Tuesday 25th March 2014
We had breakfast in the hotel this morning and then went out for a walk in the town. This town is very old (founded in 1616 by the Portuguese) on the banks of the Para River, a very large tributary of the Amazon. Belem is in Para State in Brazil, an area larger than Western Europe – the state that is. The city has many old crumbling buildings and some (not many) nice buildings. Today we walked down the very narrow streets crowded with people shopping towards the market and the port. They sell lots of interesting stuff in the markets, including beautiful fresh fruit and vegetables, and huge amounts of Brazil nuts – surprise! We strolled around there for a while, then walked around a little way past an area where vultures were cleaning up the rubbish in an area near where there were boats. It is weird to see these birds in an urban environment living so close to people and we recalled seeing the same thing last year in Guinea Bissau. We then visited the old fort, originally built in the 17th century, now completely and beautifully restored. We also had a look in the cathedral then walked back along the waterfront and had a nice but inexpensive lunch in a restaurant mostly filled with locals. The day was hot and steamy, always a chance of rain in Belem which is reputedly one of the wettest cities in the world, but not today. We bought water for our Amazon ferry trip today then went back to the hotel for a rest and to do the blog. Around 6:30pm we went out to dinner at a street restaurant where we each had a hamburger. Customers sit on seats on the street (hoping the cars turning the corner miss them) and eat the food cooked by the vendor – this is quite common here. It’s cheaper than standard restaurants and the food is pretty good. Back to the hotel and to bed about 10:00pm.
Wednesday 26th March 2014
Belem, Brazil and joining Amazon Ferry to Manaus, Brazil – Amazon Ferry Night 1
Because we had a late (3:30pm) checkout, we decided that we would walk in a different direction today, so after breakfast in the hotel we set off to see the theatre, basilica and a very famous park/museum in this city. Again it was hot, around 33°C and very humid – looked more like rain today. We walked through the fairly unkempt park past the old theatre and then along a very busy street lined with shady trees to the basilica. We walked into the church and had a look around. It certainly wasn’t as impressive as some we have seen but it had beautiful ceilings and stained glass windows. We then walked down to the park/museum/research centre, founded in the 1890’s. There were some amazing large trees in this extensive park as well as quite a few agoutis running wild, two tapirs, a very large caiman in a pond and a jaguar in a cage – poor thing was pacing and didn’t look too happy. There were also a number of different birds and a pool with giant otters and turtles – we saw lots of turtles but no giant otters – but unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to stay long. We walked back and did the rest of the shopping for supplies for our Amazon Ferry trip and then went to the restaurant (same as yesterday) for lunch. When we came out of the restaurant to walk back three blocks to our hotel, it was raining really hard. We waited a little while for the rain to lessen but, as we were pressed for time, we had to start back. By the time we got back to the hotel, we were soaked through and we still had to have a shower and pack our bags as we were moving on this afternoon. We checked out of the hotel – rain had stopped, sun out again – and were picked up at 4:00pm and driven about 3km to the ferry port where we checked in and waited about 1½ hours for our turn to board the ferry. We carried our bags on board and set them up in our cabin, inside on the corridor, pretty disappointing as most in the group had an outside facing room. As no dinner was available on the first night, we ate dinner in the cabin from supplies we had bought in Belem. We stood out on the deck and watched them load up the ferry with supplies and cargo. We set sail from Belem at around 8:30pm and headed out towards the sea after which we would sail into the Amazon River for our trip up to Manaus. We fell asleep in our bunks to the sound of the engines of the boat.