24 October 2023 Amazon River Day 4
In search of another boat
“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”Marcus Aurelius (Roman emperor and a Stoic philosopher).
Marina wanted to buy boat tickets first thing before finding some breakfast and checking out of the hotel. I am happy to tag along as travelling with a Spanish/Portuguese speaker will make things easier. After finding an ATM to withdraw a suitable amount of Brazilian Reals. We take a Tuktuk to ‘Terminal Hidroviario de Tabagtinga‘ which is tucked away down some backstreets. Neither of us are sure what the correct time is because of shifting time zones here, but it’s somewhere between 7 am and 9 am. Buying a ticket is straightforward at the sales desk. The bring-your-own-hammock fare for 4 days and 3 nights including meals is R$ 240 (€ 45). We are told to be back at 10 am to clear Police Immigration before boarding. In theory, the boat sails at midday.
The Tuktuk that brought us has gone, so we take motorcycle taxis back to the hotel. My rider had a go-faster machine, and no crash helmit for the passenger, so I was relieved to arrive at our destination in one piece. There’s a small café opposite the hotel where I have a sort of tapioca pancake filled with fried egg and cheese, an exotic Brazilian fruit juice, and a black Nescafé coffee.
After some last minute abulsions and packing we checkout, hail a Tuktuk and go back to ‘Terminal Hidroviario de Tabagtinga’. The procedure seems to be
(1) put your baggage in a designated ‘line’ (this will eventually be the passenger line)
(2) go back to the sales desk where your ticket is checked against your passport, and you are given a coloured wristband for today’s sailing. There are security guard keeping and eye on things but you can see your bags anyway.
(3) queue up to have your Brazilian entry stamp in your passport verified. We queued for maybe 75 minutes, it was very slow moving. The Immigration officer checks your passport and stamps your boat ticket, that’s it! By my watch/phone I made the time close to 11:10 but then someone told me it was only 10:10! God knows what time it is.
(4) eventually passengers are instructed to go to the baggage line and pick up their belongings as boarding is about to start.
(5) you walk with your bags towards the waiting boat which is moored on the other side of a Federal Police Boat (a sort of floating Immigration/Police/Customs/Drug Squad). You queue here to be called forward to have your bags checked and you are questioned about reasons for travel and itinerary).
Then you can finally board the ship, choose the lower or upper passenger deck and put your hammock up. The lower deck seems to be preferred by families with children and is quite busy. We head for the upper deck and get comfortable, hanging hammocks and securing personal belongings (as best as you can). Lunch is not provided but there is a canteen on the upper deck where you can buy all sorts of snacks and drinks, including hamburgers.
The boat departs at 16:10 (or 15:10 or 17:10)… Rumor has it that someone was trying to bring drugs onboard.
Now we are underway, it is worth all of the hassle to just lay in my hammock watching the jungle go by. The boat from Iquitos to Santa Rosa/Tabatinga was fun but, to put it kindly, a rust bucket. This vessel from Tabatinga to Manaus is like a luxury liner in comparison! There is even onboard WiFi if you are prepared to pay for it.
At 5 pm, well common consensus says it was 5 pm, dinner was served in the lower deck dining room. It was a meat, pasta and potato stew served with bread. All quite passable considering the fare.
We were told to buy our own cutlery, plate and cup but there was some available in the dining hall. Also, on this vessel, there are drinking water dispensers on both the passenger decks.
The boat continues to chug down the Amazon passing kilometre after kilometre of rain forest. Although I have been in Amazonia for 5 days there has hardly been a drop of rain… no wonder the Amazon River is ‘low’.
I stood at the back of the boat for maybe an hour watching the sun slowly set. For the chronological record, let’s assume it’s about 6:30 pm and it is now pitch black dark.
I am thinking about brushing my teeth and calling it a day but the wind has really picked up. This could be an interesting experience!
Whatever the time zone is, this has been a long day. It has been easier and freer flowing than yesterday. So far, I think, it is worth the effort.
- Tuktuk – Motorcycle Taxi – Tuktuk rides € 7.5 for two
- Slow boat ticket (4 days / 3 nights with food) € 45
- 2 Litre bottle of water € 1
- Snacks on boat € 1.70