Saturday 26 April 2014

The Amazon


Five and a half days on a river barge from Manaus to Porto Velho near the Bolivian border. Lots can happen:
  • one day heading downriver from Manaus making 9 knots (YES!)
  • four days upriver making 3 knots.
  • rivers of completely different colours mix and stay separated like a settling pint of Guinness.
  • watching locals in tiny boats (then seeing them get mauled by our barge and sunk.  Then reluctantly rescued by our dinghy)
  • watching a local tanker barge attach and load up on fuel oil as we steamed ahead (then nearly sinking it)
  • observing the highest flooding "since records began" and considering how the locals must be affected as their homes are inundated up to the rafters.
  • Arriving in a port destroyed by the floods, having to clamber out onto a muddy bank.  Then seeing the people in town just get on with it and start repairs.
  • Eating the same food at the same regimented times every day for 5 days. At the blow of the whistle food was served: at 6.30am tapioca and a bread roll, 11.30 rice, chicken, beans and noodles, 5pm rice, chicken, beans and noodles. Twice we got beef! We would queue in a small canteen to serve ourselves. It felt a little like being at a boot camp or a prison. 
  • Escaping to our private cabin with aircon to get away from the humidity and the rain. Most passengers slept in hammocks on deck.
  • Seeing Amazon dolphins. We saw a little piglet dolphin jumping by the side of the boat. I am glad we didn't see too many up close as they are pretty alien looking with their strange long beaks!
  • A plethora of different types of birds including egrets, kingfishers, parakeets, macaws (from a distance) and a monkey in a tree.
  • Reading all of the books I had, playing many games of parchis and monopoly and watching James Bond films to while away the time. It started to feel like ground hog day by around day 4.
  • Eating an Easter egg on board on Easter Sunday.
  • The tropical rain waking me up at 3am, followed by kids running and playing at 5.30am, followed by the knock and whistle for breakfast at 6.20am
  • Amazing cloud formations
  • Listening to BBC news on Ty's little shortwave radio  
After one night in Porto Velho we took a taxi to the border town with Bolivia. Initially we had intended to take the bus but due to the flooding the bus had been re-routed and would take 20 hours on bumpy roads for a journey that had originally taken 6 on smooth! In the taxi we had drove through pot holed and muddy roads and a couple of times through quite deep water. One of the bridges had flooded and as the taxi made its way through the deep water the foot well on Ty's side flooded. Luckily he had his water proof shoes on! The water soon seeped out and we were on our way again. The taxi driver did a really good job and we arrived in Guayajara Mirin within 5 hours. There was a quick stop by the federal police to get our passports stamped and then we jumped on a little boat to cross over into Guayaramerin in Bolivia. 

The border town on the other side had also been completely flooded, including the customs and immigration so we had to hunt around town for the building so that we weren't entering Bolivia illegally. Eventually we found the building. It was closed. After waiting for around an hour, the workers showed up at 2.40. The official stamped our passports and at the end asked for a little something extra! Ty got out of it by saying 'no hablo espanol' and we were on our way.  

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