Amazon Trail: Do you think this is a game!?!

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South America » Brazil » Pará » Santarém
July 10th 2009
Published: July 17th 2009
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While I was in Belem and we were getting ready to leave on the boat I was thinking that I might like to work on the docks here. It looks like good hard work and its a pleasant place. I would get to go up and down the river on a boat and see different places. Housing and food is covered by working on a boat. I would get stronger, more agile, and probably gain some serious climbing and knot tying skills. I would have plenty of time for martial arts and such and leisure. My portuguese would improve and I would get to spend time in some of the best cities we have visited thus far. I could really enjoy that.

The reality is that I would become restless though. Too much of a good thing makes me restless sometimes. As far as life goals go, I have to have a problem to solve. I have a hard time just existing for the sake of self fulfillment. So as nice as it sounds it wouldn't work. It is a pleasant dream though.

On the Amazon we were surprised to see just how many people lived in that lower portion. so far away from everything. Many people would paddle out of the trees with canoes and come close to the boat. Some would latch on to the boat either for a ride or to climb aboard and sell goods. The majority of them though come close to the boats and wait for someone to toss them bags of goods. Handouts maybe? Amazon river beggers?

If they are beggers, it is probably not out of necessity and maybe just for entertainment to see what you get, like when we hunt for easter eggs. I say this because the area they live in is abundant in food and materials and this is what the ones that latch on use to sell. The area is really abundant in Acai as well as guava, mangoes, papaya, and many others we couldn't see nor identify. They wild harvest all of their goods for sale. we saw some of them pulled up to a shore cutting Acai out of an acai tree to sell or eat, not sure. Some of these places in the middle of nowhere have satellite. That to me seems to imply a comfortable lifestyle, they have what they need and have developed to the point that is appropriate for their community, no further. Often times development is imposed on a place and while it helps initially, over-development of a community not ready for nor in need of certain things can lead to its downfall. Brasil seems to be very good at allowing these varying levels of development to occur. They do however also neglect areas that are in need of further development, like the roadways and problems in some of the cities mentioned elsewhere.

Another fact about these canoers that surprised us is the average age of them. The majority of the people in boats were children. Some of them couldn't have been more than 5 years old paddling out into the river by themselves. Nothing really good nor bad to say about it, just that it was surprising. And that the people here must be tough and know the river very well.

We also noticed some strange fencing submerged in the water coming out from the shore in areas. We were informed that these are to slow the current and create a dead spot in the current where fish will hang out. The go fishing next to these patches of fencing. And from being at the ports here and seeing the fishermen/boats/markets there certainly is an abundance of fish. These communities are seemingly very comfortable places to live, but I have not visited them nor spoken with anyone who has so I do not know.

It seems that the boats here are both cargo and passenger boats and that the destination of a boat depends much more heavily on the cargo than people. The boats will sometimes skip certain ports that they do not have business at and instead hook up to another boat in the river and transfer passengers to the other boat that will be going to said port. And all of the cargo on a boat is moved by hand and hand carts. Their is a crane operated section for the Santarem port, but i have not seen any boats big enough to use it, nor even attempting to. All of the other ports we have been to though are definitely lacking such capabilities and they form people chains and throw the goods to one another down the chain where someone loads it onto a hand cart and totes it off to god knows where. Definitely not refrigerated neither. Some of the vegetables were rotten upon arrival and we had huge quantities of shrimp bagged and sitting in the sun at the hull of the boat for a portion of the trip.

Additional photos below
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brazil belem boat and santarem 192brazil belem boat and santarem 192
brazil belem boat and santarem 192

the spot where they are standing... thats where we were sleeping. Those are our hammocks tucked into the ceiling there
brazil belem boat and santarem 236brazil belem boat and santarem 236
brazil belem boat and santarem 236

its a shower for your toilet... so that you can clean while you shit... No more will you take two steps in the morning when you could just take one...

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