Belem to Manaus on the Amazon River Ferry
Apr 1, 2014
|Thursday 27th March 2014
Amazon River Ferry, Brazil – Day 1, Night 2
Awoke around 7:00am, by which time we had travelled round into the Amazon River and were heading west. Had quite a nice breakfast on board the ferry and the spent the day sitting, reading, taking photos, chatting and generally watching the world go by. There are a number of settlements and small towns en route and we stopped at one today to drop off and pick up passengers. People in boats tied up to the ferry while we were travelling along and came aboard to sell everything from ice creams to fruit as well as prawns. We had lunch in the ‘restaurant’ – chicken and rice. The ferry “Amazon Star” has 2 decks: the lower deck has some cabins and at the rear is a small restaurant. In between is the hammock room which is packed with mainly locals although 2 of our group are sleeping there. No doubt it would be an experience but not one we actually desire – there are 3 rows of hammocks tightly packed together – each hammock touching the next – with the luggage placed underneath. There are quite a few families in this area with small children but everyone seems to get on OK with little personal space and no privacy. Hurrah for our cabin! The upper deck has more cabins (ours included), a large open covered bar area with tables and chairs, and a large open space at the rear We spend most of our day in the bar area sitting near the rails and watching the river. We were surprised by how many people live along the river and many of them – often quite small children - come out in boats to the ferry hoping that someone will throw them something. The banks today were mostly covered by thick dense jungle and many palm trees. Towards evening it rained heavily for a little while just at dark. Dark falls so fast here. It only takes about 15 minutes for it to change from day to night. There is almost no twilight. We ate dinner from our stash of food tonight and lay in our cabin to the sound of the ferry moving ever westwards.
Friday 28th March 2014
Amazon River Ferry, Brazil – Day 2, Night 3
We awoke at around 7:30am this morning and had breakfast in the restaurant – quite nice again. The day proceeded much like yesterday sitting on the deck reading, talking, taking photos of the ever changing riverscape. Today the river is wider with more varied vegetation on the banks and with the exception of one large town at which we stopped to allow some passengers to disembark, a whole lot less habitation on the banks of the river, even some small cliffs along one stretch. We saw a vehicle barge, like the one our truck is following us on. Also, sadly, several barges heading to Belem filled with logs – deforestation before our eyes. It didn’t rain today and appeared slightly cooler than yesterday. We ate lunch today from our supplies. During the afternoon we played ‘Greed’ a dice game with some of our group. At around 5:30pm we had dinner from the restaurant, fish, spaghetti and rice for Lynn and chicken, spaghetti and rice for David. Early evening we went to our cabin for some quiet time and an aperitif. As it is quite dark by about 7:30pm, there is not much to see on the main deck except pitch black forest and by then we have had enough of the noise of the bar area. At least in the cabin all you can hear is the sound of the ferry engines.
Saturday 29th March 2014
Amazon River Ferry, Brazil – Day 3, Night 4
Another day on the river. We have become used to the pace of the ferry and the routine of going down to breakfast. An egg and a roll with slices of cheese and ham (sounds like a Dr Seuss book) then fruit (a banana, pineapple slices, watermelon and paw-paw) with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate all for 5 reals (about $A2.40). Usually some of our group are in the room having breakfast so we have a chat while we have breakfast. The ladies in the breakfast room are all short and fairly round and one of them doles out the items (except the coffee). After breakfast we went up onto the deck between the rooms and the bar and Lynn found two chairs (white plastic) and we sat and read our books, adjusting our position to take account of the shade. The landscape is a little different today – many open spaces, almost like flood plains and less ‘jungle’. While the ferry is moving, it is breezy. Today is very warm, always humid here. The morning passes in a languid fashion with one exception: late morning we saw a few river dolphins, a specific species that lives in the Amazon. This was very exciting as we hadn’t seen them until now. About 1:00pm, we arrived at Santarem, a large town on the river with a very large conveyor belt for loading something (unknown) on to cargo ships – maybe grain, maybe ore, not sure really. We are advised that the ferry will be leaving at 4:00pm so we disembarked and went for a walk towards the town about 2km away. We found a number of little stalls by the side of the road that had fish cooking over coals, so between three of us, we had two fish, rice, salad and beans and a soft drink. It was all very cheap and really tasty. After lunch, we bought a few more supplies at the local supermarket and some apples at the fruit market and then walked back to the ferry. In the end, we didn’t leave till after 5:15pm. The ferry stops at a number of towns and settlements on the way, delivering goods and cargo to various people who wait on the dock to check it off and take it away. Sometimes, we reach these towns in the middle of the night, so the people have to be up to get their goods. Certainly there are fewer passengers now too as the hammock area is not nearly as cramped as it was. Quite a few have got off the ferry today. Today we sat on the deck and watched the sunset and sat till it got quite dark. The evening was very pleasant so it was after 8:00pm before we went back to our cabin and sat on the floor on our pillows and each had a bread roll with Vegemite and an aperitif. We then read our books some more and to sleep about 10:00pm. We are getting so much sleep on this ferry.
Sunday 30th March 2014
Amazon River Ferry, Brazil – Day 4, Night 5
Today we continued our journey just south of west along the Amazon River. The river is higher than in the dry season but not at its maximum height yet in the area through which we travelled today. We stopped at two smaller towns today, the second in the late afternoon was called Parantins and quite a deal of cargo was unloaded from the ferry including coconuts, shoes and broom handles!!!! The weather was again hot and sunny, but mostly with a breeze off the river. There was quite a spectacular sunset tonight and because the night was clear, a very large display of stars. It is very dark in this part of the Amazon. We had dinner whilst sitting on deck, chatted to some people and then to our cabin for an aperitif then to bed around 10:00pm.
Monday 31st March 2014
Amazon River Ferry, Brazil – Day 5, extra night
We awoke at 7.30am to our last day on the ferry. Lynn doesn’t want the journey to finish – she is so in the zone of it all – she thinks it would be a cheap way to live…. After breakfast (no bananas as they have run out, and people coming in later had no egg) our day progressed as normal – find a spare chair on the deck, sit and read whilst keeping one eye on the nearest bank. The landscape has changed again – more cleared land – more small farms with livestock. In some places you can see the low bank is breaking away – probably happens a bit more each year where the trees/bushes have been felled. We stopped around 11.30am at a small town to offload more freight: broom handles; boxes of eggs; cabbages; avocados; tomatoes. Quite a few passengers also got off including a large group of men – there appears to be some industry here and we assume they are workers. The card players appear to have gone but the domino players are still here – unfortunately, because they are so loud – they shout excitedly and slam each played domino down on the table. This stop was scheduled for 5.30am so we are running about 6 hours late. The river is very high, although still has about a metre to go according to the marks on the trees. The current is also very fast and is causing the boat some problems which is why we are running so late now. There are more than a few logs floating down which must have ‘escaped’ from one of the barges we have seen. As soon as it is dark an intermittent spotlight searches the water ahead but, even so, we did hit one the night before last with a loud thump. We have been told we will probably arrive now at midnight or 1.00am so the captain has agreed we should sleep on board once more. Our leader is going to arrange for us to be picked up in the morning and we will have breakfast at the hotel in which we should be staying tonight. Suits us fine!