Trip Start Jan 20, 2004
88Trip End Feb 01, 2005
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Where I stayed
Alter do Chao
Timo and I jumped off the boat and into a cab as quickly as could be and found a hotel and then some much needed internet relief. From the boat Santarém looked promising, large waterfront with seemingly a lot of cool cafes and a market. It was really a pokey little city filled with clothes and shoe shops and pharmacies. Pretty much the standard Brazilian industries. One short walk and we´d taken in all we needed to see and I walked with the others back to the boat after their 6 hour sabbatical to organise a boat to Manaus for the Wednesday.
Day 2 we were off to Alter do Chao which is a little beach resort on the river. We managed to meet up with Jamie at the bus stop so we trundled off together
We met up with an Israeli guy and we walked down to the riverfront. The main street led directly to the beach and we stopped short on a stone wharf where rowboats were ready to take us all across to the beach about 20m away. As it was high river there weren´t many tourists and only one beach restaurant was open. Many of them were underwater or had a ´swim up bar´. In low river you can walk across the sand from the town but we had to get a strapping Brazilian to row us.
The beach was really nice, small, but it was nice to be back to my roots and hanging out on a sandbar on the river - really, river beaches cannot be overrated and in my opinion are much nicer than the seashore. The water was black and cold and deep. I didn´t have to go far from the waters edge before it was over my head and hurting my ears to duck dive to the bottom.
The beach was a sand spit stretching all the way to jungle at the other end, although I didn´t walk there. The beach was lined with little huts and tables, but as there were no other tourists it was idyllic. The menu even listed culinary wonders such as dogs turds and sheep turds. We ordered the sheep turds which were in fact quite nice and looked nothing like sheep turds and tasted oddly of fish. I´m not sure when sheep started eating fish but if this is the result....
After a bit of debating as to when I would return (I had my DCDP fix to obtain) I negotiated to find a restaurant in Alter do Chao where I could watch my soapie before catching the last bus
The last bus back to Santarém turned out to be the Bermuda triangle of busses in Brazil. Timo jumped off the bus and completely forgot his daypack and togs which he had put in the overhead rack. I had made him carry my umbrella, sarong, sunscreen and prescription sunglasses and they to stayed on the bus with his daypack, togs, book and whatever odds and ends he had in it. I wasn´t too concerned as I knew we would get it back the next day.
Little was I to know that with only one other passenger on the bus after us, his backpack could get lost forever. After numerous phone calls and running around from the friendly hotel staff to the bus company, Timo declared that he needed to inspect the bus himself so while I took my two backpacks and his backpack (which I thought was considerable effort given that I was already carrying about 30kg of my own) to the boat in order to hang our hammocks, he went off to the bus depot and then had a high old time talking to the police officer when he made the statement for me to get some insurance back for my glasses.
On the boat I was very pleased to find my fellow canasta players Simon and Natalia who had come from Belém on a dodgy, bucket of bolts boat and had to change to another. It was nice to know some more gringos to spend the next couple of days with.
What I learned
* Carry your own things, you only have yourself to blame then.
* Moto taxis are a cool mode of transport