hitch a ride for a bit.



On one occasion a daring kid would make it to the boat, jump out of the canoe, grab onto the boat and would let it drag him for while until his shorts came off with the current.

Bought a huge Avocado at the market I brought with me for food, it was Amazon big!




Also Amazon big were all the spiders that came out at night on the boat and made webs directly above my hammock.



It sucks to be so tall on a boat, as when I walk I’m constantly bending my knees and neck so I don’t hit the roof. Besides all the locals looking and laughing at me because I’m sure I look pretty funny doing that, I also get the occasional smack on the head when I stand up and the frequent spider web to the face as I turn the corners.

I was noticing we were losing lots of time as we kept stopping at ports to deliver cargo, sometimes it took 30 minutes other times a few hours. But regardless it was a nice break from the repetitive scenery.





We also made a midnight cargo switch with a following boat that required both boats joining together.



The event was fun as everyone started chatting to each other from different boats. We were going to Manaus, and they were coming from Manaus. We shared information and such.

Boat party!


Some people even jumped over and bought food from our bar and watched a movie with us until the transfer of cargo was finished.

There was even one guy that seemed terribly interested in me for some reason. He even came up from his floor up to mine to say hi.

He was a Professor at a University and such. Gave me his contact info and such. He seemed to be a “happy” individual if you know what I mean. Mystery solved on the curiosity thing.

As we were leaving last minute requests for food were being yelled at the bar tender from the other boat. I happily stepped in and became the waiter passing the food and collecting the money, heck a good way to learn some new Portuguese words. It was quite hilarious, Chacon the Amazon River Boat Waiter.

Don’t know if that’s as cool as Chacon the Quilotoa Crater Mechanic. Might need to have a vote on that.

The next day our new friend finally caught a fish. He had been trying the entire journey and finally he got one, small but it was something.



I also started to notice that around the Amazon, women don’t tend to shave their legs. Hey that’s cool, whatever makes you happy, maybe it keeps the mosquitoes off them, but all I know is when a woman has more hair on their legs that I do, then with me there might be an issue. Some guys like them hairy, who am I to judge, right.

Also had another fan club for some reason. Two young ladies nicknamed me “lindo” meaning literally lovely, but it was used more as the word cute in Portuguese.

These girls were ridiculous; they thought it would be funny to wake me up by tickling my feet or by kissing my leg and even my arm. Needless to say a reciprocated bucket of cold water at 6am to wake one of them up solved that little issue after repeating various warnings to them.



This cruise was very well worth the time if you have the time and opportunity. Boats run typically Tuesday to Fridays from Belem. And cost $150 Reals not including food, which costs $8 Reals per plate of $10 Reals all you can eat. I personally brought all my own food to save myself some money and the redundancy of the same food.

You get to see some great scenery.





And some great sunsets if you’re lucky.








The night sky is very beautiful as well. You can see the Milky Way galaxy and everything. Almost as good as the night sky I saw when climbing Cotopaxi in Ecuador.  Very clear sky to say the least.

The amazing thing I encountered was the realization of the vest amount of people that live along this amazing river. I never imagined so many people. And some of them even had electricity!

The best thing though, seems the friends you make and people you meet. I was one of 4 foreigners on the boat, the rest were locals. And they make you feel very welcome.

The tourists looking cool

We were all giving each other food to try, talked for hours, hung out at night etc. The commodity was fantastic, although I enjoyed the scenery just as much.

The bad part about this was that the captain was zig zagging his route which took more time and all the port stops also delayed things. Which caused the trip to last a total of 6 days.

But according to law they had to feed the entire boat for free the last day. Wooo free food!



During my trip I did however survive on my new addiction, baby food meal and milk.

Yes that was breakfast and lunch for me.  Quite good actually and very nutritious! Cheap as well. Gotta save up for the Amazon jungle tour!

Most of my time on the boat was spent relaxing and recollecting about this entire journey and reading Einstein’s original paper on the theory of relativity as it was the only book I could find. That dude was smart is all I can say.

Finally arrived in Manaus and dry land. Amazon here I come!