Belem -The City of Mango Trees

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South America » Brazil » Pará » Belém
February 8th 2008
Published: February 12th 2008
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Arriving late at night I saw very little of the Belem and definitely saw no mango trees. The mangoes in the market are huge but there are few trees to be seen even in daylight.

The taxi woman who went thru all the red lights drove at break neck speed. I thought she was in a hurry to get back to the airport to meet another flight. Have since discovered everyone drives fast.

The Hotel Itoaca is a quite a few wrungs below the one I had left behind in Brasilia. It is clean and the people are friendly. The towels and sheets are reasonable new. The elevator works and there is air conditioning in the room.

A restaurant attached to the hotel and next door serves breakfast, lunch (buffet/kilo) and dinner a la carte. The fish I ate was fantastic.

Itoaca Hotel is within wakling distance of the old town, the Ver-O-Peso Market, the refurbished warehouses and the fishing boats that bring in their catch at 05:30 in the morning … won‘t be getting up to see that! … its still dark at that time!

Slept late. After breakfast took an unnecessary but interesting walk into the old town past the Ver-O-Peso and the Fish Market.

Being Saturday I was lucky to get to the tour operator before he closed for the week-end. The office was a step around the corner from the hotel. I had walked a long way looking for the place and was on my way back to the hotel to admit defeat when I spotted the place.

Booked a cabin with private bath (shared by another woman if the boat gets full) for R$300. The price includes passage to Manaus, three meals a day and I assume bedclothes. The boat leaves Belem at 18:00 on Tuesday and arrives in Manaus 16:00 on Sunday. Have to beat the boat by four in the afternoon.

Had to walk to another hotel to get a map of the city. Saw some interesting old style buildings along Avenida Presidente Vargas. Some have been renovated; mainly with new coats of paint.

A grocery store offered snack items and water for drinking. I had eaten lunch at the hotel …buffet/kilo. The heat is such that after 5 to 6 hours outside I am ready to come in and relax.

Belem is a humid place. It rains a bit everyday. The buildings suffer from this and are covered in mould. Mosses and ferns grow liberally on balcony railings and between paving stones.

Belem is called the “city of the mango trees”. I have visited the Rodrigues Alves Wood which is a microcosm of the Amazonian Rainforest. In the Museu Emilio Goeldi I finally saw the giant water lily leaves called Vitori Reina. Other wondrous, never before seen plants abound in the Geoldi Garden.
Emelio Geoldi was a man from Switzerland who studied all over Europe had many children. He lived in Rio and ….

The sun umbrella serves me well during the sudden downpours in the afternoon. It rains every day at almost the same time … between 14:00 and 16:00. It is a small relief to the oppressing heat. AT eight o’clock at night it is also raining heavily!

There are few tourists here … I have seen a Japanese couple and two European looking couples. Being just a bit conspicuous with my blonde hair(from the sun), hiking boots and blue eyes, if anyone gets close enough to see, I avoid the deserted streets, and do not go down interesting, winding cul de sacs where men are hanging about.

…from the Internet.
“The city’s greatest attraction, is the Ver-o-Peso (check the weight) Market. The place has that name because, in the colonial period, that was where the merchandise, which arrived through the neighbouring port, had its weight checked. Today, it is a place in which everything can be found.”

The wander thru the market was absolutely fabulous … fruits, fish and herbs never before seen. The metal structure of the market itself, including a spiral staircase, now missing a few wrungs, came from Glasgow, Scotland in pieces and was put together here in Belem (Bethlehem because the man that began the town landed close to Christmas Day). The date appears to be 1906 … have to check that.

Along the harbour embankment the cranes from 100 years ago still stand. The old warehouses have been turned into chichi restaurants and activity centres … totally air conditioned. The ice cream counter had a myriad of flavours including maracunja … passion fruit … my current favourite.

For sale were also touristy items …straw objects, ceramic pieces, portraits of indigenous peoples, necklaces and earrings of seeds and wood, woven baskets and mats, hammocks, little carved animals and gourd bowls. I will be buying a Hammock so as to have a place during the day to relax and read a book while chugging up the Amazon.
I had lunch at the inevitable food stalls that appear in all S.A. markets. The piece of fish the woman fried up for me tasted like chicken. Had tha with rice, onion and tomato salsa and potato salad made with various root vegetables.

…from the Internet,
“The Cidade Velha (Old City) holds memories of a time before the rubber cycle, which are visible in the narrow streets and in the large mansions decorated in their facades by tiles dating back to the XVII century”.

The Cathedral is being renovated. The National Museum is closed . The three hour boat tour does not run on Monday. The heat is killing. And I met a man who had been robbed by the taxi driver at gunpoint.

Low tide in the harbour left the fishing boats high and dry. The stink was not totally impossible. There wwere masses of vulturetpe birds pecking at the discarded fish heads attached to filetless spines.

By one thirty the tide was coming in and the refuse and the birds had disappeared.

While I was not looking I found a Western Union office. Am not even going to attempt to explain about the Buenos Aires money purchase. Will handle that in Canada.

Back in the hotel I took a much needed shower … had drunk two bottles of water and sweated it all into my clothes … washed the clothes too.

Tuesday I will pack up my bags in such a way that I need only open the duffel bag in the private cabin; will visit the market again to buy a hammock and some extra rope.

I will try to visit the museums that are open. Will have one more maracunja ice cream ...just in case there is none to be found in Manaus.

Additional photos below
Photos: 21, Displayed: 21


View from the DocksView from the Docks
View from the Docks

Up that street is the hotelI have stayed in for three days.
Herbal RemediesHerbal Remedies
Herbal Remedies

Its all Portuguese to me.
Recycled Plastic BottlesRecycled Plastic Bottles
Recycled Plastic Bottles

Juice is sold in plastic bottles. Saw the bottles being rinsed in cold water .. no soap .. disinfectant?
Children all in a RowChildren all in a Row
Children all in a Row

The children were waiting to geta ride in a typical canoe as used on the Amazon. In the very shallow and dirty water of this small lagoon were huge fish and the occasional crane.
Jaguar Behind BarsJaguar Behind Bars
Jaguar Behind Bars

Sorry to see him ... like this ...
Hundreds of Turtles Hundreds of Turtles
Hundreds of Turtles

And not enough water to swim in.

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