Dry Land

Trip Start Nov 01, 2011
1
21
57
Trip End May 23, 2012


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Where I stayed
A Riverboat

Flag of Brazil  , State of Amazonas,
Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I sit in my hammock on my first river boat ride ever. It is how I imagined it, like going down the Mississippi. It's like Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and Nigger Jim, ridin' their raft down the Misssissippi, relaxing on their island, smoking their corn cob pipes, not a care in the world! But I am on the Amazon and I ain't on no paddlewheeler, but it's still pretty darn fine!

We travel for three days and nights to cover some 1100km total on the way to Manaus, Brazil. I sleep in a hammock. There are two full decks on the river boat, full of hammocks, and one more on top for lounging in. All the decks are open, steel, and painted white.

This boat ride is beautiful, like everything. It's a never ending canvas, a rolling screen print of wide waters and jungle and sky

I am surrounded by hammocks and people. When dinner is called by a ringing bell, I sort of expect people to rush up and fight to get in line. But no, these are simply people; they all exist eachother. We all line up. We file through the door in shifts and into a soup line. I think to myself that this could be like prison, or it could be like heaven. There are pictures of Jesus and Saints up on the wall, along with some funny posters about the detriments of hypertension. 

We get our bowl of soup and file in around the table. The table is red. There are jugs of water and some hard, crunchy bread crumbs. Some of the people, mostly men (women seem to eat later), pour the crumbs into their soup, soaking up the broth. I put some hot sauce in my soup but no breadcrumbs. There are cold jugs of water or juice; condensation runs down their sides. I want to practice portuguese with someone but I don't know what to say so I end up speaking spanish. 

I notice how courteously people finish their soup and then leave to make space for the next person. The table is large, leaving enough space for 40 people, but the boat must have more than 4 times that amount of passengers. After lunch I take my anti-malaria pill and fall into a deep sleep.

Her name is Sagardo Corazon de Jesus, or The Sacred Heart of Jesus, and she is very effectively arranged and kept as most good ships are. I think how she differs from a Canadian ship. People sleep in hammocks for one. I don't think North Americans would tolerate sleeping so close to someone they didn't know. Or maybe they would if the weather was good enough. But it was so apparent here how everyone got along. People would lie in the wombs of their hammocks, or they would move to the upper deck and play cards or dominoes, or just drink beer and watch fuzzy TV. 

Babies cry from the hammocks and someone nearly always has some music playing. It is the constant hum of life, that and the thrum of the boat's engines below, or the rain dripping from the decks at night. 

The boat navigates close to the shoreline, presumably where the deep water is. I see the helm position has a gps and a track line that they follow. They use a spot light to see debris in the water at night.

Several evenings, thunder storms strike and we drive through heavy rain and wind. Tarps are pulled down over the sides of the open decks shielding us from the nearly sideways drops. I love it, standing on the top deck after everyone else has gone to bed. Lightning flashes in the night, revealing the shore line, dark and haunted, like some horror movie shot in Florida. The river is massively wide at times, spanning several kilometres. Islands and tree tops pop up here and there. The whole terrain is flooded. I imagine what the underwater looks like, all brown and murky.

People down here simply live with it. I don't know how. I don't know what their houses look like when the river is 10 metres lower. They must have a lot of stairs? And if the river gets too high like in Leticia and the Flooded House? They just live with it. 

And the noise down here is always constant. There is a barking dog, a church bell, people talking emphatically, the boat, the river, the music. It is all constantly moving, with colour. People seem to forget their hardships, their poverty. They sit around the plastic tables on the upper deck instead, playing dominoes, watching fuzzy television, and drinking cold beer. 

It's the longview. You're watching way down the line, at something, a stir in the water, a dolphin's twinkling eye. The sky, the water, the forest dream forever down here, and then drift off and rise up into a condensing thunder cloud, all to be poured down again and refreshed, onto a new canvass. And then baked in the afternoon sun again.
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Comments

Cris on

Got home this aft after a grueling day at work to your two blog posts, and I relaxed and smiled and knew there was more to life than what I am doing.

Good on ya Matt! You know how to live.

Mom

matt81
matt81 on

Thanks mom!

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