Published: August 5th 2010July 13th 2010
In my last entry, we have boarded the river boat going from Lagunas toward Iquitos
. All in all it was a calm boat ride. We learned how to sleep tight in hammocks (best way is to lie diagonally in your hammock, this way your body is almost completely horizontal like on a bed). We got used to the boat routine: porridge for breakfast, rice with a small unidentified piece of meat (chicken maybe?...) and a fried green banana for lunch, and the same for dinner... The kids have spent the time reading, drawing and making some bracelets with 2 other tourists that were with us on the boat. We also played some cards, enjoyed the views of the river and especially - the sunsets. After two nights and a full day between them, we have arrived in Iquitos on Saturday morning.
Iquitos is considered to be the largest city in the world that is accessible only by boat or air. As later I will mention Manaus, you are probably going to say that Manaus in Brazil is bigger - and yes, Manaus is bigger, but as from Manaus one could travel by road, if his destination is
On board our river boat to Iquitos
Looking from the third floor to the second and the cargo level - yes, there are cows on board.
Venezuela, it is not as isolated as Iquitos is.
Iquitos is a nice colonial city, especially its city center. Unfortunately, many of the colonial buildings are not preserved the way they should be - yet, one could see that the city once was a center of power and money. There are many houses which are covered with cermaic tiles that were brought from Europe (Spain and Portugal), these are said to allow the buildings to stay cool in the hot climate of Iquitos.
As we have only just arrived, we have decided not to leave town at the same day on our onwards journey, and enjoy a bit of the city. However, we have also learned that this would mean we would have to wait for Monday afternoon to take our next boat ride, as there are no boats leaving the harbour on Sunday. But, as Omer was slightly sick and had fever, and we were all somewhat tired, had lots of laundry to deal with and wanted to explore Iquitos, we have decided to indeed wait for Monday.
In Iquitos we visited a neighbourhood that is built along the river and since the water level flactuates dramatically
the houses are either floating or built high on stilts to ensure they are not fluided when the water level rises. When we were there, the water level was very low, so most buildings were just stuck in the mud, however, one could see the marks of the water when they are high and only imagine these houses floating on the water.
On Monday afternoon, as per our plan, we boarded the next river boat, leaving toward Santa Rosa
the Peruvian border town in the triple "junction" where the borders of Colombia, Peru and Brazil are met. We are heading back to Brazil.
The boat was very similar to the previous boat in its features, structure and facilities. The only difference was that this time we did not have live cattle with us on the cargo deck, yet we had huge containers with fish! which they have very carefully packed with ice, milliones of bottles a truck and metals for construction...
There is nothing much to tell about this boat ride - again we managed to somehow spend the 2 nights and the day between them, by playing cards, reading, sleeping on our hammocks, watching the
river banks, seeing once in a while a house or a small village, watching nice sunsets ...
We arrived to Santa Rosa early morning, at around 6am. After moving from our river boat to a local tiny boat that would actually take us to the port (yes - the river boat have stopped by the police control point, but this is on an island and not where people can disembark...) we arrived to the mudy shores of this village. We walked through the mud to the immigration office to get our exit stamp, only to discover that the immigration office would only open at 8:30 - and so we headed back to the tiny boat, unloaded all our backpacks and luggage, and slowly made our way again through the mud, this time with the heavy weight of our cargo and with the kids. Eventually, after we got our passports stampped we made our way back to the port (yes - again in the mud...) and took another tiny boat to the other side of the river - to the town of Tabatinga
, on the Brazilian side. From here, a very expensive (we are back in Brazil, so everything is
expensive) ride with a taxi and we are in the Brazilian immigration office getting the paperwork done to enter Brazil. 2 hours later, we are already boarding another large river boat that will take us to Manaus
. As only twice a week (some said 4 times a week) there is a boat from Tabatinga to Manaus, we were lucky to arrive on that very day. On top of that, it was a very smart decision of us to first go to the pier, as right after we arrived there and asked to reserve us seats they actually run out of space, but kept saving our spots while Tal went to the bank to withdraw local currency so we could pay for this boat.
Boarding the boat this time was much more complexed, yet organized process than what we have experienced before - all bags were searched for drugs by sniffing dogs, and only once the dogs confirmed, we were allowed to continue to another search by the authorities looking for agricultural and fresh food goods - then 3 times or so our tickets were checked, and only at the end of this very long process we actually managed to
The crowded area of the hammocks on board the river boat from Tabatinga to Manaus
get on board and try and find a spot for our hammocks. This was a hard task - harder than in any of the previous boats, as the boat was absoloutely packed with travellers! Eventually we managed to squeeze somehow 3 of the 4 hammocks in between others.. and than we hanged the 4th hammock in the passageway, as there was really no other choice. The Australian guys that had their hammocks next to mine, even had them high up so that a Brazilian lady could put her hammock below them...
Right on time, or even ahead of schedule, the boat went on its way - 3 nights and 2 days, is the time we had to spend on the way to Manaus
. Though very crowded especially on the first night (after that, many left the boat in one of the ports and we could move our hammocks a bit and get more space) - the service level and the boat facilities were much better than on previous journeys. Meals were all served in an airconditioned dinning room, there was a bar and lots of space to seat around the upper deck and there were plenty of foreigners with
us on the boat to chit-chat with and hear stories. The kids also played a lot of cards, spend some time learning and even watched a bit of TV (yes, what a luxury!).
We arrived in Manaus on Saturday morning, got settled in a hostel in town, and went for a short walk around. Manaus, is a very big city - it has about 3 millions of habitants, an amazing fact taking into account the location of the city - in the middle of the Amazon Jungle. The city can be reached from the rest of Brazil only by air or boat, and yet - one living in it, cannot feel this - it is a fairly modern city, there is lots of industry in the city and its surroundings, its port on the river is huge and there is also fairly heavy traffic.
The next day, we went to see the famous meeting point of the two big rivers - the Amazon & rio Negro (the black river). It is an amazing phenomena - the two rivers meet, but they flow one next to the other for about 10km until they fully mix. The differences in temperature,
speed of flow and type of sedmintation in the waters are the cause for that phenomena - and the result seems like 2 different liquids are flowing, one has a much darker shade and the other seems white or milky (As our guide describe it - "Coffee with milk running by black coffee..) .
After some shopping in town, exploring the city's colorful and smelly market (the amount of fish makes the smell and the variety of fruits gives the color), seeing the old center (The famous Theater building and some churches), resting in the hostel and eating home cooked food to recover from too many days of rice and beans - we have decided that as our trip is almost finished, we would skip all of the northern part of Brazil (San Luis, Natal, Fortaleza and more), though we really wanted to see these places, and hop on a flight to Sau Paulo.
We are quickly coming to the end of our trip, less than 2 weeks is still left...
Well - until our next entry - you have time to view all our photos:
Photos of Cruise to Iquitos
Rio Negro and Amazonas meeting...
The white water are from Rio Negro and the blue from Amazonas - it takes 10 kilometers for the water to mix!
Photos from the cruise to Manaus
Photos from Manaus
There are more photos below