Monday, July 15, 2013

Peru-Brazil 2013 – Days 24 to 28 – Cruising down the Amazon

My Honey had been complaining that a true vacation should include a cruise, so I made her dreams come true with a five days-four nights cruise down the Amazon. First, we chose the jewel of the fleet, The Amazon Star, for its spacious suites and decks. Then we retained the best of the suites (through judicious application of an advanced tip) with a view that dominated the top deck and the Amazonian jungle. Air conditioning and an in-suite bathroom completed the amenities, but of course you were encouraged to simply plop on a hammock and read while the river unfolded in front of you. In chose, in fact, to spend my nights swinging in my hammock and listening to the sounds of the jungle!

Two restaurants attended to the dietary needs of the travelers, one of them on a 24-hour basis. Or you could order from land restaurants if we happened to be in a port of call. They use quite an interesting system for this: Youngsters carry very long poles with a nail and a bottomless plastic bottle of coke at the end. They put the food in a plastic bag and hook it to the pole, and in that way bring it to your deck. You in turn put the money in the plastic bottle and the transaction is completed.

Unfortunately 5 days on a boat is a bit too much, and although we read a lot we were in need of some exercise and change of scene (you could always walk around the spacious decks of the boat, but even that needs a break). Fortunately we did a port-of-call stop at Santarem, so my Honey and I went for a vigorous walk to see the sights and by local knick-knacks. Originally we had the idea of spending a couple of days in Santarem, because the nearby river beaches are reportedly very pretty. But that is only when the river stage is low. Right now, with the river at flood, the beaches are underwater. Furthermore, we were enamored with our comfortable ship, so we figured we would retain our spacious suite all the way to Belém. I have certainly racked big time cruise-credit with my Babe!

So we finally made it to Belém, which is a huge city compared to all the other river town we have looked at. A taxi brought us to the local Youth Hostel, which is located in al old rubber baron mansion. It is rather quaint, with its high ceilings and old-world architecture, but we miss our suite and its luxurious bathroom (here we have collective showers, which my Lovey does not like). I had the idea of retaining the services of a small plane to fly over the Island of Marajó, the island formed at the mouth of the Amazon, which is larger than Switzerland, so we went looking for the airport, found a light plane service, and regretfully found out that the cost was much more than our finances could afford (3,500 reais or about US$ 1,750). Oh well, you win some and you lose some.

We have rearranged the rest of the trip, because truth be told we are pretty tired of lugging around Annie’s bulky luggage. In a couple of days we are going to fly to Rio de Janeiro, and once there we are going to rent a car and turn the last three weeks of our vacation into a road trip. The idea is to go from Rio to Foç de Iguazú, and from there to Brasilia, and finally back to Rio (via Belo Horizonte) to complete the triangle. Unfortunately this is a big country, and each leg of the triangle is about 1,000 km long, but we plan to stop often and see a lot in between our major stops.

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