We left the creatures and beauty of Alter Do Chao behind as we boarded the bus back to Santarém in order to catch a boat down the rest of the Amazon. It was a bit of a shocker speaking Portuguese again after almost a week hiatus. The words were there, but so was our Canadian accent. Regardless, we found our way to the port in Santarem, different spot than where we arrived a week earlier, bought our tickets (120$R each = $70Cad for the 27-30 hour trip) and set up our hammocks. Our boarding time was 6pm for a 7pm departure. It’s a good thing we arrived so early, by the time we fell asleep about 11pm, we were still in port. Cargo trucks continued to load their goods onto the boat until the wee hours. We woke up again somewhere between 2 and 3 am and we still hadn’t left. The next morning, we were glad to see that we were moving. We had left Santarem at 5am, 11 hours late. The good news, at least we got one decent night sleep.
Our next two nights on the boat were the worst sleep so far. Imagine this.. you have rows of hammocks set up side by side and end to end…. the ends overlap a bit, creatnig a kind of a criss-cross pattern. One person beside you or at your end moves and it’ like dominos – the whole boat needs to move as well. Or, in the case of this trip, one person starts swinging and before you know it everyone is swinging, gaining more and more momentum with each rock. The wind is blowing so hard that the sides of your hammock flap in the wind like a flag. We were sleeping when we first hit the rough water and wind which brought on the rocking and swinging. At first, you can sleep through it, like a baby. It wasn’t until we woke up crashing into the bodies on either side of us that the nights got longerand our sleep shorter.
There`s not much you can do to escape the swinging dominos. We tried moving our hammocks – at least that got us out of the open-air and blasting wind, but the rocking continued. The only way to stop it was to rig up some way to keep a foot anchored to the floor. This of course works, until you fall asleep again, then the weight leaves your foot and you start to swing. Luckily, we figured out a way to hook our foot around our packs, below our hammocks, to minimize the momentum. Still, the sleep was terrible. Two nights of this and a shortage of food due to the late timing of our departure (thank goodness for those grilled cheese sandwiches they sell on board), we were ready to be on land.
The Amazon River was not exactly as we expected. As we progressed through our journey, towards the Atlantic Ocean, the scenery did get more interesting, but the water no clearer. The consistent opaque brown of the water was consistent from west to east but the distance between the north and south banks varied dramatically. At times, we had to stretch our eyes to see land on both shores, at others we were wondering how the boat wasn`t bottoming out as we passed through narrow streams and small shoreline villages. We`re glad we made the journey by boat, but all things considered we wouldn`t make that trip again. That is not to say its the last of the adventureous boat rides in the North of Brazil.