Boat from Manaus to Tabatinga - Day 85-90
Trip Start Jan 31, 2008
254Trip End Ongoing
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In a hammock on the boat
Today I embark on the week long journey by slow boat to Tabatinga on the Peruvian border. It's defiantly going to be one of choose character building journey's which I love. I'm sure it will be boring and uncomfortable at times, there's only so much forest and river you can aimlessly stare at before it becomes a little monotonous.
Headed down to the docks late morning to board the "Fenix", my home for the next week. The boat is far from luxurious, it's in worse condition than the last boat I took from Santarem to Manaus, it's jam packed with cargo too. I asked some French guys from the hostel to hang my hammock in a good spot, they boarded the boat yesterday because they have a cabin which they could sleep in for free last night. Unfortunately by the time I boarded the boat, my hammock had been completely inundated with other hammocks. If it's to tight in the hammock space I'll sleep on the floor or even on the top deck under the stars, I'll see how it goes.
I'm the only Gringo sleeping in the hammock space with the locals, the other 5 Gringo's on board have posh ensuite cabins with air-conditioning. I'm slightly envious of their luxury but at least I'm keeping it real. There's defiantly an interesting group of people on the boat. Many Peruvian's are on board who are so culturally and visually different to the Brazilians. The Peruvian's seem more curious of a strange westerner in a hammock on a boat up the Amazon. There's also a Pastor on board, a bible seller, business people, policemen, kids the elderly, it's like a cross-section of Latin American society and of course me the Gringo. Feels like a little floating village or a series of "Big Brother".
Day 86 - 02/04/09
Think I may of elbowed my bible selling hammock neighbour last night. The hammocks are so tightly packed that you're constantly banging into the surrounding hammocks. Got a few hours sleep at the most, may sleep on the floor of the top deck tonight. I think 6 nights in hammock is going to kill me!
Really surprised how cold it was on the boat tonight, a big storm broke out in the early evening and it was bloody freezing. It was actually quite nice to experience some cold weather but strange to be so cold in the middle of the Amazon jungle. When I say cold, it was probably 20 degrees but compared to the temperatures I've been experiencing recently it felt like an Arctic wind was blowing across the Amazon basin.
Day 87 - 03/04/09
Had a much better sleep last night, raised my hammock high to give me some more space from my bible selling neighbour, don't think I elbowed him last night. God wouldn't be very happy if I injured one of his promoters.
Another day has passed lazily swinging in my hammock on the Amazon, still 4 days left until I reach the Peruvian border. The journey is not as bad as expected, the food is a little repetitive but edible and there's a real sense of community on the boat with such a diverse bunch of characters. A met a half Russian/Colombian today who plays with a Rubix cube most of the day (I kid you not). Another one of the boats characters is a gay guy who wears little denim shorts, make-up and a blonde wig, he dances samba most of the night on the top deck stealing cigarettes from everyone, he's absolutely hilarious.
An Amazonas girl a couple of hammocks down wants to marry me apparently. She lives in a town on the triple frontier. Don't think I'd survive the mosquito's if I decided to accept her proposal. I can't speak Portuguese and she can't speak English either, could be a marriage made in heaven!
Day 88 - 04/04/09
I sort of now know how those 16th and 17th century mariners felt been stuck on a boat for days and months discovering the new world. My life on the boat is not as exciting as theirs, It's only my 4th day and the in-activity is proving quite difficult. Compared with those past explorers I'm living in relative comfort and I haven't got scurvy!
The sunset's on the Amazon are very special, the dark waters reflect the fading red light so beautifully. It's become a nightly ritual to go on the top deck and watch the sun dip below the horizon.
Day 89 - 05/04/09
Last night was a bit of a nightmare, the boat stopped many times to load and unload cargo. People were constantly bumping in to my hammock, it was impossible to sleep. Watched the sun rise at an unknown port in a small village somewhere on the Amazon. Don't know where the hell I'm, all I know is that I'm heading west.
Eat the usual poor breakfast of crap bread rolls, then enjoyed the morning sun on the top deck. We docked at another small village for nearly 4 hours this afternoon as a couple of tons of cheap cola was unloaded at the tiny port. I managed to sleep for 3 hours while we docked so I'm beginning to feel a little more human now. Many more people boarded during the day so the hammock deck is packed to bursting point, I feel like a battery hen. Really glad it's my last night on this bloody boat tonight! We'll hopefully arrive in Tabatinga sometime tomorrow afternoon where I need to find another boat to take me into Peru. First though will be a night in a bed before I begin my next boat mission!
Day 90 - 06/04/09
I've finally arrived in Tabatinga after a 123 hour boat journey from Manaus. What an epic! It's been one of those harsh but memorable experiences! I've now travelled over 2000km of the mighty Amazon river by slow boat. I still need to travel at least another 500km to Iquitos in Peru near the source. I think I'll get the "Expresso" or fast boat to Iquitos. The hammock lifestyle is starting to get to me a little with the monotonous food and the jam packed boats. Once again, I had very little sleep last night with even more passengers boarding the boat. My hammock was sandwiched between a fat guy snoring like a truck and an old guy who kept moving in his hammock and nudging me. In addition there was a massive storm which lasted for hours, torrential rain, high winds and thunder kept me a wake too. To add to these pleasures, something has been biting me and I'm not sure what. Don't think it's mosquito's, maybe some other kind of Amazonian nasty has been feeding on me. The joy's of Amazon travel!!
After standing on terra-firma again in Tabatinga myself and a couple of French guys from the boat went to the immigration office to get our Brazilian exit stamps. This proved to be a bit of a nightmare for me. I wasn't given a white slip when I crossed into Brazil from Uruguay. This slip is needed for exit, so the border official said this was a big problem if I wanted to re-enter Brazil. Luckily the French guys speak better Portuguese than I do and could explain the situation. After a half an hour I got my exit stamp without paying the normal 700 reials fine. After the immigration hassle I found a hotel and brought a ticket for the express boat to Iquitos. The boat leaves at 4am from Santa Rosa which is a river island on the Peruvian side of the invisible border.