Up the Amazon without a paddle

Trip Start Nov 05, 2009
1
10
32
Trip End Apr 26, 2010


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Where I stayed
The Itaberaba

Flag of Colombia  , Estado do Amazonas,
Friday, January 8, 2010

hello all...

Hope you havenīt all frozen to death and that all is well wherever in the world you are. Just spotted that Harrogate has a high of one degree and a low of zero....:-)...sorry!

I have arrived after my epic journey up the Amazon from Manaus to Tabachinga in Brazil . It was a truly amazing trip and Iīm so glad that I didnīt wus out and take a flight. Iīm really getting into the whole īTravel is about the journey not the destinationī thang....could I possibly sound more pretencious?? hehehehe

My boat was called the Itabaraba and was both a passenger and cargo boat. I think officially it was supposed to have 100 passengers but by the end I think there was nearer 200. I was one of only a handful of gringos on board and the only English person. I havenīt seen another brit for over a month now. The river is the life blood of the Amazonia region and these boats are vital to the communities survival, bringing in vital supplies of Skol beer and Coke. They also carry other cargo ranging from Fruit, to Motorbikes to TVīs and amusingly even kitchen sinks.


I got to the boat early so that I could get an optimum spot for my hammock...well as early as you can when you have to walk a mile with 30kg of luggage, 12 litres of water, 6 kiwis, 6 apples, a jar of jam etc etc....in 30 degrees. Why I didnīt I get a taxi? The best spots are away from the toilets, the engine and the exits...so pretty much nowhere is great but I got a pretty good position in the middle of the boat. I had heard that you need to defend your place with your life or people will try to place their hammock on top or under yours. I lay there diagnally for 3 hours and managed to defend my territory.Slightly worryingly my back was starting to twinge...a bit concerned about spending the next week in a hammock and ending up like quasimodo.

I had lots of neighbours...all at an incredibly close proximity ...but very friendly, generous and welcoming. They had the patience of saints as they never seemed to tire of trying to speak to me. We used every trick in the book to communicate...charades, pictionary, speaking very loudly and slowly in our own languages....we kind of got there in the end. Thankfully time was not an issue on the slow boat to peru. I would like to make the point here to the many people that live under the illusion that spanish and portuguese are similar...bollocks! They are very different...or maybe itīs just that my spanish is so bad...hmmmm

I became very fond of them all particularly the children who were just adorable and amazingly well behaved. The family next to me had the cutest little girl called Ane-Heloise...she liked to wake me up at the crack of dawn by violently swinging my hammock and force feeding me the soggy left overs of whatever she had been eating.

After leaving Manaus we passed through an area called the īMeeting of the watersī where the black water of the Rio Negro meets the coffee cream coloured water of the Amazon. The waters donīt mix for a further 17km...see pic below.

Our days followed a pretty unvarying pattern of waking early for breakfast....coffee (the rolls ran out after day 2), lunch at 11.00am....rice, pasta, beans and īmeatī followed by dinner...rice, pasta, beans and īmeatī. You kind of have to switch off and go into ībelly full = goodī mode which took a little getting used to as Iīm sure that you can imagine. The toilets were interesting...smelling remarkably like hamster cages and showering in brown river water became alarmingly normal after a couple of days. I spent a lot of time relaxing in my hammock watching the world go by, trying to communicate, writing my journal, a spot of reading and having a thoroughly lovely time.

In the evening we usually went up on the top deck for sunset, to eat our dinner, have a few beers and watch the moon rise above the forest canopy (very special). We had a couple of hippies on board who were endlessly entertaining...the guy...Krishna who was "originally from Israel but was now from another planet"...played guitar, read our tarot cards and did our 13th moon horoscopes (?) which was all very enlightening and ever so new age.One of my favourite moments was us all singing acapella style the īLion sleeps tonightī as we ploughed up the amazon through the heart of the jungle.

Because of the sheer size of the river you could not see much wildlife except for the vultures that continually circle above and some beautifully coloured parrotts. On my last day I saw some pink river dolphins which was amazing particularly as everyone else had seen them a few times and I was starting to get a bit pissed off.

The journey can take anywhere between 6 - 8 days and it is seemingly impossible to predict an arrival time as no-one on board seemed to have a clue until we were about 2 hours away from Tabachinga. I was actually very sad to arrive, particularly as it was 2.00am and we had no where to stay! I will miss my hammock terribly. I definitely need more hammock time in my life!

Next stop Colombia.....and then Peru...

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