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Published: September 7th 2009
The boat that would take us from Santarem to Belem.
We had a choice of 2 boats from Santarem to Belem, one that looked like a converted car ferry, the other that looked like a real Amazon cruiser built in the 40s or 50s. We chose the real Amazon cruiser. Getting onboard was more of a challenge than we expected, the guide books say that ALL boats leave from the Docas do Para which are near the middle of town, but that's not right, the N/M Santarem (our boat) leaves from Porto Derre, an industrial dock about 5 - 10km out of town. It was starting to dawn on us that there was a reason it was cheaper :-) As it had come from Manaus it was already pretty full when we got on so finding a spot for our hammocks was not so easy, but we managed to find somewhere on the lower deck where we were the only non Brazilians - this suited us just fine. Our neighbours were fantastic. On this boat there were no hooks for the hammocks so you have to tie them around bars on the ceiling, seeing we didn't have a clue how to do this a fellow passenger came over to do it
One of the many small boats that pull up alongside to sell food.
for us, then another passenger thought we'd have more space if it was tied to a different bar, and finally another adjusted the height for us, really friendly genuine people. At the first stop something we'd expected to happen before finally did, the usual bunch of food sellers etc got onboard but one of them didn't get off before we left the dock. There was no way the captain was going to take him back so he was in yabai, he was encouraged to jump which he wouldn't but as the next stop was 8 hours away he was getting panicy, luckily for him a passenger had missed the ship and was ferried out by a friend on a small boat which he jumped into to get back home - lucky guy. At the next stop the same thing happened again !!! when a cheese seller was still onboard after we'd left the dock, he took his chances - jumped overboard and swam back to the dock :-) As we sailed through one area people appeared from nowhere over the side of the ship selling river prawns. They get onboard by paddling out in their canoe then using a long
One of the food sellers climbs from his small boat onto the Santarem.
hook to catch part of the ship as it goes past then tie their canoe to the ship and climb up the side !!! what a way to make a few $.
After almost 48 hours onboard we docked in Belem, where as expected we were in a rough industrial port some way from the centre.
The Amazon left us awestruck, the river is so massive it's beyond description, the jungle is beautiful, dense, scary and a whole bunch of other things. Our Amazon voyages were all we wanted, fantastic experiences. Alter do Chao was an unexpected bonus. Great just great.
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