By riverboat over the Amazon to Santarém   Click for the chartlet


We booked a riverboat to Santarém on the Amazon, 500 nm (925 km) or three days and nights (€55). We embarked in time on “n/m Clívia” to be sure of a good spot for our hammocks: on the middle deck in the front and as far away as possible from the engine and the toilets.
The kitchen and dining-room (a long table seating 20 people) was set up on the lower deck: behind the onions, in front of the tomatoes and right next to the engine. Later the food was served on a long folding table on the middle deck, between the hammocks in the rear which were then temporarily tied away. Every meal consisted of rice, spaghetti, beans, coleslaw, and chicken, beef or pork cutlets. The portions were large and the food was good, certainly related to the costs (€2).
There were seventy hammocks hanging on 80 m2, while according to boatspecs there could have been ninety; but the space was crammed. Two shower/toiletcombinations per sex and we were glad that the place was cleaned up frequently. And we were also glad that our fellow-passengers were all good people, so we didn't have to worry about inquisitive fingers in our luggage.

The below deck (where another 98 hammocks could be tied) was apart from the onions and tomatoes completely empty, so that was great. In the evening all Brazilians were glued to the television screen, where dvd’s were played with dance and rocking bottoms. With the volume pumped up, because Brazilians love noise.

During the day we were often visited by indigenous kids in pirogues , who came close to the boat hoping to catch a little something. The older kids dared to hook on at full speed and climbed on board to sell mango’s, avocado’s and palmhearts – this was actually quite risky, and releasing was also tricky .

On board they used eyeball-navigation in combination with the depth-guard. The radar was never switched on and what they use the compass for is a mystery, as there was no chart on board. Also no log/speedometer and the gps was not yet invented.
Actually the passengers were not really allowed in the pilothouse, but the pilots were pleased with P's interest in the navigation.

After 24 hours of navigating along landscapes that sometimes strike you as Dutch before reminding you by the mountains that this is really South-America over various rivers, we finally reached the Amazon. Countercurrent in some parts 3 to 4 knots and loads of trunks and drifting islands of weed. Even the smallest huts have a dish antenna, as tv is popular entertainment.
It had rained abundantly and as a result the Amazon was several meters higher than normally in this season. Houses were flooded, children could not go to school and even the churches were closed! We saw it with our own eyes and later again on tv: this high waterlevel was not reached in years and it was a national disaster.
The houses are detached so people who want to visit the neighbours go by boat. But sometimes a commune constructed in joined effort a pontoon.
Some houses are located quite near to the river bank and the pilot often reduced speed. The most pitiful case was some cows in a flooded stable. Possibly it was too late to evacuate them. It felt like disaster tourism.
The nicest place where we docked during the trip was Monte Alegre, and subsequently we arrived in Santarém.


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